Sunday, March 15, 2020

Sermon for 3/15/2020: Third Sunday in Lent

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Hearing, Speaking, Keeping

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

You may have heard the philosophical question, “If you had to choose, would you rather lose your sight or your hearing?” It’s silly; no one is given that choice. But it raises an important Old Testament distinction. Being blind is not as debilitating in the eyes of the Lord as being deaf. Being blind is a physical disability; being deaf makes a person ritually unclean, unable to gather with the faithful in the Temple.  
The truth is, our most important and vital information comes not through our eyes but through hearing and speaking. And the two go together: those who cannot hear can only speak with the greatest difficulty. Consider the man in the Holy Gospel. He was mute. The Greek word for mute is also the word for deaf. The man could not speak because he could not hear. But mark this carefully: It is the demon within him who refuses to confess that Jesus is the Christ of God, because the demon refuses to heed the Word of God.
If you cannot hear the Word of God—if you cannot hear the Good News of your heavenly Father who forgives for the sake of his dear Son—then it doesn't matter how smart or clever is your speech or how lovely is your song. Ultimately, what you say will come from the devil, the father of lies; your speech will be as blasphemous as claiming that Jesus is not the Son of God.
You see, if you cannot hear the Word of God about your sinfulness; if you cannot hear the Word which tells you of your inability to do anything that is pleasing to God; and if you do not hear that God will condemn you for the things that others love about you and that you take pride in, then what will you confess? You will say, "I don't need that meal. I don't need a man in the fancy robe—the man who is himself a sinner—telling me that my sins are forgiven. Give me the preacher who gives me credit for who I am, who feeds my self worth, who tells me that I can be and have whatever I want." But if that is your confession of faith, you call good what God has called evil. Where the Word of God is not heeded, cold logic will do no good. Demons will rush in to fill the void where God’s Word should be. There is no hope for those who have sinned against the Holy Spirit, who have called evil what God has called good.
Yet don't be quick to condemn the people in that crowd. After all, haven't you called evil what God has called good? Perhaps even now the chastening rod of God has been laid across your back. Do you call it good? No, you resent it. We face the chastening rod of tightened finances in our dual parish. The local job market is feeble. Perhaps cancer or heart disease or Coronavirus lurks in your body. Perhaps your friends have failed you and your enemies assail you. You have called these things evil.
But God uses these things to draw His children closer to Him. With St. Paul you must say, “Oh wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Yes, thank God for these things that distress your Old Adam. Thank God that the blessings of heaven are yours in Christ! Blessed are you, for in the font God gave you new life, drowning that Old Adam. Blessed are you, for God has fed you with the Gospel of forgiveness, pouring this Gospel into your ears in preaching and Holy Absolution, pouring into your mouths the very body and blood of Jesus to heal you in body and soul. No matter what trials you face, “blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!”  In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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