Trinity XVI - Deuteronomy 32:39-40 - September 20, 2015

Order of Service - Pg. 15
Hymn #522 "When in the Hour of Utmost Need"
Hymn #365 "Jesus I Will Never Leave"
Hymn #196 "I Am Content! My Jesus Liveth Still"

Readings

Deuteronomy 32:39-40
Ephesians 3:13-21
St. Luke 17:11-17

Collect for Trinity XVI

Lord, we pray Thee that Thy grace may always go before and follow after us and make us continually given to all good works; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on the Old Testament Lesson 

1)         No one wants a God who will wound them. Nor do people want a God who sets out to kill them. But that is exactly how the Lord Himself describes His work in today’s Old Testament lesson. I kill and I make alive; He says. I wound and I heal; Nor is there any who can deliver from my hand. Human nature wants a God who is only comforting in times of distress, not a God who allows times of distress. The sinful flesh desires a God who will cater to its own felt needs instead of laying affliction upon it. Ultimately it is about the cross. Humanity does not like to suffer in any way, shape, or form. So it flees from the face of suffering. Our flesh writhes under the cross when it is laid on our backs. We want a God who will protect us from suffering, affliction, and cross, not a God who inflicts His children with these things. But this is who the Lord says He is. This is His M.O. He wounds. He kills. But this isn’t a physical wounding or physical killing that He does. It is a spiritual wounding and killing.


2)         The Lord does this wounding and killing through the preaching of the Law. The Law strikes the heart of the sinner, revealing how the sinner has failed to do God’s commands fully and from the heart. The Commandments wound our consciences so that we feel the terror of having transgressed the will of the Lord, the creator and judge of all things. Like the man who goes from Jerusalem to Jericho in the parable of the Good Samaritan, the law beats us to a pulp because we cannot fulfill it. We can do the outward works of not committing adultery. But the lust of the wandering eye and the perverse imagination of the heart is more difficult to avoid. We can fulfill the external action of not murdering our neighbor. Yet hateful and wicked thoughts are much more difficult to push aside when we’ve been hurt by someone close to us. We can sanctify the holy day and hear the Word purely preached as we have opportunity. But it is much more difficult to focus on that Word, to meditate upon it and take it to heart. We can say we worship the Triune God because of our church membership and have only the true God as our God. Yet the mind never fears God as it should so that it seeks to avoid sinning. Our hearts do not love God above all other things in this life because our hearts, being sinful and unclean, are by nature easily allured to love the things of this world, possessions, family, relationships, work, creature comforts and luxuries. The heart does not trust God as it should, this should go without saying but it must not because so many are deluded with spiritual pride so that they think they truly trust God at all times for every good thing when in reality the Scripture says they cannot.

3)         So the Law is how the Lord wounds us and kills our sinful nature. The Lord does not want better people. He wants new people. Christianity is not a self-help movement, a self-improvement seminar, or even a religion of becoming better people through ethical self-polishing and reformation. The sinful heart cannot be reformed. It must be removed. The sinful imagination cannot be renovated. It must be razed to the ground. The sinner is not to become something better, which would only mean becoming a better sinner. The sinner must be killed so that he sees his depravity, his sin, and his utter hopeless. God kills sinners. But it is not His will that sinners die and stay dead. He tells us in Ezekiel 33:11, As I live,' says the Lord GOD, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?' The Lord takes no pleasure in His work of wounding and killing. He doesn’t want man to perish in his sin and self-conceit. Instead, the Lord desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4) This doesn’t make God a liar, nor does it meant that He deceives us when He says that wounds and kills. He does these things, His alien work, as Isaiah calls it, in order to do His proper work, the work that He loves to do.

4)         He wounds so that He can heal. He kills so that he can make alive. He kills sinners through the preaching of the Law. He wounds our hearts through the pronouncement of the wrath of God that exists upon sinners. All this He does so that He can heal and make alive. There must be death in order for there to be a resurrection. The sinful nature must be gotten rid of so that the new creation may arise. The Old Adam, our sinful flesh with all its desires, selfishness, and lusts cannot fulfill God’s law in the tiniest bit. So the Old Adam must be drown by repenting of sin so that God can then preach a far better word, the Gospel which forgives men’s sins and cancels the guilt of all their sin. The events in today’s Gospel reading are a picture of what God does. The Lord allows this only son of the woman to perish. He extinguishes all her hope for this life. She has no husband to provide for the needs of this life, now her son is taken away from her as well. The Lord brings her to despair of all help save God. Then Christ rushes in and raises the boy to new life. This is what the Lord does for all who believe the Gospel. The Law kills them and places them upon the funeral pyre. But Christ comes along with the Gospel and raises us to new life. He kills the Old Adam so that He can raise up the New Adam in us, which is not a new and improved version of the old man, but a new person entire, the person of Jesus Himself in us.

5)           He also does this in the waters of Holy Baptism. When Christ washes us in water combined with His Word, He forgives all our sins and washes the guilt of our sin from us. He bathes us in waters that run blood red. But this water also signifies drowning as St. Peter reminds us in the third chapter of his first epistle. Dr. Luther teaches us this in the Small Catechism when he asks, What does such baptizing with water imply? It implies that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man, in turn, should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. God drowns us in Holy Baptism. He suffocates the sinful nature and kills it there, breaking its power over us. He also makes us alive in those waters, not figuratively, for Christ never gives figurative gifts but real gifts. The promises Christ bestows on us at Holy Baptism create us anew as the New Man with faith in our hearts that begin to fear, love, and trust in God above all things. This New Man begins to fulfill the commandments from the heart because his heart has been made new. This new man wages war against the Old Adam, who, though dead, continually tries to climb out of that water to suppress and subdue the new.

6)         That’s why Luther says that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires. Daily we repent of our sins, thereby drowning the old Adam which only wants to sin and reject God in unbelief. When we repent of our sins and believe the Gospel that God does not impute our sins to us, but instead credits us with Christ’s merits and righteousness, then the New Man arises to live before God in righteousness and purity.  God makes us alive through faith in Christ. The new man is patterned after our Lord Jesus. St. Paul says in Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. This is also what Paul is praying for the Ephesians in today’s appointed Epistle, that they be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that they be rooted and grounded in love. (Ephesians 3:16-18) Paul prays the same for the entire church catholic, as do all faithful pastors, that Christ may dwell in your hearts not through feeling, not sight, not intuition, or experience, but by faith, and that you be strengthened in the inner man, that is the New Man with whom God has replaced the Old sinner Adam in all of us. The New Man, the inner man, who lives by faith and not works, trust in Christ’s merits rather than trust in his own merits, that man then does good works that are truly good because he has been made truly good.

7)         The Lord wounds and that often hurts. But it is supposed to hurt. God breaks our hearts of stone through His Law, showing us just how truly awful we really are. He does this out of love, so that He can work repentance in us daily. He does this so that He can preach to us the Gospel, that Christ has atoned for all our sins of thought, word, and deed, that Christ has atoned for all our sins done and sins because we left things undone. Christ lived perfectly under God’s law which condemns us continually so that the Holy Spirit can give that righteousness to all who hear the Gospel and believe. The broken sinner cries, Create in me a clean heart, O God. (Psalm 51:10) In the gospel that is just what God does in Christ Jesus our Lord. Do not despise His Law, neither neglect daily contrition nor sorrow over your sins. That is how your Lord Jesus is killing you so that He might raise you to new life, strengthening the inner man by His Gospel, and making you not into better people, but new people, not renovated sinners but baptized and justified children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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