Trinity XXII - Psalm 130 - October 18, 2015

Order of Service - Pg. 15
Hymn # 237 All Glory Be To God On High
Hymn # 329 From depths of woe I cry to Thee
Hymn # 512 O Christ, Our True and Only Light

Readings
Deuteronomy 7:9-11
Philippians 1:3-11
St. Matthew 18:23-25

Collect for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity

O God, our Refuge and Strength, Who are the Author of all godliness, be ready, we beseech Thee, to hear the devout prayers of Thy Church, and grant that those things which we ask faithfully we may obtain effectually; 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 Psalm of the Day


1)         The text for the sermon today is the first verse of our psalmody, If you, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? This is something any thoughtful Christian understands. We live in a world that marks iniquities, that is, that recounts them, remembers them, and recalls them rather easily. We ourselves are prone to mark the iniquities of others, keeping them in a mental rolodex so that we can access them when we are angry or frustrated with our neighbor. We are the proverbial elephant that never forgets when someone wounds us with their words or aggravates us with their actions. In fact it seems that the closer someone is to us the more their sins against us are remembered. Spouses sin against each other daily. Family members wound us, often on purpose. Even coworkers and friends transgress against us. Sins against us are so easy to recount, remember, and recall. Whether it is out of pride or out of fear matters not. We see a picture of this is the man from the parable presented to us today. The king forgives an incredible debt, a burden too big to bear, a principle and interest too large to ever pay back. In compassion, the king forgives the debt. But that man, forgiven so much, leaves the king’s presence and finds his fellowman who owes him but a little. He marks his fellowman’s debt and demands its payment immediately. When his fellowman cannot repay the tiny debt he is thrown into prison. So often we are that man, keeping track of our neighbor’s wrongs against us, no matter how slight. Some of them are so slight, in fact, that they are imagined slights or unintentional sins of our neighbor. Humanity is adroit at remembering the sins of others. We remember the sins of those around us and they remember our sins. We live in a world that marks iniquities.

2)         Those that are more thoughtful and introspective go a step further though and mark their own iniquities. Those who take their morality seriously, even to the smallest extent, look at themselves and see that they sin often against others and against God. Often our own consciences convict us of our sin, and not just present sin and sin from today, but sins of the past for which we have already received absolution. This is the evil conscience that refuses to let go of sins long past. This is the bruised conscience which imagines that though absolved, they must do all sorts of things to atone for their sins against God and neighbor for them to really be forgiven. These are the people who vainly imagine that they must forgive themselves and refuse to do so until they have flagellated themselves until they feel sufficiently self-chastised. But do not think lightly of such a conscience. The evil conscience is truly a hell on earth for anyone who has ever experienced it. In this mindset all the heart can do is repeatedly mark its iniquities and drag them up before their eyes over again, lamenting them anew whenever their conscience is pricked. If our neighbor remembers our sins, that is the physical embodiment of marking iniquities. But if we do it ourselves, that is the psychological embodiment of marking iniquities lest we forget them.

3)         There is still one more person that will not let our iniquities pass by unmarked and that is the old evil foe, the ancient serpent, the Devil. This is Satan’s bread and butter. Satan, in Hebrew, means “adversary” or specifically “accuser.” He is the master of a thousand arts, as Dr. Luther used say. His chief art, however, is to lead tempt you into sin, alluring you with the sin’s smallness, that it’s not that big of a deal. That it’s not a huge matter. In this he lies for all sin is a big deal. Once he has lured you into sin then he switches from being the arch-deceiver to being the arch-accuser. That sin which he presents to you at first as miniscule and insignificant, once you are in that sin, he magnifies it in your eyes and shows you just how gross and significant it truly is. The accusations begin to fly. “How can you call yourself a Christian!? You are among the baptized, behaving in such a way, indulging in such thoughts, or speaking thus with the same tongue you use to praise your Lord!? You are most certainly not a Christian! You are soiled with sin and tainted with transgression! You do not belong to the Lord Jesus for He would never have anyone that indulges in such things! You know better. You belong to me!” This is what Satan did in Zechariah chapter three. Standing before the high priest Joshua, Satan prosecutes the high priest in his filthy garments and stained clothing, demonstrating to everyone who would listen, but especially Joshua, that he is unworthy to be called High Priest and unworthy of mercy.

4)         This is the world in which we live. The Devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh, these three continually are marking our iniquity, dragging it before our eyes and reminding us of it daily. Many in our day seem to have become quite successful in alleviating themselves of its condemnation, but it is a sham. Ignoring the voice of the world, the devil, and the conscience is only to suppress it and never to be saved from it. This is why David sings If you, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? Everyone else counts iniquities. Everyone, including our own consciences, remember and recall them regularly. Why shouldn’t the Lord. In fact, of everyone who marks our iniquities, it is the Lord of whom we should be the most afraid. We so often forget our sins. Most of our sins go unnoticed to us. But God sees all things, even the thoughts of our hearts. Our neighbors only recall our sins against them and the sins which are publically noteworthy. But God sees all our sins of thought, word, and deed whether they hurt our neighbor or only ourselves. Even the Devil does not mark all our iniquities, but only those which we fear the most, for he knows that those are the best sins for his relentless accusations. But the Lord knows all our sins for He is present everywhere and is all-knowing. If there is anyone whom we should fear, it is the Lord.

5)         But the Lord is not like the world. His ways are the opposite of the ways of the world. If you, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, that you may be feared. In spite of the fact that the Lord knows all our sins He is the only one who promises to forgive our sins. He knows all our sins, even the ones we thoughtlessly pass by. We can’t know all our sins. David says in Psalm 19:12, Who can understand his errors? Yet with the Lord there is forgiveness. He promises to forgive us whenever we come to Him in repentance, sorrowing over our sins, lamenting that not only do we sin, but that we are sinners. David tells us in this psalm that with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him there is abundant redemption. His forgiveness is more than adequate for our many sins. It is abundant because it was won for us by the Son of God Himself. Christ’s death on the cross is the price of our atonement. His sacrifice is the propitiation for our sins for the merit He earns in His life and death are infinite. He earns this for you because He is full of compassion for you. It is love that motivated God to send His only-begotten Son into the world. In love for you the Lord provides an atoning sacrifice, so that all who trust in Christ’s death for their forgiveness receive what He earns on Calvary’s cross. In this way the Lord is not like the world, for in compassion He provides everything that is necessary for our absolution. Our of pure grace He presents the merits of Christ in the promise of the Gospel to you and generously provides you with faith to receive what He preaches to you in His promise of the Gospel.

6)         Nor is the Lord like the world in that He remembers the sins He forgives. We cannot help but remember our sins and the sins of others that we forgive because our sins, and the sins of others, often scar us. The more we try to forget something the more it is magnified in our thoughts. We cannot willfully forget something but must be distracted by other concerns in order to forget something. But the Lord willfully forgets our sins when we believe the Gospel and trust in the merits of Jesus, that they are given to us. The Lord says through the prophet Jeremiah, For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more. (Jeremiah 31:34) What a gracious promise. The sins of your youth may occur to you at some time, but the Lord does not remember those sins for anyone who is in Christ by faith. The sins that beset you on all sides, the sin that so easily entangles you, the Lord provides remedy for this. It is confession of sins. Remarkably, the only time we need to mark our iniquities is when we confess our sins to the Lord, whether directly to Him in prayer, or to our pastor as Christ’s called and ordained man, given to us to unburden us with the Word of Christ’s absolution. When we make confession in either way we do not have to remember every sin, for that is impossible. But once we mark our iniquity that bears down on our consciences, the Lord promises to forgive, and in forgiving, willfully forgetting and putting away that sin that it is never to be spoken of again.

7)         This ultimately why we fear God and reverence Him alone. Not because He is sovereign and almighty, though that is true of Him. We fear Him because there is forgiveness with Him through the promise of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He does not deal with us as the world does, nor as the Devil wishes to, or as we ourselves do within our own conscience. He does not mark our iniquities when we repent of them, for with Him is abundant mercy. He provides this in Christ Jesus our Lord. If you, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, that you may be feared. Amen.
 

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