Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sermon: Wednesday of Invocabit (Lent 1)

13 February 2008 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA Text: Rom 5:12-19 (Gen 3:1-21, Matt 4:1-11)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

When children play games with each other, they will sometimes resort to a “do-over.” This means that due to some controversy about whether or not the rules were followed, all sides agree to not count the last play, and to simply do it over.

Of course, if the kids had referees and officials in the video booth, there would be no do-over, but rather enforced penalties and the option to “challenge the ruling on the field.”

In their simplicity, children simply reach a consensus to have a “do-over.”

In the adult world, we usually don’t get “do-overs.” If you mess up on your job, there will be consequences. If you say something hurtful, it is very difficult to recall your words. In the Garden of Eden, God enforced the ultimate penalty for our transgressions – separation from Him, death, and the punishment of eternal damnation.

However, Satan, the tempter who started this sad chain of events, doesn’t get the last laugh. For God has given us a “do-over.” Our Lord Jesus is tempted – just as Adam was. Satan teased and cajoled Jesus to attempt to make Him use His divine office for selfish gain, to in turn tempt God, and to choose Mammon over the eternal treasures of God. This time, Satan’s ploy failed. Jesus, the New and Greater Adam, won where Adam, the first Adam, our ancestor Adam, the Adam whose name means “dust” – failed.

St. Paul recaps this whole cosmic replay of man’s failure at Eden – though this time with Man’s victory – in our epistle. Paul proclaims: “Through one man, sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”

As a result, he says: “death reigned” – even in the days before God gave the law to Moses. For we all knew right from wrong, chose wrong, and all men carried the curse of Adam. St. Paul also tells us that Adam is a “type” of “Him who was to come.” In other words, Adam is a preview of our Lord Jesus Christ – inasmuch as Adam was formed without a human father, and came into the flesh without sin.

Our Lord Jesus, God in the flesh, is the great “do-over” – through whom mankind would be redeemed by a Man, death was to be defeated by death, and sin was to be atoned for by Him who knew no sin. This New and Greater Adam was to seize the cosmic “do-over” and this time, be victorious.

“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.”

The “do-over” has been done over for us, by the fulfillment of Adam, by God Himself who has come into the flesh to rescue us!

Even as we are beaten down by our sins, even as we struggle with temptation and doubt, even as we are harassed by the devil and downcast by death, listen to this glorious and comforting Word of God:

“ But the free gift is not like the offense, for if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.”

In other words, as terrible and wretched as we are in our sins, our Lord Jesus Christ is an even greater Savior. Yes, indeed, our sins are serious things. As one liturgy confesses – even the memory of our sins should be grievous to us. Our sins, and not only the sins of our ancestors, have alienated God. Our sins have brought death upon us. We truly deserve nothing but wrath and hellfire.

But thanks be to God that this very deserved fate does not stand. It is by command of our Lord Himself, by the act of our Lord Himself, by the sacrifice of our Lord Himself that we have been given a second chance. He beat back Satan with the sacred words: “It is written…” He has given us Scripture to hurl at the devil, and preachers for you to listen to, to equip you for battle. He has given you baptism to make you a New Adam, and gives you of His very own flesh and blood, so that you can partake in the divine nature.

All this He gives you as a free gift. None of us deserves this grace, and that’s exactly why it is grace – and it truly abounds upon us.

Dear friends, let this grace pour over you, shower over you, flood over you – as the lavish baptismal waters poured over you at the font, washing away thoughts, words, and deeds of the past, granting us a divine “do-over” that joins us to our Lord’s victory over the devil.

Seize the opportunity of that “do-over.” Having been made over, we have been freed to lead lives of victory, to do good works for the sake of love (and not out of fear). We have been liberated from the devil so that we might help our neighbor simply because it is the right thing to do, without a thought of divine payback. For we have already been given the fullness of heaven in spite of our sinfulness.

Even in the midst of Lent, as we ponder our sins, as we meditate on our faults, as we are filled with grief and regret over our failings – remember, O man, not only that you are dust and to dust you shall return, but remember, O man, that you are a Christian, and your ashy faces have been washed clean by the waters of baptism, that our Lord Jesus has defeated the devil, and that you have been created and made able to do good works to be a blessing in God’s good earth.

This “do-over” is a gift. It is for us. It is a gift that has no end. “Let us give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good. And His mercy endureth forever.” Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.

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