Sunday, March 01, 2009

Sermon: Lent 1 Invocabit

1 March 2009 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 4:1-11 (Gen 3:1-21, Heb 4:14-16)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

It is no coincidence that our Lord Jesus Christ is tempted by the devil, nor is it just by chance that our Blessed Lord defeats the tempter with the Word of God.

For this meeting was inevitable. It was going to happen one way or the other. The payback was going to come to the serpent, the one more crafty than any other beast of the field, the one who raised doubts in our ancestors Adam and Eve by simply asking a question: “Did God actually say…?”

Satan tempted Eve by causing her to doubt, by making her think that God’s Word was a lie. Satan tempted Adam by appealing to him as well that it was possible, through disobedience to God, to become like God.

And just like that, it was over. Mankind had exchanged God’s true words for the serpent’s twisted utterances. Mankind brought death to the world, and had destroyed his perfect harmony with God. Just like that. The serpent was indeed more crafty. And the serpent was given a promise from the mouth of God: “I will put enmity between you and the women, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

For thousands of years, the universe awaited this clash to come. Mankind clung to the promise of this Seed of the woman, this Savior, this Christ who would crush the skull of the old evil foe. And the serpent waited as well, like a cobra waiting to strike, seeking to plunge his venomous fangs into the heel of the Seed of the woman. Only one would be victorious.

In the Garden of Eden, the man and the woman were soundly defeated by the tempter. All Satan had to do was dangle a falsehood in front of them. There was not much of a struggle. Adam and Eve were quick to believe the devil’s lie and to reject the truth of God’s Word. But this was to be undone thousands of years later in the wilderness.

This time, the Man, the Human Being, the Seed of the Woman – was prepared for battle. This time, the Man was hardened by fasting and strengthened by the very Word of God.

The same distortions would come from the mouth of the venomous devil. The same half-truths, the same outright lies, the same appeals to vanity, and the same pressures to disobey the Word and command of God. But this time, the Man would beat back the crafts and assaults of the devil.

Like in the Garden, the tempter would use food as a means to try to entrap the Man, using his stomach and lust for the satisfaction of his hunger as a means to wrest disobedience from this new and greater Adam. But our Lord repelled this assault by appealing to the Word of God – for “Man shall not live by bread alone,” but indeed by every Word of God.

Satan then tempted our Lord to test God, to take an action motivated by doubt, to act in a way that essentially challenges God and calls him a liar (“Did God actually say…?). But this time, the Man, the Son of God in human flesh, the Son of Adam who lacks the sin of Adam, refused to take the bait. Again, He appeals to God’s Word: “It is written….”

Once more, Satan ruthlessly attacked our Lord Jesus Christ, this time tempting Him to abandon the worship of His Father, to overturn the fabric of the universe by obeying Satan and disobeying God – but unlike His ancestor Adam in the Garden of Eden, our Lord would remain true in His worship of the one true God. Our Lord would again invoke the Word of God to dispel the temptations of the devil.

“Then the devil left him.”

This first battle between the Seed of the Woman and the tempter was the beginning of the undoing of the damage Adam and Eve caused in their fall into sin. Three times, our Lord counterattacked the devil’s lies with God’s truth as expressed in His Word. Where Adam failed, our blessed Lord was victorious. Where Satan had defeated man with a lie, the Man would defeat Satan with the truth. And with “one little word”: “Be gone,” Satan is felled.

And yet, the devil continues to attack us. His old lies of the Garden still work on us. And even though we know Satan is the father of lies, we are all too quick to want to hear him. Indeed, we prefer Satan’s lie over God’s truth – for Satan tells us what we want to hear: that we can turn stones into bread, we can take risks without consequences, and we can worship anyone and anything we want to. Satan tells us we don’t need God, that God is a liar, that the Word of God is not true, that we can and should serve ourselves, that we have no need for a Savior, that we can serve the false gods of pleasure, of riches, indeed, of anything – other than the God who loves us enough to send His Son to become one of us, a champion of our own race and flesh, a promised Messiah, the Christ, the Seed of the Woman who has come to defeat the tempter once and for all.

Again and again we fall for the lie – because we like it.

And, dear friends, this is exactly why, in the words of Luther’s hymn: “with might of ours can naught be done, soon were our loss effected.” For we face the devil over and over, and we fall into the same trap over and over. And if it weren’t for God’s mercy, God’s love, God’s promise, we would be lost and condemned, without hope, and with nothing to look forward to other than death and hell. But again, as we sang: “But for us fights the Valiant One, whom God Himself elected.”

For when our Lord Jesus defeats the devil, he does so not just for Himself, but for all men. He is truly our champion in the fight, our general in the warfare. But what’s more, he is our high priest. He is the intermediary between us men and the God we so horribly offend by our disobedience. For this Man would not repeat the mistake of Adam, of Eve, of all of us. This Man hurled the Word of God at the beast, because this man is the Word of God.

Our high priest is not only God’s Spokesman to us, He is also our Spokesman to God. Our high priest is not only God, He is truly bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. He is a high priest who hungered, who was tempted, and who rebuked the prince of demons by the same Word of God given to us. And as that Word of God testifies: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who is every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Dear brothers and sisters, this is remarkable! This is good news! Our advocate is God Himself in the flesh. Our Champion is a Man Himself who is also God. We have not been abandoned to what we truly deserve, but we have been rescued according to what we don’t deserve.

And this is why we are here, in both space and time. In space, we are here in a church sanctuary, a holy place where the Word of God is proclaimed. We come to this place to combat the devil, and we use the same weapons against the old evil foe as did the Seed of the Woman, our Blessed Lord. We hear the sacred words of Holy Scripture. We hear the Words of Holy Absolution declaring us to be forgiven of all our sins. We hear the preaching of the Holy Gospel, which tells us how God has become one of us to rescue us by His crucifixion and death, to be raised again from the dead for our justification. And we come to this place for Holy Baptism and the Holy Supper, which send the devil and his demonic hordes running in terror from the “Valiant One whom God Himself elected.”

We also come back again and again to this time, our own 40 days of fasting, our own time in the Lenten wilderness of the church year, coming back again and again to wrestle with our own sins and with our own Old Adam. We come to this first Sunday in Lent, this time to hear God’s Word proclaim to us about the Word of God in the flesh, whose appeal to the Word of God begins that process of bruising Satan’s head on our behalf. Our Lord Himself not only fights for us, but shows us how to fight as well.

For make no mistake, dear brothers and sisters, the devil will be whispering in your ear, tempting you, cajoling you, trying to convince you of your own unworthiness, attempting to drive a wedge between you and your loving Father – whether by appealing to your guilt, or by convincing you that you have no sins to feel guilty about. And this tempting and diabolical nattering in your ear will continue until you draw your final breath on this side of the grave.

But the good news is this: We have the truth. He is not only our Champion, but our Weapon. He has already defeated the devil for us. The truth always stamps out the lie, and He will never leave or abandon us. Let us indeed, then “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” That is a promise from the Word of God, the same Word of God that brings us victory over sin, death, and yes, even over the devil. Thanks be to God, now and unto eternity. Amen.

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


J.R. Silverthorne said...

Pastor, would you mind changing your settings to allow for the full posts to be read using Google Reader? Rather than hit the website of each blog I like to read, I use Google Reader. If you would do this, I would be eternally grateful.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear J.R.:

Sure, no problem. I thought most people wanted just the "teaser" so they didn't have to scroll through everything, but since you're the only person who has ever asked...