Sunday, March 05, 2017

Sermon: Invocabit (Lent 1) – 2017

5 March 2017

Text: Matt 4:1-11 (Gen 3:1-21, 2 Cor 6:1-10)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Satan says: “Did God actually say…?”

Jesus says: “It is written.”

Satan lures us to doubt the Word of God, to reinterpret it according to our wants and whims, to exalt ourselves and “be like God” – even though Satan’s lusty invitation is a lie.  And Satan leads us to death. Jesus calls us to trust the Word of God, to submit to it according to God’s will, to praise the God who created us, and who invites us to live with Him forever in blessedness and truth.  For Jesus is the very incarnation of Truth.

Satan led the man Adam to darkness, destruction, and death.  The man Jesus has defeated Satan, and leads mankind to light, love, and life.

Three times, the lying devil sought to pervert our Lord Jesus: first, to tempt Him to feed Himself apart from God, second, to destroy Himself contrary to the will of God, and third, to seek worldly power in rebellion against God.  And three times, our Lord Jesus replied, “It is written…. Then the devil left Him.”

“It is written,” dear friends.  The weapon you need to subvert the devil, to resist temptation, to remain faithful, to claim the free gift of everlasting life that is yours by virtue of Him who defeated the devil at the cross, is found in the writings, the Scripture, the Holy Bible, the Word of God.

Jesus is the Word.  For “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  The Word, dear friends, the same Word that, from the heavens, spoke all things into existence, in the beginning, is the same Word that, from the cross, bespeaks us forgiven and righteous, freed from guilt, and released from bondage to sin, death, and yes, the malignant and lying devil himself.  

The same Word cleansed you at your baptism.  The same Word absolves you of your sins.  The same Word nourishes you not merely with bread and wine, but with the body and blood of the Word made flesh, the Word that dwells among us.

The Word is not a dusty old book of meaningless history or trite moralisms.  The Word is not a magic book of spells and incantations.  The Word is not a book of trivia to master.

The Word of God “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” – and it is your only weapon with which to slay the dragon.

The Bible is at the same time the best selling book at any given time and the least read book that so often collects dusts in our homes.  The Bible is the greatest book ever written, and the greatest book ever forgotten.  The Bible is the book most sought after in history, and the book most misunderstood in history.

And so here we are, dear brothers and sisters, at the first Sunday in our Lenten journey, having the opportunity and the privilege to meditate on Satan’s defeat at the hands of the Word by means of the Word.  We hear anew of how lying words betrayed man into the clutches to the devil, and we also hear how true words betrayed the devil into the clutches of the Man Jesus, the Man who triumphed where Adam fell.

And the Lord Jesus offers Himself to all the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, dear friends, giving Himself to us as the Word that destroys the devil.  

In our wonderful hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” Doctor Luther, reflecting upon the Word of God in Psalm 46, ponders the Lord’s battle with the devil, which is also our battle with the devil: “The old evil foe/ Now means deadly woe;/ Deep guile and great might/ Are his dread arms in fight;/ On earth is not his equal.”

Indeed, dear friends, we are not equal to the task of fighting the devil.  But, as the hymn continues: “But for us fights the valiant One,/ Whom God Himself elected./ Ask ye Who is this?/ Jesus Christ it is.”

And when it comes to Satan, when facing the Lord Jesus Christ, we sing in the hymn: “One little word can fell him.”

All the might and power and rage and destruction of the devil, and yet what defeats him?  One little word: one little baby inside His mother’s womb, one little book of Truth, one act of defiance and resistance by a Christian who hurls the Word of God into the face of Satan.  One little Word.

Dear friends, we need the Word of God.  The Word destroys the devil, fills us with grace, and raises us from death.  The Word’s power is mighty and merciful, crushing evil and bearing up the humble, calling sinners to repent, and restoring the penitent to a calling of holiness.

We opened this service with the Word of God, Psalm 91, a prayer and a blessing used in exorcisms.  In that Word, we heard anew the promise of Him who defeated Satan, the Word that declares: “No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling.  You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.”  Because Jesus has trampled the head of the serpent, we too have victory over the devil.  And the Word delivers that victory to us, hardens us for battle, and comforts us in distress. 

St. Paul speaks of the preaching of the Word when he writes of “truthful speech, and the power of God.”  Truthful speech, dear friends.  The words of the devil are lies, but the Word of God is truth.  It is written!  Read it. Study it.  Hear it. Pray it!  And most of all, believe it – in this life and in the life to come!  Amen.

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

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