Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sermon: Invocabit (Lent 1) - 2018

18 February 2018

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

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

The lie is the most dangerous thing in the world.  To go about our daily lives, we have to be able to know what is true.  We make decisions based on information that we receive – often from the word of other people.  One lie can cause us to make a decision that could result in death and destruction.  One untruth can destroy the world.

And in fact, it did.

God gave us a perfect world.  Our ancestors Adam and Eve lived in that perfect world.  They didn’t know what pain, suffering, poverty, or death were.  They didn’t know what sorrow, regret, heartache, or fear felt like.  They had no knowledge of such things, until they were tempted to secure the knowledge of good and evil through partaking of forbidden fruit.  God had forbidden that fruit out of love and mercy for Adam and Eve.  Perhaps he was preparing them for it at some point in the future. 

But one day, the serpent came.  And he did something Adam and Eve had never experienced before: he lied to them.  “You will not surely die,” said the serpent, contradicting God’s warning not to eat of that tree, that one forbidden tree.  Satan lied.  They believed the lie.  They enjoined the lie.  They reveled in the lie.  They lied to themselves and to God.  “You will not surely die,” said the serpent, “for God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.”

But it was a lie.  It was the most destructive lie ever, and that lie ruined life on our planet – for every person and every animal born in history.  It meant not only death, but economic scarcity, struggle to survive, war and conflict, natural disasters, diseases, and every kind of pain and suffering imaginable.  It meant inexplicable evil.  It meant the lust for domination by the strong over the weak.  It meant hatred and covetousness by the weak towards the strong. It meant revolutions and genocides and cruelty beyond imagination over the course of thousands of years.

All because of one lie.

But in the words of a hymn that we will sing in a few weeks, God did not allow the lie to remain, sending our Pascal Lamb to set us free… “Let truth stamp out the lie.”  Our Lord Jesus Christ has come to restore truth and crush the head of the serpent, saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

And a confrontation between the Truth and the Lie came as “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness” where the lie came to Him to tempt Him, to turn Him from the truth, to enlist Him in the cause of the Lie.  And the serpent did to the second Adam what he did to the first: plying him with temptation.

First, he tempted him to turn stones into bread to appease His hunger, as He was fasting.  Our Lord Jesus Christ truthfully quoted the true Word of God: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Second, the Father of Lies took the Incarnate Truth to the temple, the place where the First Lie in the Garden of Eden continued to result in death on a grand scale through the slaughter of innumerable sacrificial animals.  There the Liar tried to deceive our Lord by means of a distorted truth, urging Him to destroy Himself based on the Scripture: “He will command His angels concerning you” and “On their hands they will bear you up” – two passages that referred to our Lord being protected by the angels. 

Jesus replied, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Finally, the serpent brought his targeted victim of the Great Lie to a mountain, and “showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” in the telling of a lie that these kingdoms were his to give away, demanding that Jesus worship him. 

Our Lord replied in truth: “‘Be gone, Satan.  For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.’”

And indeed, the truth stamped out the lie, even as the Truth will trample the Liar’s head at the cross.

“Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to Him.”

Dear friends, we live in an age where truth is not only distorted, but many people claim that there is no truth.  This is a Satanic lie.  For Christ is the truth, his Word is true, and the gifts He gave to you at your Holy Baptism: forgiveness, life, and salvation, are truly yours.

And yes, Satan comes to us all the time, lying, tempting us to put faith in ourselves instead of God; tempting us to treat life – even our own – with contempt; tempting us to dominate rather than serve.  Satan tempts us with the same lie uttered to Adam and Eve: “You shall not surely die,” lying to us that our sins don’t matter, that we can justify our rebellion against God, and that there are no consequences for our transgressions.

But there are consequences, dear friends: deadly consequences.  There is a cross: the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb, the bloodshed of the only one of our race who stamped out the lie.  He who is true suffered and died for us poor miserable sinners who have chosen to revel in the lie.  He truly died in our place, and how calls us to live in the truth of His love, His mercy, and His triumph over the father of lies.

For when we resist the devil and fight his lies by means of the true Word of God, the devil leaves.  And by the cross and the blood of Christ, the serpent’s head is crushed.  By clinging to the truth, the lie is extinguished.

This is what St. Paul is referring to when he says to us: “Working together with Him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.”  For in truth, the apostle says, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”  He speaks of the things the “servants of God” have to commend themselves to this great work of the Gospel, which includes, “truthful speech, and the power of God.”

For in truth is power, dear friends, the power of God.  The darkness of the lie cannot stand against the light of the truth.  Temptation and the tempter cannot stand against the Word of God.  Satan cannot stand against the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The lie, “You will not surely die” has become an ironic truth in Christ, by His cross, through your baptism, empowered by the truth of God’s Word, yes, indeed, the serpent’s lie has become the Lord’s truth.

You shall not surely die because He has surely died, He has surely risen, and He will surely come again.  He comes to stamp out the lie and deliver truth, dear friends, the truth of the Gospel.

The lie is the most dangerous thing in the world.  One untruth can destroy the world.  But conversely, the truth is the most powerful thing in the world.  One truth can and does restore the world: the truth of Christ.  Indeed, dear friends, let truth stamp out the lie!  “For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”  This is most certainly true! Amen.

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

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