Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Living in lies... called out by Light

Sermon for Epiphany Observed, preached on Sunday, January 3, 2016.

    The conversation the Magi had with Herod was extremely nuanced.  Did you notice what Herod did not say?  When asked about the King of the Jews, Herod did not claim to be King of the Jews.  Herod was living a lie.  He could not claim what he knew to be a lie – not even despicable old Herod!  He lived a lie, sitting as King, a puppet of the Romans and no friend to the Jews.  But hidden in our lies God brings the unpleasant truth none of us likes to hear or admit.  When confronted with it, we cannot deny it; but instead of pain we find salvation there!
    The Word of God is unpleasant truth that intrudes upon the comfortable lies of our everyday lives.  We tell ourselves that sin is normal, that you can’t avoid it so make your peace with it.  We tell ourselves that our sins are not as bad as the sins of others. We tell ourselves that we can make up for our sins and God really doesn’t expect anyone to be good, anyway.  Sin is not natural – it is a corruption of our nature.  Eden corrupted what God had made and turned us into lies who prefer lies to truth.
    We say that sin is more an occasional lapse when we are weak more than it is a fatal condition that infects ever inch of us.  That is the comfortable lie but the truth is that we wear the clothing of death and sin has tainted everything we are and do.
    We tell ourselves that all we really need is a little motivation and we can be better people, that faith is more about inspiring the best in us than anything else. But we don’t need a better cheering section to be good people.  What need is a Savior who exposes the shameful lies of sin and its death with the light that shines in the darkness.  We need a Savior and Redeemer.  We don’t need a King to look up to but a Savior who dies for us.
    The devil is constantly telling us to hide in the shadows, to live in the lies that appear comfortable but only impart misery. Christ does just the opposite.  He exposes the lies and delivers to us the hard truth that saves.  We don’t need a role model but a Savior who is born of the Spirit and a Virgin in the most unlikely of places like Bethlehem.
    We have a God who comes to us because we could not come to Him.  He came to wear the soiled clothing of our sin and in the great and surprising exchange, He gives us His holiness as our new clothing.  We do not need a road map to God but a God who finds us in our lost and sinful condition, who sorts out the comfortable lies that we tell ourselves, and leads us into the Light of His truth where salvation is to be found.
    For all his bravado, Herod knew the truth.  He was a sham of a king living on a borrowed throne that belonged to another. The Magi’s presence made him confront the lie he tried to avoid.
    Every Sunday the Word of the Lord shines like the star that led the Magi.  It brings us to the place where lies are exchanged for truth that saves.  It takes our dead flesh and breathes into it the life of the Spirit so that we might confront our lies and believe the truth.  Every Sunday is an Epiphany, a weekly Epiphany, truth telling to sinners who love their lies and who find comfort in the shadows and darkness where lies live.
    We don’t need a motivator.  We don’t need someone to inspire us.  We don’t need a little push to get us over the top.  We don’t occasional forgiveness for occasional sins.  We need the Light that shines in the darkness, that leads the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, the dead to live.  We need a Savior strong enough to wear our flesh and blood and carry the burden of our every sin even to death on a cross.  We need truth that confronts all our lies and exposes all our sin.  We need a voice strong enough to call us to repentance.
    The voice of God speaks in no half-truths nor does it lie.  It speaks only truth – the hard truth that saves.  Even strangers from the East who do not belong find a home where this truth lives in the flesh and blood of our Savior.  Herod knew enough to fear the truth – for truth cannot co-exist with lies.  So, now we come.  Let us be as honest.  The mercy of God cannot live in hearts that love lies and darkness and sin.  Believe, repent, live.
    The Light of Christ shines in the darkness.  It brings the out cast and foreigner to find home in the mercy of God.  It calls the fearful from their comfortable shadows, darkness, and lies into the Light of Christ that saves.  It shines where death once reigned and it refuses to allow death its victory.  That is the King of Kings whom the Magi found where prophets had promised.  In Epiphany we come where prophets have also promised the King of Kings will be – forgiving the sinner, welcoming the stranger, giving the outcast a home, and bestowing life upon the dead in trespasses and sins.  What a blessed Epiphany!

1 comment:

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