Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sons and daughters. . . not orphans.

Sermon preached for Lent 6A by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich on Sunday, May 21, 2017.

    We all want comfort, security, and peace.  We all want to feel safe, not worrying about all the bad stuff in life.  But where do we go to find this comfort?  Who do we turn to?  Do we go to God the Father who’s given us life and promises to care for us?  Or, do we go to other things, to the false gods of our imagination? 
    Children know where to go, they go to their parents.  Often, when a child meets someone new they cling to their mom and dad because they know them.  When their scared after a nightmare they run to their parents room looking for that hug that makes all the bad dreams go away.  Kids seek out their parents for safety. 
    That’s what the people of Athens we’re doing.  They weren’t looking for a mom and dad to hug them, but they were looking for a sense of comfort and security and peace, and they did this by worshiping a pantheon of gods. 
    The Athenians worried about the bad stuff in life, stuff like debt and failure, hunger and disease, war and death, the same kind of stuff that we worry about today.  They thought that if they pleased the right gods then the bad stuff wouldn’t happen, that they’d be rescued from it.  So they prayed to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, craft, and war.  They made sacrifices to her hoping that she’d protect and help them.  And they did the same to many other gods, hoping that they’d lend a helping hand too.  And just to be safe, to be sure they included all gods in their prayers, they even built an altar to the unknown god. 
    These gods were made in the image of man.  They came from our imagination.  They were the embodiment of things that we value, things like strength and wisdom and beauty; but because they were created in our image, they also embodied our faults, our sin.  The stories of the Greek gods look very much like our sin filled lives, lives filled with jealousy, hate, violence, lies and betrayal, failure, the bad stuff in life.  And because of this, those pagans couldn’t find true comfort and security in their gods, and this is why we don’t have comfort and security when we go after the false gods of our imagination. 
     Our false gods aren’t necessarily gold, silver, and stone statues made by our hands, but they do come from our imagination.  We come up with all kinds of false gods to worship, thinking that they’ll give us the good in life.  We worship the false god of financial success.  We work and work and work, earning all that we can, hoping it will solve all our problems.  When we have money, it’s all we think about and when don’t have it, it’s still all we think about.  We worship the false god of popularity.    
    We want others to like us, that’s why we constantly check Facebook, to see how many likes we’ve gotten.  We believe that if we have friends and great relationships than life will be good.  We worship at the altar of human reason.  We strive to find rational truth in this world, setting ourselves up as the deciders of that truth.  If we know all, we can fix all.  We pray to the false god of health and physical strength, hoping they’ll keep death at bay.  We say to ourselves, “If I just get in shape, then all my physical problems will go away.”
     These are just a few of the false gods we bow down to, but none of them bring comfort, security, and peace, none of them give us life because all of them are made by us sinners.  All of them fail.  True comfort and security, true life can only come from knowing the true God, knowing our heavenly Father, knowing Him through His Son.
     This is what Paul proclaimed to the Athenians when he saw that altar to the unknown god.  He made the true God known to the people.  God made the world and everything in it.  He doesn’t live in our temples and he doesn’t need our service because He’s the Creator of life.  He’s our heavenly Father who’s given us life.  And this life is more than just our time here on earth.  This life is an everlasting life in His Son, Jesus Christ.  And it’s in Him, in His death and resurrection, that we find true comfort and security, peace in the forgiveness of sins.    
    Jesus gives us the peace of our Father.  Knowing our Savior, baptized into His death and resurrection, we’re made children of God, sons and daughters, and as God’s children, He promises to never leave us, to never abandon us.   
     Speaking to His disciples, Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me.  Because I live, you also will live.  In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (Jn 14:18-20).  Jesus said this as He was headed to the cross where He would give up His life for the sins of the world, for the disciples’ sins and for our sins, and after His death, the world would no longer see Him.  No longer would He be with the disciples like He had been before, but He wasn’t abandoning them.  After 3 days, He rose from the tomb and came to the disciples.  Alive, He came to give them peace and from that moment on, the disciples had a comfort that couldn’t be taken away. 
     This is the same for you and me.  Christ doesn’t leave you like orphans, one’s without a Father.  You’re not alone in this world.  You don’t deal with sin and death by yourself.  God your Father sent His Son to overcome sin with His death and resurrection, and He’s always there with you.  He’s there with the reassuring and comforting words of His Gospel, with peace and mercy in the Means of Grace.  He’s there with the promise that because He lives, you too will live. 
     This is the Good News of Christ Jesus who died so that your sins might be forgiven, so that you might have the inheritance of everlasting life.  You receive this inheritance because you’re a child of God, adopted in Baptism.  There, in that water, God the Father saved you, He placed His name upon you and made you His own.  As your Father He gives you life, life here on earth and everlasting life in heaven. 
     The Athenians didn’t know the true God, but you do.  The Holy Spirit has made Him known to you through the Word.  He’s the Helper, the Spirit of truth, who’s revealed God the Father through the Son.  He dwells within you, pointing you to the Father and Son, comforting and reassuring you of the everlasting life you have in Him.  Because of this faith, you seek comfort and security in the only place it’s found...in the arms of Christ that were once stretched out on the cross.    
     Christ promised His disciples that He wouldn't leave them as orphans, and He makes that same promise to you and me.  In Christ, we’re not orphans, children without a father.  Baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, we’re sons and daughters of God.  We’re children of the true Father who gives us all that we need.  He’s given us the Holy Spirit, the Helper and Comforter.  And the Spirit has given us faith, faith that knows our Father, faith that knows our Savior, faith that seeks comfort, security, and salvation in Him alone, faith that has the confident hope of everlasting life.  In Jesus’ name...Amen. 

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