Sermon for Lent VIB, preached on Sunday, March 11, 2018, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich
Zombies have become very popular in our culture in the recent years. TV shows and movies, videogames, even zombie toys for young children are top sellers. For some reason we’re fascinated with the idea of the ½ dead walking around trying to eat our brains. Sadly though, what we think of only as gory fantasy is actually reality. The walking dead are real. We’re the walking dead. We’re dead in our sin and trespasses, and not just ½ dead, we’re completely dead.
St. Paul is very clear about the state of our non-life. “You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph 2:1-3).
When we look into the mirror, we appear to be alive. We breathe and think. We walk and eat and go to work. We feel our hearts beating in our chest. All of this suggests that we’re alive, but we’re not. God’s Word tells us what we are...we’re sinners, walking dead.
We’re dead in our sin for the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). All of the things we do that make us appear to be alive, they’re infected with sin. Our original sin, that sin we were born with, that sin we inherited from our first parents, it’s like a virus that’s made its way into our DNA. It kills our bodies and souls. It drives us to follow after Satan and his lies; listening to him instead of listening to God. It drives us to follow the ways of this world; to follow its definition right and wrong. It drives us to satisfy the evil desires of our flesh, the evil that comes from within our hearts. This is all we can do.
I think one of the reasons why we as a people are fascinated with zombies is because it gives us a false sense of being able to overcome death. All of the zombie movies and TV shows revolve around a group of people who defeat the undead. These stories appeal to our desire to defeat death. We want to be able to kill that which kills, and we often convince ourselves that we can.
There are many ways we try to get rid of the sin that kills us. We try to clean up our lives, to resist the temptations of the world. We try to keep our words and actions clean of sin, to live a perfect life. We try to make up for our sin by doing good. But none of this works. Sin isn’t just what we say and do, it’s also what we think. Sin is a condition in which were turned inward on ourselves. It puts us first. Even the desire to stop our sin so that we might live is turned inward. Our sin ultimately makes us our own god. We put ourselves in God’s place.
We can’t stop our sin, because we’re sinners...that’s what we do. There’s nothing we can do of our own power to save ourselves. You can’t kill what’s already dead. Dead in our trespasses we can’t overcome death. Dead men can do nothing. We’re like the Israelites who were bitten by the fiery serpents.
The people of Israel once again grew impatient with God. They complained saying they had no food and water, and yet the bread of heaven, the manna the Lord provided for them they loathed. In answer to this sin, God sent serpents that bit the people. There was no cure, no anti-venom to save them. Every bite was fatal. Once a person was bit, they were the walking dead.
Soon, the people realized the condition of death that plagued them. They recognized their sin and repented. The said to Moses, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord….Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us” (Nu 21:7). The people realized they couldn’t save themselves, only God could do this; and in His great mercy He did. He didn’t take the snakes away, but He provided the people with salvation. He gave them a bronze serpent on a pole, so that whenever a person was bit, they could look at it and live.
We’re just like these Israelites. We’re helpless in the fight against our sin that turns us into the walking dead. Nothing we do can save us from death. Only God can give us salvation. Only God can defeat death, and He does this not by taking it away, but by bringing us to life through the One who was lifted up on the cross.
“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:14-16). The only way to overcome death is to bring the dead to life in Christ.
“God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph 2:4-5). God sent His only Son to die the death of sin, to die your death, so that He might raise you to life. You’re God’s creation, and with Fatherly love, He couldn’t leave you dead in your sin. He won’t let you be the walking dead. This isn’t what He planned for you. God’s plan is life, everlasting life, and the only way to this life is Christ on the cross.
Christ died for your sin, so that you might live. His blood shed on the cross heals the infection of sin. It’s the medicine of immortality that cures death. Looking to Him who died on the cross, looking to Him who rose from the dead, trusting in God’s gift of life, you’re brought to life. In the waters of Baptism, you were joined to Christ’s death and resurrection. God took you from being the walking dead and He made you a living saint. At His altar, He feeds you the bread of heaven, the very flesh of your Savior. Through this feast you receive forgiveness of sins and the nourishment of everlasting life.
We can’t kill what’s already dead. The only way to cure the walking dead is for God to bring us to life in Christ. Jesus, lifted high on the cross does that He died so that you might be raised to life. Trusting in God’s promises, we look to our Savior on the cross so that we might be made alive with everlasting life. In Jesus’ name...Amen.