Saturday, March 26, 2005

Good Friday Homily

Godly Sorrow Leads to Repentance

2 Cor 7:9-10 9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

1Thess 4:13-14 13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

This night is a solemn occasion for us. We are reminded not only of the death of our Lord but also of our share in it. Jesus did not just die for sin or for sinners as some abstract ideal. He died for particular sins and for particular sinners. He died because we are fallen and dead in Adam and it is his desire to raise us up again to newness of life. He died because we followed Adam into sin with our own sins and thus confirmed the truth that all have fallen in Adam. He died because our sinful nature and our sins indeed have lumped us in with all the objects of wrath and have brought death to those who were meant for life. Without the death of Jesus, those sins cannot be taken away. Without the death of Jesus we cannot be justified and declared not guilty before our perfect and holy heavenly Father.

So, it is good for us to reflect on what a grand failure and horrific sin was committed in the person of Adam. He was perfect in righteousness and holiness. He was walking with God in the garden. He had heard God’s command and knew that he must heed, or die. And yet, Adam chose death rather than life.

He represents us well. For here we are on the winning side of the resurrection, on the knowing side of the Ascension, on the victorious side of Pentecost. Jesus has done all that He said He would do. He has kept all of His promises. And yet, we still, like sheep, have gone astray. We still, like the disciples, deny and abandon our Lord in seeking after what is forbidden. We still, like Peter, proclaim death-defying allegiance, only to shrink away from Jesus in fear of man. And all of this with the power of the Holy Spirit present and promised to us. If we only believed with our heart and actions the way we proclaim with our lips.

These are sorrowful words. Words of failure and sin. Words of hopelessness and despair. Words of guilt and shame. O, wretched men that we are, Who will deliver us from the body of this death!

It is not glorious that we are sad. However, it is most glorious that our sadness drives us to Jesus. For some, it is not so. It was not so for Judas. He sorrowed with the world’s sorrow and only discovered death. It was not true for Simon Magus. He sorrowed with the world’s sorrow and only found fear. But Peter was moved to weeping for his great sin. He was restored and became a mighty man of God. Paul was moved to repentance for his sorrow and was a mighty man of God.

It is not glorious that we are sad, unless our sadness moves us to repentance, unless our sadness brings us to the cross, to cast all of our cares on Jesus, unless our sadness brings the sorrow that leads to repentance and repentance to life. Then will our sadness be turned to joy. Then will our weeping end in rejoicing.

We have reflected on sad things here tonight. But let us remember that Easter is coming. We know this. We cannot be sad forever. Our sadness drives us to Jesus. Our sadness carries us to the resurrection. Our sadness is necessary so that our rejoicing can be inversely proportionate. We cry today, knowing that the Lord is near so that we can rejoice on Easter Sunday. As we leave here tonight, contemplative of our own sins and the fact that Jesus died to pay for them, let us do so with hope. Let us do so with anticipation. Let us do so with the knowledge that Jesus has already risen and that He receives all those who come to Him in true humility and repentance.

We do not wink at sin. It is an enemy and produces all manner of sorrow and suffering in the world. But we do wink at the supposed victory of death. Jesus is crucified before us and sin and death rejoice. We let them have their moment for it has all been a wonderful feint and stratagem of our Lord. Sin is no victor. Death is no champion. There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. Jesus has become sin for us and died for us, only to condemn sin and death in us. Glory be to God in the Highest. Easter is coming! Amen.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Blind and Lame

Matt 21:10-11 10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? 11 And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.

On an historic day, there was an old blind man on the road leading from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem. He had been blind from birth and had many trials related to his blindness. The worst of these was a broken back he had suffered when he fell from a second floor balcony while listening to a Rabbi exposit Psalm 118. He barely survived but his legs were useless from that day onward. He had spent many years begging for the help of others.

There was a strong young man on the road that day. He was well brought up and educated in the wisdom of the Jews. He was known as an expert on the coming of Messiah. He knew that Messiah was to come from Bethlehem and that one day He would come and lead Israel back to her former glory. He talked of these things often, disputing about times and weeks and looking to the consolation of Israel. He hoped that Messiah would come in his day so that he could usher in the great kingdom.

The crowd that day was unruly and very nearly out of control. Children were running to and fro, cutting down branches and throwing them in the street. Women were singing, men were in loud and heated discussions. The blind man was anxious and asked the young man what was happening.

"Jesus is coming," he replied. "He is riding on a little donkey."

The old man asked him to help him closer to the road.

"Why," retorted the young sage, "so you can see another pretender to the throne?"

"Don’t you think that He could be the Messiah?" asked the old man.

"Him?" sneered the young man. "I’ve seen Him and He is none too impressive. Besides, his followers are a bunch of idiot fishermen, harlots, beggars and publicans. What would I have to do with Him?"

The old man asked him to describe Him as he passed by.

As Jesus approached, the young man began to tell the old man what he saw. The old man stopped him rather abruptly with a rather astonishing statement.

"I see Him. He comes and all the world is falling down before Him."

The young man was disgusted and turned to walk away. As Jesus passed, the crowd began to surge in behind Him. The young man struggled against the crowd, lost his footing and was suddenly thrown down in the midst of thousands and trampled mercilessly. When the crowd passed, he was left blind and lame and no man would help him by the way.

The old man stood up and gazed after Jesus. He eagerly followed the excited crowd to Jerusalem to anoint the new king.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Boiling Pot

Matt 21:28-31 28 But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. 29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. 30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. 31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

There was a son brought up in all the fineries of the Christian faith. In his earliest of days he was expected to buck up to the system and he seldom disappointed. When he was very young, his parents delighted in him for he was the picture of prompt, if not somewhat timid, obedience. As he grew older they began to recognize a distinct tendency of a creeping bad attitude. It was never quite bad enough, in their mind, to require quick and firm discipline but they often wondered what their son was thinking. He never told them and they didn’t ask.

The son’s sour attitude grew with his height and the parents got accustomed to it. His resistance to their will was growing but so was his ability to manipulate the situation. After major outbursts of anger, he often told them he was sorry and occasionally even asked for their forgiveness. However, his bad behavior became persistent and consistent. He withdrew from family fellowship, he was mean to his brothers and sisters and though they didn’t know it, often said very disrespectful things behind his mother’s and father’s backs.

One day the mother was boiling hard-boiled eggs. The water had just come to a fast boil when she received a phone call. She asked the son to turn off the heat and let the eggs sit. He was looking at a magazine but irritably agreed to do so. A few minutes later, the mother returned and promptly opened the lid to retrieve the eggs. Unbenounced to her, the water was in a furious boil and the steam rushed out and burnt her hand and fingers quite severely.

“Son," she yelled in extreme pain, “didn’t I tell you to turn off the heat? How could I know the water was still boiling?”

“Why, yes mother,” the defiant and unrepentant son, replied. “You did. But you should have known the water inside the pot was boiling and you should have done something about it.” He stomped off to his room and left the mother to bandage her own wounds without so much as an “I’m sorry.”

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Simply Virtuous

Prov 31:30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.

I knew a woman that wanted nothing more than to be married to a man and to have children and so she was and so she did. She wasn’t sure what she would do or how she would get along but she muddled through. She was thankful for her husband even though he wasn’t really much to be thankful for, at least in the beginning. She was simply pleased to have a man that loved her, provided for her and by God’s grace, brought her children. Her outlook on life really was very simple but so was she and it was a good fit.

In God’s good timing, she brought forth children. And though they weren’t the smartest or the wisest or the prettiest children that ever graced the world, this mother was quite oblivious to the fact. She simply thanked God for such blessings, cooked their meals, did the dishes and put them to bed with a simple prayer that God would keep them through the night and on the morrow.

In due time, her children began to grow into the likeness of their mother. They were quite simple and took the blessings of this life as from the Providential hand of God. When difficulties arose, they remembered the wise words of their mother and knew that these things, too, were from the hand of their loving Heavenly Father. They never thought to question His goodness because their mother didn’t. So, they thanked God for good or ill, cleaned up the dishes and went to bed with a prayer.

Her husband grew a great deal from her wonderful cooking and his influence seemed to advance along with his ever-advancing midsection. The loving wife remembered to thank God to have such a belly to love. Furthermore, she always remembered to thank her husband for his faithful, hard work and was so very pleased with all his little successes, not to mention showing interest in his grandiose schemes. She was not surprised by the honor that the other men bestowed upon her husband because she had always honored him. But she was quite amazed that God had changed him so much through the years and that he had become an immanently respectable man at work, in his church, and what was most important to her, in their home. She was so thankful that God had seen fit to give her such a wonderful husband, far beyond what she ever deserved or hoped for.

The woman eventually grew old and died and went to be with the Lord. When Jesus rushed up to her to welcome her to heaven, he brought a book. It was the Lamb’s Book of Life. He opened the book and read this verse. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates. (Prov. 31:31) Next to the verse were written the names of her children and her husband. She was not surprised that the names were written in the book. However, she was humbled to embarrassment that the names were written there as the fruit of her hands and of her own works. She happily thanked Jesus and entered into the glory of her Lord.