God’s Living Word Brings Life
Rev. Kurt Lantz Midweek Lent 3 TC 3; Creed 3; LP 3
March 10, 2021 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
The Catechism is a guidebook for the Christian life at all times, but especially in time of pandemic. What it teaches us is this time of pestilence is nothing new, rather, it reminds of what we should have in mind at all times. These are the eternal truths that are not set aside when our world is shaken, but are the things that we ought to cling to especially when our world is shaken. Because the Catechism is a summary collection of God’s Word, it speaks the truth when there is so much reason to doubt what other sources tell us.
Can you trust news reports in our day? Can you trust the special interest groups behind the World Health Organization? Can you trust you local government? Can you trust your neighbour? Ultimately the answer is no to all to all of these, for they are all fallible. They make mistakes. These people are subject to all kinds of temptations to lie and deceive just like any one of us bearing the image of the old Adam. And yet, we have little option but to do what they say. And as we do so, we pray that our gracious and almighty God would work through sinful human beings with limited intellect to care for all people everywhere. That is why He tells us to obey the governing authorities, as we heard last week. It is not because they are always right, but because He works through them despite their limitations, their errors, and their sins.
In the midst of so much that we cannot trust completely without reservation, there has always been something that we can trust completely and fully. It is not any particular news outlet or global authority. It is not any world leader or head of state. It is the Word of God. At all times and especially at this time we need a Word that we can rely on, that we can trust, in which we can place our faith and be confident that it speaks for our good, that it will not let us down, but can uphold and sustain us when we hear all kinds of voices and ask along with Pontius Pilate, “What is truth?” (John 18:38).
Jesus spoke the truth, and He spoke it for times like this when we cannot sort out the truth anywhere else. He spoke His truth for us. We heard from the Gospel of John how Jesus had spoken truth to His disciples, and prayed to the heavenly Father that throughout the coming trial of His suffering, death, and burial, the truth that He had spoken would keep His disciples in the gracious protective hand of God.
For I have given them the words that You gave Me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from You; and they have believed that You sent Me... But now I am coming to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one.... Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth (John 17:8, 13-15, 17).
It is the Word of the Father that Jesus the Son spoke to His disciples, through which the Holy Spirit worked to keep them from the evil one as they lived through the horrors of Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, condemnation, beating, crucifixion, death, and burial. It wasn’t anything else than the Word of God declaring that the Father had sent His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
The only thing that kept the disciples from following the actions of Judas, who hanged himself in despair, was the Word that Jesus had spoken. They received that Word. They believed that Word. They clung to that Word. That Word saved them from the evil one.
The reason that we go to church is not to praise God. That is a secondary effect that spills forth from us in thanks for what happens when we do go to Church. We hear God’s Word, and it keeps us from the evil one, just as it did the disciples through the days of Jesus’ passion and when they took that Word of God out into a hostile world. This is why God has given us the Third Commandment. It is not so that He would receive some weekly payment from us, but rather so that He could constantly be giving us His Word to guard and keep us from all the dangers in this life.
The Third Commandment.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.
We won’t despise it when we remember what it does for us. We will gladly hear and learn it when we remember that without it, we are easy pickings for the evil one. We will remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy when we admit that we cannot survive on our own. That is a hard thing to confess. It is hard to receive the truth that God’s Word tells us about our inability to resist temptation, to fight the good fight of faith, to overcome the wily devil, to keep from falling to hell and damnation. The Catechism helps us to confess this in the Third Article of the Creed.
The Third Article
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
What does this mean?
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.
In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.
On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.
The Holy Spirit, working through the Word of God, keeps us in the true faith. That keeps us from despair in times such as this when we are useless to stop a raging pestilence circling the globe. It keeps us from despair when we realize that there are no voices in the world that we can fully trust to give us the truth of every situation. God’s Word is truth and that Word can uphold you and sustain you in this time and every time that some traumatic disaster befalls you.
For this is the Word that proclaims that your sins are forgiven in Jesus’ death and resurrection for you. God sent His Son for you so that you may not perish but have everlasting life. He sent His Son to give His life for you on the cross that your sins of trying to go it alone might be forgiven, your sins of neglecting His Word might be purged away, your sins of religiously following the advice and guidance of fallible institutions while being quite irreligious in terms of how you prioritize the Word of Almighty God who spoke the world into being, whose Son is the Word who became flesh to save you, who longs to speak to you His Word of grace and mercy declaring all your sins forgiven in His name.
This is so wonderfully revealed to us tonight, as the Word of God is spoken to us yet again. The words of Jesus Himself in His prayer to the heavenly Father declare that His Word keeps us from the evil one. Jesus gives us His very own words for us to pray along with Him to the heavenly Father. The Catechism reminds us in the Third Petition that we pray with Jesus for the very thing that He prayed on the night when He was in the upper room with His disciples before His betrayal.
The Third Petition
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
What does this mean?
The good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.
How is God’s will done?
God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. This is His good and gracious will.
It is God’s good and gracious will to keep us firm in His Word and faith. It is His will that we remember the Sabbath day so that we come to hear His Word as the Holy Spirit works by His almighty power to keep us in the one true faith.
It is one of the devil’s great deceptions to convince us that when things are going rather smooth, church is just a pleasant extra for us to take in if we don’t have any other plans on the weekend, a chance for us to thank God for the wonderful life that we have. It is an even greater deception of the old evil foe to convince us that when things are really rather rough, church is one of the things that can be set aside until everything is straightened out again.
The Catechism, our guidebook in this time of pandemic, reminds us that at church we have God’s Word proclaimed to us as Jesus spoke it to His disciples. We have God’s Holy Spirit at work to keep us from the evil one. We have God’s spoken Word of Gospel, His spoken Word of forgiveness to us, His spoken Word to keep us firm in the faith until we die and are safely in His eternal embrace.
By His Word Jesus made the lame to walk and the blind to see. By His Word He raised the dead. By His Word He does things for us today, just as miraculous that we cannot see. He heals both body and soul, not just for a brief span of life in this troubled world, but for an eternity in paradise. It was His Word that spoke this world into being and it is His Word that will call the dead out of their tombs to live in a renewed creation. This is the Word that He speaks to you now, to strengthen your weak hands, and make firm your feeble knees, to strengthen your anxious heart, and cast away your fears (Isaiah 35). In this and every time we need to hear His Word declare to us, “Your God will come and save you.”