[Zion Lutheran Church, Harbine, Nebraska]
"God Will Bring Us to His Holy Mountain"
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost—Second Sunday in St. Laurence' Tide
August 14, 2011
IN NOMINE JESU
On Thursday evening, my bride and I attended Ribfest in Lincoln. As we were sampling ribs from each of the vendors, we were looking at the signs and banners the each posted at their respective stations, bragging about their products and their awards. One banner in particular caught my eye. It read: "Our ribs are more tender than a mother's love." As I sat there, looking at the banner, eating my ribs, and making sure I didn't spill any barbecue sauce on my shirt, I thought about how I might use that line in a sermon and when. As I thought about it, I realized I could use it in this sermon. As I thought about it some more, it made sense to me, especially as I was reading the text for today's sermon.
In our text for today, our Lord is comforting us, promising to gather His people together. We recall in St. Matthew's Gospel that Jesus lamented—cried out—over Jerusalem, wishing He could gather the Jews together as a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wings. The Pharisees and Sadducees did not want Him to gather them…or anybody else…to Himself. They flew the coop. They cried foul. Compare what a mother hen does with what a human mother does with their respective children. The human mother with take the little one in her arms, hold the child on her lap or on her chest, caress this little gift from God, and give him or her a tender kiss on the forehead. That is a very close, personal, intimate, and maternal relationship she is having with her child, a love shown as only a mother—a mommy—can. I still remember the day my oldest niece was born. When she was handed to her mom for the very first time, my sister looked at her and said, "Hi, Mikayla. This is your mommy."
Your heavenly Father does not desire to have that kind of close relationship with you, His child. No—He wants one that much closer than that, one that's even more tender than some of the ribs Tanya and I sampled. He sends us His Holy Spirit, so that we would call out, "Abba, Father!" Abba is an Aramaic word that is much more informal than abbi, which means "my father." The fact that God wants us to call to Him "Abba, Father," means that God desires a much closer relationship, something like a child calling his father "Daddy," but the relationship God desires with us is even closer than that. You see, God clearly wants to gather you and all the rest of His faithful people to Himself. GOD is the One who made you. GOD is the One who placed you in the temple of your mother's womb. GOD clearly knows you better than you know yourself. GOD gave you the faith to believe in His Son, Jesus. GOD sent His Holy Spirit to create in you the faith you have.
GOD desires to call and gather us to Himself, to gather us around His Word and Sacraments. By doing that, He calls upon us to be faithful, righteous, and holy. But on our own merits, we don't meet any of God's demands. We're not even close. That's because we are poor, miserable sinners, just as we confessed this morning. We are full of sins and iniquities. We have offended God, and we justly deserve His temporal and eternal punishment. Like the terrible two-year-old or the trying teenager, we are rebellious children, continually rebelling against God. As such, we want no part of Him, His grace, His gifts, or His gathering us together to Himself. We want to be independent of Him. We want to keep some distance between ourselves and God—to get some separation from Him. We need to be careful in what we ask for, because that's exactly what hell is: separation from God—eternal separation from Him, living in total condemnation. From this preserve us, heavenly Father!
For you younger people gathered here, even when you disobey your parents and want nothing to do with them, remember that they still love you, whether you want them to or not. For ALL of you gathered here, even when you disobey God and break His Ten Commandments, remember that God still loves you, and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it. God loves you and dearly desires to gather you together under the shadow of His mighty wings, to gather you—made outcasts by sin—to His holy mountain. Where is this mountain? Is it Mt. Sinai? No—that's where God gave His Law. Is it Mt. Calvary? No—that's where Christ fulfilled the Law in our place because we can't fulfill it.
So where is this holy mountain? On this side of heaven, THIS is God's holy mountain. THIS is His house of prayer. THIS is His Mt. Zion, not because this congregation is named Zion but because here is where God freely gives His gifts to His people. The gifts Jesus won for you on Mt. Calvary, He gives to you here. On Mt. Sinai, God gave us His Law in the Ten Commandments. On Mt. Calvary, Christ gave His body and shed His blood on the cross for you. On this Mt. Zion, God gives you the gifts Christ won for you on the cross—namely, the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation. By the blood Christ shed on the cross as He died for you and for me, your sins are forgiven, as you heard me announce earlier—not my forgiveness but God's! God has gathered us in this nave, in this sanctuary, to give us His forgiveness by His Word, spoken in the Absolution, read from the Bible, and preached in the sermon. It is God's Word, and He speaks His Word in your ears, promising you that He has forgiven you your sins for the sake of His Son, whose body was nailed to the cross and whose blood was poured out for you. This is the very same body and blood He gives us when He gathers us at His Table, His body and blood in, with, and under bread and wine, given and shed FOR YOU for the forgiveness of sins.
There is no need for burnt offerings and sacrifices, for Christ offered up the perfect sacrifice on His Father's, and OUR Father's, altar of the cross. And in response to the love our Lord has first shown us, we will get to present our offerings to Him in a few moments, and we will get to pray for the whole people of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs. These are our acts of spiritual sacrifice, done not to gain God's favor but as a sign that we already have it. We also get to bring aid and comfort to those who are in need, showing others the love God has first shown us, so that, by the Holy Spirit at work in them, as the Lord says through Isaiah, "I will gather yet others to Him besides those already gathered" (v. 8b). God accomplishes this just as He gathers us to Himself, sending His Holy Spirit into our hearts through Baptism and the Word, as the Spirit "calls, GATHERS, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith," and "on the Last Day He will raise [us] and all the dead, and give eternal life to [us] and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true" (Third Article, emphasis added).
God grant this in Jesus' Name and for His sake. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
Send Pastor Mark Schlamann an email.