Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ash Wednesday

It's been a hard week of Winter weather in West Michigan. Epiphany's Ash Wednesday and First Sunday in Lent services were both cancelled. What follows is the Ash Wednesday sermon that would have been preached this week. We are using the CPH series, Lamb of God, Pure and Holy for our mid-week Lenten meditations. The sermon is mine, but I'm using their texts and some of my thoughts have their source in the sermons from the book. What I appreciate about the series is the devotional book that goes along with it, which we gave to each family in the congregation.

Ash Wednesday[1]
February 6, 2008
Text: 1 Peter 1:18-19:
knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your
forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious
blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (ESV)

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God, Pure and Holy, spotless and without blemish, who alone is the all-sufficient sacrifice for our sin. All the sacrifices of the Old Testament, the blood of bulls and goats, the spotless lambs without blemish offered by the children of Israel up to this time had to be repeated again and again, because they were not sufficient for sin. They were only shadows of the reality to come in Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This Lamb is offered up on the altar of the cross: “he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:5).

This evening we sit in the sackcloth of repentance, our foreheads marked with ashes in the pattern of the cross. This is good and right. It is time to make a clean break with our sin. It is time to crucify the flesh and remind ourselves that we have been redeemed, ransomed from the empty way of life we inherited from our forefathers. What is that empty way of life? It the way of sin. It is the way of the child who does not love, honor, and obey his parents. It is the way of the parent who does not love her child enough raise her in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and exercise discipline when necessary. It is the way of the man who despises his neighbor in his heart, and so is already guilty of murder, and perhaps even murders his neighbor’s reputation by spreading juicy gossip about him. It is the way of the spouse who cannot avert her gaze from Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome, while her oblivious husband sits next to her at the restaurant. It is the way of the drunkard and the glutton and the sloth. It is the way of the tax-fraud and the tyrannous employer and the lazy employee. And it is the way of every one of us who worship our own selves as gods. It is the way of idolatry, of those who fear, love, and trust in money, things, sex, other people, and most of all, the self, before God. Repent.

Because that is not who you are anymore. That is your former way of life, but it is not your way of life now. You have been ransomed. You have been bought at a price, and the ransom is precious. You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver and gold, as precious as these things may be. You have been redeemed with the very blood of the Son of God, the Lamb without spot or blemish, the fulfillment of all the Old Testament sacrifices. There can be no more precious ransom than the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of the only Son of the Father.

Let us then confess our sins unto God our Father and receive the forgiveness He imparts to us to freely in Christ Jesus. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). The whole life of the Christian should be a life of repentance, a daily returning to our Baptism, turning from sin and to God for forgiveness in Christ, a daily drowning of the Old Adam in us and a daily rising of the new man in Christ. But it is also good that the Church has set aside specific times for discipline and repentance. Repentance is like prayer: If we don’t set aside specific times for it, we tend to neglect it. Lent is such a specific time for repentance. Lent is a time of repentant preparation for the joyous festival of Easter. We prepare by rooting out the sin in our lives and giving it over to God to be dealt with. And it is dealt with in this way: It is crucified on the cross of Christ, covered in His blood, buried in His tomb, separated from us as far as the east is from the west, never to be mentioned again, unable ever to harm us again. So don’t hold back. Don’t hold back any sins from God. If you hold them back, how can they be forgiven? No, give them over to Jesus. He died for every sin you’ve ever committed or ever will commit. Don’t hold onto those sins. They are the marks of an empty, futile way of life. They promise so much but deliver only death. Rather, hold on to Jesus. Hold on to Jesus in faith. For He is faithful to you. He loves you. He died for you. He has redeemed you. And He will raise you up from death.

For it is this Jesus Christ, true God, begotten from the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, who has redeemed you, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won you from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that you may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
[1] This year’s Lenten series is based on Lamb of God, Pure and Holy (St. Louis: Concordia, 2008).

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