Cruce Tectum

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

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost (C—Proper 16)
August 25, 2013
Text: Luke 13:22-30

            Our Lord tells us that many will seek to enter the Kingdom of God and will not be able (Luke 13:24).  They will seek to enter in many different ways: Good works, other religions, being “basically a good person,” comparison with others who are not as good, bargaining with God, and the list goes on.  The possibilities are endless.  But the door to salvation is, in fact, narrow.  That is to say, there are many broad doors, wide open, but every one of them leads to destruction.  The narrow door, the only way to be saved, is Jesus Himself.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).  He’s the only way to heaven.  So no matter how much people strive, no matter how good they are from our human perspective, it can never save them.  There is only one door, and that door is Jesus.
            How different this is from the way our culture thinks.  Our culture thinks that every religious road leads to the same place.  All the religions have the same god by a different name, it is said.  Even Christians are susceptible to this point of view, because we’re trained to think this way in our culture.  That is why we have big interfaith services in our country, where people from all sorts of different and incompatible religions, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc., all pray together as if to the same god.  This is called syncretism.  It is condemned throughout Holy Scripture.  You remember all the bad kings from the Old Testament?  Their big sin was trying to reconcile the worship of the one true God with all the other gods of the nations, like Baal and Asherah.  This is a First Commandment issue.  God is very clear: “You shall have no other gods before me,” (Ex. 20:3; ESV), literally “no other gods in my presence.”  As it turns out, all religions do not worship the same god by different names.  Our God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is a jealous God.  He will not share us.  He will have us wholly to Himself.  He alone will be our God.
            So, Jesus says, many will seek to enter the Kingdom of God, but they will not be able.  It’s not that God doesn’t want them to.  As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ez. 33:11).  It’s not God’s fault that they aren’t saved.  It’s that they refused to enter through the narrow door that is Jesus Christ.  They sought any and every other way of entry.  And all for naught.  And the tragic part is, they were suffering from The Grand Delusion: They thought they were godly.  They thought they were reconciled to God.  Some of them thought they were Christians!  I mean, they claim that they ate and drank with Jesus and heard His teaching.  Still, they were trusting in something or someone else for their salvation.  So  He says to them, “I do not know where you come from.  Depart from me, all you workers of evil” (Luke 13:27).  You see, instead of coming before Him with Jesus’ own blood and righteousness as their covering and their merit, they came with their own righteousness, or their human reason, or whatever other covering and merit man can invent.  And that simply doesn’t get you anywhere with God, except to the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, which is to say, hell.
            Jesus is the only way to be saved.  His life, death, and resurrection alone are the payment for our sins and our eternal life.  We are saved by faith in Him, and by that faith alone.  On the other hand, it really is this simple: Jesus is the only way to be saved.  Believe in Him, and you have that salvation.  That’s it.  There are no conditions.  If you believe in Jesus, you’re a Christian, and you have all the benefits of His saving work.  “Now, wait a minute, Pastor,” you might be saying.  “It can’t be that easy.  It takes more than that.  You have to be a good person.  It takes a reformation of life, a change of behavior, too.  For example, surely the town drunk can’t be saved unless he cleans up his act.”  Yes, he can.  Even the town drunk.  Of course, he should clean up his act, and certainly if he is a Christian he’ll want to do so out of love for Christ and thanksgiving for salvation.  But that has nothing to do with whether or not he can be saved.  In fact, he may be very repentant and struggling with his addiction.  You can’t know that.  Only Jesus can.  So Jesus eats and drinks with prostitutes and sinners.  We will be surprised by who is in heaven.  Some we thought were beyond saving will be there, radiating with the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In fact, some of them we considered least and last will be first and greatest.  Then again, some of them we considered first and greatest will be least and last.  But they’ll be there.  By grace.  Every one of them will be there by grace.  None of them deserved this.  None of them merited it.  They are all there because of Christ.  They are all there because the Holy Spirit gave them faith in Christ as a gift.  And so you.
            You will be in haven by grace, too.  Not by any merit or worthiness on your part.  You are a Christian now by grace.  You didn’t choose this.  Not one of us would have chosen to go through the narrow door.  The Holy Spirit gave us this faith in Christ in our Baptism and in the Word.  And it is the Holy Spirit who keeps us in the faith.  “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him,” as we confess in the Catechism (St. Louis: Concordia, 1986).  The Holy Spirit called me by the Gospel and enlightened me with His gifts in Word and Sacrament.  And that’s how you enter by the narrow door.  The Holy Spirit does it, directing you to Christ by the Gospel.  So Jesus turns the question back upon the questioner in our Gospel reading. He turns it back upon you.  Lord, will those who are saved be few?” (v. 23).  Jesus doesn’t answer directly.  Instead He gives an admonition, an imperative: You “Strive to enter through the narrow door” (v. 24).  Be concerned with your own salvation.  Remain in Christ.  Remain in Him by remaining in His Word, in His Church.  Be in the Divine Service.  Receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Sacrament. Because there, in the means of grace, the Holy Spirit does His work.
            And there’s room for everybody at the Table.  This one (pointing at the altar).  After instruction, of course.  That’s all we mean when we talk about closed Communion, that you should be instructed and confess that you believe what you’ve learned before you come to the altar.  But this Table is for people from all backgrounds, from all ethnicities, for men and women, for high and low, for rich and poor, for young and old, for healthy and sick, for the popular and the despised.  This Table is for sinners who know their sin, who suffer under their sin, who mourn over their sin, who know all too well that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).  It is not for the unrepentant.  If you don’t think you need forgiveness, if you don’t think it takes the blood and death of God to save you, don’t come.  This Table is closed to you.  But if you know and believe that you are in fact a poor, miserable sinner, by nature sinful and unclean, who has sinned against God by thought, word, and deed, by what you have done and by what you have left undone… if you know to the heart and core of your soul that you are unworthy, then this Table is for you.  In a great paradoxical reversal, at this Table, those who believe they are worthy are unworthy and should not approach.  Those who know their unworthiness but have faith in these words, “Given and shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins,” these are worthy, not in themselves, but in Christ.  This Table is for those who have nothing to bring to it but their own sin and filth and death.  And here your Lord Jesus takes all that away and gives you in exchange His true Body, nailed to the cross for you, His true Blood, gushing from His wounds for your forgiveness, His righteousness, His resurrection life, and nothing short of eternal salvation.  He’s the narrow door.  And this is where you enter: Baptismal font, Absolution, Scripture and preaching, and here at this Table.
            There are not many roads to salvation, but there is one sure road, Jesus Christ, the Savior.  Today He calls the nations to Himself by His Word, a multitude from the East and the West and from every corner of the earth.  Today He calls you.  This Word is for you.  This God is for you.  This Jesus is for you.  Whoever you are, whatever you’ve done, wherever you’ve been, Jesus Christ died for you, for your sins.  They are paid for, in full, every last one of them, by His death on the cross.  Christ has redeemed you for Himself.  And He’s risen from the dead, which means that in Him you have eternal life.  He will raise you, too, on the Last Day.  Everybody is seeking God in one way or another, according to their own human wisdom.  But you have been given the wisdom from on high, the wisdom of God, in the person of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  Foolishness to the world, but able to make you wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15), given to you by grace, through the Holy Spirit’s call.  So the Lord Jesus will never tell you to depart.  His Word to you is “Come!”  Come and enter the joy of your Lord.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.          




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