Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lent 3 Midweek

Part of the midweek Lenten sermon series at Lamb of God (Holy Cross is only having Lenten midweek services on Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday).

Sermon on Mark 15:39

For Lamb of God Lutheran Church, Pleasant Prairie, WI
March 30, 2011 (Lent Midweek 3)

“Truly this man was the Son of God.” A confession of faith. No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul reminds us. This means that the centurion became a Christian because he witnessed the crucifixion. Granted, he probably also heard about Jesus’ teaching and the claims that were made about him by the chief priests, not to mention that the inscription above His head also pointed to His identity. There probably wasn’t a soul in or around Jerusalem who hadn’t heard something of Jesus’ teaching, and probably even His claims that his death would be the atonement for the whole world’s sin. But it was by witnessing the crucifixion that all the pieces of the puzzle came together for this Roman soldier, such that only moments after Jesus’ death, and even before His resurrection, this man confessed faith in God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, and in His saving work for sinners.

Now, we don’t live in or around Jerusalem in the first century. We live in southeast Wisconsin and northeast Illinois in the twenty-first century. We can’t hear for ourselves the cries of “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me,” and “It is finished,” nor can we see for ourselves the darkness or the saints walking around or the temple curtain torn in two. Certainly we have a statue of the crucifixion in front of our eyes, we have the apostles’ testimony in the Holy Scriptures, and we can go rent “The Passion of the Christ” or pop it in the DVD player again if we happen to own it. But we can’t witness the actual events themselves with our own five senses.

But that doesn’t mean that we weren’t there. St. Paul reminds us in Romans 6 that we were there in a more intimate and mysterious way than the centurion was. We actually were nailed to the cross in, with, and under Him when we were washed in the font of Holy Baptism. We actually rose from the dead with Him at the same time. And His own body and blood, which the centurion witnessed being tortured, torn open, and dying, is our food for eternity in the Holy Supper. Of course, the centurion received those things too when he was baptized and became part of the earliest church, we can assume. But the point is, what God gives us in Word and Sacrament is an even more wonderful and intimate revelation of who He is and what He has done for us than even the centurion received when he witnessed these events. How dare we treat these gifts with anything less than complete devotion? How dare we presume to wish we were there at the centurion’s side, when in fact we, and he, were on the cross itself with our Lord that day?

But that’s the point, isn’t it? We were there. And so even though our focus is sometimes wrong, even though we want to see with our physical eyes and hear with our physical ears even though God has given us something much more wonderful, He does still come to us and bring us paradise itself. We are still there with Him on the cross and rising from the empty tomb. We are still at the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end. He is merciful, just as His father is merciful. This whole chain of events, leading from the Annunciation, which the Church celebrated only a few days ago, to His death and resurrection, was out of mercy for us. God is love, which is can also be translated, God is mercy. And in bringing that mercy to us by the cross, through the water and His body and blood, He shows that He is merciful as only God can be. Truly this was the Son of God. Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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