07 February 2008

Except by Prayer and Fasting

For the Friday after Ash Wednesday (St. Matthew 17:14-21)

God the Father in heaven has had mercy upon you, and has given His Son to die for you, and for His sake forgives you all your sins.

Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, has come down from heaven for you. He has come down from the mountain to go the way of the Cross — to save you.

He has confronted and contended with your enemies: the demons that haunt you, the world that taunts you, and your own perverted sinful flesh. And He has conquered in the fight, by His Cross. He has saved you.

Against your unbelief, He has set His steadfast faith and faithfulness. In the place of your illness, He has bestowed His own perfect health and strength. Instead of your lunacy, He has brought divine wisdom and the peace that surpasses human understanding.

Here is the truth: He has given Himself for you, and He gives Himself to you, along with every good and perfect gift (on earth as it is in heaven).

Why, then, do you persist in the futility of your sins, returning to the same bad habits over and over again? Why must you throw yourself back into the fire, from which the Lord has saved you? Why do you keep jumping off the deep end into water that’s way over your head, when you know that you can’t swim or pull yourself out?

You cannot fix yourself or make it better. You can’t pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Whatever your weakness may be — a short temper, a gossiping tongue, gambling with money, addictions (of whatever sort), lust or laziness, bitterness or envy — you won’t be able to master it by your own wherewithal. Yet, left unchecked, it will destroy you. It is hurting you already, even now.

Pray that God the Lord will still have mercy upon you, and that He will help you. For you cannot save yourself; no more than you can save your family, friends and neighbors (except by the Word and Spirit of Christ).

Repent of your sin. See here that Christ is with you, and He is for you (now and forever). Exercise your little faith. Discipline yourself to do without your legion of false gods, and discover that your life is in Christ Jesus. Bring your loved ones, too, as others have brought you to Christ.

For you it is impossible, but not for Him. You are powerless and helpless, but His almighty power is manifest for you in mercy and compassion, in forgiveness. Not only that, but, ironically, His almighty power has been made perfect for you in His weakness.

He has humbled Himself and become obedient, even unto death. He has prayed for you. He has fasted for you. He has suffered and died on your behalf — thrown Himself into your fire, drowned Himself in your flood — so that you are purified by the fire of His Holy Spirit, and cleansed by the waters of His Baptism.

By His Word of the Gospel, He has brought the mountain to you (from heaven to earth).

The mountaintop is here, centered in His Altar. From Mt. Calvary He feeds you with His Body and His Blood, so that, by faith, you ascend His holy hill.

And when you are faithless and unbelieving, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself, nor will He deny you.

How long shall He be with you? How long shall He put up with you? Forever and ever. Amen.

1 comment:

sarahlaughed said...

Thank you Pastor! Reading the sermon is a poor substitute for missing a service, especially the sacrament, but it does slacken the bitter disappointment. At least I can "hear" the preaching of God's word here with my eyes.

"How long shall He be with you? How long shall He put up with you? Forever and ever. Amen."

Thank God! What wonder!