Lent 5 (Judica) Sermon, 2018
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
What’s your favorite hymn?
Which hymn, if you could sing it now, would gladden your heart?
What’s your favorite memory from childhood?
Do you ever recall a specific day or person and smile just because of days gone by?
What’s your favorite food?
If you could have anything, prepared perfectly, what would it be?
Or what about your favorite sport?Which team, which game, would you want to see played?
What’s your favorite sermon?
I ask because your favorites don’t make you feel sad.
No one, with one wish, wants to see their favorite team lose it all in game seven. Your favorite game is one they win.
No one’s favorite food, perfectly prepared, makes them deathly ill.
No one’s favorite memory is the day you get your heart broken.
And no one’s favorite hymn boldly calls them to repentance.
So, do you think this’ll be your favorite sermon?
Consider a few excerpts from the first sermon preached after the Fall. Thus says the Lord, to Eve: “’I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing…Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’ And [thus says the Lord to Adam:] ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife [instead of the Word of the Lord] cursed is the ground because of you…thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you…you are dust, and to dust you shall return’” (cf. Genesis 3:16-19).
Consider, also, one of the shortest sermons in Scripture, Jonah preached unto Nineveh: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4).
One of the youngest preachers, Elihu, preached to Job: “But now, hear my speech, O Job, and listen to all my words. You say, ‘I am pure, without transgression; I am clean, and there is no iniquity in me.’ Behold, in this you are not right. I will answer you, for God is greater than man” (Job 33:1,9,12).
Preacher extraordinaire John the Baptizer proclaimed: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2).
St. Peter preached at Pentecost: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).
And you heard Jesus today: “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me” (John 8:42-45).
These aren’t our favorite sermons because they call us to repentance.
That we hate being called to repentance is evidence of our sin—not necessarily unrepentant sin, but sin.
When we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean, we hate it. But not because it’s untrue.
When we confess that all we have is from God—and not a single thing we have is not—we hate it. But not because it’s untrue.
We hate hearing God’s Law.
And yet, thus says the Lord in Psalm 1: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).
The Law, God’s Law, is eternal.
We hate it now because by nature we are sinful and unclean; we can’t keep the Law perfectly.
But after the resurrection, we, and all believers in Christ will only love the Law (because it’s God’s word and will for us, and) because we won’t be able to break it. We won’t even desire to. We’ll only love God and our neighbor, and love is the fulfillment of the Law (cf. Romans 13:10).
Now, though, we can’t bear to hear it—but that means we should hear it all the more.
The Old Adam in us is of his father the devil and his will is to do his father’s desires.
“He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
In no one’s life do we have to look far for tolerated sin.
With hammer and crowbar, these pry themselves into our lives and sit comfortably.
They used to hurt, but we got used to them.
So now we’re afraid of controversial conversations.
We’re afraid to make waves because our—favorite things—often get in the way of—the most important things.
Repent! Believe the Gospel.
And realize that it is impossible to believe the Gospel and still live like a heathen.
That’s why we’re here.
We’re so often discontent with what our perfect God gives us. So we confess our sins, and, in repentance and faith, we receive the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake.
That’s why we’re here.
It doesn’t matter what our favorite things are; what matters is repentance and faith—not the lies of our Old Adam, but the Truth of God.
In the verses before today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus says: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:31-32, 34-36).
He says that so we can pray this:
“Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me! For you are the God in whom I take refuge; Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me! For you are the God in whom I take refuge” (Introit for Judica, cf. Psalm 43).
Let us go, then, to the altar of God, to God our exceeding joy—the Body and Blood of Jesus, given and shed not for the righteous, but for sinners.
For your forgiveness and for mine.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!