Monday, April 14, 2014

His Blood Be on Us and On Our Children

Palm and Passion Sunday – Confirmation Sunday – April 13th, Year of Our + Lord 2104
St. John and Trinity Lutheran Churches, Fairview and Sidney, Montana
His Blood Be on Us and On Our Children – Matthew 11:25

     "His blood be on us and on our children!"   Is this a self-condemning curse, or a wonderful prayer for eternal blessing? 
     In its original context, 20 centuries ago in Jerusalem, this cry by the Jewish crowds is certainly frightening.  Through the centuries, people, including Christians, have used these words as an excuse to discriminate against Jewish people, along the lines of saying: “they asked for it, didn’t they?”  This is absolutely wrong.  The bloodthirsty cry of the crowd outside Pilate’s courtroom is a frightening thing, to proudly claim the blame for the death of Jesus, God’s own Son, claiming the blame, not just for themselves, but also for their children.  It was surely a sin. 

     But as Christians, our prayer for Jews, as for all people, is that they would come to trust in this same Jesus as their Savior, receiving His forgiveness, which is the center of our life as Christians.  There is no excuse for Christians hating or mistreating any group of people, for we are called by God to love our neighbor as ourselves, even the neighbor who is our enemy.  We are called to speak the truth in love.  Now, speaking the truth will certainly include the truth about sin and God’s wrath against human sin, and this may well be perceived by others as mistreatment.  Hearing the truth about humanity’s sinfulness, about your sinfulness, is painful.  But we know that telling someone the truth about sin and their plight before God is truly a loving thing to do, for apart from knowing the truth about sin, there is no way we can understand or believe the truth about God’s radical plan of salvation. 

     The Christian should know better than anyone how wrong it is to mistreat others just because they are unbelievers, for God did not treat us in this way.  Some of us in this room were converted to Christianity as tiny children, others later, as adults perhaps.  But in every case, every Christian was at one time naturally opposed to God, conceived and born sinful, an enemy of the Truth, deserving the Lord’s eternal rejection.  But we did not receive what we deserved.  Instead we received the cleansing blood of Jesus.  And, day by day, we still do not receive what we deserve.  Sin still clings to us, and yet God does not reject us, because the blood of Jesus covers all sin.    

     "His blood be on us and on our children!" This indeed can be rightly understood as a wise, faith-filled prayer, the proper prayer for this day especially, as we celebrate the confirmation of these young Christians.  Today we hear their public confession of the faith into which they were baptized.  Today they make the good confession which leads to their invitation to take and eat, take and drink, the Body and Blood of Jesus, their invitation to receive the Gospel that we take into our bodies, for forgiveness, and strength for Christian living. 

     "His blood be on us and on our children!" Once this was, and for far too many still is, a frightening challenge to God, to punish us, if He can.  And yet, it can also be a cry of faith, a prayer for endurance by the believer, that the Lord will keep us as His children, by the blood of the Lamb who was slain.  And so we see, faith in Christ makes all the difference.  Or maybe I should be more specific:  right faith in Jesus Christ makes all the difference.   Right, or true faith in Christ makes the blood of Jesus a blessing, instead of a curse. 
     This is why receiving the Supper is such a big deal.  The blood of Christ is eternal blessing and joy for the soul who confesses and repents of their sinfulness, but also trusts that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection have forgiven all my sins and opened for me the way of eternal life with God.  However, for the person who denies Christ, for the person who says that His sacrifice is a myth, or that His death is only a partial solution for sin, for the person who denies that God can make the bread and wine also be the Body and Blood of Jesus, for anyone who does not have right faith in Jesus, then, as Paul warns, the blood is curse, not blessing.  So we who trust in Christ alone, and know He is present with His Body and Blood in the Supper, take care to help people receive it as blessing, and not curse. 

     Which is the whole point of Confirmation.  Because we want the blood of Jesus to be a blessing, we teach our children the Word of God.  We teach all our catechumens, our Christian students, young and old, all about Christ, who He is, what He has done, and why He had to do it.  With the Bible as our authority, we teach about the sinful, lost condition that we all inherit from Adam, and of the sinless, perfect Son of God, who became a man in order to save men, women and children from their sins.  We teach how He continues to reach out, through His Word, through Baptism, and through His Supper, delivering the Gospel in many forms, to meet us sinners where we are.  For we cannot save ourselves, or find our way to God.  God must, and does, find us, and save us, by the forgiveness found in Jesus’ blood. 

     We know it is the Lord’s desire to gather every sinner at His Table, and so we also earnestly desire for all people to rightly receive the Lord’s Supper.  We pursue this goal with our eyes open, for we know our sin, and we know what God has said in Scripture.  We know that to treat lightly the Holy Things of God is to court disaster.  Our young members go through at least two years of instruction before communing.  Today is the culmination of that journey for Dylan and Ally/Trey and Erin.  Adults study for varying lengths of time, depending on each individual situation, but the material and the goal are the same:  a public confession of the true faith, which cries out for Jesus’ forgiving blood to be on us, and in us, for our salvation. 

     Uffdah, Pastor, pretty heavy stuff.  Why be so serious?  Maybe you are a visitor here this morning, and you’re thinking, man, lighten up, isn’t Confirmation Day a celebration?  Or maybe you are a member, and you also think we shouldn’t focus so much on such hard things.  Why dig so deeply into a very uncomfortable subject?

     For the joy!  For true joy!  For everlasting joy!  For freedom from guilt, a clean conscience, and a cheerful heart, that knows, despite my sins, I am safe with God.  We can have no more serious text before us than the suffering, crucifixion and death of Jesus.  Why read it?  Why, more fundamentally, did Jesus endure it?  For the joy, of having you, for His very own.  Christian faith and life is serious and joyful, because Jesus is serious, and joyful.  Our Lord was serious, honest, and unflinching, about sin and the cost of salvation, for the sake of giving us joy, the joy that comes on Easter morning, the joy of knowing nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

     His blood be on us and on our children, every day, until Christ calls us home, or comes again on the Last Day.  His blood be on us and on our children, by His Word, in our Baptisms, and in the Lord’s Supper, giving us strength to endure, and rejoice, by the power of the Spirit’s daily washing, daily cleansing, daily forgiveness, the love of God which enlivens us and overflows in our lives to others.    
     Endurance in Christian faith is hard.  Their exists in our midst the horrible idea that Confirmation is graduation from Church, that once confirmed, the Christian does not need to grow in faith, does not need to study, does not need to continue to gather with God’s people to be washed and fed again.  It is really not so hard to have people become members of the Church.  Faith in Christ, after all, is God’s work on us.  Learning about Christ, and all He has done to save you, and confessing that faith publicly, is interesting, and exciting.  

     The real struggle, for every baptized believer, is endurance.  Every congregation has members, once faithful, who now attend infrequently, or hardly at all.  Christians drift away from Christ, displeased by all the human foibles they encounter in the Church.  But what do we expect?  Christ came for sinners, not for righteous people.  Any gathering this side of eternity will be a gathering of sinners, who are coming together to receive forgiveness.  We will disappoint one another, and ourselves.  We may be truly hurt by a fellow Christian.  Worse, we may even commit sins that we think cut us off from Christ.  We may think we are unforgivable, that the sins we have committed are too bad.  But that is a lie.  The blood of Jesus covers all sin, for He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  All of it.  The sins against you, the sins you have committed, there is no sin too big for Jesus. 

     Dylan, Ally/Trey, Erin, remember, you did not make your own way to God.  None of us could, and none of us did.  God found you, and me, and every Christian, that is the only way to be saved.  Salvation is when God comes and puts the blood of Jesus on you, making you believe that He has redeemed you from all your sins.  God has saved you in His way, and His way  is the way of congregations, the people of God gathering together, warts and all, to be washed clean, again and again. 

     The Lord’s way also includes prioritizing.  There is nothing more important than being in communion with God, knowing that He loves you and looks forward to having you with Him, forever.  Your lives will get busier and busier, and you will continue to struggle with sin.  Be warned, Satan will use both the fun things of this world and your own failures to try and keep you away from Church.  A thousand and one things tempt us away, from sports to cars to work, pretty girls, and handsome young men.  When you get married, sometimes your spouse will support you in the faith, and sometimes they will discourage you, and you will do the same to them.  If God blesses you with children, you will find that getting to Church with little children is a real challenge. 

     Endurance in Christian faith will be hard for you, just as Christ’s endurance, all the way to the Cross, was hard for Him.  But when you struggle, remember this, the answer is not in you, but in Christ, who has endured the Cross, giving His life, for you.  Confess your struggles, your sins, to the God who rode a donkey into Jerusalem, and carried a cross out to a hill called Golgotha.  For He is truly present, and rejoices to hear you confess that you have fallen, and need the help only He can give.  God loves to pick you up, for the sake of Jesus, who has covered you with His Holy, cleansing, blood. 

     The blood of Jesus be upon us, and our children, unto life everlasting, Amen.  

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