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Second Sunday in Lent

March 17, 2019 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Lent

Passage: Luke 13:31–13:35

†††In the Name of Jesus†††

Pastor Murray Keith

Text: Luke 13:31-35

Date: March 17, 2019; Lent 2; Series C

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

  • “I a poor miserable sinner.”
  • Well, isn’t that a cheery way to start Sunday morning. 
  • I remember these words being very alarming the first time I confessed them. 
  • Wouldn’t it be better if we gathered together and told each other that we are good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like you?
  • Well, there might be a time and place for such daily affirmations - but that’s not what we confess here.
  • We confess that we are miserable.  Why?
  • Some of you will remember The Lutheran Hymnal that was published in 1941. 
  • The liturgy in that hymnal was based upon an even older liturgy before that.
  • Good ol’ TLH was used in Lutheran congregations for decades and decades – and there are some congregations who still use it. 
  • Some of you likely can still speak and sing most of the liturgy from p.5 or p.15 from heart.
  • Divine Service Setting Three in our hymnals now, the one we are using this morning and throughout the season of Lent here at St. Paul’s, is pretty much a carbon copy of the p.15 Service out of TLH.
  • The Confession of sins as we used it this morning, is precisely the same as it was in good ol’ TLH.
  • So, why this brief history lesson on hymnals and liturgy?
  • Because we need to recognize language changes over time - and the way we hear the word “miserable” in our day is different than it was intended to be heard when it was originally used long ago.
  • When we hear the word “miserable” we often think of pretty awful stuff.  Maybe to feel unhappy and sad or grief-stricken and depressed.
  • For some of us, the word “miserable” describes well what it is like to be an Edmonton Oilers fan this year.
  • When we use the phrase “I, a poor, miserable sinner” in the Confession of sins it seems like we’re piling on a little bit doesn’t it?
  • I mean, yeah, I get it. I’m a sinner. I don’t do the things I know I should. I do things I know I shouldn’t.
  • I know that’s no joking matter and I need to take my sin seriously.
  • I repent. I am sorry for my sins. I want to do better. God, help me.
  • But, do I really have to call myself miserable?  It seems so harsh.
  • It already takes a fair bit of honesty for me to face my failings and weaknesses
  • Do I really have to throw in “miserable” on top of it?
  • Our English word “miserable” has its roots in the Latin word for “mercy”.
  • So - to be “miserable” is to be in need of mercy.
  • So, when we confess that we are “poor miserable sinners” we are not piling on and calling ourselves names and beating ourselves up by using the word “miserable” – rather, we are confessing that we are in need of mercy because of our sin.
  • When we lived in Edmonton, Natalie and I played on a church slow pitch ball team.
  • In this church league we played in they had a rule – that if one team scored 10 runs in an inning before they got three outs, the inning would end anyway.
  • It was called the “mercy rule”.
  • The team in the field received mercy.  They didn’t continue to receive the walloping they deserved because they couldn’t get the 3 outs they needed, but the inning ended anyway, and the humiliation was finished.
  • We talk a lot about grace and mercy in the church.
  • We can think of grace as receiving a good that you don’t deserve. You receive something good that you didn’t earn.
  • We can think of mercy as not receiving what you deserve. You don’t receive a consequence or punishment for something that you are guilty of having done or not done.
  • And so, we confess that we have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed.
  • We come clean before God. We stop pretending. We stop faking. We stop rationalizing.  We stop hiding.
  • It’s not exactly comfortable or pleasant to confess that we are poor miserable sinners.
  • But there is power in the truth.
  • And we are confronted with the truth of the Law of God which shows us our sin.
  • And instead of denying it, lying about it to God, instead of trying to hide behind a fig leaf - we are honest, and we confess our sin.
  • We confess that we are miserable - that is that we are in need of mercy.
  • It’s not name calling – it’s an honest recognition of our need.
  • We ask God to have mercy on us, to forgive us, to help us.
  • Lord, have mercy!
  • It would be an awful situation to be miserable but have no hope of mercy.
  • If we were to come here and stand before this altar Sunday after Sunday and plead for mercy – but never know if we were heard or know what is in God’s heart – then what a terrifying and uncertain life it would be.
  • Maybe you are wrestling with this now - you think you are too sinful, too unclean, and you think that God doesn’t want anything to do with you.  
  • Maybe you think God is angry and is punishing you, maybe you think he could care less about you, maybe you’re quite uncertain about what is in God’s heart toward you.
  • God answers all of our uncertainty, all of our doubt, in Jesus.
  • In this morning’s Gospel reading we heard Jesus say that he would gather us under his wings and protect us as a hen protects her chicks.
  • He desires to bring you close to him, to bring you to safety, to protect you, to rescue you.
  • In Jesus, we see that God does have a heart of mercy for you.
  • He would not leave you in a state of being miserable, but took on our flesh to bring his mercy to the world.
  • Out of his great love for you – Jesus went to the cross – and there he received the punishment that your sin deserves.
  • Though he was without sin, without guilt – he stood in your place and received your punishment in your place.
  • Jesus did this out of his love and mercy for you.
  • Your sin is forgiven and all of your guilt is removed.
  • “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” St. Paul writes.
  • In Holy Baptism, Jesus gathered you under his wings.
  • And so, you, who have been baptized into Christ, hear those words - there is no condemnation for you.
  • Don’t argue. Don’t doubt. Don’t look at your sin and think it is too big to be forgiven. Don’t think that you are too unclean for Jesus.
  • Hear the One who died on the cross and rose again. 
  • Hear the One who defeated sin, death and the devil for you. 
  • If Jesus can defeat sin, death, and the devil – he can certainly take care of your sin. 
  • He can certainly take care of your death.
  • Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, for the sake of Jesus – you have received mercy.
  • You stand in the presence of God having been forgiven, made pure and holy – through Jesus’ body given for you and his blood shed for you.
  • Now you have victory over death - because Jesus died for you.
  • Now you have eternal life - because Jesus has given his life for you.
  • “…Now our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
  • Stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.  Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

More in Lent

April 19, 2019

Good Friday

April 18, 2019

Maundy Thursday

April 7, 2019

The Fifth Sunday in Lent