Sunday, October 12, 2008

October 5, 2008 Proper 22A Psalm 80

A vine, from Egypt, You have torn out; You drove out nations and planted it. You cleared ground before it; and it rooted its root and it filled the land. Covered mountains (with) its shadow; and with its boughs, the cedars of God. It sent its branches to the sea; and to the river, its shoots. Why have You torn down its walls, and they pluck, all who pass through that way. And ravages it, a wild boar from the forest; and small animals of the field feed on it. God of armies, return now; look down from heaven and see, and care for this vine. And the stand which is planted of Your right hand; and upon the Son You made strong for Yourself. It is burned in fire, cut down; from the rebuke of Your face, they perish. May Your hand be on the man of Your right hand; on the Son of Man You made strong for Yourself. And we will not turn away from You; revive us, and on Your Name we will call. Yahweh, God of armies, restore us; cause Your face to shine, and we will be saved.

Have you ever wanted a second chance? Perhaps you acted foolishly, or in your laziness you failed to do your best, and you wanted another opportunity to try again. Maybe you've regretted how things have turned out for you in relationships, with finances, or in health matters. You wish that you could turn back time and start over again, but you cannot. That's just how Asaph felt when the impending doom of the Assyrian army was at Israel's doorstep. Yet, God's people still hoped for a second chance for life...

Fast forward to the days of the New Testament, and things haven't changed much. Israel is still the Lord's vineyard, but the ruling clergy and leading laymen had long rejected God's spokesmen, and even God's Own Son, planning to put Jesus to death! So God would remove the vineyard from them, and give to those of faith, who would bear Him the fruit of faithfulness. Just as God allowed Israel to be destroyed in the Old Testament, the same thing happened in the New Testament. But God always leaves a faithful remnant.

Fast forward to today. God has replanted His vineyard in the Christian church. He has blessed it richly with His Word of Gospel love to be proclaimed, and with His forgiving actions in the sacraments. But how have we reacted to all God has done for us? In many circles, the Christian faith is all but absent in the churches. Crosses disappear and the message of forgiveness of sins is shunned, lest people be offended. God's sacramental acts are replaced with what man wants to do.

The hope we have is that we may yet remain the faithful remnant of God, even in these trying times. When almost all the tribes of Israel were destroyed by Assyria, the one tribe of Judah remained faithful and true. When the Pharisees & Sadducees rejected Jesus, some so-called-sinners received Him by faith and were saved. In this era of tolerance and lack of accepted truth, will you be able to stand fast & firm in your God-given faith, trusting & relying on Christ Jesus no matter what happens?

By God's grace, you will. For just as the psalmist prayed for a second chance for his nation, so too has God given you a second chance at life, already! For you have tasted the first death when you died to sin in holy baptism. There, you were buried with Christ Jesus by baptism into His death. Sinful you perished that day, your old Adam drowned & killed in the waters of the font. For,as Jesus didn't stay dead in the tomb, but raised Himself to life, you are raised in Christ through baptism to a new life!

Like a replanted vine, you have been restored, revived to life again, a life that is now everlasting! In that life you are fed with something better than three square meals a day. You are nourished with the spiritual food of Christ Jesus' body and blood for your forgiveness. And it is no dead body on which you feast, nor lifeless blood which you drink in communion, for it is the ever-living body of Jesus from God's right-hand, and the life-giving blood which flows from His veins which you receive.

The Son of Man, Christ Jesus, is the Genuine Vine into which you have been grafted unto life eternal. His Father's face now shines upon you for Jesus' sake. For you receive His loving grace each time the Pastor pronounces your sins forgiven in the Name of your Triune God, upon which you call. The Lord smiles upon you with that forgiving grace which is delivered to you from the Pastor, as from Christ Himself–the complete, the total, the absolute forgiveness of your Savior Jesus.

You have already been given a second chance at life. Though you forfeited your first chance, since the wages of your sin is death, you are blessed to walk now in newness of life with Christ Jesus. By His grace, though you have tasted the 1st death of your sinful self in baptism, you need never taste of the second death. For when your last hour comes, you will sleep in Jesus to awaken in heaven. Amen.

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