Sunday, August 25, 2013
Proper 16 Hebrews 12:4-24
"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times". The opening words of A Tale of Two Cities. We have a tale of 2 mountains. On 1–Sinai, it's the worst of times, the tablets of God's commandments, His condemning Law exacting punishment and retribution for sin. On the other–Zion, it's the best of times, the Temple of God's mercy, sacrifices for sin averting God's wrath. Which mountain is yours?
It's as though Monty Hall (or Wayne Brady) is pointing to two doors where Carrol Merril is standing. The one door is really wide, and seems to be the entrance to a great many treasures. The other is extremely narrow, and would seem to hold a very little. But the appearances are deceiving. The wide door is the way of the Law. Do this, don't do that, as you read the signs. The narrow way is the way of the Gospel. The sign there has no "do's" or "don't's". All it says there is "Done, Done and Done for you."
Like those in the Gospel for today, you want to point to yourself and choose the wide door. You want to claim that you drank in Jesus' presence, and were there when He was teaching, but none of this does you any good. You would like to list all you've done which entitles you to enter, but the door of this way to heaven always remains locked. You can't get in. All you can hear is Jesus' voice saying "Where are you from? I never knew you. Depart from me all you workers of evil!".
What gives? You tried to be a really good person so that Jesus would like you enough to let you into heaven. But you've forgotten your child-training from the Lord. You do your best, yet receive punishment. You strive to obey, but you get a spanking at the end of the day. You come to the Lord offering Him your finest efforts, only to get a whipping from His Law when He receives you. Then He tells you this is love...for you deserve much worse for your unholiness. You deserve stoning/death.
So you see, there is no possible way for you to enter through the wide door of "what you do" to merit life in God's kingdom. Nobody can enter that way. If you did get through that doorway, you'd find nothing but the Zonk of condemnation and everlasting death behind it. The only choice is the narrow door, but you find that it's too narrow for you to get through on your own. You try to contort yourself to be small enough to fit, but your sinfulness is a burden that is too great to go through the tiny entrance.
Which is why sinful, sin-burdened you has to go. He can't fit through the door, so he has to be killed. The Law of God which brings such fear and trembling puts sinful you to death. Old sin-burdened you is gone. But that's just where God wants you! For now the Lord Jesus is able to raise you up as His firstborn son in your baptism. Where you had been last in your sinfulness, now the washing of water and word has made you first in God's sight, born again to new life to enter the narrow door in Christ Jesus.
In Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, the Firstborn of all who are raised from the dead, you are now raised up. There is no longer only one Firstborn, but now many firstborns, which includes you. From all directions these firstborns enter the heavenly Jerusalem to recline at the table with God. You come this day to the Lord's Table to feast on His body given you, upon His blood shed for your salvation. This Holy Communion is a foretaste of the feast to come in the new Jerusalem above!
You've endured the "worst of times"--God's Law killing you. You now live in the best of times, entering through the narrow door--Christ Jesus Himself. For Jesus says, "I am the Door: if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved!" In Him, the Firstborn, you are raised. Thru Him you enter into eternal life.
Hymns for today from LSB:
#772 In Holy Conversation (only found in LSB - copyrighted)
#510 A Multitude Comes from the East and the West
#505 Triune God be Thou our Stay