Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sermon -- 19th Sunday after Trinity (October 26, 2014)


In the name + of Jesus.

     Have you heard about Brittany Maynard?  She had recently been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and was given no more than six months to live.  She knows her end is soon, and she was told that it would be painful.  Her solution?  On November 1, she intends to end her life by physician assisted suicide.  She has taken it upon herself to choose the date of her death, a right that belongs to God alone.  Just as God determines where and when we enter the world, so it is God’s prerogative to determine when and where we depart.  Sadly, it appears that Brittany Maynard will die outside of God’s promises and mercy.
     Many people are calling Brittany Maynard a hero.  Her parents and husband are saying how proud they are and how brave she is.  The right-to-die groups are using Brittany’s case, with Brittany herself endorsing it, to promote death with dignity.  It is a sad testimony that our society views suicide as compassionate, and even as medical treatment!  More people are buying into the idea that it is good to tell others: You are better off dead.  It will be cheaper and easier.  It will be less stressful, less painful for you to endure and for us to watch; so, we encourage you to die more quickly. 
     Now, you could argue that Brittany’s quality of life is not what it should be.  Granted.  It isn’t.  No one wants terminal cancer.  Nor does anyone want to be blind, deaf, or bed-ridden.  Soldiers who come back from Afghanistan don’t like living without legs or eyes.  Burn victims do not like having people turn away from them in horror.  It is not the quality of life anyone wants.  Even people with allergies or colds do not have quality of life they want.  They want to be free from such things.  The paralytic that was brought to Jesus wanted a better quality of life, too.  His friends brought him to Jesus to restore his strength so that he could walk again, so that he could be a productive member of society and a provider for his family.  That is the quality of life he sought.  He was brought to Jesus so that Jesus would supply it.  He was not disappointed.
     Behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed.  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2)  I suspect that no one was ready to hear that.  The paralytic wanted to hear Jesus give the word so that his legs would be strong again.  But Jesus understood what we do not.  You can enter heaven if you suffer from paralysis, psoriasis, or even cirrhosis.  But you cannot enter heaven if your sins are clinging to you.  Sin is what makes us unclean and corrupt.  Sin is what brings death and damnation.  Therefore, in true compassion, Jesus told the lame man, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2)  He would not perish or face eternal punishment.  Jesus would deliver him from that.  Jesus has the authority to deliver the highest quality of life.
     The Pharisees were not ready to hear Jesus’ words either.  Behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” (Matthew 9:3)  They knew that the right to pardon sinners belongs to God alone, for all the sins that we commit are committed against God.  Every sin is rebellion against God’s Law.  Every sin proves that we have hearts that are bent on evil, that are corrupt, and that are unclean.  The most any man can do is try to convince you that your sins are excusable.  “Oh, it’s okay,” we say.  Our consciences know better.  Sins are never okay.  Neither are they excusable.  God’s Law convicts and condemns us.  We are guilty, and that is not excusable.  Sin marks us for divine punishment, both now and eternity.  That is not okay.  Repent.
     The scribes were right about one thing: Who can forgive sins but God alone? (Mark 2:7)  Since every sin is rebellion against God and his word, then only God can pardon the guilty.  But God does not merely wave a magic wand and say sins are gone and no longer count.  The guilty are guilty as charged.  And this guilt is deserving of punishment—both now and in eternity.  Therefore God himself became man so that the eternal God could take the punishment of all sin here and now.  Jesus Christ did not simply dismiss the sins of the paralytic.  They were not okay, and they were not excused.  They were paid for by Jesus who suffered and died for them.  Jesus has suffered and died for every one of your sins, too.  Jesus gave his body into death for these corrupt, unclean, broken, frail, and mortal bodies of ours.  After he gave himself into death to be the payment for our sins, Jesus rose from the dead.  He lives, victorious over death.  He reigns, and declares: “Take heart; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2)  He has authority to do that because he has paid the price for your sins.  He has absorbed death and damnation for you.  He has conquered death and declares you to be victors with him.  Jesus has authority to give you the highest quality of life.
     Of course, you still live in a corrupt and broken world.  Veterans don’t automatically get their limbs back.  Burn victims have to live with skin grafts.  People who suffer from allergies or colds either take Sudafed or pack extra Kleenex.  But Jesus assures you that it will not always be this way.  He who delivers you from the curse of sin also will deliver you from every last consequence of sin.  And Jesus demonstrated that he has authority to do both.
     Jesus knew the thoughts of the scribes and said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?  For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.”  And he rose and went home. (Matthew 9:4-7)  It is easier to say that a person’s sins are forgiven.  Who could prove that they are not?  The promise of forgiveness is only worth as much as the authority of the person who declares it.  And Jesus has risen from the dead to prove his authority to say it.  What’s more, Jesus has promised to his ministers, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.” (John 20:23)  The absolution given through your pastor is not just happy words.  If it were, it is as useless as saying your sins are okay when you know full well that they are not.  It is as worthless as telling an invalid, “Walking is good for you,” when he can’t walk at all.  But this absolution in Jesus’ name has the authority of Jesus behind it.  Therefore, you can be sure that your sins are forgiven.  Jesus has declared it to be so, and he has given authority to men to say so.  Jesus has the authority to deliver the highest quality of life—a life that is free from guilt.
     If you should have to suffer weakness or illness in this world, it is only because your Lord wants to you crave what will come.  Unlike Brittany Maynard, you do not have to resort a lethal dosage of drugs to enter eternity—and most likely not on good terms.  Your Lord Jesus supplies you with a regular dosage of his body and blood to supply you with forgiveness, life, and salvation.  That is true mercy that delivers eternal life.  And there is no better quality life than what Jesus gives you.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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