Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sermon -- 4th Sunday after Pentecost (June 12, 2016)



In the name + of Jesus.

     A common theme in King David's Psalms is God's mercy and forgiveness.  David had good reason to be mindful of God's mercy and forgiveness.  He was a sinner, and he proved it.  He needed God's mercy and forgiveness, and he knew it.  He was granted God's mercy and forgiveness, and he praised him for it.  That is why David also desired to proclaim it, as Psalm 32 declares: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” (Psalm 32:8)  This instruction is not about doing what you must do, but about knowing what the Lord has done for you.  David desires that you have God's mercy and forgiveness upon you.  Blessed are they whose sins are covered.
     David had lost that blessing because of his sin and worse, because of his cover up.  You are likely familiar with David's affair with Bathsheba, the wife of one of his trusted officers.  Once David got word that she was pregnant, David went into full cover-up mode.  He summoned Uriah from the battlefield under the guise of getting information from him.  Uriah, however, refused to go home to be with his wife.  After all, the other soldiers did not get to see their wives.  Even if Uriah was not in combat, he was on duty.  So, David's cover-up became more extreme.  He sent Uriah back to the front with the battle plans intended to get Uriah killed.  This was not to be an unfortunate casualty of war.  This was a hit job ordered by David.  After Uriah was killed in battle, David brought Bathsheba into the palace.  The citizens of Jerusalem must have gushed over the benevolence of the king: “Oh, how wonderful he is, taking care of the widow of one of his officers.  Now she will not be a widowed, single mother.  David will even take care of the child!”  It seemed perfect.  David was going to get away with it.
     David could con his citizens.  He could even lie to himself.  But David's conscience did not let him rest.  David admitted as much: “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” (Psalm 32:3-4)  From outward appearances, everything looked fine.  But David's conscience testified against him.  It turned his stomach in knots.  It interrupted his sleep, haunted his thoughts, and ruined his appetite.  The conscience testified what God also knew: David was guilty.  His cover up was a farce, as cover ups do not take away any sin.
     We have not learned the lesson from King David, either.  We try all to cover up our sin and guilt, as if the Psalm taught us, “Blessed are they who figure out how to cover their tracks.”  Like David, we cover up by lying about our sins.  We insist we did not do them.  But this is what the Lord says, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper....” (Proverbs 28:13)  Our cover up does not work.  We may also have family and friends who embolden us in our sins.  They will not confront us when we sin against God, and they will try to console the guilty conscience by stating that our sins are no big deal.  Friends think they are helping us when they want to cover up for us.  We are led to believe that we need not feel sorry for our sins, much less stop doing them.  And so, we are encouraged to continue in impenitence and to persist in our sins.  Therefore, David implores you, “Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.” (Psalm 32:9)  In other words, do not let your pride or stubbornness be the reason you perish in your sins.  Denying your sin does not make you guiltless.  Ignoring guilt does not take it away.  Digging in your heels against God's word will not make God change his mind.  King David wrote, “Blessed is the man ... in whose spirit there is no deceit.” (Psalm 32:2)  On the other hand, there is no blessing for those who deceive themselves and think they can cover up their sins.  Repent.
     Since we cannot cover our own sins, someone else must cover them.  And this is what David proclaims: “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity...” (Psalm 32:2)  The Lord does not impute your sins against you.  Blessed are they whose sins are covered.  That is what Jesus came for.  Instead of treating you as your sins deserve, Jesus came to be treated as your sins deserve.  God does not ignore your sins.  That would make him unjust.  But in his mercy, Jesus has taken all your sin and guilt.  God counted your iniquity against Jesus, who then paid the price for all sin through his innocent sufferings and death.  God is most merciful.  Instead of counting your iniquity against you, God imputes Jesus' holy obedience to you.  The holy blood which Jesus shed for you was poured upon you in Holy Baptism.  It continues to be poured into you in Holy Communion.  In this way, Jesus covers you so that you stand before God as holy and blameless.
     Blessed are they whose sins are covered.  “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” (Psalm 32:2)  It is not that God pretends we have never sinned.  It is that God covers our sin.  He does not ignore our sins; he forgives them.  Therefore, deception is unnecessary.  We do not need to pretend to be what we are not.  We do not need to invent virtues that we don't have.  We confess that we are sinners.  We confess the various infractions which we have committed against the Lord.  But we confess with faith in God's promise: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)  The Lord Jesus has covered the cost for your iniquity, and he covers you with his holy, precious blood so that you are found to be holy and blameless before God.
     Blessed are they whose sins are covered.  You have God's blessing upon you, but that does not mean the consequences of our sins melt away.  David's repentance and forgiveness did not restore the marriage of Uriah and Bathsheba.  Nor did it make David forget what he had done.  Nevertheless, his guilt was covered by Jesus.  Likewise, your sins may also come with their consequences.  Being repentant and forgiven for gluttony does not automatically make you thin.  Some sins may damage your reputation for a long time.  Though you may never forget your sins and though you may even have others label you for them, the Lord takes away your sin.  He covers your guilt.  And rather than reminding you of your sin, he reminds you of his mercy.
     Blessed are they whose sins are covered.  But there are many who live apart from this blessing.  Their only hope is your only hope—that the Lord is pleased to send someone to declare God's mercy and forgiveness.  Nathan declared it to David.  David declared it in the Psalm.  You have come here to hear it declared to you, for you have not outgrown your need for it.  And you get to declare it to friends and family whose personal cover up efforts are not working.  For them, there is hope and relief, but only in Jesus.  And since you know Jesus' works and promises, you get to bring hope and relief to them.
     All have sinned, but there is hope.  Jesus has you covered.  He is merciful.  He forgives all your sins.  He is the refuge for all sinners.  Blessed are they whose sins are covered.

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

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