Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sermon -- Welcome Home Sunday (October 27, 2019)

HEBREWS 2:9-18


In the name + of Jesus.

     There is a special relationship that families get to enjoy with one another.  While friends become near and dear to us, friends also come and go throughout life.  Chances are, you don't hang out with the friends you had in high school—even though, at the time, you were convinced they were the best friends you will ever have.  But new friends came along, because friends come and go.  A family, however, stays with you all your life long, in good times and in bad.  Your family is on your side.  And because they love you, they are not afraid to tell you that your choices are stupid, or wicked.  They care about your choices because they will live through the consequences with you.  Your family cares about your long-term well-being because they are in it for the long term.  God established the family, and God calls it good.
     There is a special relationship that families get to enjoy with one another.  Each family member has a stake in one another.  The neighbor kid may have been granted the privilege to walk into your house without knocking, but he never has the right to the inheritance.  Only family members have the special rights of the household.  If it is true for your flesh and blood family, it is all the more true for the family of God.  Now, dear Christians: You are the family of God.  And as the family of God, you have the special rights of the household.  You are brothers and sisters of one another.  No one here is more precious to God, and no one is less loved.  The reason we are all God's family is because Jesus Christ has become our brother and has made us God's family.
     God established the family, and God calls it good.  God was pleased to give you as a gift to your family when you were born to them.  But none of us has had an inherent right into the family of God.  On the contrary, we have not been obedient children; we have been rebels.  God reveals himself to us as our heavenly Father.  In one respect, God is the Father of all people; for he is the one who gives life to all.  What does God the Father do?  God has given us life and limb, provides clothing and shoes, house and home, our mind, our talents, and our abilities.  And the God who gives life also sustains it.  God causes the food to grow, the rains to fall, and the sun to shine.  He does this for all people—no matter how righteous or rotten they are.  Since God gives and sustains life, he also tells us how that live is to be lived with his Commandments. 
     And how do we respond?  We chafe under God's Commandments, looking for pleasure, satisfaction, and an easy life according to our own designs.  We find reasons to ignore or defy God's Commandments; and when we do, we still insist that we are good people.  We argue that his will is unfair and that our problems are God's fault.  We question his wisdom.  We think we would be better at being God than God is.  If you had a child who told you that the way you run your house is stupid, how would you respond?  Repent.  God's wrath is deserved, and our death has been earned; for the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)
     But miracle of miracles—God does not treat us as our sins deserve.  Not only does God not condemn us, he acts to bring us into his family.  Jesus Christ became our brother in order to made us God's family.  God bound himself to us in order to deliver us out of our bondage to sin and death, and to nullify any claims the devil would have on us.  The writer to the Hebrews says: Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.  (Hebrews 2:14-15)  
     God has become one of us in order to make us members of God's family and to bring us to heavenly glory.  In order to do that, Jesus Christ became our brother.  He became a flesh and blood man to bind himself to us and to take up our cause.  Jesus became like us in every way, except that he was without sin.  That does not mean, however, that Jesus had it easy.  The writer to the Hebrews states: “It was fitting that (God) … should make the founder of their salvation—that is, Jesus—perfect through suffering.” (Hebrews 2:10)  Jesus had to endure what you and I are familiar with.  He submitted himself to the very Commandments you and I are to keep.  And the devil saw to it that Jesus would endure temptations to abandon God's will and to go his own way.  He tried to convince Jesus that he could attain everything without suffering and without loss.  By remaining faithful to his Father, Jesus had to endure people lying about him, plotting against him, betraying him, disowning him, and failing him.  He suffered under Pontius Pilate, and Caiaphas, and Judas, and Peter, and through the words and actions of many others.  In all of this, Jesus remained the perfectly faithful brother of us and the perfectly obedient Son of his Father.
     But instead of claiming a reward, Jesus endured rejection from his Father.  Jesus took the full curse of the Law when he went to the cross with our sins.  Jesus became man so that he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:9)  He diverted the wrath of God from you to himself.  This is what the writer to the Hebrews means when he says that Jesus made propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17)  Jesus gave himself as the sin offering which appeased God's wrath.  He absorbed the whole curse and all death by his death.  Jesus put an end to the power of death by his death.  He has not only tasted death for everyone, but death has been swallowed up in victory.  This man who is our brother has defeated death by his resurrection.  And so now you, who also share in flesh and blood, no longer need to be haunted by the fear of death.  Jesus lives, and because Jesus lives so will we.  Jesus has become our brother to bring us to life everlasting with him in heavenly glory.
     If you have been baptized into Christ, then you receive all that Jesus Christ has won for you.  In baptism, you have been marked as a child of God.  Whoever believes and has been baptized has the right to be children of God and receives the benefits of the household.  God's name rests upon you.  God's love and blessing are yours.  And you are heirs of the heavenly kingdom.  God has done all of this for you.  He does not merely tolerate you; he loves you and has made you his own forever.  Jesus became our brother and has made us the family of God.
     If you are the family of God, then you are brothers and sisters of one another as well.  It means that you all have a stake in one another.  We are stuck with one another in God's family in good times and in bad, and that is a good thing.  It means that we get to pray for one another, to encourage one another, to watch over one another for our protection and well-being, and to reach out to each other in love and concern.  It even means that, when you see a brother or sister engaging in sinful choices, you don't sit back and say, “Not my business, not my problem,”—or worse, “If this is what makes them happy, I say go for it.”  We recognize the consequences for anyone who flaunts defiance of God's will, and we know the blessings that belong to those who cling to God's will.  If we regard each other as a brother or sister in Jesus, we will act as the family of God toward each other.
     Jesus has become our brother and has made us God's family.  Families are good and come with great blessings.  But as much as we strive to be good and faithful brothers and sisters in the family of God, we are still sinners.  We may be oblivious to the challenges and pains of our fellow brothers and sisters, and we may even be forgetful of them because we are absorbed in our own lives.  But even if your brother or sister fails you, the Lord Jesus does not.  Jesus has become your brother and has made you God's family.  And he loves you perfectly.  Jesus does not dismiss you when you struggle in your weakness, and he does not disown you when you fall short.  He continues to declare to you that you are children of the Most High God, and that God's love is greater than your shortcomings. 
     Your place in God's family has been won by Jesus, and it is assured by Jesus.  That is why we gather together as the family of God each week.  God, our Father, summons us to receive his blessings.  Jesus, our brother, comes with his body and blood to sustain us in the faith.  The Spirit continues to confirm us in the faith and to conform our lives to Jesus.  And we get to rejoice together and to encourage one another—not just occasionally on a special Sunday, but continually.  This is good; for there is a special relationship that families get to enjoy with one another.  Jesus has become our brother.  God has made us his family.  He desires us to be his dear children now and forevermore.  There is no more special relationship than this one.  And it is good.

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

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