15 November 2009 – Good Shepherd, Lincoln
Hebrews 10:11-25 (This sermon borrows heavily from the teaching of Dr. John Kleinig)
This text is so loaded with great stuff – it’s a proverbial gold mine — that I might preach a longer sermon than Pastor Poppe. I know that’s hard to do. But believe me, if I do, it’s because the text is so pregnant with theological meaning for our lives before God and with one another. So I’d better get going. I’ll highlight three things from the text. Hang on tight. Here we go.
Because Jesus our great high priest offered His Good Friday Body and Blood as the atoning sacrifice for all your sin for all time, you have supernatural assets. We may look bankrupt spiritually but in the divine service Christ Jesus provides us with supernatural resources. And we are rich beyond belief!
Point Number One. ACCESS. The text proclaims entrée. When I teach at the seminary in Siberia the students have access to me in the class room but not usually at professor’s flat. Only my three children have access to me as their biological “father.” Only one woman in the world has the right of sexual access to me: my wife. Who has access to your credit card accounts or credit rating? The right of access to your money is always restricted otherwise your bank accounts will be drained by online criminals. Our country restricts who can cross our borders. Or else we’d be overrun by terrorists. Only a very few people have the privilege of access to the president of the United States. Just try to show up at the White House and say, “I’d like to see President Obama please,” and see how far you get.
Now try to it with God the Father! And lo and behold His door stands wide open! Jesus has arranged that for you! You have Jesus to thank! Because of Jesus you have complete and open access to the Father’s presence in the heavenly sanctuary. Jesus is your “great high priest.” He holds the key to the Father’s “house.”
Access to the Father! And you can approach the Father in the “Most Holy Place” with “confidence . . . by the blood of Jesus . . . and through the curtain, that is, His body.”
For you, access to God the Father is not restricted. You have complete freedom to approach Him. But the key here is through Jesus’ Body and Blood. In the divine service you have Christ’s own right of unrestricted access to the heavenly King. You can approach the Father with the audacious assurance that He will treat you just as He treats His own Son, Jesus! That’s because Jesus died for you. Shed His Blood for you. All His assets are your assets.
At church Jesus bestows all the benefits of His Good Friday death to you. For instance, in the Lord’s Supper Jesus rolls up His sleeves and as your Servant gives you His own Flesh and Blood with the bread and wine. This is your physical way into the Most Holy Place, that is, the heavenly sanctuary.
His tabernacle/temple curtain replacing Flesh, puts you into the very presence of the Father’s inner sanctum. With His most holy Body and Blood Jesus comes to you and ushers you into the very presence of the living God. In the Sacrament of the Altar you have access to heaven right now as you live on the earth. And His promise is that all your sin is forgiven.
Because this gift of access to the Father for Christ’s sake, you have another magnificent asset. POINT TWO: It has to do with your conscience. Yes, that’s right, your conscience.
Perhaps all this talk of having complete access to the Father’s presence made you feel a wee bit uneasy. A tad bit uncomfortable. You know, like a criminal on the run when he’s surrounded and penned in by the presence of the police. After all, you’ve defied God. You know you’re not who you should be. To be in God’s presence as a sinner is awkward to say the least. You feel unclean, dirty, polluted. And you fully expect God to be like a heavenly SWAT TEAM to take you out. To criticize, condemn, and snuff you out.
Your guilty conscience distorts your view of God. Your guilty conscience turns every thing God says into disapproval and a condemnatory critique of you. And so some, perhaps even you, have some reservations of attending the divine service. You just can take the chance to show up. You know who’s there! Your guilty conscience tells you that God is very unhappy with you. That He’s out to get you. To zap you. To incinerate you.
But the text says just the opposite. You are cleansed. You are holied. Sanctified in body and in soul. By Christ Himself in the water of Holy Baptism. “Let us come near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” In Holy Baptism you have Christ’s holiness that cleanses you in the Father’s eyes. Having been gifted by Christ’s purity in the washing of Baptism’s pure water, you are qualified to come into God’s presence.
After all, Jesus has taken all your sin and all its impurity in His Body on the cross. He answered for it. All of it. Now in Holy Baptism Jesus gives you His purity and holiness as your very own. And it’s only through Him that you have a clean and clear conscience. Because of Jesus who has purified your heart and body in Baptism, you can “draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.”
And that takes us to POINT THREE. All this then “spurs us” to “love and good deeds” as we are gathered in the divine service and as the Last Day approaches. In other words, the unrestricted access to God and the reception of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper in the divine service are meant to stir you to action! To stir you up with love and good works. Love stirs up more love just as generosity stirs up generosity.
The gifts Christ gives have their way with you so that you stir up each other and bring out the best in each other. But again, all this is from Jesus. He lavishes His loves on you. He is among you and in you. You are Christ’s holy people. Citizens of heaven. He demonstrates His love to you and offers His help to you through each other. As you are gathered by Him in church you build each other up in love as you wait patiently for the Last Day and His glorious revelation.
Until then, you are to affirm and build each other up as the communion of saints. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” You need to be activated and energized spiritually by your contact with each other. Or to put it best: you need to let Christ enrich and empower you through your fellow believers. You commit spiritual suicide if you habitually isolate yourself from the body of Christ. If you stop attending the divine service on a regular basis, you drift away from Christ and lose your place in the heavenly Jerusalem. And your congregation will be all the poorer for your not attending.
In the divine service Christ gathers you as a kind of Saints Anonymous for mutual encouragement and support. And this really is quite important. More than you would imagine.
Habitual, on purpose absence from the divine service demonstrates your total disregard for me as your brother in Christ. Your regular attendance, on the other hand, proves your love for me in a very practical, down to earth way. In church you recognize me as a fellow saint, even though I am a sinner. Your customary attendance at the divine service provokes me to appreciate you and your contribution to my spiritual welfare. By meeting together at church in the Father’s presence through Jesus Christ, we encourage each other as we wait the glory to come and rehearse every Sunday for eternal life with the Holy Trinity and all the communion of saints.
Access. A clean conscience. Hearts and bodies purified. Holied. All for Christ’s sake. And now the Lord has good use for you. To stir each other up! To provoke one another with love by attending the divine service. How magnetic and attractive Good Shepherd, Lincoln is, as you treat each other in the way God treats you in Christ. I don’t dare preach any longer. Now let’s get ready to enter in to the Holy of Holies: the Lord’s Supper and rejoice in Christ’s most holy gifts.
In the Name of Jesus.