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Second-Last Sunday "Access, Conscience, & Love"

November 18, 2012

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Second-Last Sunday                                 Trinity Lutheran Church   

18 November 2012                                   Murdock, NE                                       

                                                      + Jesu Juva +

Hebrews 10:11-25


This text is so loaded with great and powerful stuff – it’s a proverbial gold mine — that I might preach a longer sermon than usual. And 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.  Fasten your seat belts!  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.  You may look bankrupt spiritually but in the divine service Christ Jesus provides you with supernatural resources.  And you are rich beyond belief!  Seriously!   


Point #1.  ACCESS. 


The text proclaims entrée.  When I taught at the seminary in Siberia the students had access to me in the classroom 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 cyber criminals would drain your bank accounts.  Our country restricts who can cross our borders.  Otherwise terrorists would overrun us.  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.  You’ll get nowhere!  You might be thrown in jail!


Now try to gain access to God Himself – God the Father!  And lo and behold His door stands ajar!  No, the door is wide open!  Jesus has arranged that for you! You have Jesus to thank!  Because of Jesus you have complete and total 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.   


In the divine service 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 of this gift of access to the Father for Christ’s sake, you have another magnificent asset. 




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 quite a bit distressed or unnerved!  Like the way a criminal feels when he’s on the run, surrounded and penned in by the presence of a team of police officers.  After all, you’ve defied God.  You’ve spit in His face!  You’ve cursed Him!  You’ve chased after other false gods!  You wouldn’t take the chance to trust Him in the little things let alone the big things – in the matters that really count – eternal life and salvation! 


You know deep down that you are not who you should be!  You’ve believed the lie that you can be like God!  And so to be in God’s presence as a sinner is awkward to say the least.  You feel unclean, dirty, polluted.  Ashamed!  Guilty as charged!  And you fully expect God to be like a heavenly SWAT TEAM to take you out.  To criticize, condemn, and snuff you out.  YOU HAVE WHAT WE CALL A GUILTY CONSCIENCE!   


And your guilty conscience distorts, warps, or deforms your view of God.  Your guilty conscience turns every thing upside down.  You hear everything that God says about you negatively!  As if the only Word from God is a critical, damning judgment of you! Therefore, some of you have many reservations about attending the divine service.  You just can take the chance to show up.  Because you know who’s there!  Your guilty conscience tells you that God is very unhappy with you.  Hates you!  That He’s out to get you! To zap you!  To burn you to a crisp!


However, the text declares just the opposite.  In God’s eyes, for Christ’s sake, you are cleansed.  You are holy!  Sanctified in body and in soul through the water of Holy Baptism in which God gave you His most holy Name!  His most holy name actually bestows God’s own holiness to you! 


Yes, He holies you with His Name in Holy Baptism!  Listen again to the text:  “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. 


You have been given all of Jesus’ holiness because He 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 THREELOVE. 


All of what Jesus gives “spurs us” to “love and good deeds” as we are gathered in the divine service and as the Last Day fast approaches.  In other words, the unrestricted access to God, the reception of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper in the divine service with all their divine gifts 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 Jesus provides 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 Jesus gathers you around Himself in the Word and Supper of the divine service, YOU BUILD EACH OTHER UP in love as you wait patiently for the Last Day and His glorious revelation. 


As you wait for the Last Day, you are to affirm one another and build each other up as the communion of saints.  Listen carefully again to the text:  “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 even better:  you need to let Christ enrich and empower you through your fellow believers who gather together every Sunday.  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 Trinity congregation will be all the poorer for you not attending.  


In the divine service Christ gathers you, not as an AA, but as a SA, a kind of Sinners Anonymous for mutual encouragement and support.  And this really is quite important.  More than you would imagine. 


Now I’m going to be quite candid as I finish this sermon with a flurry! I hope and pray you will have ears to hear.  If it leads you to repent, then God be praised!  Here goes!


Habitual, on purpose absence from the divine service demonstrates something.  It reveals your total disregard for me and the members of Trinity as your brothers and sisters in Christ!  You believe that you can blow off going to church for very long periods of time and that it has no negative impact on your brothers and sisters in Christ.  I tell you that it does!  It hurts a congregation.  It demoralizes the body of Christ.  It tears a congregation down.  And your customary non-attendance reveals another thing.  It shows just how unloving you really are.  Because you do not take your fellow believers into consideration at all.    


On the other hand, your regular and faithful attendance displays and proves your love for me and the members of this congregation in a very practical, down to earth way.  When you come to 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 on the Last Day 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 going to church!  How magnetic and attractive Trinity, Murdock is, as you treat each other in the way God treats you in Christ. 


I don’t dare preach any longer.  I’ve gone on for too long!   Now let’s get ready to enter in to the Holy of Holies, the Lord’s Supper, receive faithfully Christ’s forgiveness with His most holy Body and Blood, and be spurred on by His giving to love each other.     


In the Name of Jesus.   

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