Thursday, February 19, 2015

Why go to Church every week when it is the same old thing?


THE clamorous cry of the blind man is the cry of the Christian Church at the entrance to Lenten-tide.  Not even the stern rebuke of other people is able to silence his screaming:  "Son of David, have mercy on me!"  [vs.39]

Every week the Christian faithful sing out the blind man's plea.  The Kyrie is the first prayer of the Divine Service.  It is the oldest prayer of the faithful.  Kyrie, eleison, "Lord, have mercy."  It is the most basic, simple, and clear form of prayer.  Not even the rude censure of government and unbelievers is able to silence our cry.  Jesus is present; He has promised to hear our prayer and intercede on our behalf before our heavenly Father [Jn. 16:23], therefore, by faith in Jesus, God's people are compelled to cry out for mercy.

You see this before your eyes every week when we stand before the altar together (as pastors and people) we cry out for mercy.  Jesus' promise is fulfilled when His absolution is proclaimed, when his Word is read, when His baptismal word and waters are applied, and when His Body and Blood are administered.  All these, always and only for the forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation.  No one should stand in the way of the free, full pardon of God in our Savior Jesus Christ.

Sadly, people do stand in the way.  Sometimes we stand in our own way as well.   Consider Lententide, when an extra opportunity for public worship is offered with mid-week prayers at Vespers.  Yes, our lives are busy.  Yes, there are demands for our time after work or school.  Yes, we have various vocations that need our time, but let us not try to soothe ourselves by thinking that the Passion of Jesus Christ is something old and long familiar.  You really do not need to hear the Passion account again, right?  After all, it rambles on and on for five weeks; a slow, agonizing account that we've heard year after year.  You've seen the movie.  That's good enough for you.

We could say the same thing about the weekly Divine Service.  Once we've seen the Body and Blood of Christ distributed, is not every week a repeat performance?  You know the sermon will feature Jesus.  There will be Law and Gospel, sin and grace.  Isn't once a week enough?  I have my Bible.  I have my prayer book.  I'll give it a look-see at home when I find time.

We rob ourselves of inexpressible blessings when we despise "preaching and His Word."  [Luther's Small Catechism, Third 3rd Commandment]  God's Law exposes our guilt when we act with sinful contempt for God's Word.  In John chapter eight, Jesus is confronted by detractors of God's Word while He was teaching in the Temple.  Jesus says to them, who had believed Him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,"  [Jn. 8:47 ESV]  Notice, Jesus does not suggest another source for true disciples other than the Word of God.  The true disciple "hears" the Word with others in the Lord's House.  Furthermore, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says, "[let us] not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." [Heb. 10:25]

Judgment Day is one day closer than it was yesterday.  That's one day less to contemplate the suffering and death of Christ, which is, the Word of the cross that Saint Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians and Galatians.  We cannot hear and contemplate the suffering of Christ enough.  We cannot allow others, even our own selves, to stop crying out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

Jesus drew the blind man to Himself and asked, "What do you want Me to do for you?"  The man said, "Lord, let me recover my sight."  [vs.41]  A more expansive translation of the Greek text is, "Lord, that I might look up and see again."

Like this man, we were spiritually blind, spiritually dead, and unable to convert ourselves.  Like Adam and Even in Eden after they had sinned, we know God is there, but our sin blinds us from seeing the Lord, let alone know where to turn to see Him.  However, Jesus stands still long enough to hear our cries for mercy and He answers them according to His good and gracious will.  Jesus says to the blind man and to us, "Recover your sight; your faith has made you well."  [vs.42]  In the Greek text, Jesus speaks back to the blind man what He first spoke to Jesus, "Look up, see again; your faith has saved you." 

Though blind, the man "sees" something more profound.  He calls Jesus, "Son of David." .  This is no ordinary term.  "Son of David" is a Messianic title.  King David writes in Psalm 110:  The LORD says to my Lord;  "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool."  This Psalm celebrates the exaltation of Jesus to a Kingship that surpasses David's.  Jesus asks the Pharisees in Matthew [22:45]:  "If then David calls Him Lord, how is He His son?"  The Pharisees wouldn't answer.  Any answer would incriminate them.  This Jesus on the road to Jerusalem is indeed the Son of David.  He is Mary's Son, the only begotten Word.  The prophet Isaiah writes "Behold; your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God.  He will come and save you.  Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy." [Is. 35:4-6]

Look up; see again Jesus Christ's passion.  See again Jesus Christ stricken, smitten, and afflicted, lying on the throne of the cross as King of the Jews and the hope of the Gentiles.  See again the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, the love that Saint Paul writes about in today's Epistle.  This love of God in Christ Jesus is the love that we are to show in our daily lives.  It is more than love between a man and a woman that is often portrayed as a theme of 1 Corinthians chapter 13.  Instead, Paul speaks about a love that transcends marriage, prophecies, speaking in tongues, and other spiritual gifts.

Jesus heals the blind man because He loves Him.  Jesus heals you from sin with His blood and righteousness because He loves you, His Father's creation.  His harsh, lonely death on your behalf brings you again into communion with your Creator.  Not only do you look up and see again, you also taste again.  The Lord's Supper is eating and drinking the forgiveness of sins won by Christ at Calvary.  As the Psalmist writes:  "Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!  Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!" [Ps. 34:8]

St. Luke [18:43] concludes the healing of the blind man:  "And immediately he recovered his sight and followed Him, glorifying God.  And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God."  So now we join the pilgrim throng on its way to Jerusalem.  We join them praising God's amazing grace in His means:  Word, water, bread, and wine, which are our sustenance as we walk the road through Lent glorifying God for our sight, our taste, and our redemption.

Jesus has "mercied" us so that we might "look up and see again our salvation drawing nigh."

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Phillippians 4:7  ~Amen~

~ Rev. George Fyler

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