Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Pray now before sin drags you under


Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.  Psalm 32:1-2

ALL people want to be blessed by God.  They hope that He will bless them, keep them and make His face to shine upon them; that He will supply their every need, and satisfy their deepest desires, but what makes for the blessed estate that David speaks of in today's Psalm?  Nothing other than the forgiveness of sins, because sin is the wedge that separates men from their Maker and incurs His displeasure rather than His blessing, but to be forgiven one must first confess his sins to God, and then He must believe that in Christ he has a merciful Father who forgives our iniquities and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

In today's Psalm David gives us that very confidence!  He preaches the Gospel to us and assures us of remission with these words, "I said I will confess my transgressions to the LORD, and you forgave the iniquity of my sin."  Yet please understand that sin and its forgiveness is not merely a system of credits and debits, merits and demerits, or of penalties imposed for crimes committed, but sin is  a matter of lost affection, broken trust, and unrequited love: and its forgiveness is more than a bookkeeping entry in your favor, but of "peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinner reconciled."

Jesus says, "The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand."  That's what a father does.  He is not merely half the equation needed to bring a child into the world, but He is the One who loves His children, sacrifices for them, and provides them all that they need; not only food and clothes, and house and home, but He imparts His very self to them!  He makes them in His own image.  He gives them His wisdom and His spirit, even as the Father in holy baptism, has given us Christ who is His wisdom, and His Holy Spirit as well to dwell in us and with us.

Yes, a father inclines towards his children.  Be sure not to miss that little phrase in today's Gospel that Jesus who is the good Samaritan in the parable, "came to where the man was."  This means that through the Son, the eternal Father seeks us out in our lost condition, and comes to our rescue.  Children in turn, seeing their Father's love, incline themselves toward him.  They lean in close to His mouth so that they might hear every word He has to say, so that they might learn from Him, be like Him, and live in His image: whose image we truly are!  This is the religion of the Bible.

Contrast, if you will, the world's catechism in post Christian society.  It's chief doctrine is that children don't need a father:  that fathers are extraneous, irrelevant and unimportant, that one mother is adequate, or perhaps two even better, but this is the doctrine of devils, a crime against nature, an assault against reason, and a denial of God who is above all Father:  always begetting, always providing, always imparting His own glad and irrepressible life to us through Christ.

There is no more primal or sacred relationship than Father and Child.  This is what we learn from our Lord who says:  "The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand."  And again, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work."  And what is that work but to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their father, to God most High by the cross.

So in today's Psalm David exhorts you, "Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach Him.  You are a hiding place for me: you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance."

"The rush of great waters" is a poetic way of describing two things:  First the misery of miseries that befall the inhabitants of earth.  This is why David exhorts people to pray for God's protection at all times, for it is He who saves you from trouble, or, if He allows it, uses it for your final benefit:  for even sin and evil must bend their wills to the purposes of God the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth.  Neither does He forget you in your trials, or let you languish, but aids you and consoles you instead.  Know this too, that He puts an expiration date on all your reversals, so don't give up hope, or "sorrow even as others that have no hope."

"The rush of great waters" is also the final judgment.  The language is reminiscent of The Flood from which no one escaped, except faithful Noah and his family, and no one will escape the Great Judgment to come except for the One Who is Greater Than Noah, even Jesus our Lord, and those whose sins are covered in the flood of holy baptism.  He is our hiding place, who keeps us safe from the wages of our sins, the power of death, the corruption of the grave, and who promises us elegant and eternal life.

The shouts of deliverance that David refers to is the very Divine Service in which we are now engaged.  It is here that we recount, preach, proclaim, confess and receive the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, for the Gospel is not just a notion in our minds, but something that is truly enacted and given us in the holy house.  Here we name God as our Father and Christ as our Brother.  Here He inclines to us, to counsel us by His Word, and due to the Old Adam, it is here, by the preaching of his Law, that He urges us to listen to Him, and admonishes us not to be stubborn like a horse or mule that has no understanding, and must be curbed with a bit and bridle.  Thus we will avoid the many sorrows of the wicked, and we will enjoy abiding peace, whatever comes our way, for the wounds of our Lord Jesus are our Hiding Place.  Amen

-  Rev. Dean Kavouras

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