LOVE THAT COMES IN MANY WAYS
Midweek 4 – 2021 LSB #’s 558, 645, 421
Text – Luke 24:47
And that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
LOVE THAT COMES IN MANY WAYS
In the name of Jesus, who so richly gives us his Holy Spirt & the forgiveness of our sins. Amen.
There was man who loved a woman. She had his whole heart. Her birthday came, & he decided that he really wanted her to know how special she was to him & how much he loved her. As she sat at work that day, a deliveryman came with a bouquet of flowers & a note that read, “Happy birthday! I love you!”
He took her to lunch at her favorite restaurant, where a card on the table read, “Happy birthday! I love you!” At the end of the meal, he gave her a gift to unwrap: jewelry. He looked her in the eye & said, “Happy birthday. I love you.” Coming out of the restaurant, she looked up, & there was a low-flying plane pulling a banner, that read, “Happy birthday! I love you!”
After work, when she got home & was sitting & thinking what a nice day it had been, & how over-the-top her beloved had been with everything, the doorbell rang, she opened the door, & there stood three people, who started singing. It was a singing telegram, expressing the man’s love for her. Are you waiting for the punch line? God the Father, Son & Holy Spirit loves you.
In the Lenten sermons this year, we are focusing on the enormity of God’s mercy for us in Christ, & tracing the great dimensions of His love. Last week’s theme was “Love That Spares No Cost.” We reflected on the staggering price that God was willing to pay for our good – the precious blood of Christ. This week, the theme is: God’s love comes to us in many ways.
The sermon text is from Luke 24, a passage that describes Jesus meeting with His
disciples after His resurrection from the dead: Then [Jesus] said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses & the Prophets & the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44 ESV) At that point, He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, & continued:
“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer & on the 3rd day rise from the dead, & that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:46-49 ESV)
After Jesus rises from the dead, before He ascends to heaven, He repeats this central truth to His disciples: His coming into the world, His suffering, dying, & rising from the dead, has all been toward this end: the forgiveness of sins. Now, Jesus is sending His disciples into the world to call people to repent of their sins, & to proclaim the forgiveness of their sins in His name.
Why is the forgiveness of sins so important? Without it, those sins separate us from God. Without the forgiveness of our sins, we stand as enemies of God. Without the forgiveness of our sins, God does not look upon us with favor, He does not look upon us as His dear children. Without the forgiveness of sins, every day we are storing up wrath for ourselves before God.
As James 5:5 puts it, we are “fattening ourselves in the day of slaughter.” Without the forgiveness of our sins, we should rightly go through this life glancing over our shoulder at all times, wondering how & when God Himself is going to oppose & punish us.
Without the forgiveness of sins, not our death, not even the end of the world, can bring us shelter from God’s judgment – for the Bible clearly teaches that it is appointed to a man to die once, & then the judgment. Every person in this world will one day stand before the judgment throne of God, & He is just & holy. Without the forgiveness of our sins, we would be excluded from God’s glorious presence & His joyous kingdom, subject to everlasting punishment. But with the forgiveness of our sins in Jesus’s name, God looks upon us with favor & pure love.
With the forgiveness of our sins in Jesus’s name, we are reconciled to God, & every moment of our lives He regards us as His dear children. With the forgiveness of our sins in Jesus’ name, we can know with confidence that, on the day of judgment, there will be no wrath or punishment, but rather a joyful embrace in the arms of our loving God.
With the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name, we will receive all good things in endless joy & eternal pleasure. All this God does because of His love for us in Christ, & He does it through the forgiveness of our sins that He bestows on us in the name of Jesus.
To display His great love for us, then, God gives the gift that we need more than anything else: the forgiveness of sins. God sends this gift out into the world, desiring that all nations, that all people, would receive it.
This forgiveness is not a hidden mystery to be discovered. It is not something we need to hunt for in the bowels of a deep cave, guarded by a dozen deadly traps & snares, like treasure in an Indiana Jones movie. The forgiveness of sins is not a prize that we need to climb into heaven to attain, or that we arrive at through meditation or self-enlightenment.
Rather, the forgiveness of sins is something that God sends to you & me, something that God brings to us. “Thus it is written, [Jesus said to His disciples] that the Christ should suffer & on the 3rd day rise from the dead, & that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46-47 ESV)
God sends this forgiveness forth. This greatest of gifts ends up in your hands because
God wants to give it to you, even because He brings it to you. Listen to this summary:
“I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified & kept me in the true faith. In the same way, He calls, gathers, enlightens & sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, & keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church, He daily & richly forgives me all my sins, & the sins of all believers.”
In the catechism, we confess, “In this Christian Church, God daily & richly forgives all my sins & the sins of all believers.” Daily. Each & every day God extends His forgiveness. Just as He teaches us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” so also He teaches us to pray, “And forgive us our trespasses…”
You & I need forgiveness, & God grants us forgiveness just as continually as we need food, that is, daily! “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” (Lamentations 3:22–23) That is God forgiving us – every day.
So, why does the catechism say that God forgives us richly? “In this Christian Church He daily & richly forgives me all my sins.” One way to think about it is to consider the rich multitude of ways that God brings His forgiveness into my life. The Lutheran Confessions state:
The Gospel of forgiveness in Christ gives us help against sin “in more than one way, because God is extravagantly rich in His grace: first, through the spoken word, in which the forgiveness of sins is preached to the whole world... second, through Baptism; third, through the holy Sacrament of the Altar; fourth, through the power of the keys & also through the mutual conversation & consolation of brothers & sisters.” (SA III:4; Kolb-Wengert translation)
God loves you so much that He has won for you & gives to you the greatest gift a sinner could receive: full & free forgiveness, in Jesus’ name. God loves you so extravagantly that He gives you this greatest gift in numerous ways, that we call the “means of grace.”
First, God conveys His forgiveness to you through the spoken gospel, as it is preached & taught & shared with you, by pastors, by Christian parents, teachers & friends. You hear about Jesus Christ & what He does for you, about His love, His faithfulness & obedience, His suffering & death, His resurrection & ascension, His compassion & help. You hear that He came to be your Savior, & that He lives forever to help you, to forgive you, to bring to you to eternal life.
As you hear these things, as you hear this powerful, active gospel word, Yahweh is working repentance & faith in your heart. Your Lord is declaring to you His love. The Holy Trinity is bringing you forgiveness in the name of Jesus.
But God is not content to declare His love for us & to grant us forgiveness in only one way, through only one means of grace. God also brings His forgiveness to us in Holy Baptism. Because of His powerful grace & promise, we enter the waters of baptism soiled with sin, but come forth clean & forgiven in Christ. As Peter declared on the day of Pentecost:
“Repent & be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:28). And as Ananias urged Paul, “Brother Saul, rise & be baptized, & wash away your sins, calling on Jesus’ name!” (Acts 22:16)
But our Lord is yet more extravagant. He also invites us to His sacred table, to commune with Him, to eat & to drink His very body & blood. “This is my body, which is given for you. This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
Just as during His earthly ministry our dear Lord ate with tax collectors & prostitutes & sinners, so also today Jesus continues to display His enormous love to sinners: He invites people like you & me to His blessed sacrament at the altar.
“Lord Jesus Christ, you have prepared this feast for our salvation; it is your body & your blood, & at your invitation as weary souls with sin oppressed, we come to you for needed rest, for comfort & for pardon.” LSB 622:1. And our Lord is yet more extravagant in His love & mercy. He has entrusted to His church the power to speak forgiveness directly in His name, in the words of Absolution. When, in spite of all His other assurances, our heart still doubts our forgiveness in Christ, God authorized human beings to pronounce His pardon, to say “I forgive you all your sins, in the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit.”
Based on the words of Jesus to His disciples, we believe that “when called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation & absolve those who repent of their sins & want to do better, this is just as valid & certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.”
The preached & spoken word, Holy Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Holy Absolution, & there’s even more! Not exactly a singing telegram, but God does send people into our lives for the purpose of testifying to our forgiveness in Christ, to bring that forgiveness to us in the name of Jesus.
The words read earlier from the Lutheran Confessions speak of “the mutual conversation & consolation of brothers & sisters.” Not only from our pastor’s lips, but also from the lips of others, God Himself is at work, beating back the sinful unbelief & the stubborn doubts that live in our hearts. Through the lips of a friend, a sibling, a parent, a child, a neighbor, even there God testifies to, & displays His love for all.
In these several ways God piles up His love in our lives; heaps up His assurances, that in Jesus’s death & resurrection, our sins are forgiven. Some Christians of other denominations question why God would need to grant His forgiveness in so many different ways. For example, they fear that we may trust in baptism to forgive instead of trusting in Jesus.
Or they fear that we put our trust in the forgiveness of the Lord’s Supper instead of
trusting in Jesus. Yet, the Bible encourages us to trust in the forgiveness which God gives us so richly in all of these ways. It is not some different forgiveness; it is all God’s forgiveness for Jesus’s sake, grounded in the death & resurrection of our Savior.
Lutherans rejoice to receive all of these gifts, all these means of grace, because God Himself has given them to us, in love. When Jesus declared that “repentance & forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name, to all nations,” He was including all these blessed means by which God daily & richly forgives all my sins, & the sins of all believers.
God loves you, dear friends, with an enormous love. In the extravagance of His love, & in His great concern that you be constantly certain & sure of it, He extends forgiveness to you in these many ways. It’s like He wants to be sure you keep warm, so He gives you not one coat, or two, but four or five.
“Who needs four or five coats?” we might say. “That’s ridiculous!” Yet, God knows that sometimes the world can be very, very cold. And He wants you to remain always in the warm security of His love. Praise be to Him, who has so loved us in His Son, & who makes that love & mercy known to us in many ways. Amen.
Surely in temples made with hands God, the Most High, is not dwelling; high above earth His temple stands, all earthly temples excelling. Yet He who dwells in heaven above chooses to live with us in love, making our bodies His temple. We are God’s house of living stones, built for His own habitation. He through baptismal grace us owns heirs of His wondrous salvation. Were we but two His name to tell, yet He would deign with us to dwell with all His grace & His favor. Amen. LSB 645:2-3.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet