14th Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 16) LSB #’s 433, 563
Text – Hebrews 12:22 & 24
But you have come to Mount Zion & to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, & to innumerable angels in festal gathering, …& to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, & to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
SPEAKING A BETTER WORD
Curtis & Leroy saw an ad in the Starkville Daily & bought a mule for $100, sending the money by Western Union that evening. The farmer agreed to deliver the mule the next day. The following morning the farmer drove up & said, “Sorry, fellers, I have some bad news. The mule died last night.” Curtis & Leroy replied, “Well, then just give us our money back.”
The farmer answered, “Can’t do that. I went & spent it already.” Curtis & Leroy talked a moment & came back, “OK then, just bring us the dead mule.” The farmer asked, “What in the world ya’ll gonna do with a dead mule?” Curtis told him, “We gonna raffle him off.” The farmer told them, “You can’t raffle off a dead mule!”
Leroy answered, “We shore can! We don’t hafta tell nobody he’s dead!” A couple of weeks later, the farmer ran into Curtis & Leroy at the Piggly Wiggly grocery store, so he asked, “What’d you fellers ever do with that dead mule?”
They told the farmer, “We raffled him off like we said we wuz gonna do.” Leroy continued, “Shucks, we sold 1000 tickets fer two dollars apiece & made a profit of $1898.” The farmer said, “My stars, didn’t anyone complain?” Curtis answered, “Well, the feller who won the dead mule got upset. So we gave him his two dollars back.”
Curtis & Leroy now work for the Internal Revenue Service. They plan on running for Congress next. What’s the moral of this story? Term limits!! Limit all U.S. politicians to two terms. One in office & one in prison!
Though it may not be funnier, I can assure you this morning that Yahweh will be
speaking a better Word to us than Curtis & Leroy! It’s easy to look at all the corruption in our government & wish those crooks would get what they deserve. On an earthly level there’s nothing wrong with justice. It helps to maintain order & peace in human societies. The trouble arises when we consider the fact that justice also has to occur on a spiritual level.
We see that play out in our lives in many ways, but most of them are subtle. They’re easily overlooked & we have plenty of reasons for purposely ignoring the signs. Number 1 is that sin has blinded us. Our spiritual eyesight is a long way from 20/20. The results of that are made quite clear in Romans 3: “…all have sinned & fall short of the glory of God.” (3:23 ESV)
St. Paul follows that up in Ephesians 2: “And you were dead in the trespasses & sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” (2:1-2 ESV) Although physically we are alive, spiritually – we still have the smell of death about us.
Secondly, many of the words we speak are spent on making excuses for ourselves, either for our outright failures, or for ways in which we perceive that we’ve failed, even if no one else reckons it as such. Guilt lives on in our heart, mind & soul because The Fall has left its indelible mark upon us. The thought of spiritual justice brings anxiety to life within.
Thirdly, it is unnatural for sinners to trust anyone other than self. Maybe you’ve heard words like these: “If you want a job done right, you have to do it yourself.” There’s a lot of common sense in that, but there can also be a strong element of pride as well. It depends upon the individual speaking, & where their treasure is. Do they trust only in themselves?
So, on an earthly level there’s nothing wrong with seeking justice. In essence it’s nothing more than expecting things to turn out according to what’s right & true. Problems crop up when we try to take spiritual justice into our own hands. Because of the sense of guilt that lives within there are times we try to compensate for that through our own efforts to make things right & true. Proverbs 14:12 warns us about the danger associated with that kind of thinking: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (ESV) Remember, even as God’s children, in this life our spiritual eyesight is a long way from 20/20.
If you hear anything about the news that’s being reported in our country today, there seems to be a lot of anger, division & even hatred being spewed out upon the airwaves, over the internet, & through Twitter. People say they want justice, but if you’re listening, it sounds a lot more like revenge. They want payback. They’re longing to even the score.
To give some context for today’s reading from the Book of Hebrews, it’s helpful to listen to God’s Word to Cain at Genesis 4: “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.” (4:10-11 ESV)
Abel’s blood was crying for His Creator to make things right & true by doling out just punishment to Cain for his crime of murder. Yahweh had even confronted Cain prior to that brutal act of hatred, yet Cain continued with his plan. Just two chapters later, in Genesis 6, Moses wrote:
“The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, & that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, & His heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created…’”
If our heavenly Father continued with that plan, there would be no human beings left on the face of the earth. It was only a few generations from Noah to the Tower of Babel. The Lord says, “Vengeance is mine,” but vengeance doesn’t save anyone. Abel’s blood cries out for justice, but if justice is carried out on sinful human beings, hell is the only possible outcome. So our heavenly Father chose to speak a better word than the blood of Abel. Yahweh put justice upon His only begotten Son, the 2nd person of the Trinity, holy & without blemish, yet fully God such that Jesus could bear the weight of sin, death & hell without being destroyed.
No more worldwide floods because would take upon Himself the destruction of sin & put it away from us as far as the east is from the west. Now, Jesus’ blood speaks that better word, the word of forgiveness & renewal & life, instead of vengeance & death.
And it is that reason, that better word, which makes Lutheran schools stand out as distinct in our nation today from the public schools where people are punished for speaking about Jesus, or about sin & forgiveness & life, & the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding. The public schools have only the blood of Abel to share & it never brings life out of death.
Jesus is the door that He spoke of in the Gospel reading today. May we ever put our trust in the Words that He speaks rather than in our government, or bureaucracies, or anything else that is only of this world. Much of the time these days, the world is selling nothing more than a dead mule. Jesus is the Light & the Lord of Life. Amen.
Abel’s blood for vengeance pleaded to the skies; but the blood of Jesus for our pardon cries. Lift we, then, our voices, swell the mighty flood; louder still & louder praise the precious blood. Glory be to Jesus, who in bitter pains poured for me the lifeblood from His sacred veins. Amen. LSB 433:4, 6, 1.
 Genesis 6:5-7 NIV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet