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Quinquagesima, February 11, 2018 - St. Luke 18:31-43

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Posted: Sunday, February 11th, 2018 by Pastor Westgate

Have you ever been to Jerusalem? I haven’t. My gramma went once many years ago. Somewhere I have a glass cross she brought back filled with Jordan River water and Jerusalem dirt. I don’t remember anything she said about it, and now it’s too late to ask about it. Yet today The Church invites us, right here in the pews of Redeemer Oakmont, to go up to Jerusalem.

How shall we do this? Do we need to board a plane and fly there? Do we need to pack our bags and prepare for trouble? Do we need to book a hotel? Or do we just need a computer and livestream video or a tourist guide? How can we go up to Jerusalem right now when we’re in Oakmont?

It’s nice to take trips to Jerusalem. It’s wonderful to see the place where our redemption was accomplished up close and personal. But we may never go there. Perhaps you will, perhaps not. Perhaps you or someone you know has been there. But The Church does not order us to take a pilgrimage there. Instead she brings Jerusalem to you. For by faith alone you go there and behold your salvation accomplished on The Cross by your Lord and God and Savior.

Over the past few weeks we’ve been reminded of the solas of the Lutheran Reformation. We are saved by God’s grace alone. His grace is the only explanation for our salvation. Our sins far outweigh any good we might do. They enslave us to a wicked Pharaoh named Satan who has no desire to let go of us and is far stronger than we are. Only a stronger Man can save us, and that Man must be God Himself. No angel can do it. Certainly no mortal can. Only God’s Only-begotten Son can save us, and in loving-kindness, in grace, He came down from heaven to do just that.

We are saved by Scripture alone. The message of God’s grace comes from nowhere else. The Old Testament prophets wrote what they foresaw. They saw Messiah coming to die and rise again for us. But how would you know it’s happened? The Apostles and Evangelists wrote The New Testament to tell you Jesus fulfilled The Old Testament. This message of our salvation comes from Scripture. I must preach nothing else. I am bound to preach only what Scripture says. For Scripture tells us both how w alone. We are not saved and how we are saved. Were I to interject anything else, something not taught in Scripture or contrary to it, your salvation could be put in jeopardy.

Why is that? Because you are saved by faith alone. God’s grace has won salvation for you. Sacred Scripture delivers it to you. But how do you receive it? It needs to be received, grasped, laid hold of. It needs to be believed, trusted. How can that be done? Lutheran theologians call faith “the receiving organ.” Faith is not a work we do. It’s not a choice we make. The Holy Spirit brings God’s Word to us. He uses that Word to create faith. We are unable to receive God’s grace on our own. Scripture says everything about us is opposed to God. So He has to change us – after all we are stubborn creatures who can’t change on our own. Change us He does. He puts God’s grace in our hand and even closes our fingers around it to hold on to it. He comes along and picks us up like the boy picks up a can with a stick and carries us home to life everlasting.

Blind Bartimæus believed. Jesus said to him: “Your faith has saved you.” He heard a crowd coming. He was begging, and a crowd meant money. He had no other way to earn a living. He had to beg. No begging, no money, no food. A crowd meant easy begging leading to lots of money, hence lots of food. It was a big crowd, so he got curious. What was going on? Maybe he’d never heard such a crowd before, or at least it had been a while. Then he heard something he’d been hoping to hear for 3 years: Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. He’d heard from travelers passing through giving him money all about this Jesus. He heard the stories of healings of all sorts and knew this was his 1 chance to be healed. He believed Jesus could heal him. And his faith saved him. He was healed.

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” This is the heart of Christian faith. Our focus is not helping others, as good as that is. Our focus is not self-improvement, even if we all need improving. Our focus is Jesus. Our focus is Jesus because of our great need for Him. If ever we are without Him, we are prone to fall. He is our strong Defense that saves us because nothing else can protect us from all evil. He alone can lead us and guide us through this life to life eternal. This 1 thing in life is truer than death and taxes: We need Jesus, Son of David, to have mercy on us!

Why is that? The Collect told us. It begged our Lord to mercifully hear our prayers to defend us from all evil as He sets us free from the bonds of sin. We have been bound to sin, and we know it. That means has had control of us, loves to control us to the point that we enjoy sinning at times and no matter how much we might like to stop sinning, we keep on sinning anyway, even when we’re trying our best.

St. Paul’s verses about love make this clear. They are beautiful words read at many a wedding, but let’s be honest – we don’t live up to them. We are impatient and mean. We get jealous and boast. We are arrogant and rude. We are easily irritated and resent people for no good reason. We sometimes enjoy doing the wrong thing, and we don’t always like the truth because the truth hurts. We hold grudges over the littlest things, we find it easier to believe the gossip that’s wrong and hold on to it when it’s proven wrong or to think the worst of somebody instead of the best or to not put up with anything that might just slightly offend us. We find that love can turn to hate in an instant. All this reveals that we are sinners trapped in sin.

We need a love to come from outside us to save us that would give up everything to save us, that would turn wretches into the loveliest beings ever. We need Love to be handed over to the Gentiles to be mocked, insulted, spit on, scourged and killed. We need Love to rise again. Why? Because with His arm He redeemed His people by dying nailed to a cross. There He saved us. There He bore our sin, our hatred, our loveless deeds and thoughts and words. There He was punished for it all. There He broke the chains of sin from off our hands and feet and had mercy on us. There He won forgiveness for all sin and eternal life. There David’s Son yet David’s Lord saved us.

This you believe. You have heard the message, the message proclaimed by Scripture about God’s grace, the message which proclaims His strength among the peoples, and The Spirit has worked. He has worked faith in you, faith in Jesus only, in His Body given for you and His Blood shed for you. So now we go up to Jerusalem. We go by faith to hear the story again of Jesus and His love for us sinners. We hear about what led up to His Death, about His Institution of The Sacrament of The Altar, about His Passion, His Death, and His Resurrection. God grant that by faith we may remember and give thanks for our Lord’s Passion that we may obtain remission of sins and redemption from everlasting death – sola fide, by faith alone.

Categories: Pastor Westgate's Sermons

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