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Sermon for Lent 3

Sermon for Lent 3 – 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Augustana, 2013

Note:  This sermon continues along a theme that I think is vitally important for the Church today, making the connection between the Old and New Testaments.  I’ll admit it.  I used to be really ignorant of the OT.  Now, I am somewhat less so; we could all stand to be less so.  When our Lord “opened up the Scriptures,” He was teaching from what we call the OT; they speak of Him throughout.  Jesus taught this way and so does Paul.  Anyway, here’s the sermon.

Click here for mp3 audio 21 Sermon for Lent 3.mp3

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

To be honest, I’m young enough to be considered a member of Generation X.  We are notable for a number of things, but one of them is that we are a very visual generation.  We really are the first generation that, as a generation, did not read so much as watch our culture on screens both small and large.  I have to admit that one of the films that was/is foundational for my faith was Cecil B. DeMille’s the Ten Commandments with Charleton Heston.  I remember watching the movie with my Children’s Bible open watching Moses float in the little basket and then grow to a man in Pharaoh’s household.  I flipped page after page as plague after plague consumed Egypt hardening Pharaoh’s heart until finally the destroyer, the angel of death came in the night of the first Passover, passing over the homes whose doors were marked with the blood of the lamb but consuming the first born of every house not so marked.  It’s not just a story in my head, it’s a visual picture of the mighty rescue of God for His people Israel at the shore of the Red Sea with the glory of the Lord leading and protecting the people.  Really, if this story is not part of your understanding of the faith, certainly read the account in Exodus.  But you could do worse than to watch the film again because the story of Israel’s redemption from slavery in Egypt simply must be part of the fabric of our understanding of the faith.

I know that one of my favorite things to talk about are the connections between the Old and New Testaments.  In the Epistle reading for today, Paul makes some explicit connections between the two.  In fact, Paul makes some rather startling connections if we’re not paying attention.  He links the Israelite’s crossing the Red Sea to nothing other than baptism.  And as if that were not astounding enough, he links their eating the manna from heaven and drinking the water from the Rock to the Lord’s Supper.  He does it all for one reason, to make sure that we don’t get too complacent in the faith.  This is a good message at any time, but an even more touching for us in the midst of Lent.

We Lutheran live amid so many other kinds of Christians most of whom deny any power or efficacy to baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  In fact, they do not call them sacraments, they call them ordinances.  What do you think of when you hear the word “ordinance”?  I hope what you hear is something to do with the Law because that is what they mean.  Therefore, baptism must be done, in such and such a way, with at least x much water otherwise the Law has not been fulfilled.  The Lord’s Supper is kept as a Law, four times a year, and it must have unleavened bread and wine, but preferably juice made from grapes.  This is all Law.  Is there any benefit to keeping this Law of God?  Only the benefit of having kept the Law, that is, there is nothing else conferred in these ordinances except “job well done.”  So if what you heard was that these things must be done and done rightly but they don’t give anything to the doer, you heard right.

Contrast that with our view.  Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are not ordinances, that is, they are not of the Law, but rather they are of the Gospel.  They are given to us according to the mandate of Christ, make no mistake.  There is no option not to baptize, not to eat and drink.  But as with many other issues in the Law, the intent of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are to give us something of Christ’s.  They actually carry with them and deliver to us His holiness and His perfection.  They are then, not something we do; God does them.  God washes and applied His name.  The Lord Himself feeds us at His table by His Word.  We participate in them, yes, but we don’t do them.  And this is not just a matter of different readings of the Bible either.  In fact, it’s the apostle Paul here who begins to make the case for sacraments instead of ordinances.

I’ve never actually visited the Holy Land.  I came close, but we were busy trying to get our Marines to Pakistan after 9/11.  But we did sail through the Suez Canal in Egypt.  Stopping in the Great Bitter Lake for a few hours while the north-bound canal traffic came through, I had a chance to survey the surroundings through the ship’s mounted binoculars, what we called the “big eyes.”  Now the big eyes are really powerful binoculars.  They are powerful enough that at night you can tilt them up and make out the rings of Saturn.  So when we went past the tip of the Sinai Peninsula I went up above the bridge and looked through the big eyes east into the waste of Sinai.  Words cannot begin to describe how wild, how barren, how desolate this place on earth is.  The one thing that is made abundantly clear by even the most cursory observation is that without food and water, no one will last very long in such a place.  And we are told that the Lord God lead some two million people into that wilderness and sustained them with water and heavenly food from heaven, manna.

We who’ve watched the movie know that the Red Sea parting was God’s action to rescue Israel from certain slaughter at the hands of Pharaoh’s chariots.  Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, tells us that the Red Sea was a baptism.  If the Red Sea was God’s act, why is not Christian Baptism not God’s too.  The same line of thinking should be applied to the drinking and eating.  We watched the movie and know that the Lord provided manna and the water from the Rock.  Paul tells us this was true spiritual drink and food, that is, it arrived in a spiritual manner and gave life; it literally saved the people from certain death.  God provided it.  Drink and eat become commands that are not done merely for the sake of doing them, but for the benefit of having done them.  Likewise, here take and eat, take and drink, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  Don’t eat, don’t drink while you try to navigate the barren wilderness all around us and it hesitate to think what it might mean for you.

The Scripture is clear.  “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

I’ve never quite understood why some Christians, some Lutherans, would not fast from the things we probably all need to fast from, and yet choose to fast from those things of which we are told to eat and drink freely.  We have not left the wilderness, dear friends, and we will not until the Last Day.  “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

We have in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper great gifts from the hand of God Himself.  They are the most ordinary things in the world, water, bread and wine, made extraordinary by the promise and blessing of the Lord’s own Christ.  God has continued to deal with us in a manner similar to how He chose to deal with our forefathers in the wilderness.  Baptism is the very rescue of God from sin and death and the Lord’s Supper is the very sustenance we need to continue in this wilderness.  Do not neglect them.  Rely on them.  Rely on the God who provides such magnificent gifts.  In this way, you will overcome any and all temptation.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds though faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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