In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. The slayer, the liar, the deceiver – with brutal jabs from his poisoned tongue – is the planter of deception and doubt. “No one could steal the sting from death.” “No one cares enough about you to save you…no one is going to rescue you from valley of death,” he says. “Save yourself, show off to God or to yourself that you can do it all by yourself. Rub it in!”
You know, it’s the same game Satan played in the Garden on that day of darkness and despair, the day Eve gave Satan an audience and Adam abdicated his throne. “God knows that you won’t surely die, for i the day you do it you will become just like him!” He’s turned the tables, his message, which resonates with your old abdicating Adam, is all about you and your works and the ignoring and pushing aside of God and his good gifts. Ignore, rename, redefine, and downplay the works of god and instead elevate, showcase, highlight, and depend on your own works.
We live as if God doesn’t really matter and as if we really matter most! Works have captivated the minds and hearts of man in his struggles with the Old Adam ever since that horrible day in the garden. It’s ramped throughout the world. Even the church is not immune. This congregation isn’t immune. We don’t love our God with all our hearts and minds and we haven’t loved our neighbor as ourselves. We don’t even love spouses as we ought. Are we saved by our own works or by the works of God?? We call bad people good, we even query why bad things happen to good people all the while knowing (but ignoring) the fact that there are no good people and that the real question should be — “why do good things happen to bad people?” Every man for himself – with a ladder of works to climb leaves no one at the top. Satan knows that and he delights in dead branches: the causalities of the law’s accusing and murdering.
The catechumen told us Friday night at their public questioning and will tell you as they publicly denounce Satan’s teachings this morning, and call a liar for what he is, that the Bible has TWO doctrines: The Law and the Gospel. One must have both. Two good gifts from a heavenly Father, a royal gardener. They will publicly declare what you know: you can’t have one without the other. The Law will always accuse and demand. It requires everything, it demands blood for your sin. It says with Jesus, “If you don’t abide in me, the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.” With the Law there is death.
“NO!! Don’t say I’m a sinner! We are not miserable and we are not poor… look at all the good we have done.” But even the good that you do help and save you never. Indeed the demand too great, the requirement impossible… apart from the Gospel, without Jesus, you can do nothing!
Repent! The Kingdom of God is at hand.
There is someone who can remove the sting of death and has.
There is someone who cares enough to give everything to save you.
Jesus comes to rescue you from this valley of sorrow and death.
One man, this Man of God (the GodMan) is good and so makes you all good.
Listen not to the father of lies, but to the Vine, the Good Shepherd, the New Adam, the Crucified One. Which of you has ever heard of a branch grafting itself into the vine? It doesn’t happen. It can’t happen. But a gardener can. And he does. And it is this message that is performative. The gospel, this Jesus, is the true Vine that rescues and makes alive. So it is that the Gardener – the heavenly Father has sent the Holy Pruning Shears: The Holy Spirit. He, by water and the Word, has made you a part of the vine. In Baptism you have been grafted, named, claimed, marked, and loved. And again the Holy Spirit is sent today to prune and to water and care for you by the preaching away of your sins…the forgiving of all your sins and the nourishing of your souls.
To give you Jesus, the Father gives him up in death. By the cross he receives the payment for sin and his righteous wrath is stilled. The good work, the perfect keeping of the Law by Jesus, is perfect Gospel for you. And it is then by grafting you into the vine that you can do anything. Did you catch what Jesus has said? Apart from me you can do nothing, but whoever abides in me bears much fruit. He wants there to be fruit. He expects hat you will do good works, but they help and save you never. They only come after the saving. After you have been claimed and the Holy Spirit has created faith in your heart then there are good works. And so he has! And an awesome day to celebrate… in just a few minutes we’ll receive new members into our fellowship. At second service our catechumens will be confirmed and brought into altar fellowship. You’re about to sing the Te Deum Ladaumus. By this you know the Spirit of God: All of us will publicly confess Jesus to be God and man and our Lord.
Children, you have overcome the great Liar and Deceiver of our souls. Satan is undone…and he who is greater, the stronger man, Jesus is in you all. We are from God and we are connected to him. Jesus, the righteous one has conquered all your foes and you are connected to him. He the vine, you the branches —to feed you, nourish you, keep you. You are forgiven and free.
All with the sweet sound of your Savior’s tongue, music to your ears.
In +Jesus’ Name.