Watchword: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mat 20:28 KJV)
Theme: The Lamb of God (Agnus Dei) Hymn: Not all the blood of beasts. (LSB 431)
1Pe 1:13-21(KJV): Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.
This Lamb is Christ, the soul’s great Friend, The Lamb of God, our Saviour; Him God the Father chose to send To gain for us His favour. “Go forth, My Son,” the Father saith, “And free men from the fear of death, From guilt and condemnation. The wrath and stripes are hard to bear, But by Thy Passion men shall share The fruit of Thy salvation.”
Dear friends of our Lord Jesus Christ, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. That is his ministry – his service – his godly work and labour. For he did not come to be ministered too, but rather to minister. Not to be served, but rather to serve and serve so absolutely that he would give his very life as a ransom for many. That’s why this Lententide paints the picture of the lamb so vividly before our eyes. That’s why we sing the song of the lamb so devotedly and in anticipation of the final chorus with all the heavenly hosts, blessed martyrs and saved saints: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!” (Rev 5:12 NIV)
St. Peter writes to Christians, who are persecuted and starting to feel the heat of coming martyrdom. They have put their faith and hope in the living and triune God. They are the ones, who learn, confess and obey the 1st and chief commandment: You shall love, trust and fear God above all things – even if they would be the first to acknowledge that they are but far from being perfect like their God. The absolute priority of the triune God above all else is exactly the reason, why they are being suspected of being subversive enemies of the state, held like foreigners although indigenous, born and bread locally, branded aliens because of their faith and hope in the living God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The pagan emperors in Rome demanded worship and sacrifice from his loyal subjects. They wanted to be served as gods themselves. Obviously that didn’t work for Christians. They couldn’t obey God and man. He demanded their absolute allegiance, perfect obedience and the entire heart, soul and life. He wasn’t willing to share that with others, not with pagan deities, heathen idols, nor any other creatures never mind the powerful emperor in Rome even if he threatened to punish non-compliance with discrimination, persecution and martyrdom.
Rather they had been called to faith, trust and hope by the living God himself, who had addressed them in his holy Word recorded by his apostles and prophets. This godly speech in demand and promise was the sure foundation, pillar and cornerstone of their faith and hope, no longer relying on the vain conversations received from the traditions of the tribal forefathers or national ancestors, nor from the public discourse in some tavern or popular opinion of the marketplace. Exclusive faith, trust and hope in the one living God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – over against the colourful polytheism and pagan idolatry which we saw last week flaunted in the painted pandemonium of the Hindu Holi festival fashioned according to the former lusts of heathen ignorance, but also far removed from the religious fanaticism and brutality of those iconoclastic terrorists of Islamic state wielding sledgehammers to tackle ancient art and cultural heritage whilst being under the terrible illusion of doing God a favour and service – and hoping to be richly rewarded for such beastly Bilderstürmerei – and then we have not even mentioned the brutal terror and horrible slaughter of those hostages in Libya & Syria.
It’s a radical confrontation. There is a clear demarcation. Either for or against. An exclusive either or. God’s will and commandment stands forever: Thou shalt not have any other gods – neither up in the sky, nor down on earth nor even under the ground. Don’t pray to them, don’t serve them nor worship them either. Don’t confuse your allegiance. Be quite sober about this. You shouldn’t limp of both sides. Rather hope, trust and believe solely in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He’s coming to judge the living and the dead without any respect for persons and judging each one according to his own doings. He’ll appear to all in his absolute glory. It’ll be the final standoff. Everyone will be measured against his divine standard of holiness and perfect criteria. No corruptible or temporary thing will weigh up to his demand: no silver, gold or diamonds, no platinum or uranium. No human ability, facility, strength or device will be able to force its way past him – no clever strategy or ingenious plan will trick or mislead him. For there the divine standard will hold: You are to be holy like I am holy – without blemish or spot – absolute perfection. Everybody trusting to “Do-it-yourself” will fail dismally, because on my own I’m but a poor, miserable sinner – hopelessly lost – whether I’m a Hindu, Muslim, African animist or American atheist.
But – and thankfully – the Holy Spirit has called me to trust and believe in the most satisfactory and efficient sacrifice brought by the ministry/service of the very lamb of God – Jesus Christ. He the vicarious offering of redemption for us and our salvation – sufficient, effective and absolutely perfect. His precious blood – truly innocent – spilt for us on the cross is the all availing sacrifice redeeming us from all debt and guilt and serving as blessed propitiation of God’s seething wrath, changing it into that furnace of love, mercy and favour for it was truly without fault or blemish, absolute perfection, holiness, purity, righteousness and goodness.
Now he – the Holy Spirit – brings with him that whole bag full of grace, mercy and favour. It’s the forgiveness of all your sins. Justification. It’s divine righteousness, kinship, child status in God’s family, citizenship in heaven. He presented that bag to you, when you were baptised. He poured it out on you – emptied it so that its all yours. That’s how he sanctified you, made you holy, his very own, a true member of his people & holy Christian Church, belonging to him & his kingdom now & forever.
All this was forordained before the foundation of the world – that is right, meet and salutary from the start and very beginning. It’s the sure, firm and solid foundation of our faith & hope: East and West, rich & poor, black & white. It was made manifest during his Incarnation, during Epiphany, when his glory was revealed, during Lent, when he went up to Jerusalem to suffer much, finally die on the cross only to rise again on the 3rd day at Easter. His apostles – St. Peter first among them – witness to this. And that is why we now also hope and wait for him to return in glory and finally show us, what he has already done and accomplished for us long ago. We hope and wait – sober and ready – obedient to his call and faithfully trusting his promises.
Yes, we’ve still got reason to be fearful of losing it all, because of our own weakness and sinfulness, but that is why we should look not so much at ourselves and our capacity and facility, but rather look up at him, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hb 12:2), hoping only in him and trusting solely his gracious goodness and favour by which he will surely complete his good work that he has already started in all of us. He is faithful. He will surely do it. He our God and our Saviour. Amen.
From morn till eve my theme shall be Thy mercy’s wondrous measure; To sacrifice myself for Thee Shall be my aim and pleasure. My stream of life shall ever be A current flowing ceaselessly, Thy constant praise outpouring. I’ll treasure in my memory, O Lord, all Thou hast done for me, Thy gracious love adoring.
Of death I am no more afraid, New life from Thee is flowing; Thy cross affords me cooling shade When noonday’s sun is glowing. When by my grief I am opprest, On Thee my weary soul shall rest Serenely as on pillows. Thou art my Anchor when by woe My bark is driven to and fro On trouble’s surging billows.
And when Thy glory I shall see And taste Thy kingdom’s pleasure, Thy blood my royal robe shall be, My joy beyond all measure. When I appear before Thy throne, Thy righteousness shall be my crown,- With these I need not hide me. And there, in garments richly wrought As Thine own bride, I shall be brought To stand in joy beside Thee. Amen.
The Lutheran Hymnal Hymn #142 Text: Is. 53: 7 Author: Paul Gerhardt, 1648