Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: (Jer 3:14 KJV) In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Mat 3:1-2 KJV)
Sounds like fun: “Backsliding”. Awakens memories of sliding down garden embankments as a child and down sandy dunes later. Yet backsliding is something else – and it’s not funny, no child’s play but risky business and even life threatening. Yes, if not stopped and reversed in good time its damning and has deadly outcomes for sure. See, our good and loving God – the heavenly Father – has created us to be his own. In his Son Jesus Christ he has called us to live in his kingdom as his holy people. That’s what the Holy Spirit’s business is about day in day out – calling, enlightening, keeping us in unison with the holy Trinity and in the true faith. For the living God has not just affiliated us loosely to himself, but rather married to us – and what God has joined together let man not pull asunder. Backsliding in this matter would be like adultery and that’s just another biblical image for the most contemptuous and abominable idolatry. Not fun stuff, but deadly business – even if it looks different in our eyes!
That’s why the living God calls the tempted and even fallen backsliders to turn, to repent and to remain with him and his grace and goodness. It’s this very grace and goodness, that makes him call us back out of sinful lives, faithlessness and deathly unbelief. He’s out to get us back in the good sense of this Sunday’s gospel message – the good shepherd seeking and finding that lost sheep and to return it on his shoulders and in his arms to where it belongs – home and in the sanctuary of the holy Christian Church and divine family. That’s why he sent out apostles and prophets like the saint John the Baptist: “Repent ye: For the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” That’s why even today pastors, evangelists, missionaries, teachers, bishops and other elders carry out that inviting message: “Turn, o backsliding children!”
God’s call is effective. Thanks to it, there are people heeding the divine call throughout the world. They not only listen, but through this very word of invitation, but also reprimand and warning are brought back from the brink and even out of the depths of woe and deaths dark vale into the heavenly realms and blessed sanctuaries of God’s holy presence and blessed activity. They are returned to the city of God – the holy city of Zion – the blessed and beloved Church, the very centre of God’s gracious ministry and saving service: Your sins are forgiven. Depart in peace + Not to leave God’s presence, but to carry on with our daily lives in his healing and saving presence – now and always. Amen.
- Jesus sinners doth receive; May they all this saying ponder Who in sin’s delusions live And from God and heaven wander! Here is hope for all who grieve: Jesus sinners doth receive.
- We deserve but grief and shame, Yet his words, rich grace revealing, Pardon, peace, and life proclaim. Here our ills have perfect healing; We with humble hearts believe Jesus sinners doth receive.
- When their sheep have lost their way, Faithful shepherds go to seek them; Jesus watches all who stray, Faithfully to find and take them In his arms that they may live Jesus sinners doth receive.
- Come, O sinners, one and all, Come, accept his invitation; Come, obey his gracious call, Come and take his free salvation! Firmly in these words believe: Jesus sinners doth receive.
- Jesus sinners doth receive. Even me he has forgiven; And when I this earth must leave, I shall find an open heaven. Dying, still to him I cleave Jesus sinners doth receive.
Lutheran Worship 229 by: Erdmann Neumeister (1671-1756) Tune: Meinen Jesum lass ich nicht