Pentecost 21, 2015
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
It's never fun to be woken from sleep in the middle of the night. Being a parent that comes with the territory. It's frustrating when your child won't sleep or gets up early and you are jolted from your slumber with the screech of a toddler. It's even worse when your woken in the middle of the night because you have to take care of your child. I remember the first time I was awoken because Aaron had a nose bleed...a bad nose bleed. Alicia and I felt so bad and helpless...as his face was covered in blood. I went from sleeping...to being half asleep and disoriented to being fully alert and making every effort...even when I wasn't sure what to do...to help Aaron. When an emergency occurs you make every effort to fix the problem no matter what that might be.
What about when it comes to our faith? Do we make every effort to make sure that our faith is strong? Do we make every effort when it comes to sharing our faith with others? Neighbors, friends, family? Often we are more interested in making sure that we get our rest on Sunday morning...even at the cost of our eternal rest in Christ. It is then that we are just like the Israelites of old...and not in a good way.
"Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.”
Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience." (Hebrews 4:1-11)
God's Word warns us NOT to be like the Israelites of old...that heard God's promise yet failed to receive their eternal rest because of their unbelief and disobedience. When it came to "Faith" the Israelites did not make every effort. They ignored God's promises. They often did the opposite of what He commanded. They tried to take shortcuts and do it their own way. They disobeyed. They despised God's Word. Many trusted in the false gods of the pagans around them. They lost the eternal rest promised to them. They lost Christ and His salvation.
God can see every part of your life. And that can be scary. It means that God knows all of my bad decisions; all of my laziness and excuses; He knows when I am disobedient. He knows when I waste opportunities. He knows when I waste His blessings. He knows all of my sins.
But God seeing every part of my life is also a blessing. Our Epistle goes on to tell us, "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16)
God sees every part of our lives. Yes, He sees all of our sinfulness. But He also sees our struggles. He sees our joys and our pains. He knows when we hurt and suffer. We have a high priest in Christ that knows all of our needs, has been tempted like us, has suffered worse than us, intercedes to the Father on our behalf, and has taken our sins upon Himself to the cross. It is through Christ that we approach the throne of God and receive His grace.
All of that happens in this place. Here we approach God as poor miserable sinners. And here God forgives us our sins. Here God's Word is heard and proclaimed to strengthen us. Here we receive the promise of faith and salvation through the waters of Baptism. Here we receive the guarantee of our salvation, forgiveness, and strength in our Lord's very body and blood. Here we receive the foretaste of the feast to come.
In this place God is present to give us rest. It is a better rest than sleeping in on Sunday morning. It is a rest that lasts for all eternity. Salvation is yours! It has been won by Christ. It is freely given. It is here, always here, for you. The gift has been guaranteed in the death and resurrection of Christ. No one can take that from you.
Some lose a game or race because they fail to make every effort. Some fail to make every effort to capitalize on golden opportunities that come only once in a lifetime. Some cannot rest at night because they are mad at themselves for not making every effort during the previous day. Some are unable to enjoy a restful retirement because they did not make every effort to prepare and save.
We long for eternal rest, promised us through faith in Christ. We know that our great High Priest offered Himself as the all-sufficient sacrifice, and is now seated in heaven. We know He sympathizes with us in every way, and help us in every temptation. Christ Jesus loves you to death. Not only is He in heaven interceding for you...He is with you always to the very end of the age. When you get down...when you don't think you can go on... when you're at the end of your rope and cannot make every effort and persevere... Do not fear. Do not be dismayed. Christ has. He has already won the battle. Heaven is yours. He is with you. He will send His angels to guard you. He will carry you home. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.