S-1169 AW/2/17/2010 Hymns: (O) # 140; (S) 722 LSB; LS. Choir, #428; (C)#653
Texts: Psalm 51; 1 Peter 2:20-25: Mark 14:12-26
Theme: “Life’s Better in My Hands” (1 Peter 2:22-23). (Sermon series on “Life Together”)
Question: “Who is in charge of YOUR Life?”
SOLI DEO GLORIA, Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for Ash Wednesday is from the Epistle Lesson: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:21-22).
Introduction: In Nomine IESU
People of God, chosen and beloved a couple of weeks ago I got this e-mail under the title “FRIGTENING!” (An acquaintance by the name of Mona I met about 6 years ago on a plane to Israel sent it to me). This is what the e-mail stated: “A friend of mine drove me to my condo so I could pick up a few things for my surgery. As we drove home we passed by a billboard not too far from here. We need to do some serious praying. I don’t remember word-for-word what is said, but this is the gist of it: Have questions? Need answers? ISLAM. And then it gave an 800 number to call for answers to your questions and the answer is Islam. If you don’t think this is frightening, let me know and I’ll explain it to you. We should be – in the flesh – terrified.”
I wrote back and asked for more details on the billboard. Here is Mona’s response: “At the top of the billboard it said: ‘Way of life…Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed” with this number to call 1 800-662-ISLAM. She goes on, I forgot to mention that this billboard can be seen as one rides the Light Rail Transit in Minnesota which happens every 7-10 minutes during rush hour, every 10-15 minutes at other times, until late evening or very early morning.”
I called the 800 hundred number and a nice gentleman responded. He thanked me for calling the Way for Life and asked if he could help me? I didn’t tell him that I am a minister, but asked, “What are the tenants of Islam? He explained dutifully, “What you have to do. Keep God’s law perfectly and follow the teaching’s of Mohammed that are written in the Quran. And he made sure to tell me “That no one can pay for your sins and it is blasphemy to believe that someone can do that.” In the end it is really all up to you. You have to take matters into your hands.
So I asked again saying, “Let me understand you correctly. It is all up to me. I have to do good deeds to earn God’s favor.” He answered, “YES!” I asked again, at what point, can you be sure that you have done enough good to pay for your sins? His response, “YOU CAN NEVER BE SURE OF THAT. WE RELY ON THE MERCY OF ALLAH!” He promised to send me a Quran (Muslim holy book) and other materials to read. I thanked him and in my heart I felt so sorry for him.
Why do I say that? Because all of us, whether Muslims or otherwise, think it is all up to me to earn God’s favor. “My life is better in my hands”. I can do it better than anyone else.
Is that really true? Can you honestly say that putting everything in your hands leads you to have peace and certainty that you will earn God’s favor, your sins are forgiven and you are bound to heaven? If you are honest you must admit that is not the case. It never will be because we never know for certain if we have done enough good deeds to outweigh the bad deeds.
So what is the answer to our dilemma? Ash Wednesday is part of the answer, because Ash Wednesday calls us together to hear again the stories of Lent that God knows best what is good for us. Ash Wednesday points us to Jesus’ passion—His suffering, death, and glorious resurrection. These Wednesday night opportunities of worship open our eyes to the reality of why Christ came to earth—to give His life as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We come here tonight so that we may grow in our spiritual walk of faith. We come here tonight to hear again that the heavenly Father knows what is best for us. As Jesus Himself said on the cross, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” We want to leave worship knowing that life is best lived when we live it totally in the Father’s hands. PAUSE.
We all know that life is not always better in the hands of other people or our very own. Is your life better when you leave it in the hands of the government? Surveys tell us again and again that we don’t trust the government to take care of us. Is your life better when you leave it in the hands of Wall Street? Wall Street seems to be doing OK but Main Street is hurting.
Oh, how painfully we know that reality! When we trust others to do what is good for us, we realize that is not the case. You know what you been hearing in the news lately about the car manufacturing namely Toyota. If you have a Toyota you know that technology is not a fail-safe way to accelerate toward happiness.
So what’s left? More and more people are saying, “Life’s better in my hands.” A few weeks ago, I said this sentence, “If you want to get something done and done right you got to do yourself!” But is this true? Of course not! No matter how hard we try, we can never be certain or sure. Well, you get the idea. Review your own life. We’re living in a society of self-willed people and you and I often go our own bull-headed ways as well. Plain old common sense makes us doubt that “Life’s better in my hands.”
What’s left? Only the cross of Christ. From the cross we hear Him say, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Shouldn’t Ash Wednesday repentance drive us to confess that life is better when we entrust it to the heavenly Father? Let me say that again because it is so important “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Ash Wednesday repentance drives us to say, “Life is not better in my hands. Life can only be better when I entrust my whole being 24/7/365 into the hands of the heavenly Father.”
That’s what the sermon text is about, 1 Peter 2:20-25. Peter wrote to Christian slaves in Asia Minor. Many of them were leading wretched lives. Peter urges them not to strike out against their masters. Don’t, he says, take life into your own hands. Instead he points them to the example of Christ the Savior. “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps… He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly” (vv. 21, 23). Life is better, Peter says, when we entrust ourselves to our heavenly Father. But there’s something even more important here. As much as Jesus is our model for trusting our lives to God, the reason we are in church is because Jesus is our Savior from sin. He has forgiven you and me for taking life into our own hands. Listen. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (vv. 24-
25). The forgiveness He gives you and me is such a change from the world around us, such a change for the world to come, that we are now left to do one thing: Pray the Spirit of God to lead us to totally put our lives in the hand of our Father.
Tonight, as we gather to mark the beginning of our Lenten journey we realize so clearly and concretely how true it is that “Life is NOT better in MY hands”, but in the hands of Him who formed me and made me—my heavenly Father. Jesus knew all along that His life is better in the Father’s hands. For this reason He stated, “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.”
And, we, His redeemed children can follow the way of our Savior, because we know He doesn’t lie. Look to His hands, those pierced hands that hung on the cross for every sin of yours and mine. Those pierced hands submitted all, life, heart and soul to His heavenly Father so that He may earn for us forgiveness and life eternal. PAUSE.
I feel sorry for the Muslims and others who rely on their merits to earn God’s favor and receive forgiveness for their sins. I will have another opportunity to speak with Muslim man and guide Him to the truth of God’s Holy Word that Life is better in the Master’s Hands.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, you have come here tonight to ponder anew the suffering of Jesus as He travels from the Mount of Transfiguration to the Hill of Calvary and all in between you see Him using His hands to lead us safely to the other side. Because through these hands we are blessed; by these hands we are washed clean in the waters of Baptism; and through these hands are fed the heavenly manna of His body and blood. No wonder we can say with Dietrich Bonhoeffer our Life together is better in His hands not only for this evening but for the rest of our lives. Amen.
Now the peace of God…