Thursday, March 6, 2014

“A Final Prayer of Forgiveness” (Luke 23:34)

S-1415 Ash W/3A 3/05/2014 Hymns: (O) #32 vv 1-2; S #652; L.S. #629 LSB; (C)#32 vv 3-v

Texts: Genesis 50:15-21; 1 Peter 2:21-25; Luke 23:26-38

Theme: A Final Prayer of Forgiveness (Luke 23:34)

Question: “Do you forgive easily?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text for Ash Wednesday is from the Gospel lesson Jesus said,‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’” (Luke 23:34).


Beloved in Christ as we begin this sacred, solemn and steady journey of Lent, I remind you why Christ came into the world—to save us—ALL of us from sin death and the punishment of hell. Though we know that well, and we have heard it many times before, we don’t always consider the cost Christ paid to forgive us our sins.

Tonight, the Holy Spirit has brought us here so that we can follow the bloody road Jesus took to Golgotha and beyond. As we reach Skull Hill, we will hear precious, priceless and powerful Words that help us understand how Christ dealt with sin. We on the other hand, deal with sin differently.

On the afternoon of December 22, 1984, four African-American youths, Barry Allen, Troy Canty, James Ramseur, and Darrell Cabey boarded the train on a mission to rob video game machines in Manhattan. Minutes later, Bernie Goetz entered the same train. He sat down across from the four youths. A few minutes later, two of the youths asked Goetz for five dollars. Goetz, pretending not to hear them, asked them to repeat themselves. Canty responded, “Give me your money.”

Goetz responded by standing, drawing a revolver from his coat, and firing multiple times hitting all four. As Cabey lay bleeding, Goetz said “You don’t look too bad, here’s another,” and fired at Cabey. The last shot left Cabey paralyzed. Goetz left the subway, rented a car, and drove to Vermont. He turned himself in to New York City police nine days later.

The “subway vigilante,” as Goetz was labeled by New York tabloids, became front page news and stayed there for weeks, partly due to the passions it unleashed in New York and other urban populations. Some viewed Goetz as a hero for standing up to his attackers and defending himself in a rough neighborhood and a terrible environment. (Jan. 7/2014).

If truth be told and we search our hearts, we have to admit that we are like many of the New Yorkers who applauded the Vigilante who stood up in what he believed in. The support this man received shows that people are angry and mad. We’re tired and we’re mad because we are constantly being bullied, harassed and afflicted. We’re weary and tired with our broken and fallen world and its problems of murderers, rapists and thugs.

We’re angry at someone, but we don’t know who. We are scared of something, but we don’t know what. We want to fight back, but we don’t know how. But when a modern vigilante like Wyatt Earp walks onto the scene, we applaud him. He is carrying out our thoughts and wishes. PAUSE.

While people were generally grateful for a lawman such as Wyatt Earp to appear in their rough and tumble world, a far greater personage appeared on the stage of the Middle East to bring help, healing, and hope to mankind. Jesus was not only a lawman—pointing out sin, but gospel-man bringing the ultimate healing necessary. Jesus came upon the world’s stage not to use power but to empty Himself of all the power He had, so He would be put to death and taste hell in our place.

Tonight, on this Ash Wednesday we look at another response to the evil of this world. This too is carried out with Divine Passion by greater than any lawman—Jesus the Christ our Lord and Savior; who speaks to the mob who would soon put Him to death on a cross. Can you imagine that, Jesus doesn’t become a vigilante, but a forgiver of those who hated, hurt and eventually hanged Him, killed Him, crying out to them saying: “Father FORGIVE THEM…”

It is important to hear this statement and what follows: “For they do not know what they are doing.” But what is that moves Jesus not to retaliate? Have you asked how did He keep His control under the most cruel time in His life? The answer is given through His parched and cracked lips. “For they do not know what they are doing.” Study this sentence carefully. Jesus considered this bloodthirsty, death-hungry crowd not as murderers, but as victims. The victims of sin, the victims of our own sinful nature, a nature which He came to redeem and restore! It’s as if He saw in their faces not hatred but confusion. It’s as if He re­garded them not as a militant mob but, as He put it, as “Sheep without a shepherd.” PAUSE.

Did you hear the sentence? Did you comprehend it? He said, “For they do not know what they are doing.” And when you think about it, they didn’t. They had no clue of what they were doing. They were a stir-crazy mob, mad at something they couldn’t see so they took it out of all people—on the Son of God who came to be their Savior. But they didn’t know what they were doing.

And, as we share in their fallen sinfulness, neither do we! We are still, as much as we hate to admit it, sheep lost in the wilderness of humanity in need of our True and only Shepherd. All we know is that we were born out of one eternity and are frighteningly close to another. We know the truth of pain. We experienced heartaches and headaches, we have walked the roads of sorrow and sadness, and we have lived and tasted the bitterness of death, by burying someone we love.

Therefore, we don’t know what to do, how to fix the wrong, how to forgive and how to live with those who enter into our lives. We can’t undo death. We can’t fix the world’s problems and we can’t illuminate sin and we are angry at the world. Sin, our sin, is that real and that deep!

But, tonight by the power of the Holy Spirit I ask you to lift your eyes up (have them do that pointing to the cross), look at that disfigured person, and listen carefully to His Words and hear Him utter the pleas of forgiveness. I plead with you to hear Him say to you personally, “Father FORGIVE THEM…For they do not know what they are doing.” Inhale those words that drip from His cracked lips and drink abundantly tonight from the Cup He offers you. For in mercy and compassion what you see is the Faithful Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep—you and me because He loves us personally. That is why He drank that cup of suffering, to its bitter dregs, so that we could drink the cup of blessing to its sweet fullness of forgiveness!

Please don’t leave here confused. Don’t depart thinking He won’t forgive you. As His beloved Child, know the truth and pass it on. Behold His hands and His side, and yes, behold the empty tomb! Your every thought of confusion has been answered in His perfect gift, Yes, for certain, Christ died to save sinners, real sinners who really sin. He died for them and for you—every last bit of you, even the parts of your life you think aren’t able to be redeemed. There is nothing more powerful than the shed blood of the Son of God. That blood covers you now and forever. You are in Christ, and you are forgiven. Yes, you are! Amen.

Now the peace…


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