Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Lord is Enthroned Forever (A sermon based on Psalm 102)

How old is old? Is 40 old? 80? 1,000 years old? Because the Lord is enthroned forever and his promises never fail, you will live forever too. Read this sermon based on Psalm 102 and rejoice in your immorality through Christ's morality!

God's Gift of Forgiveness

The Lord is Enthroned Forever

A sermon based on Psalm 102

Sunday, March 17, 2013 – Lent 4


Forty isn't that old, right? At least, not for a tree. J What do you think? Is forty old? Some of you (over forty?) say, "No way!" And maybe you believe the new motto: "70 is the new 40." But others (who are younger than 40) are nodding their heads in agreement, "Yup! Forty's old."

As I get closer to 40 (it's still more than 5 years away) it still seems old to me. Already I'm noticing my metabolism slow down and my joints ache a little more than they used to. But at the same time, 40 doesn't really seem that old to me—at least, not as old as it used to.

But I think everyone here would agree that 40 is an early age to die.

King Hezekiah was 25 when he became King of Judah. He was one of the good kings who, after inheriting a spiritual and political mess from his dad, Ahaz, cleaned things up with God's help and by his grace. But then, at age 39, he got sick. And things were looking pretty bleak. It wasn't just the doctors who gave a grim diagnosis. It was God.

God sent Isaiah to tell Hezekiah, "Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover." (Isaiah 38:1, 2 Kings 20:1) His 39th birthday was his last. He wouldn't see his 40th . And I'm sure he would adamantly deny that 40 was old. 

But do you remember how it turned out for Hezekiah? He prayed to God and his prayer was answered. God gave Hezekiah 15 more years to live on earth. And after he recovered, he wrote a Psalm. That Psalm is recorded for us in Isaiah 38. And it sounds very similar to the Psalm we'll examine this morning: Psalm 102. In fact, it sounds so similar many believe that Psalm 102 was also written by King Hezekiah. Here's how Psalm 102 begins…


1 Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry for help come to you. 2 Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.

3 For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. 4 My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. 5 Because of my loud groaning I am reduced to skin and bones. 6 I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. 7 I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof. 8 All day long my enemies taunt me; those who rail against me use my name as a curse. 9 For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears 10 because of your great wrath, for you have taken me up and thrown me aside. 11 My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass.

I.              Mortality by Immorality


The author of the Psalm (whoever he may be) is clearly distressed. And the cause is clear too. He's thinking about the reality of mortality. Whether he was 40 or 54 or 94, he knew he didn't really have that long to live on this earth. No one does. What's 100 years of life on this planet in the big scheme of things? Here today, gone tomorrow… or a few short thousand tomorrows. Each day of life is like a grain of sand passing through the hourglass of life. And each person's time is about to run out at any minute.

Perhaps it was thoughts of his mortality that caused King Hezekiah to pen these words in a gloom that seems much deeper than midlife crisis. He felt withered, reduced to skin and bones. He felt all alone, like an owl that only comes out when everyone else is gone, at home, asleep. He felt like a solitary bird, with no flock to keep him company.

But worst of all, he knew why he was all alone. He knew why he was going to die: Because he deserved it. He deserved to die because of his sin against God. No specific sin is mentioned, just sin in general—his general rebellion against God as he put his own desires ahead of God, as he grew proud in his accomplishments, refusing to give glory to God. "Because of your great wrath," he prayed to God, "…you have taken me up and thrown me aside."

And in contrast to his fleeting nature, was God's eternal nature: "But you, O Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations." Because God is forever, his law is forever. Because God never changes, his law never changes. Just as it was for Adam and Eve—that they deserved death for their sin—so too, Hezekiah deserved death for his sin. For as then, so too now, "the wages of sin is death." (Romans 6:23) The reality of mortality is because of immorality.


And the same is true today. Let's face it. We humans are all frail and fleeting. Whether you're 40 or 54 or 94 or whether you're 24, 14 or only 4, we don't have long on this earth. "[Our] days vanish like smoke… [Our] days are like the evening shadow; [We all] wither away like grass."

Why are we so fleeting? Because we have sinned. God is still eternal. His law still stands. And the wages of sin is still death. I know I've sinned. I know you have too. And that's cut us off from more than just friends and family, parents or spouse. Our sin has cut us off from God. We deserve to wither away, to waste away to nothing but skin and bones. We deserve to be as lonely as the owl that only comes out at night, forever separated from God, with the unimaginable loneliness of hell. And unless Jesus returns first, we will die.

What a sad thought. None of deserve to live to 40, but we all deserve God's great wrath, to be taken up by him and thrown aside. The reality of our mortality is because of our immorality.

So what do we do? We as Hezekiah did, as the author of Psalm 102 did. We cry out to God for mercy. Psalm 102 continues…

II.            Immortality by Christ's Morality


12 But you, O Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. 13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come. 14 For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity. 15 The nations will fear the name of the Lord, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory. 16 For the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory. 17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.


Ah, what a blessing the suffering the psalmist endured was! How wonderful that he went through such trouble! "Really? Wonderful trouble?" you might ask. But really! The pain and problems the setbacks and sufferings that he faced made him think. It made him think about his mortality, about his death, about his guilt, about his great need for God's gift of forgiveness. And it make him cry out to God who sits enthroned forever.

You see, the psalmist knew that because God is forever, his law is forever. But that's not all that he knew. He also knew that because God is forever, his Gospel is forever! Because God never changes, his mercy never changes. Just as it was for Adam and Eve—that even though they deserved death for their sin, they received a promise of a Savior, though Eve's own descendant—so too, Hezekiah, though deserving of death for his sin, got not only 15 more years, but that same promise of a Savior through his own descendant. For as then, so too now, "the gift of God is eternal life [through] Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23)

Jesus "has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin." (Hebrews 4:15) No one could ever prove Jesus guilty of committing even one sin ever (cf. John 8:46ff) because Jesus had no sin. (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21) He was and is perfectly moral in every way. And by his morality he earned immortality.

And yet, Jesus didn't make it to his fortieth birthday. He mostly likely didn't live to see 34. He who was and is perfectly moral, he who was and is immortal, gave up his immortality in order to die that he might take our sin and give us his morality. "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21) And "you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9) Now, the reality of immortality is ours by Christ's morality given to us.

And this Gospel—this good news—this incredibly wonderful reality!—will never go away. The "Lord, [still sits] enthroned forever; [his] renown endures through all generations… He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea."

This truth of immortality through Jesus' morality is true for you and for me, for our children and our grandchildren and for as many generations there are to come before Jesus returns. So let's get to work and share the message with our children and our grandchildren, that they too might share it with their children and their grandchildren. Let's keep the chain going! Let's pass it on!

Here's what the psalmist said…

18 Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord: 19 "The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, 20 to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death." 21 So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem 22 when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the Lord.

23 In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut short my days. 24 So I said: "Do not take me away, O my God, in the midst of my days; your years go on through all generations. 25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 26 They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. 27 But you remain the same, and your years will never end. 28 The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you."

And when you face pain and problems, setbacks and sufferings don't view them as curses, but as blessings—as wonderful trouble meant to make you think: about your mortality and your death, about your guilt, and especially about God's great gift of forgiveness.

For God is still enthroned forever. He cannot change. So when you're feeling small and vulnerable, cling to him who is immovable. When you're feeling isolated and all alone, trust his promise that he will never leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5) For he gave up his morality to make you moral. He gave up his immortality to make you immortal. This is your reality: You have immortality by his morality. "[You] will not die but live… [Now] proclaim what the LORD has done." In his name, and by his great gift of forgiveness, amen!


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

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Come, Lord Jesus, Be Our Guest (A sermon based on Psalm 24)

How dare we sinners ask God to come to us with his blessings?! We dare because of God's gracious promises and because of Christ's gracious work. We can pray that God would come to us, be our guest, and bring us his blessings, with absolute confidence. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Psalm 24 and be encouraged to pray boldly...

God's Gift of Forgiveness

Come, Lord Jesus, Be Our Guest

A sermon based on Psalm 24

Sunday, March 24, 2013 – Palm Sunday C


"Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest. And let these gifts to us be blessed." This familiar prayer, attributed to Martin Luther, is often rattled off in haste without much thought at all as we can't wait to dig into the food that's sitting on the table. But if we really stop to think about this prayer, what an amazing prayer it really is. While we call it the "common table prayer," we really ask for some pretty uncommon things. We poor sinners ask Jesus himself to come and be present with us. We who so often rebel against God ask for his blessings upon us.

This morning as we take a look at the Psalm of the Day for this Palm Sunday, we once again will pray that prayer, "Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest." And as we do, we will ask two questions: First we'll ask, "How can we sinners dare to ask Jesus to come to us with a blessing?!" And then we will ask, "How can we best receive him when in his grace he does come to us?" Listen now to Psalm 24, a Psalm of David…


1 The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; 2 for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.

3 Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. 5 He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior. 6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob.

7 Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 10 Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty—he is the King of glory. 


I.     How Can We Dare Ask?! 

Now we don't know the exact situation that prompted David's writing of this Psalm, but the Septuagint (the Latin translation of the Bible) suggests that it was written on the occasion of the Ark of the Covenant (where God himself dwelled) being brought into Jerusalem for the very first time. After King David conquered that city and made it his own, he brought the Ark and God's presence there.

 And if you want, this afternoon go home and read 2 Samuel 6. Read about how they sang their praises and how King David danced before the Lord with all of his might at that exciting event when God himself was entering Jerusalem.

And of course, it's fitting then that we apply this same Psalm to Palm Sunday. Because just as God came into Jerusalem in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant, so too on Palm Sunday God himself, now in the flesh, God incarnate, was entering Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover at because the temple in Jerusalem was the only place that one could make the sacrifice for that festival. But perhaps it was some of those same people who shouted, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes, Son of David," on Sunday who would later, on Friday, shout, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"

Which leads one to ask, "How could they possibly ask for Jesus blessing on them? How could they possibly pray, 'Come, Lord Jesus, and be our guest'?" They were such fair-weather fans.

For that matter we have to ask how could anyone pray that Jesus be their guest? King David began his Psalm reminding us of the immense greatness of God—the King of the Universe who created all things by his powerful Word, to whom everything on earth belongs, who needs nothing from anyone, to whom all people belong and owe him their very lives.

And so, if God is the one who created this whole world, if he is the one by whose rule the world is sustained, we have to answer to him. We have to answer to what he demands of us. How then can anyone possibly dare to approach him? How can anyone demand to meet him? How can anyone stand in his holy place? Who can dare approach him?


Well, David tells us: only the one who is perfect. Only he who has clean hands—whose hands have not been stained by the blood of the misdeeds they've done to others, hands who have not been covered in the filth of wickedness. Only those who have pure hearts—whose hearts have not been tainted with thoughts of harming others or using them, whose thoughts have not been tainted with the idea of serving only number one; "Gotta take care of myself!" Who can approach God and ask him to come with a blessing? David says, "Only those who do not lift up their souls to an idol." The word translated here for us "idol," literally means a worthless thing; a nothing. Anyone who lifts up his soul or puts his or her trust in something that's worthless—in anything other than God—dare not approach him seeking a blessing.

Martin Luther wrote in his explanation of the first commandment: "Man's entire heart and all of his confidence are to be placed in God alone and no one else. Put your confidence in anything other than him: your money, your hard work, your intelligence, someone else's strength, someone else's help who will bail you out, and you worship a nothing. If you break any one of the Ten Commandments, even in your thoughts, you are worshipping yourself because you're putting your desires above God's, really making yourself into the idol that you worship.

Finally David adds, "He who does not swear by what is false." To sum it up, one must be absolutely perfect in every action that they do with their hands, with every thought that they feel in their hearts, and in every word that is ever uttered from the lips of their mouth. One must be absolutely perfect if they dare to approach God and seek his blessing.

What a problem that must have presented for King David whose hands were certainly not clean having murdered many men in order to kill one man, whose heart was certainly not pure, whose lust led him to commit adultery that caused him to have to commit those murders to try to cover it up, who lifted up his soul to the idol of himself in pride and in vanity. How could David dare approach the hill of the Lord to seek his blessing?!

What a huge problem this presents for us, dear friends, who continue to sin against God, who continue to look first to serve our own needs before serving anyone else, who look first to please ourselves before we try to please our God. Our hands are dirty, our hearts impure. We worship our idols. We worship ourselves. How can we dare to approach the Holy God and seek his blessing?! How can we dare to pray, "Come, Lord Jesus, and be my guest. Let your gifts to me be blessed."?!

It's kind of like going to a fine eating establishment where jacket and tie are required, except going in a pair of shorts and nothing else, covered in filth from head to toe with your hair matted, covered in dung, completely disgusting. Do you think that the restaurant would let you enter in and dine there? Not likely! They would quickly escort you out if you tried to enter in and they would forbid you from ever returning again. And there's nothing you could do about it. It's their restaurant; their rules.

It's kind of like as a kid coming to mom's dinner table. You couldn't come if you had your hands dirty. If you did, you'd get sent back to the sink. "Wash 'em up!" You cannot come with dirty hands. Her kitchen; her rules.

In a similar way, it's God's heaven, therefore God's rules. On our own we cannot dare to enter. We cannot approach him because of the filth that covers us from head to toe. And on our own we can find no soap strong enough to rid us of the muck that clings to us.

So how can we dare to pray, "Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest."? David gives us the answer. He says, "5 He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior. 6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob.

 Those who seek God and put their trust in him alone and in his plan of salvation receive blessing from him. They receive vindication. What does that word mean? It's a synonym for justification. As a matter of fact, the Hebrew word, tsedek, which is translated vindication, the NIV translates countless other times as simply righteousness. We receive perfect righteousness from God as a gift, by Christ's blood, shed on the cross, the blood of our sins that stains our hands is washed clean. By his perfect purity in every thought, in every deed, we are made perfectly pure. By his perfect obedience and worship of God the Father, our idolatry is erased. We receive that vindication, that righteousness, declared to be perfect and holy without any sin or spot or blemish or stain, through Christ, the conquering King of Glory. So that by him, we can pray, "Come, Lord Jesus… and let your gifts to us be blessed."

So dear friends, get clean. Lift up your heads and seek the King of Glory who comes to you to make you clean. Open wide the gates of your hearts and receive him…


II.   How Can We Receive Him? 

How can we best receive the King of Glory when, in his grace, he does come to us? King David tells us that as well. He says, "7 Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 10 Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty—he is the King of glory."

The gates of Jerusalem personified here had every reason to be excited. God himself present in the Ark of the Covenant was entering through its gates—the God who would was strong in battle and would deliver Israel from all its enemies was coming to dwell in Jerusalem. What an exciting time! They no longer needed to hang their heads in shame or in sorrow, but could lift their heads up in joy and in eager anticipation of the time that the ark would enter through them.

So too, on Palm Sunday, those same gates of Jerusalem could rejoice because Jesus—the Christ—the King of Glory—God himself in the flesh was entering through those gates again. And again he would come strong and mighty, mighty in battle.

Though the people of Jesus' day misunderstood what that meant. See, they read the prophecy of Zechariah that said he would come ushering in a time of peace; that he would rule over all the nations. They read this Psalm that said he would come mighty in battle. And they understood that to mean that he would come mighty in battle over their enemies, the Romans. That with a strong arm he would start a war and drive the Romans out and usher in a time of peace for the Jews that they would rule over all the nations. They misunderstood what the Messiah was really all about.

And yet, recognizing that he was coming in as a conquering King, they rejoiced. They lifted up their heads in eager anticipation of that day when he would come in and fight their battles for them. They rejoiced and sang their praises to him as they saw King Jesus come to them. What they failed to understand is that Jesus battle was as Paul put it in Ephesians 6, "not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

Christ entered Jerusalem that Palm Sunday to wage the final war against Satan, against sin, and the hell that our sins deserve, to fight against death itself. And that's exactly what he did. Fighting our foes, he conquered them all for us. And so now, by his mighty battle, the gates of heaven are flung wide open to welcome us in one day soon.

So how do we receive the King of Glory? Well, with an even greater joy than those who saw Jesus come in physically as he rode on that donkey into Jerusalem. We, who see him come spiritually to conquer all of our foes, receive him with an even greater joy, welcoming him with the same eager expectation—our eager expectation that one day soon he will end the battle once and for all when he takes us to glory forever.

When a visitor comes to your house and rings the door bell, how do you receive him or her? Well, first you check to see who it is. And once you see that it's not a salesman, but a long-expected friend, one you've longed to see, how do you respond? You undo the bolt, you unlock the door, you throw it open, and throw your arms out and say, "Come on in, friend! Welcome! Come in! Come in!" You throw your arms around that long, lost friend in a big embrace and you give them your undivided attention so you can hear what news they've brought and how they've been.

In the same way, dear friends, as the King of Glory comes to you and you recognize who it is that is coming to you in the Words that you read, in the sacraments that you receive, that it's Jesus himself come to offer you his grace and his forgiveness, unlock the door of your hearts, throw the gates wide open and say, "Come in, dear Jesus! Come in! Come in!" Receive him as those Israelites did that day, rejoicing and happy with eager expectation, confident of the salvation that he brings. Receive him, unlike the Israelites did that day, expecting not a physical Savior or a social king that will take away the problems of this life, but the King of Glory whose conquered your spiritual foes, whose cleansed your hands, and purified your hearts, and given you his righteousness. Welcome him eager to hear the news that he brings—the news of his grace and love for you.

Yes, dear friends, fling wide the portals of your heart. Make it a temple set apart from earthly use to heaven's employ, adorned with prayer, and love, and joy. So shall your sovereign enter in and new and nobler life begin. To God alone be praise, for Word and deed and grace. Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed." Amen. 

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What Do You Have to Say for Yourself?! (A sermon based on Psalm 51:1-9)

"What do you have to say for yourself?" It's never fun to be confronted with something we've done wrong, I know. But because of God's gift of forgiveness we can find the courage to readily admit, "I'm guilty," when we're confronted by God or someone else when we're found guilty of sin. We can readily admit, "I'm guilty" because we know that in Christ we can also say, "I'm forgiven." Jesus' sacrifice makes us clean. That's what we can say for ourselves. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Psalm 51:1-9 and rejoice that you know what you have to say for yourself...

God's Gift of Forgiveness

What Do You Have to Say for Yourself?!
A sermon based on Psalm 51:1-9
March 10, 2013 – Lent 4C


The little boy stood in the hallway with a marker in his hands. The ink was not just all over his hands, but all over the walls. And as dad came down the hallway, he quickly dropped the marker and shoved his hands in his pockets. But it was too late to hide what he had done. Dad saw. His guilt was impossible to hide. And with a stern voice, dad demanded, "What do you have to say for yourself?"

Fast forward a few years. The same little boy came running into the house. He went to grab the baseball he had just overthrown through the kitchen window. But dad was standing over it. And with a stern voice, dad demanded, "What do you have to say for yourself?"

Fast forward a few more years. The young man opened the door as slowly as he could, hoping it wouldn't creak and give him away. He was several hours past curfew. But dad was still up and turned on the light as he stepped through the door. And with a stern voice, dad demanded, "What do you have to say for yourself?"

A good father confronts his children when they've broken the rules so that when they're all grown up they'll never have to hear the judge, the jailer, or the executioner ask, "What do you have to say for yourself?" And God our Father is a good father. He knows our sins and in love he confronts us asking, "What do you have to say for yourself?"

When he confronted King David with that question David answered, "I'm guilty." And by God's grace and mercy, he could also say for himself, "I'm forgiven." That's what he had to say for himself. As we listen to the first half of Psalm 51, a psalm that King David wrote when the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba, we're reminded that we too must answer that question, "What do you have to say for yourself?" with "I'm guilty." But thank God that we can also answer, "I'm forgiven." Psalm 51:1-9...

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teachme wisdom in the inmost place. 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.


I. I'm Guilty

An elderly man once asked his grandson, "Do you know what the hardest word to say in the English language is?" His grandson guessed "antidisestablishmentarianism?" then "supercalifragelisticexpialidocious?" But grandpa replied, "No. It's 'wrong.'" Experience had taught him how difficult it was to say, "I am wrong. I was wrong to do what I did," and he wanted to teach his grandson how important it was to learn how to say those words.

You remember how difficult it was for King David to say those words. After sleeping with another man's wife, he thought he covered up his sin by offing the guy. He felt no need to say, "I was wrong," or, "I'm guilty," because he figured no one knew what he'd done. But God knew. And with no remorse for his sin, David remained unforgiven. If left on his own, he would have ended up in hell. So God in his love sent the prophet, Nathan, to confront him and ask, "What do you have to say for yourself?!"

And by God's grace, David was brought to repentance. This Psalm shows his sorrow over his sin. Notice how he piled up the words for his guilt. First, he talked about his sin. That word means to "miss the target." A "Whoops!" But what he did was no accident. It was deliberate. So he talked about his iniquity. Literally that's perversion, like bending a paper clip so out of shape you can't bend it back no matter what. He talked about his transgressions or his trespasses. This was his willful rebellion when he knew better. God drew a line and said, "Do not cross. Tresspassers will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law." And he stepped accross anyway. And though it's not a part of our text for this morning, in verse 14 he prayed, "Save me from bloodguilt," recognizing that what he'd done should have cost him his blood—his very life. David finally admitted, "I'm guilty."


Friends, if we're honest, we must admit the same. You and I have missed the target of God's law. He says to love others, not just when we feel like it, but all the time. Whoops. We miss. We pervert God's will and twist and distort his words to suit our evil desires. We deliberately cross the line that God says, "Do not cross," and deserve to be prosecuted to the full extent of the Law! And we're sinful not just by what we do, but by the very nature of who we are. We too must confess, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." Born to sinful parents, we were born with the terminal illness of sin. And that disease ran deep. You see, God doesn't just want people who look nice on the outside as they cover up their sinful thoughts and plans. No! "[He] desire[s] truth in the inner parts!"—literally, in the hidden parts, where no one can see, in your thoughts, in your attitudes, in your soul!

Even if you can hide your sin from others and look good and upright on the outside, you can't hide your sins from God. He knows what you've done. Maybe you haven't physically hurt another person, but have you hurt their reputation by talking behind their backs? Maybe you haven't slept with someone you're not married to, but have you had an impure thought you let linger? And if you think that sin is no big deal because your thoughts don't hurt anyone, think again! Parents, would you want someone thinking those things about your son or daughter? Neither does God want people thinking such things about his sons and daughters. God knows all that you think, say and do and by your sinful thoughts, your perverted words, and your rebellious actions, you hurt him and you stain your soul.

I have a weakness for General Tso's chicken. When I lived in Raleigh, I'd order it for delivery all the time. I loved it so much that one evening right after the delivery guy dropped it off, I was so excited to take it to the table and dig in, I didn't even see the glass of red wine sitting on the coffee table. The food knocked into the glass and down it went all over our light beige carpet. I tried to blot the stain. I emptied a can of carpet cleaner on it. I had the carpet shampooed. And though it looked like it was almost gone, once we started walking on it again, the stain in the pad beneath the carpet came to the surface again. You see it was in the inner parts where I couldn't clean. I could only throw a rug over it.

Well, the throw rug doesn't work with God. We can't hide our sin. We can't clean it out, We have more than a surface character flaw or a few mistakes. We are guilty of rebellion, perversion, and wickedness and are stained to the soul! We have blood guilt and deserve to die for our sins, now on earth and forever in hell.

So what's the solution? Try harder? Clean up our act? It won't work. It might clean the surface, but not the soul beneath. There is nothing we can do. There's no soap or bleach we can buy to clean our souls. When God's Law demands, "What do you have to say for yourself?" we must admit, "I'm guilty. I need help." In fact, that's what you did just say a few minutes ago when you said, "I am altogether sinful from birth. In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child." (CW pg. 38)

But thankfully, even though there's nothing we can do about our sin, we, like King David have somewhere to turn... 

II. I'm Forgiven

When David was confronted in his sin and finally admitted he had a problem, he did the only thing one can do in such a  situation. He turned to God who alone could and would take that sin away. And so after he said, "I am guilty," he could also answer the question, "What do you have to say for yourself?" with the joyous answer, "I am forgiven!"

Notice the cleaning words David piled up. He almost makes God sound like a janitor with all the cleaning that he's doing. First, he prays, "blot out my transgressions." Now this isn't quite like my trying to blot out the wine from my carpet. The word was used in erasing a word from a document by rubbing the leather so hard that the top layer would be removed. It was gone. Next David prayed, "wash away all my iniquity." This is the word for washing clothes with a washboard, beating the clothes against a board until the dirt was gone. Next he prayed, "cleanse me from my sin." Purify or refine me. It's the word used for burning away other materials from iron or gold to make them pure.

But did you notice all these words have a bit of violence to them? Rub the leather hard. Thrash the clothes against the board. Burn away the impurities. So is that how God makes us clean of our sins, through punishment?

Well, yes and no. David based his plea for forgiveness on God's mercy, his unfailing love, and his great compassion. God doesn't want to punish any of us for our sins. Yet, sin cannot be forgiven unless it is blotted out, scrubbed away, and purged. Sin cannot be forgiven without punishment... without death. In Hebrews 9:22 God says, "The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness."

So how does God cleanse us of our bloodguilt without shedding our blood? By the blood of another. That's what King David alluded to when he wrote, "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean..." You see hyssop was used in all the ritual purifications. In Exodus 12(:22) God told the Israelites at Passover to "Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe." Then the angel of death would pass over their house. In Leviticus he told the unclean to sacrifice an animal and sprinkle the blood on themselves with a branch of hyssop. But those ceremonies with the blood of an animal and the tree of hyssop were all pointing ahead to the blood of another on a different tree: Jesus' blood shed on the cross. The apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 1(:19-20), "God was pleased... to reconcile to himself all things... by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."

Every one of your sins, your perversions, your "Whoops!"es, and your rebellions has been paid for, "Not with gold or silver, but with [Jesus'] holy, precious blood and with his innocent sufferings and death." And so God doesn't hide his face from us, like we deserve. Instead he hides his face from our sins. He pretends as if Jesus committed them instead of us. And so, now when we're confronted with the question, "What do you have to say for yourself?" you and I can boldly say, "I am forgiven!"

It's been said that the memory of a man who's done some guilty deed is like  a book with a broken spine: It always seems to open to the same page. But in Christ, the weight of our guilt is gone! The stain is removed! You are forgiven! So am I! We are scrubbed clean in our inner parts, to our very souls. We have been refined and purified to perfection by Jesus' blood!

It's also been said that the softest pillow is a clean conscience! And, through Jesus you and I can sleep well tonight! For we, whose bones have been crushed by the Law, now rejoice in the Gospel! For now, when we're confronted with that question, "What do you have to say for yourself?" we can say, "In Jesus, I'm forgiven. I'm clean. I'm perfect. And I'm bound for heaven!" This is what you have to say for yourself, in Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pathetic (A sermon based on Psalm 38)

"How pathetic!" What scenarios have led you call a situation pathetic? I felt pathetic when I threw out my back. But David felt pathetic when his sin caused all kinds of problems in his life. Thank God that Jesus chose to become pathetic for us to rescue us from our pathetic mess. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Psalm 38 and rejoice that in Jesus you're no longer pathetic, but victorious...

God's Gift of Forgiveness


A sermon based on Psalm 38

Sunday, March 3, 2013 – Lent 3C


It was pathetic. I'm sure that if you had been there, you would agree. There I was lying on my back, outside, in the snow, afraid to move. I cried for help, but Becky didn't hear me inside the house. And I didn't expect her to come looking for me, since I wasn't usually home this early. I left work several hours early that day.

Apparently one too many twists at the factory with my customary bad had taken its toll on my back. I felt it pop and through gritted teeth and trying to act tougher than I am, I told the foreman that I was quitting for the day. "Sorry about the line." Later, I found it out it was a bulged disk. Nothing requiring surgery, but it sure hurt a lot. I drove the 90 minute drive home with my back screaming at me the whole way. And after I parked the car I was walking toward my front door very carefully when I hit a patch of ice. I went down and there I lay, on my back, outside, in the snow, afraid to move.

Eventually I got the nerve to roll onto my side and on my hands and knees and crawled into the house. It was pathetic.

Well, if you think that was pathetic (and I do), King David was even more pathetic. His back was in searing pain. He was all alone, with no friends to help. And worst of all, he knew he deserved it. He suffered for his sins. And in that pathetic state, he cried out for help. But he didn't cry out to his wife inside the house. He cried out to God in prayer. He prayed that God would come quickly to help him.

Today, we again rejoice in God's gift of forgiveness, confident that when we cry out to him in our pathetic state, pleading with him to come quickly to help us, he is sure to answer. For Jesus' sake, we have God's gift of forgiveness. We read Psalm 38, a psalm of David…


1 O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. 2 For your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me. 3 Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin. 4 My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.

5 My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. 6 I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning. 7 My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body. 8 I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.

9 All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. 10 My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. 11 My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away. 12 Those who seek my life set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they plot deception.

13 I am like a deaf man, who cannot hear, like a mute, who cannot open his mouth; 14 I have become like a man who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply. 15 I wait for you, O Lord; you will answer, O Lord my God. 16 For I said, "Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my foot slips."

17 For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me. 18 I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin. 19 Many are those who are my vigorous enemies; those who hate me without reason are numerous. 20 Those who repay my good with evil slander me when I pursue what is good.

21 O Lord, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. 22 Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior.


David was pretty pathetic, right? Literally, pathetic means to be in such a state that you move others to pity you. In the days that followed my bulged disk, I hoped that others would pity me so they'd get me a drink, take it easy on the homework, and give me a few more days off work. But my back pain was minor compared to what others have suffered and what others with chronic pain that never goes away suffer still. But even so, there are things that are even worse than physical pain.

King David was certainly worthy of pity. His health was failing. His back was filled with searing pain. His friends abandoned him. His own son sought to kill him that he could take the throne while his advisors helped his son. How lonely he must have felt. And worst of all his guilt was overwhelming. He knew he was suffering all of this as a consequence of his sin. God's arrows pierced him. God's hand was upon him. He knew that he deserved all of it… and worse.


Ever feel the way that King David did?

After all, we have health problems, family problems, and we certainly have guilt. We have sinned, not just against each other, but against God. We have sinned, not just in the wrong that we've done, but in the good that we haven't done! We have sinned, not just in our actions, but in the things we've said or left unsaid, in the things we've thought, or haven't thought.

We deserve the suffering that we endure. We deserve failing eyesight and weakened bones. We deserve failing health and searing back pain. We cause the problems in our relationships and deserve the loneliness that they bring. We deserve much worse for the pathetic attempts we make at usurping God, removing him from his throne, and placing ourselves on the throne of our lives. We deserve to be in immense pain, all alone, abandoned to ourselves, and abandoned to our guilt and our shame for all of eternity.

But we don't get it.


Why not? Because of how pathetic Jesus was. Now, don't misunderstand. I don't mean that Jesus was pathetic in the sense of him being laughable or absurd like, "Look at that pathetic excuse for a dog." I don't think he was pitiful in that he was inferior or inadequate like, "The customer serve at the store was pathetic." But Jesus was certainly in a condition that would move others to pity him. And how pathetic he was!

Even though this is a Psalm of David, Psalm 38 could almost have been recited by Jesus. Read it again this afternoon or when I email this sermon to you and read it from Jesus' perspective. God's arrows pierced him. God's hand was heavy upon him. Though he had no guilt of his own, the guilt that he carried—our guilt—overwhelmed like a burden too heavy to bear. Just picture him in the Garden of Gethsemane begging the Father to take the cup of suffering away!

But the Father didn't. His back was surely filled with searing pain as he was scourged. His wounds festered because of our sinful folly. His back was filled with searing pain again as he was stretched out on the cross and the spasms ripped through his body like daggers.

But there are things that are even worse than physical pain.

He was all alone. His disciples left him and took off running at the first sign of danger. His own Father, on whom he had always relied, now abandoned him on the cross because he bore the guilt of our sin. Oh, how overwhelming that guilt must have been—as if he had committed every sin you've ever committed, I've ever committed, the world has ever committed—as if he himself had done it all! And the Father looked away from him in disgust. All forsook him, even God. Now that's loneliness. That's hell. How worthy of pity! How pathetic!


But why was he so pathetic? Because he was sympathetic of our pitiful state. We were so pathetic, that we moved God to pity over our wretched condition and our imminent damnation. And Jesus love for you and for me moved him to not only pity us, but to act. He volunteered for the job! And the God who made the universe at his command willingly became pathetic to rescue you and me. How pathetic! How wonderful! Because by his empathy, his sympathy, and his passion (and all words, by the way, empathy, sympathy, passion have the same root—pathos—as pathetic)… he suffered when he thought of us going to hell and groaned in anguish of heart, so he suffered physically on earth and on the cross so that you and I might have God's gift of forgiveness.

Does that mean that everything will go well in your life? That you'll never have a bad back, that your friends and family will never dessert you, that your finances and relationships will always be picture perfect? No. Of course not.

God will still let us suffer. He'll still let us have bulged discs and slip on the ice. He'll still let us endure (sometimes horrible) pain, and loneliness and loss. We still might seem very pathetic. And he might sometimes allow this with the sole intent of lovingly rebuking us and disciplining us, even if it means getting us on our back so there's nowhere to look but up to him, to cry out to him in repentance and in trust. But he always allows such suffering out of love for us.

And as we do suffer, he promises that we will never be alone. Even if every friend and family member forsakes us, he never will, because the Son was forsaken by the Father on our behalf. Even if our strength fails and our bones break, our eyesight fails or we suffer chronic back pain, we know—with absolute certainty—that when we cry out to God in prayer, he will come quickly to help us. And finally he will take us to be with him where every hurt, every pain, every sorrow will forever be removed.

How pathetic we were! How pitiable in our lost condition. But not anymore! We're not pathetic! We're victorious! Even if we suffer horribly in this life, and seem quite pathetic, we're still always loved by God. We have peace with him through our "pathetic" Savior because we have God's gift of forgiveness. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen. 

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

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