A sermon based on Psalm 116Thursday, March 28, 2013 – Maundy Thursday
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Drink the Cup of Salvation (A sermon based on Psalm 116)
Can you imagine if there were a drink that would give eternal life and youth? There is such a drink: the cup of salvation, the Gospel from which we drink deeply and live forever. Rejoice that you and I don't need to search the globe for the Fountain of Youth. We have the cup of salvation. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Psalm 116 and drink the cup of salvation...
God's Gift of ForgivenessDrink the Cup of Salvation
A sermon based on Psalm 116Thursday, March 28, 2013 – Maundy Thursday
A sermon based on Psalm 116Thursday, March 28, 2013 – Maundy Thursday
Legend has it that in 1513 the famous explorer and friend of Christopher Columbus, Ponce de Leon, discovered Florida while searching for the Fountain of Youth—those life-giving waters of which one drink would restore a person to youthful health and perfect healing.
Can you imagine if this Fountain of Youth was discovered today? Can you imagine the press coverage, the documentaries, the scientific studies, the lines of people waiting to get a drink?
This evening, as we draw closer to Good Friday, thoughts of death are on the mind. Alluding to his death, Jesus told his disciples he wouldn't be with them much longer and that he wouldn't drink a cup of wine again until he did in heaven. But right before his death, he gave his disciples another cup. He gave them a cup that saved them from death.
And we still have this cup today. Tonight, you and I will drink from the cup of salvation, a cup that literally saves from death and gives eternal life. Talk about a Fountain of Youth! We have it right here, right now!
Listen to the first half of Psalm 116 that describes how God has given us the gift of forgiveness in giving us the cup of salvation. Listen to how he's saved us from death and given us eternal life…
1 I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. 2 Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. 3 The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. 4 Then I called on the name of the Lord: "O Lord, save me!" 5 The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. 6 The Lord protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. 7 Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. 8 For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling,
I don't know what brought the psalmist to death's door or how God delivered him from it. In his Psalm he seems more preoccupied with praising God than giving us the specific details. But we do know that this Psalm is more than a well-composed dissertation on the subject of death in the realm of theory.
The author has had a close brush with the grim reaper. He narrowly escaped death. And now he rejoices in the cup of salvation that God had given him, in saving not just his physical life, but even more in saving him from eternal death in hell. Having gone through that suffering he comes through it closer to God, rejoicing in what he has done.
Whatever the problem the psalmist faced we do know his trouble was self-made. He knew he didn't deserve deliverance. He cried out for "mercy," for God's undeserved love. He said he had been simplehearted or foolish. That's why he was entangled in the cords of death. That's why the grave almost overtook him. That's why trouble and sorrow did overcome him—because of his own sin.
Have you ever been tied up so you couldn't move? Even if you're not claustrophobic, it's a terrible feeling. It's a helpless, panicky feeling. What terror he must have felt, tied up, entangled in the cords of death. And what's worse, he knew the situation he was in was no one's fault but his own.
What could he do, all tied up? He knew what to do. He cried out for help. When he couldn't save himself, he cried out to God to save him. And God didn't disappoint. "…he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy …he turned his ear to me …The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. 6 The Lord protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. 7 Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. 8 For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling…"
Now as we read of how God saved this man from physical death, we can't help but think of the greater miracle: "For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death…" We can't help but recall how he's saved all people from spiritual death. In fact, the word translated "grave" in verse three is "Sheol" and could be translated "hell." "The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the [hell] came upon me." The psalmist may have been speaking of spiritual death the whole time.
And we know without a doubt that we are saved from that death when we cry out to God in our great need. How can we be so certain? In Christ. He cuts us free from the cords of that death. He frees us from the anguish of hell." How? By facing that anguish for us.
The story is told of two young men who shared a set of parents and a birthday, but it seems that that was about all that they shared. Considering they were identical twins, they had very little in common. The one man was a Christian, well-behaved for the most part, obedient to his parents, a faithful employee, kind and loyal to his friends… His brother on the other hand, was, well, a loser. He was addicted to drugs, couldn't keep job, used others in whatever way he could and so had no true friends…
One day, the second brother got in a drunken fight at the bar and landing a crushing blow, killed the other man. His fear sobered him quickly. With his blood-soaked clothes and dozens of witnesses he knew he was in a whole lot of trouble. He fled the scene and called his brother, sobbing, "Brother, help me. I don't know what to do! I just killed a man and the police will be here any minute."
The good brother loved his evil twin, as evil as he was, and drove to his brother's as quickly as he could. "Quick, let's change clothes." And just as the good brother finished putting on the blood stained clothes, the police arrived and his evil twin slipped out the back. The good brother was arrested, the trial was eventually held, and he was condemned and executed for his brother's crimes. His evil brother went free.
Dear friends, we are the evil twin. We were once had an eternal death penalty hanging over our heads because of our sin. We weren't handcuffed, but the cords of death entangled us and the anguish of hell was upon us. We were to be sentenced to hell—a living death for all of eternity for the crimes we've committed. And if anyone who calls another an unkind name is guilty of committing murder, as Jesus clearly taught, then who of us here isn't a murderer? The sentence was just. There was nothing we could do to escape, but cry out for help. And our brother, Jesus, heard our cry for mercy. He is gracious, righteous, and full of compassion, and in his great love for us, he cut the cords of death that entangled us and freed us from the anguish of hell that nearly overtook us. And Jesus, our brother, put on our blood-stained clothes and took our place in the execution.
On Calvary's cross, Jesus drank the cup of God's wrath, that same cup he prayed about on Maundy Thursday in the Garden of Gethsemane. "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me." (Luke 22:42) "If there's any other way, God…" But there was no other way. And so he suffered death, he suffered hell, to save us from it.
This Gospel message is the cup of salvation from which we drink! And by it we have God's gift of forgiveness. We have eternal life. And by the cup of his blood in with and under the wine in the Lord's Supper, he gives us the gift of forgiveness again and assures us that we are saved from eternal death.
And so we rejoice right along with the psalmist: "…he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy …he turned his ear to me …The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. 6 The Lord protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. 7 Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. 8 For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling…"
And though that is far more than we deserve, God gives us even more. Having delivered our souls from death, he gives us real life. We no longer live for ourselves, but for the one who saved us. Giving our unending thanks and praise to him. The psalmist continues, rereading verse 8 and continuing to the end of the Psalm…
8 For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, 9 that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living. 10 I believed; therefore I said, "I am greatly afflicted." 11 And in my dismay I said, "All men are liars." 12 How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me? 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. 14 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. 15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. 16 O Lord, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant; you have freed me from my chains. 17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord. 18 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, 19 in the courts of the house of the Lord— in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord.
What kind of life does the Psalmist experience now? One that is completely free. Some people suggest that religion doesn't release a person, but binds them—that it binds them to the obligation to serve God, it binds them to keep his rules and laws. While it's true that many religions do bind one to greater obligations, not the gospel of Jesus! It frees us.
As the Psalmist writes, God has freed us from our chains. There is no obligation to do anything to do anything to earn our salvation—we're no longer obligated to be perfect as God's law demands, since Christ was perfect in our place. We're not even obligated to try our best since the salvation Christ won for us on the cross is complete! The cup of salvation is ours—given to us as a free gift from God, won for us by our brother Jesus. And it sets us free!
But free to do what? To live lives of sin, pleasing our sinful nature? No! That's not freedom. That's going back to slavery again. We're free to serve God—For God has delivered our souls from death, that we may walk before the Lord in the land of the living. And that doesn't mean we walk the so-called "straight and narrow" watching every step lest we stray and displease God. No! Then we would still be bound too. We walk in the freedom of the gospel, with no obligation. We walk a relaxed route, literally, "going to and fro," before the Lord.
You see, we're free to do whatever we want, but now because of the cup of salvation given to us as a free gift, because of Jesus body and blood given for us for the forgiveness of sins, what every Christian wants is to serve God in thanks. That's why the psalmist wrote, "1 I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. 2 Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live." Or as John wrote, "We love because he first loved us." A heart that trusts in Christ and the cup of salvation he won for us can't help but live a life of thanks. Our gratitude wells up within us and expresses itself in acts of service to God and to our neighbor. And the gospel frees us to do just that.
Let's go back to the brother whose good twin was executed in his place. Do you think that after the execution of his brother the evil twin said, "Great! My brother took the death penalty I deserved! Now I'm free to go back to the bar and continue my wicked ways!"? No! He didn't! He was free from the law, free to do whatever he wanted. The cops no longer hunted him for the murder he committed, since as far as they were concerned, justice had been served, the killer had been caught.
But while the evil twin was free to do as he pleased, what pleased him was now different. From the time that his brother took his blood stained clothes and his guilt on himself, that man no longer lived the way he once did. Instead, he lived to honor the memory of his brother who died for him. Since his brother took his place as the murderer, he would take his brothers place as the good man. He would live just like his brother who set him free from death lived his life. Because now he was free to live.
So too, we live, not for ourselves, but for our brother Jesus, who died to set us free from our death sentence of hell. We live, free from fear, even fear of death—for through Christ and his death on the cross, our death takes us to heaven. For "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."
And now, we are truly free to live in this life—free to live to serve him. We ask, "How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?" And while we can never fully repay him, we strive to do the things that are pleasing to him. Because we believe in what he's done for us, we can't help but speak and share the life-giving news that we have with others. We "will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord," in regular public worship, in the presence of all his people.
We will lift up the cup of communion with thanks to God as we drink the very blood that he poured out on the cross to pay for our sins to set us free. We call on God's name in prayer and in song. And we do both as often as we can just as he told us to. We will say to God, "O Lord, truly I am your servant; I am your servant… you have freed me from my chains." And we will live to serve him and each other, as Jesus new command on Maundy Thursday tells us, "Love one another." (John 13:34) We will sacrifice our thank offerings to God, giving not just our dollars or our time in service, but giving our very selves.
Why do we do all this? Not because we must, but because we want to. For we have drunk from the cup of salvation, that our gracious, righteous, and compassionate God has given to us. We've drunk from the Fountain of Youth that gives us eternal life! He has saved us from death. He has given us real life. So we too can't help but praise the Lord in all we do. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.
Pastor Rob Guenther
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611