Sermon: Quinquagesima.2012

Quinquagesima (Pre-Lent)
Luke 18.31-43

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!

The cry of the blind man is the cry of the Christian Church on the eve of Lent and throughout out life. And it is a constant cry: as we see in the Gospel, not even the polite rebukes of other people are able to silence it. The blind man, and the Church continue: “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

This prayer is sung every week, by the Church. The “Kyrie” is the first prayer of the Divine Service. It is the oldest prayer of the faithful. Kyrie, eleison, Lord, have mercy. It is the most basic, simple, and clear form of prayer. Not even the polite rebukes of government and unbelievers are able to silence our cry. Jesus promises to hear this prayer, and not only that, but He intercedes on our behalf before our heavenly Father with the same words; Have mercy.

Even if you have come to doubt the effectiveness of your own prayer, you can nontheless remain confident that Jesus' prayer is heard and answered; in fact, from ancient times, this simple Kyrie, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”, this has been called the “Jesus prayer.” Not only because it is prayed to Jesus, but it is also Jesus' own prayer for us.

And it works. / And we have proof: Jesus' promise is fulfilled every time His Word is read and His Body and Blood are administered for the forgiveness of sins. In other words, as the Catechism says, “God's will is done...[and] God's kingdom comes even without our prayer.” Of course it is without our prayer, for what do we have to do with Divine mercy and the eternal gifts of life and salvation. Our prayer does not earn them, it is only Jesus' prayer that really counts. So, thanks be to God, we are united to Christ in Baptism, and so when we pray, we join with Jesus as He prays.

So, with that introduction to the Gospel reading for Quinquagesima, / here we are. / You heard last week about how we are preparing for the 40 day journey that is called Lent, and today is our last day of preparation. As I mentioned last week, today is really not a working day, after all, we have all we need: two weeks ago on Septuagesima we got our map, and we reviewed our destiny: we are heading to the cross of Jesus, and then on to His resurrection on Easter. Last week on Sexagesima, we were given instruction about what would sustain us through this journey, what nourishment we would need: turns out the life-giving Word of God and the Bread of Life, that gracious eternal food and drink, will be sufficient for thee.

So, today / we sit back and look over what has been gathered for our journey, and we pray. We trust our Lord's providence and grace, and especially His mercy, and we pray. But even as we pray, “Lord have mercy,” still we must also hear the warning; / and today the warning comes in the form of a question. Just as Jesus said to the blind man when he called out to Him, so Jesus says to us: “What do you want me to do for you?”

The blind man answered simply, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And this was enough for Him. He simply wanted to see Jesus.

Now, ask yourself: is seeing Jesus not good enough for you? In other words: even though you know of the abundant mercy and blessing and eternal riches that you have in the forgiveness of sins that Jesus won on the cross, / do you still secretly want more, or something different, something that you think is better or more valuable to you?

Repent. And even if you don't know of any of those thoughts, confess your unknown sins. Lust and greed and envy and jealousy have no place in the Christian heart. These will drag you down to hell in the twinkling of an eye. Repent, / and cry out all the more, cry out so that the devil, the world, and your old sinful nature are deafened by your cry for mercy. These great enemies of your faith hate it when you join Jesus' prayer like this, they go fleeing away at the Kyrie.
“Lord, let me recover my sight.” / Let this be enough. Let God's Kingdom come and His will be done as He does His work on you in Word and Sacrament, in prayer and Psalm, in the liturgy of Life.

And when you open your eyes, see again / Jesus Christ's passion. See again Jesus Christ stricken, smitten, and afflicted, lying on the throne of the cross as King of the Jews and the hope of the Gentiles. See again the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, the love that Saint Paul writes about in today's Epistle, which is, in fact, the same love that we show in our daily lives, / a love that is more than love between a man and a woman that is often portrayed as the theme of 1 Corinthians chapter 13. Paul speaks about a love that transcends marriage, prophecies, speaking in tongues, and other spiritual gifts, for Jesus' love is everything: He would not have mercy if He did not love.

Jesus heals the blind man because He loves him. Jesus heals us from sin in His blood and righteousness because He loves His Father's creation. And that / is our goal. That is the end of our journey through Lent: Good Friday. His harsh, but lovely death on our behalf / brings us again into communion with our Creator. Not only do we see again, we also taste again. The Lord's Supper is eating and drinking the forgiveness of sins won by Christ at Calvary. As the Psalmist writes: Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! God's amazing grace in His means (Word, water, bread, and wine), these are our sustenance as we walk the road glorifying God for our sight, our taste, and our redemption.

So saddle up. Come Wednesday. And as St Thomas once said, “let us also go [to Jerusalem with Jesus], that we may die with Him.”

In +Jesus' name. Amen.

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