November 15 2015 Sermon
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 10:11-25 11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” 17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. 19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
The text is the Epistle, and the unifying thought in all our Readings and other Propers today is endurance. So let’s begin fueling ourselves with a bowl of “lettuce”:
“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (v 22). “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering” (v 23). “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (vv 24–25). Three times the words, “Let us” appear in this text.
These are popular sanctification verses for those who have ambitions for being made holy. Sometimes, they are preached as a stand-alone sermon text something of this nature, “Let us draw near.” All I have to do is belly right up to the altar like I own the place without posing (v 22). Or “Let us hold fast the confession.” All I have to do is keep my confirmation vows without screwing up (v 23). Or “Let us stir up one another.” I have to be my brother’s keeper while I’m at it (v 24), don’t miss church and in so doing miss those nourishing bowls of “let us,” and buck one another up because we’re running out of time (v 25). Is that it what this text is all about?
“Lettuce” never gave me much endurance, just roughage in the face of a hearty challenge. We need more than a challenge and you need more than a mandate as we endure waiting for Christ in this veil of tears.
In order to “draw near,” we need a whole different kind of “boldness” than anything of our own. Because, frankly, we would have one heck of a nerve walking about God’s altar in innocence, unless that innocence comes from someone else.
In order to keep our confirmation vows, we need a whole different kind of power, because we’re empty.
To spend myself on our brothers, to encourage our sisters, we need to know someone bigger has us covered so we can afford it! And racing against the clock wouldn’t be so terrifying if we actually saw ourselves getting better at this with time!
It would be a little easier to consider one another in order to stir up love and good works (v 24), if you had your own heart sprinkled clean from an evil conscience (v 22). Everything we need comes from the cross, where Jesus offered one sacrifice for sins forever (v 12). Where are your accusers? You can’t be blackmailed with guilt, because where there is remission of sins, there is no longer an offering concerning sin (v 18). None needed.
We do not forsake the assembling of ourselves; rather, we exhort one another (v 25), not because we pass ourselves off as super-Christians, but only because as the community of the baptized, we have been “washed with pure water” (v 22), the result of being perfected forever, finished by Christ on the cross, the very same who are being made holy (vv 14, 17–18). We are amateurs at being holy, not to earn favor with God, but for the love of being holy, being his, being totally alive with him. Sanctification is also God’s action upon us, and every bit as much a gift, whereby, over time, our brains catch up with our Baptism.
We continue firmly the “confession of our hope without wavering” (v 23), not because of our stellar response and cooperation with God, but because we have a High Priest over the house of God (v 21) responding on our behalf. Christ is at the right hand of God (v 12b) because he earned his way to speak on our behalf, after cutting his covenant, due to our inability to hold up our end of the covenant, and his willingness to carry his end and ours. The Lord has actually willed to us by the Holy Spirit his laws, which are all love, on our hearts and minds (vv 15–17). We have quite simply been overtaken by grace.
We “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (v 22). Where does that true heart come from? Boldness to enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus (v 19). That childlike confidence that assumes we’re welcome—yes us!—those who offended God by our sins and insults and unthankfulness and coldness! What possible entry could this be? “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a [freshly killed] and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh” (vv 19–20 NKJV). Ah, the blood of the cross. That blood which you will receive in a few minutes. By the Sacrament of which you will partake today you enter into the Holy of Holies of the heavenly kingdom today, standing right beside those who have gone to heaven before us, right here at this altar.
So then, do we rely on the fact that God’s recollection of the ancient atonement provided by his Son will outweigh the fresh insult of my sins against him? No! See the atonement as the Father sees it. He remembers his Son on the cross as if it were from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today! The beautiful Son! Only-begotten God. Freshly slaughtered (v 20). Vivid and horrific, that’s the veil, torn. It is finished! It is enough! And in the brightness of that offering, that sacrifice, that sacred veil torn, the earth quaked and the rocks rent and the bodies of saints came back to life and all human sin becomes ancient and pales into gray scales of nothingness. “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (v 17 NKJV).
Now there’s hope for all of us. Bowls of “let us” without the main course could never do that. It’s not my commitment or your resolve that will endure this veil of tears, dear Christian.
To Endure Waiting for Christ,
All We Need Is His Atonement.
Come in, child, and let the screen door slam behind you. Welcome home. Come all the way in, to your Father and Holy Lord, through Jesus, God who is the veil. All is done; all is prepared. Come and dine. Amen.