Sermon for Easter 7 - Exaudi: May 13, 2018
Luther Memorial Chapel, Shorewood, Wisconsin
Pastor Michael Larson
I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
This morning Ezekiel speaks of a heart transplant that God would carry out in his people.
You needed it too. Following your heart really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. After all, you know what’s in your heart - your thoughts, your selfish ambitions, your self-centeredness. It aint pretty folks. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
Folk singer, Neil Young once sang about searching for a heart of gold. But there’s no indication he ever found it. And how could he? The human heart, after all isn’t so human after all. Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, and slander.” What good is a heart like that?
Therefore, God determined to give you a new one. So he gave you Jesus – the only man with a heart of pure gold. Who loved you by dying. Raised up, he gave you his Holy Spirit. He called you by the Gospel and enlightened you with his gifts. He sanctified you. He washed you. He cleansed you from guilt.
That old of heart of yours was no good so he resolved to give you a new one. So he took out that heart of stone and in went a heart of flesh.
This is the surgery, the new life, the second chance you needed. All so that you could stand up in the resurrection, face God’s judgment, and live.
This time of year graduation speeches will tell all the students to “follow their hearts,” but that sort of advice is dangerous. Jesus warned us. He said from within, from out of the heart of man, comes evil. So while our hearts are desperately wicked and lead only to hell, only the kind, loving heart of Jesus could us back to God.
And just look at his heart toward you: Sacrificial love, goodness, and mercy, truly a sacred heart. Loving rebel man, and reconciling him to God through his death and resurrection – new life and forgiveness of sins.
In baptism God gives you a new heart. In his supper his body is joined to yours. His blood courses through your veins, pulses through your arteries. You are cleansed from idols to serve him.
Truly, you’ve been helped. But you also need the helper, the gift of the holy Spirit. To keep you in communion with God – you need the Helper, the Holy Spirit – to bring you to Jesus – help for your ongoing sinfulness.
After all, if you know anything about heart surgeries. Having a new one means that you need to work it – exercise it – use it in the right way.
The wisest, and most sought after graduation speakers will urge you to change the world. But Peter simply says this morning, that the end of the world is at hand. So what should we do? In our epistle St. Peter says: Be self-controlled and sober-minded. Above all, keep loving one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality. If God has made you rich. If he has given you special talents and gifts, use it all to serve one another, as stewards of God’s grace. The end of all things is at hand. So live accordingly. Everything you are. Everything you’ve got. Use it to serve one another in love and to glorify God.
Knowing that the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
Baptized Christians, with heart transplants from God, renewed in the Spirit of God, live their lives in eager anticipation of the end. Which, in fact, is the beginning. As we look for the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. A new heaven and a new earth. Pearl gates and streets of gold.
Ezekiel writes in our OT reading tonight “You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” Surely, he’s talking about more than Palestine – more like paradise.
But we’re certainly not there, not completely. So Jesus preaches to us a sobering message. A little like a graduation speech – but not what you’d expect. Not follow your heart. Not reach for the stars but rather: He says: “The hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God” (John 16:2).
For it is ultimately by Jesus’ suffering and death that we are saved. Therefore we rejoice to share in His sufferings, that we may also share in His resurrection glory (1 Pet. 4:7–14).
Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we are cleansed from the deceit of our idols and given a new heart and a new spirit, the heart and Spirit of Christ Himself (Ezek. 36:22–28).
The Holy Spirit works in you fervent, self-giving love for one another, a love which covers a multitude of sins, “that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” In the name of Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Prayer of the Church
Let us pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.
For the whole Church, that in the confidence of faith, the baptized may bear witness to the grace of the Lord Jesus regardless of the consequences, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For pastors and missionaries, that repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name would sound forth throughout the world, creating and sustaining faith in those who hear, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For this congregation, that the Spirit of truth would guide us into faithful devotion and service so that we would love one another; grow in the grace and knowledge of our Savior, Jesus Christ; and give our tithes and offerings to support His ministry and mission here and abroad, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For those who suffer for their witness to Christ, that they may be strengthened by the Spirit of truth to endure, and that they may rejoice and be glad when Christ’s glory is revealed, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the vocation of motherhood, that mothers would love and care for their children, and that children would cherish and honor their mothers, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For our University students preparing for exams and graduation, that they would use their gifts and talents to serve the Lord faithfully in their vocations – commending every anxiety and fear to God’s loving heart, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For Mark and Kate Paterson, mourning a miscarriage, that they would be strengthened by your grace, trusting in the power of Jesus resurrection and the blessed life of the world to come. let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For Lou and Sandy Gabriel celebrating their anniversary, that they would live in God’s promises and serve one another sacrificially, with their eyes upon Jesus, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For all who come today to the Lamb’s feast, especially our friend, Christopher Coleman, that being made partakers of Christ’s divine nature in the eating and drinking of His very body and blood, they would be filled with His life and peace, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the faithful departed, let us offer thanks and praise, asking our heavenly Father to grant us all a share in the rest and peace of His Kingdom, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.