Divine Service: Sun-8:00AM & 9:00AM, Mon-7:00PM

Bible Study & Sunday School: Sun-10:45AM

TEXT: MARK 13:1-13/HEBREWS 10:11-25
LET US DRAW NEAR WITH A TRUE HEART IN FULL ASSURANCE OF FAITH
WITH OUR HEARTS SPRINKLED CLEAN FROM AN EVIL CONSCIENCE
Preached by Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.  Dear hearers of the Word made flesh;

I express to every vicar my aversion to a diet of “French salad” sermons.  By that I mean we should not often include a host of “may we” and “let us” language.  “May we” do this – “let us” do that.  These expressions aren’t inherently bad but easily become stock and stale.  Also, we are the doers in both expressions – hence - although they are often meant to be gospel-like, they are law freighted – “let us” try harder – “may we” be more joyful – “let us” do better, etc.  In addition, “may we” can too easily be heard as a mere wish – “may we give more generously”.

TEXT: MARK 13:1-13/HEBREWS 10:11-25
LET US DRAW NEAR WITH A TRUE HEART IN FULL ASSURANCE OF FAITH
WITH OUR HEARTS SPRINKLED CLEAN FROM AN EVIL CONSCIENCE
Preached by Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.  Dear hearers of the Word made flesh;

I express to every vicar my aversion to a diet of “French salad” sermons.  By that I mean we should not often include a host of “may we” and “let us” language.  “May we” do this – “let us” do that.  These expressions aren’t inherently bad but easily become stock and stale.  Also, we are the doers in both expressions – hence - although they are often meant to be gospel-like, they are law freighted – “let us” try harder – “may we” be more joyful – “let us” do better, etc.  In addition, “may we” can too easily be heard as a mere wish – “may we give more generously”.

Today, however, I’m going to break my own general rule in a major way.  I’m going to do so because of our beautiful text from the book of Hebrews.  Please hear again the portion right after the Holy Spirit says “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”  As you listen give close attention to the triple use of “let us”.

Where there is forgiveness of these (that is sins and lawless deeds), there is no longer any offering for sin.  Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 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.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  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.  The Day is drawing near when the final trumpet will sound and the books will be opened.  That Day outweighs the importance of all the political, economic, and personal concerns of our day and all the days.  So today, dear members and guests of Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. 

The context of Old Testament priests and sacrifices is crucial to understanding the meaning expressed here.  There was a ceaseless sequence of daily sacrifices, which the priests performed in a rotation of duty.  There was blood aplenty by God’s command.  There was also the annual sacrifice on the Day of Atonement.  Once a year – one man from the one tribe of Levi in the one office of High Priest – would enter behind the one curtain in the one tabernacle into the real presence of the one true God.  As he entered the holy of holies he did so wearing the required linen garments and carrying one basin of sacrificial blood.

Think of what that day pointed to in our text today.  The meaning God is that God is holy and His people, of themselves, are not.  Therefore they were to keep their distance and not draw near.  Drawing near to God’s presence was only possible for the High Priest and only once a year.  By God’s allowance the High Priest, rightly washed, rightly dressed, and rightly prepared could enter His presence to present a sacrifice on the Day of Atonement.    Because of that sacrifice, the Lord declared His people forgiven.  He bestowed His holiness on them.  It was an extraordinary day underscoring the peoples’ sin, the Lord’s holiness, and His forgiveness for them through the shedding of sacrificial blood and the intercession of the High Priest.

Fellow-Redeemed, the constraints on the office of High Priest and the Day of Atonement were so severe because the High Priest was a walking-talking prophecy.  By his person and his actions he pointed to someone far greater than he.  At its heart and center, the Day of Atonement pointed directly to Jesus Christ.  Like the High Priest, He would offer the Sacrifice for sin.  But unlike the High Priest Jesus would not present the blood of sacrificial animals to the Father, but rather His own blood.  Even now, Jesus, your High Priest, dwells in the Holy of holies in heaven, interceding for you on the basis of His shed blood.  That’s why only one man from God’s Old Testament people could enter God’s presence once a year.  It was a type for the once for all sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of the world.

That’s the foundational background for our text today – an office and a day that said “sinners – stay away - someone else must bring the sacrifice I have commanded into my presence – for your forgiveness.”  But now that someone else is the holy Son of God.  Now the blood He offers is His own holy precious blood.  Listen to the transformation!

Therefore, brothers, (and sisters of all ages – small ones and students and seniors and everyone in between) since we have confidence (often our lack of confidence to come before God in worship and prayer in Christ is not repentant humility, but sinful lack of trust) to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way (it is a new and living way into God’s presence because it is a person who lives – the risen Christ) that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, (Jesus’ flesh is the point where earth and heaven now meet.  That’s why the temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom at the moment of His death.  He is the new and living way because He gave Himself into death and our eternal punishment in order to write our names in the Book of Life) and since we have a great priest over the house of God, (His death was the finished work – the completed victory – and His resurrection proves it.  Now, risen and ascended He’s still at work for you, His church, the house of God).

It is because of the new and living way and the intercession of our great priest that we hear the repeated…let us!  Therefore…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience 

How in heavens name will your conscience and mine ever be still if it is not from God’s gift of faith?  Did you invent the trust you have in God for the sake of Christ’s sacrifice?  Is this something you dreamt up?  Where do you think a true heart comes from – your true heart that sees the reality of the sinful mess that is there.  You see it – don’t you?  Yet, your true heart that nonetheless believes there is water so pure – so tied to God’s holy word that it cleanses you?  What a foolish paradox from the world’s perspective!  Indeed the world hates this word and those who believe it.  As Jesus told His disciples, you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.  But you believe it!  O joyous miracle of God’s giving – you believe it!  “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”  Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Now, in Christ, there is no more “stay away” but rather let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.  You now commune with God by Jesus’ flesh and blood.  You now commune with God who remembers not one of your sins.  We sinners no longer have to keep our distance in fear and trembling.  The boldness of our entry into God’s presence is demanded by the blood of Jesus.

There’s more –a second let us!  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.  (Good heavens we waver all over the place – our emotions – our energy – our desires.  Where will hope that doesn’t waver come from?)  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  Dear Christians that’s the only thing that doesn’t waver in this dying world – God’s faithfulness to His promises.  The beautiful temple with its massive stones was thrown down.  Our houses that we repair and our bodies that we nourish will be thrown down.  This country will be thrown down.  There will be earthquakes and wars and rumors of war for heaven and earth are passing away.  But God is faithful to His promises – these will never waver.  What He promised in the garden – a Savior to crush Satan’s accusing head (Gen 3:15); what He promised you in holy baptism – that you are clothed in Christ (Gal 3:26, 27); His promise that faith comes through hearing and hearing through the speaking of Christ (Rom 10:17); His promise that you are to drink the New Testament of His blood for the forgiveness of sins (Mat 26:28).  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

There’s still one more let us.  And let us consider how to stir 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.  Christ will come again in Judgment.  Death may well come to us before that day.  The one who endures to the end will be saved. 

Therefore let us not neglect meeting together.  The Book of Hebrews – the words of our text this morning were written to be read aloud as Christians gathered for worship.  This liturgical text, this sermon is full of confidence – bloody confidence – confidence that we can approach Mt. Zion (God’s presence 12:22) – through the sacrifice and intercession of our High Priest – Jesus.  You see, Israel’s priests were ordained with the blood of a sacrifice applied their ear, thumb and toe; to their ear – for they were to hear God’s Word, to their thumb – for they were to handle holy things, and to their toe – for they were to walk in God’s way.  But all of them were sinful. 

We have a High Priest who was tempted in every way as we are yet without sin (Heb 4:15/7:25-27).  He came to fulfill the sacrifices He Himself set up.  He is the Word made Priest – not with blood upon His ear, thumb and toe but with blood flowing from thorns piercing His scalp and spikes piercing His hands and His feet and a spear piercing His side.  It is the blood of sacrifice!  It is the sacrifice of absolute worth.  It is holy blood, shed once for all that ends all sacrifices.  It is blood, shed for you.  It is blood now given you to drink for the forgiveness of sins.

That’s why we are not to give up meeting together.  Christ’s ongoing bodily presence to teach us and to feed us is the center of the church’s life.  No other offering is needed because Christ’s perfect sacrifice brings you perfect forgiveness – really!  That is what Christ gives out in the Sacrament of the Altar.  Your sins are removed from God’s remembrance – really!  You have every reason not to revert to shadowy uncertainties and wavering hope as you see the Day drawing near.

Therefore let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And 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.  Amen.