July 26, 2015
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS
Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS
INI + AMEN.
(5. Oops!: We pray our whole lives for “a clean heart.” (Ps 51:10)
We all want good intentions, pure motives, and strong faith. We all want a clean and pure heart. Now, our hearts are pure because we’ve been baptized into Christ Jesus, and it’d be nice if we could experience that in our day to day lives. But, while we live in this body of death, our “flesh lusts contrary to the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit desires things contrary to the flesh. They are opposed to one another, so that you don’t do the things you want,” as Paul says in Galatians 5. We pray constantly for a pure heart. I’ve sung it regularly for 30 years, and you’ve sung it for more or less years than that, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and uphold me with Thy free spirit.” This is a Psalm we can pray daily and much, for we sin “daily and much” as the Catechism teaches us. We pray earnestly for good intentions, pure motives, strong faith; we pray for a pure heart.
(4. Ugh!: We still worry, doubt, and have blinded hearts.)
But no matter how fervently we pray for pure hearts, our flesh still clings to us. We still worry, doubt. We still have blinded hearts. This is especially the case when there’s difficulties in life. We’re no better than the disciples from our Gospel lesson. We are bombarded by the difficulties of life. Everything seems against us. It can be any manner of difficulty: financial hardship, relationships that were good at one point but now are not good, strained, or broken, sickness and death that comes upon us or those we love. All these things cause us to worry. They give us stress.
So we keep struggling forward, rowing against the wind and storm. We doubt. We don’t understand God’s mercy. We might even think He’s against us if things get real bad! The disciples were amazed when the storm stopped because “they didn’t understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” They didn’t understand that Christ was God with them, for them. That He would provide for them, care for them. We too don’t understand the loaves given to the 5,000, the storm calmed by Jesus, His death, His resurrection, His means of grace, and what all of that means for us in the storms of life. If we had pure hearts we would, but our hearts are also “hardened” like the disciples’.
Now, today Christ speaks to you and me as He did to the disciples. Here we sit in the boat and ark of His Church, each of us being tossed about in our own worries and concerns. He cries out to us. Speaks to us. But He doesn’t condemn us and our hard hearts. He doesn’t cast our unclean hearts away. Far from it! And when He speaks to us, like He did to the twelve, He doesn’t just say, “It’s me! It is I!” He says something more profound than that.
(3. Aha!:) CHRIST SAYS TO YOU, “TAKE HEART! I AM!”
The “It is I” isn’t just a “Hey! It’s Me, Jesus!” It’s “I AM.” “I AM the LORD Your God”—“Yahweh.” Now, the Lord God Himself showing up in the midst of our worry, doubt, unbelief, the Lord showing up in the midst of a people with unclean hearts, might cause us some even greater worry and concern. “What’s the Lord going to say to me? Do to me?” But when CHRIST SAYS TO YOU, “TAKE HEART! I AM!”, He says this because “He wants to pass us by.” Maybe you’ve always thought it was weird that it says, “But He wished to pass them by.” This means nothing other than salvation.
When Jesus speaks His Word to us, comes to us in the boat,
(2. Yeah!:) This means that we are saved.
He comes to us and dwells with us. Because He is who He is, Yahweh in the flesh, God with us, Immanuel, because He was born at Bethlehem, crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and rose again from the dead on the third day, because of all that we are saved. All of what Christ has done for us means that no matter what storms we have in this life, we shall reach safe-harbor. None of it can keep us down forever. Jesus says, “Be of good cheer! Take heart! I have died and risen. You shall not die forever, but you shall live. I take your stoney, doubting, fearful heart away. I save you, and you are saved. Whoever I go to is saved. You are saved no matter where you are: on a boat, in a village, in a city, stuck on a mat, or sitting in a pew. There is no tempest, storm, or wave, That shall forever o’erpow’r you, And there’s no power, foe, or grave That shall forever devour you. I crossed the storm, braved death for you, I shed My blood to ransom you, Brought calm and peace forever.”
That is exactly what Christ has done for you. There is no reason to doubt His mercy, His love. What Christ has done isn’t just for now but forever. You have a new heart.
(1. Whee!:) Your heart is clean in Christ, now and forever. (1 Jn 3:20).
He drowned the old one in the ocean-depths of the baptismal font. Those life-giving waters have brought forth a new heart, beating in love and trust for God, your heavenly Father. He gives you of the true bread which has come down from heaven. He gives you His flesh and blood here at His table for you to eat and drink. It strengthens your heart in love for God and neighbor. It drives away your doubt. Just as the “hem of His garment” healed and saved “whoever touched it,” so also we, who eat and drink the lowly bread and wine, receive something far greater—Jesus’ own body and blood.
Let’s not doubt what God can do for us in the storms of life. Take heart! Your heart is pure in Christ. We may not experience it in this life—especially when the going gets tough. But it is true, now and forever, and “if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart.” “Conscience is one drop; the reconciled God is a sea of comfort,” as Luther says. God is a sea of comfort. Christ crossed it, calmed it. He does purifies our hearts again and again now as we wait for when our hearts shall be pure forever within the port of heaven!
INI + AMEN.