Archive for March 10th, 2011

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.—2 Corinthians

It was an apocalyptic time.  A ruthless enemy was marching forward upon the nation.  The nation had no way to stop the enemy:  not swords, spears, shields or even the nuclear option of the time, chariots.  This army destroyed everything in it’s path:  crops, fields and with no grain or fruit, next cattle, sheep and men.  It was a devastating army blackening the landscape:

What the cutting locust left,
the swarming locust has eaten.
What the swarming locust left,
the hopping locust has eaten,
and what the hopping locust left,
the destroying locust has eaten.

5Awake, you drunkards, and weep,
and wail, all you drinkers of wine,
because of the sweet wine,
for it is cut off from your mouth.
6For a nation has come up against my land,
powerful and beyond number;
its teeth are lions’ teeth,
and it has the fangs of a lioness.
7It has laid waste my vine
and splintered my fig tree;
it has stripped off their bark and thrown it down;
their branches are made white

That Scriptures is from the 1st chapter of the prophet Joel. The army was locusts.  It was the apocalypse, literally the word means “revelation” of the Lord’s judgment.   We tremble at the news from the Arab nations falling or is it rising, we do not know, one by one. We tremble as prices at the pump go up and as the prices go up in the grocery aisles.  We tremble as now we do not have “bad weather” any longer, but “extreme weather”.   But the revelation of His judgment is for the revelation of repentance and His forgiveness.  A 19th century Hasidic rabbi said in effect:  If we have beheld evil it is so that we know the sin and evil within us and repent. The Lord by the hammer of His law was producing in them repentance. Note from today’s First Reading:  twice Joel preaches Return:

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love

If we stop with verse 12, weeping and mourning, over what we have done and left undone, then it is worldly grief.

…when a fornicator, a drug addict, a  drunkard begins to sorrow because he has wasted the glory days of his youth, when he has ruined his body and has become prematurely senile—that is a sorrow of this world. When a vain person is plunged into sorrow over his sins because he has lost some of his prestige, his good looks lost and then botoxed, when a thief sorrows over his thieving because he has landed in jail—all of that is worldly sorrow. As it is written, worldly sorrow or grief produces death.

However, when a person grieves over his sins because he sees hell before him, where he will be punished for having insulted the most holy God—that is godly sorrow, provided that it has not been produced by imagination through a person’s own effort. God alone can produce genuine godly sorrow. May God grant us all such sorrow! (note:  adapted from Law and Gospel by C.F.W. Walther)

Then we know we are at an end. This is good sorrow, it is good grief. For at our end, the Lord puts before His Cross and upon which is the end of sin in Him:  forgiven.

The only reason we can return, repent is “…He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” When you know you are alarmed over your sin and terrified by the thought of your sins, when you know you  justly deserve the Lord’s temporal and eternal punishment, that the Lord is angry with you:  this is godly sorrow.  When you realize that anything that you can do on your own in your spirituality  will not cover the sin of your soul, when you realize that giving up, say, chocolate or  whatever for Lent is like putting a band-aid on a compound fracture or even a corpse, when you despair over your misdeeds, this is godly sorrow.  The only reason for the reality of our return is the Lord, who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  The sign of the cross on your foreheads remind us of sin, dust we are and dust we shall return, the Lord’s just judgment.  And it is the sign of the One who died and rose for you, who lives to intercede for us all, who so loved the world that He gave Himself, and He is the Beloved of the Father before all worlds.   Fasting, praying, giving to the poor is to focus our communion with the Only One Who ever was crucified, died and rose for you.   The discipline of Lent is not to look into your soul to save yourself, but to look to the Lord who is your salvation and this is  the Faith,  and so to serve your neighbor in love.   Godly grief, good grief leading to repentance as in the Scripture for this sermon, is the repentance  which, “…leads to salvation without regret”.  Just think:  Salvation without regret, without sorrow and the positive of that negative is one thing only:  joy,  joyful repentance.  No “I should haves”, “I could of”…that’s regret.  I did not, but He did in His costly sorrow, His good grief, the sinless One becoming sin that we become His righteousness, His Life.  “Get used to believe that Christ is a REAL Savior and that you are a REAL sinner…He was deadly serious when He sent His own Son into the world and sacrificed Him for our sake” (Luther)  The devil wants you to look inside, the Lord turns out to Himself in true repentance, it is a daily joyful repentance.  For in this Christian Church He fully forgives your sin and the sins of all believers.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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