The Death Of God
May 26, 2018
Verse: Acts 2:22–2:24
Christ Lutheran Church
May 27, 2018
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
The Death Of God
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up, releasing him from the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. (Acts 2:22-24)
Every Sunday the church engages in spiritual warfare. At every Divine Service the Lord God “beats down Satan under our feat;” and makes our enemies our footstool.
Every Sunday the one responsible for every divorce, every murder, every deception, every tear, every loss and every primal scream you have ever screamed – is sliced to ribbons by the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God that we speak aloud. (Ephesians 6:17)
The fact that we don’t know that is unfortunate. But for too long we have been unable to “see the forest for the trees.” Or to use a musical metaphor when Lutherans look at a piano they see a beautiful piece of furniture, with 88 keys of ivory. They love that piano! But they never play more than one note a time; and so they rarely hear the music of God. (Acts 20:27)
Being deprived of the symphony, but still knowing deep down that the piano is precious, we have learned to think of Holy Worship in different terms. Lesser terms. Slighter terms.
We might come to worship from a sense of duty, and that is good because we have a solemn duty to worship God in his Holy House.
We might come to have our prayers answered. If so you have come to the right place because God’s House is the House of Prayer for all nations. (Mark 11:17)
Or we might come because going to church gives us a degree of peace, and makes us feel better amidst the trials and tribulations of life; and who doesn’t want that?
But if those are your reasons for coming here today you are still hearing single notes but missing the New Song. (Psalm 98:1). And it is precisely this limited understanding that leads people to think that they can customize the church to fit their own needs. Though they never say it in these words, what they are saying is “I come here for me” And since I come here for me “I want my hymns, my hymnal, my wording, and my optics.” (Dot com!) And if I don’t get them I am filing for ecclesiastical divorce.
That dear Christians is a grave sin!
And when a church gets to that point the devil is deliriously happy because instead of conducting warfare against him, God’s people conduct it against one another. This is happening at Christ Lutheran Church.
Why? Because we have taken our eye off the ball, which is Christ. Because we have forgotten who the actual enemy is. And because no one ever explained to us what it means to be “Christian Soldiers, marching as to war.” And so hear the word of Jesus today:
“Repent.” (Mark 1:15) “Humble yourself, for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)
And know above all that when the baptized assemble for Holy Communion they are conducting spiritual warfare. They are pinning down the enemy; hemming him in on all sides; and raining down the Fire and Brimstone of God on top his serpentine head. This is what takes place here each Sunday, and it is nothing less than the health and salvation of the church and the world!
Do you think the world is in trouble? Do you find it incomprehensible that high school students gun down their fellows like dogs?
Try to imagine what the world would be like if for a single Sunday all the churches across the globe were to leave their doors locked. If for just one Sunday the name of the Trinity were to go un-invoked. If there were no prayer, no praise, no thanksgiving, no Scripture read, no sermon preached, no Lord’s Prayer intoned, no Eucharist given and no benediction received anywhere in the world.
Does that sound crazy? Not if you know what is at stake. Not if you comprehend what the devil hopes to gain; and what the prize is.
The prize is the death of God!
That is what Satan wants more than anything. He tried it before when he inspired lawless men to put the Lord of Life to death. A death to which the Lord gladly submitted because the cross was no accident.
But as St. Peter teaches us in today’s lesson: Jesus went to the cross by “the definite plan and foreknowledge of God,” so that sinners might live and be glad. (Acts 2:23)
But what the devil did not realize was that it would be “impossible for death to hold him” (Acts 2:24). And that God would raise up Jesus from the grave on the third day ordaining him both Lord and Christ! (Acts 2:35).
The death of God! It’s what Satan wanted then and what he still wants today. To kill God. To kill his children so that he can become “lord of all.” And of course that, too, is part of the plan: to get to God by getting to his children.
But in Divine Service those very children rout the Evil One over and over again. With every Divine Word spoken here the Great Liar is struck senseless by Truth. His swords are beaten into plowshares, his spears into pruning hooks. Or in the words of the hymn (TLH #189) “And Satan's arrows broken lie, Destroyed hell's direst weapon.”
That is what you are doing here today; and if you have not heard the symphony before, hear it now. If you have not seen the larger picture before, see it today. Because when you open your mouth to pray the church’s liturgy you are engaging in spiritual warfare.
But please note it is the church’s liturgy. The church’s hymns. The church’s lessons, prayers, Creeds and Collects. You don’t get to pick your own, or leave the battlefield because you can’t get your way. Must it be spelled out? Does a father want to hurt his children?
The whole world outside of these walls caters to your personal preferences, but they are unimportant here. Not only unimportant but injurious! Injurious to the “one voice” with which the church must glorify God. (Romans 15:6). Divisive to the “unity of the Spirit and the Bond of Peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Deleterious to the individual who insists on his or her own way because as Solomon says, “Pride cometh before the fall.”. (Proverbs 16:18)
And so repent today, O wayward Christians. Repent, and “beat down Satan under your feet.” Repent and proclaim the Trinitarian faith of the ages. Because by Jesus’ own Word the church at worship is given to be Salt for the Earth, and Light to the World. Amen.