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Homily for Trinity 7: "God's Last Word"

by Pastor Beisel ~ July 5th, 2008

Trinity 7, 6 July 2008
Text: Mark 8:1-9
Rev. Paul L. Beisel

God gave Adam everything. Adam had everything a guy could possibly want, and then some. Food in abundance; a beautiful garden; even a wife! Nothing did he lack; nothing did God withhold from his creatures. God’s hand was wide open with blessings, with provisions, with his good gifts.

There was one tree in the Garden, however, that was forbidden. Warnings and curses were attached to this tree, just as blessings and promises were attached to the rest of the trees. “On the day that you eat of it you will surely die.” And just to make sure his wife did not eat anything from it, Adam put a huge sign on the front that said: “Do not eat; do not even touch!”

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a sign, but when Eve spoke to the Serpent her recollection of God’s word was something to the effect of: “Do not eat of this tree, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” Adam cared for his wife, and did not want any harm to come to her. Who knows how many times they walked past this tree in the midst of the garden, avoiding it, steering clear of it, not know what might happen.

What was this “death” thing all about anyway? Adam and Eve didn’t even know death, or sin, or suffering at all. “You will surely die.” What does this mean? What is this word, “Die”? In the innocence of Paradise, Adam and Eve could only trust in God, and believe that He knew what was best for them.

Adam and Eve had everything they needed. They lacked nothing. Life was good. But the devil, that Old Evil Foe, the serpent made them consider something they hadn’t thought of before-could it be even better? Was God holding out on us? “Surely God knows you won’t die. He’s just saying that because he doesn’t want you to enjoy life to the fullest. He knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be open and you will be like Him, knowing good and evil.”

Hmmm. Sounds pretty good to me. Be like God; know good from evil; become wise; and see how yummy it looks! Satan deceived our first parents into thinking that life could be better than it already was, that there was more to life than, well, the best food in the world and the most beautiful garden anywhere. What God gave you wasn’t good enough. Eat this fruit and you will see just what you are missing out on!

So Adam and Eve, despite all the warnings, all the curses, all the bad stuff attached to that tree, risked everything, and ate the forbidden fruit, bringing sin and death into the world, which spread like a disease to all men, all the way down to the present, even to us. We are all infected with it, every last one of us. “There is no one who does good; no, not even one.”

Of course, God was not willing to let death and sin have the last word. He was unwilling to give Satan the victory, unwilling to let his ruined creation be eternally lost. God always has the last word. And in this case, His last word is one of promise and redemption: “Eve’s offspring will crush your head, you cursed serpent! And you will bruise his heel.”

This is truly a sad story. And what makes it even sadder is that it is constantly replayed over and over in the lives of humans. God gives his good gifts, and places a fence around them to protect them and us. He gives the gift of Himself first of all, and says: “You shall have no other gods.” He gives the gift of His name and says: “You are to use it to bless, to pray, and to give thanks to me, not to curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by it.” He gives the gift of His holy Word and says: “Listen to it and live. Do not despise it.”

He gives the gift of parents and other authorities and says: “Honor them.” He gives the gift of life and says: “Respect it.” He gives the gift of marriage and says: “Love and honor each other.” He gives the gift of possessions and says: “Help your neighbor keep what he has.” He gives the gift of a good name and reputation to us and says: “Defend and stand up for your neighbor.”

And as the story goes, we continue to abuse these gifts. We continue to want more than what God has given us, we continue to think God is holding out on us. God says: “On the day that you eat of it you will surely die,” and we say, “I would rather die than deny myself this pleasure.” I would rather lose my life, and be cursed by God, then deny myself the pleasure of cursing, swearing, hating, lying, getting even, and fulfilling my sinful lusts and desires.”

That’s what happens, you see, when we are presented with an opportunity to go beyond what God has allowed for us. Satan deceives us, and works with our sinful nature to cloud our judgment, to dull our senses, to make us ponder the life that we could have. Never mind the fact that God has given us everything, everything, we need to survive, and to live life to the fullest. Clothing, shoes, food, drink, house, home, wife, children and friends-they all come from God.

Is it not enough? Is it not enough that He gives us these things? Must we still demand more from him? So says that Deceiver of old. So says our flesh. Sinful flesh is never satisfied with the normal amounts of God’s good things, but always wants to go beyond what is normal, what is natural. And so we continue to relive the story of Adam and Eve in our own lives, day in, day out. God gives, and it is not enough. We must have more; we must have it now. The world isn’t getting any better, and it never will. “Through sin came death; and death spread to all men, because all sinned.”

But again, God does not let sin and death have the last word. He does not give Satan the victory. He fulfills his promise to Adam and Eve. Her offspring has crushed the head of the Serpent. He suffered in the process. The serpent bruised his heel. Jesus, the Promised Seed of Adam, of Abraham, of David came to undo the Devil’s work. He came to stand in the place of all sinners, since no one does good, not even one, and to receive the brutal penalty of our sins: death.

“The wages of sin is death,” and Christ who knew no sin became sin for us, and hung on the tree for our salvation. God is exceedingly rich in his mercy and goodness. He could not let this world and his creatures be lost forever. He had to rescue us from the devil, from our sins, and from death. And so He did. It cost him greatly, to be sure. Giving His dearly loved Son up into death for us, letting sinful men shed his blood and crucify him was the price that God paid for our sins.

And it was enough. It was enough to satisfy God’s wrath, to pay the debt of sin for all men. It was enough because He was not merely a human being, but the Son of God, conceived and born without Adam’s guilt, pure, holy, undefiled by the disease that is shared by us all. And His Father, having accepted His sacrifice as payment for the sins of men, brought Him forth from the dead, never to die again. God always has the last word, and in this case, the last word was: “It is finished!”

God’s answer to your selfishness, to your abuse of His gifts, to your constant desire for more than He has given was His Son, pierced and nailed to a tree. God’s answer to your self-seeking, your lying, your cheating, your disobedience to authority and to the sins that you just can’t seem to resist was Jesus, risen from the dead, ascended to the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

It was and it still is God’s answer, His solution to your problem of sin, His medicine for your diseased souls. “Come to me,” Christ says, “all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Come to me, and find refuge from your guilt and shame, from your tired and weary hearts battling against the devil, and I will refresh you, I will strengthen you.

And like those who followed Christ out in the wilderness, we too heed his invitation. We come to Church. We kneel at the altar for Holy Communion. He multiplies not loaves of bread, but His own Body and Blood for us Christians to eat and to drink. We bring our children to the baptismal font, because of Christ’s command and promise: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for of such is the kingdom of God.”

And having received everything that Christ has to give in abundance, having received in our ears the very Word of God, our spiritual food, having received in our mouths the very flesh and blood of Jesus, crucified and risen, we are satisfied, filled, content. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Only Christ and His salvation can quell the never-ceasing hunger of our souls. Only Christ and His atoning death and resurrection can quench the fires of lust, and the thirst of our souls for righteousness.

See what a kind and compassionate Savior we have, how much he loves us and cares for us. Rather than let His creatures be lost to the devil forever, He saves them. Rather than let us go hungry He feeds us. Rather than let us fall into despair for our shame and guilt, He absolves us. He looks at us and remembers that we are dust. He has pity on us like a Father pities his children. And as surely as God promised Adam: “On the day that you eat of it, you will surely die,” so He promises His dearly beloved children, baptized in His name: “On the day that you eat of Him, that is, of Christ, you will surely live.” Amen.

1 Response to Homily for Trinity 7: "God's Last Word"

  1. ToddPeperkorn

    Good sermon, Paul. Thanks!

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