O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
"How to Read the Bible" Part V: The Confessed Word
"How to Read the Bible" Part V: The Confessed Word
Based on Mt. 16:13-20
Preached on August 24, 2014
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Fellow baptized saints, do you like movies? Do you know that climactic moment in a movie when the main character has finally realized he is in love, and he's even on his way to confess his love – when suddenly something terrible happens. Perhaps his love hears some awful truth about him, or a lie he told when he didn't think it mattered caught up with him right in that very moment.
You freeze in your seat as the two of them meet – muscles tense – hoping to hear him confess the truth. As the moment builds, you begin to climb out of your seat, as if you were the words that needed to come out of his mouth. But, of course, it's a movie – so he doesn't say what is on his heart. And what follows is that sad part of the story where you see the two lives of the people carrying on without those words of truth – you see the misery of what happens because someone didn't say what they wanted to say – those words they should've said.
You've seen this picture play itself out in classics like Romeo and Juliet. You've seen it in more modern stories. You've probably even seen it in your own life, because it captures some of our deepest questions: Does someone really love me – and if they do, will they declare it to me? (epic pause)
For weeks now we have been looking into "How to Read the Bible." We've learned God speaks through the Bible. That His answers to these deep questions are YES and YES in the Bible. Yes, someone really loves you. In fact, I made you. I made you in order to love you. And yes, I will declare it to you. I am declaring it! I want you to hear Me say it constantly, so that you may never doubt again. Because I am not a character that remains quiet. I am not One that holds back what is in my heart. I am the LORD, and I have spoken!
Why do we even have the Bible? Because God has spoken. Because the merciful heart of our God has burst forth into action when we were frozen in the misery of our lies. This life is not a movie – it is God's story, and in this story the main character spills the truth. More than that, He is the truth, and He enters the misery of our lies in order to declare them defeated. We have a God who speaks! Even now. Even today. The author of the Hebrews begins his book with this very truth: In many and various ways God spoke to the people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son. (pause) God's Word is a spoken Word. It is confessed. Declared. Proclaimed. It is to be said outloud. Read outloud.
This is our last principle in understanding "How to Read the Bible," that God's Word is a confessed Word. A living, moving Word that remodels the house and moves on to the next one. It not simply a word we take in – it is a word that comes forth again – in prayer – in confession of faith – in confession of sins. You see, God has not spoken His Word so that it may simply stay in your heart. As St. Paul says, The word is near you, in your heart and in your mouth. With the heart one believes and is justified and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. God's Word actually makes you open your mouth. It gives you a new song. It gives you faith, and that faith confesses.
Consider the liturgy. What just happened. We heard the Gospel reading, God spoke, and in response we confessed the creed. God said, "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God," and we responded "I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God." The Word of God is creating our confession. This is what He is doing throughout His Divine Service, shaping us with His Word. You and I get to loiter around in God's Word like an old tea bag – just steeping in the warm goodness that is His revealed Will. Soaking ourselves in His mercy – His inexplicable mercy.
But this is just it, isn't it? Indescribable, unfathomable, inscrutable, Paul says. I had to look that one up. There are many things in the faith, many things in God's Word that our human minds cannot comprehend, that cannot even be explained. They are simply confessed. They are Holy, True and Worthy of repeating. Worthy of SINGING! Because they are everything, your forgiveness, your salvation, your life. And to think that it is God's will that these powerful words which shape you, change you, wash you, feed you, are to break forth from your lips in a new song of redemption and praise is just that – inexplicable.
But let's take a look - at how this principle helps us understand today's text. Jesus asks His disciples who they say He is? And Peter replies, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!" So far, so good right?
But what about our Lord's response? "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." It almost sounds like what the Roman Catholic's teach, that Jesus intends to build His Church on the man Peter. Is that what this means? Is being built on Peter what will make the Church safe from the gates of hell? No, of course not, for that is not the rock that Jesus is speaking about. The Rock isn't Peter – it is the confession he made – his true statement about who Jesus is. This is what Christ promises to build His Church upon. This is what He promises He will use to create His kingdom and protect His people – the true Word of who He is, and what He has done on the cross. Nothing can prevail against this – not your greatest fear, nor the headlines of the news, nor your guilt, nor your shame, nor the devil, nor sin, nor death, not even the gates of hell can do anything about this truth – Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God and He speaks mercy to you. Confess it! For God's Word is a confessed Word.
This brings us all the way around back to what His Divine Service is all about. God is declaring His forgiveness to you. He is speaking His salvation upon you. And this does something to you. It teaches you that forgiveness. It molds you in that mercy, so that you may speak it to others. So that you may comfort those in the pew beside you – Jesus is God's Son, and He died for you – So that you may share it with those beyond these walls – Jesus is God's Son, and He knows you. Every Christian fears sharing Jesus with others, because they feel unprepared – but you are prepared! You confess to others all service long. Your own mouth speaks and sings the Gospel every time you are here. Confessing the truth about Jesus is not about having all the answers. Peter didn't have all the answers. It is about confessing the truth. Christ promises He Himself is speaking in that Word.
Well, it's that climactic moment. The main character is in the middle of confessing His love and it seems like something terrible happens. He gets crucified because our lies finally catch up with Him. You freeze in your seat – muscles tense – hoping to hear Him confess the truth. And you hear, "Father, forgive them, for they know what they do." You are forgiven. Confess it. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr