O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
That is Mine!
"That is Mine!"
Based on Psalm 31:15
Preached on Ash Wednesday - Feb. 22, 2012
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"My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!" - Psalm 31:15
Fellow baptized saints, those who strive to resist the Evil One, it is Ash Wednesday. Lent has begun. Forty days of struggle as we travel with our Lord towards the cross. Forty days of battling with our enemies, with sin, death and the devil. Are you ready for battle?
When I grew up I watched G.I. Joe. At the end of each show there was a little lesson about safety. The lesson concluded with the saying, "Now you know, and knowing is half the battle." Knowing is half the battle. Knowing the dangers. Knowing your enemies.
During the midweek services this Lent, we are going to get to know our enemies. We are going to try and get a better understanding of what they want us to do, and consider some of the ways they try to make us turn away from what God wants us to do. We are going to get the inside scoop on the Evil One and his minions, sort of like sending a spy into the enemy camp. Our spiritual espionage ought to give us a better idea of how to fight this enemy, and how to recognize when he is around.
This evening we have the first report back from our spy in the enemy camp. He overheard some of the enemy troops talking about how to make us humans get angry or become ill-tempered. Allow me to provide a summary of this report.
The Evil One has learned that when a human, like you or I, feels like we have a legitimate claim on something then there is an excellent opportunity for attack. Apparently, we humans become quite upset when our claims are denied. Regardless of what we claim as our own, it opens us up for attack. In fact, the more claims we make about our life, the more we open ourselves up to being ill-tempered, angry and the like.
Let me give you an example. Think of the way you feel when once you finally have a nice quiet evening to yourself, to do what you have been waiting to do, an unexpected visitor shows up at your door. Or take another example. You are finally meeting up with a friend you haven't seen in a while, and his/her talkative spouse shows up and takes over the whole gathering. You had been hoping for a little one-on-one time, but what you got was totally different.
When these things happen, what do you do? Certainly, you act charitable, but inside you grumble in your heart. You feel like your time has been stolen. Like that was your evening to spend alone. Or your time to spend with your friend. You have laid claim to time. You have declared in your heart, "My time is my own." And you open yourself to becoming ill-tempered, angry and the like.
This is exactly what the Evil One wants. He wants you to take ownership of time. To say that it belongs to you, and not to others. He wants you feeling as you start each day that you are the lawful possessor of 24 hours. He wants you thinking that when you go to work, your job is taxing your time. That when you carry out your religious duties you are generously donating of your precious time. He wants you to believe that your time is your personal birthright.
But the one thing the devil does not want, is for you to question this idea. He does not want you to wonder if your time is really your own, because he doesn't have a hope in defending the idea. For you and I cannot make or retain even one moment of time - nor do we believe that we control the sun and the moon. If we spend even one moment thinking about it, we realize that moment is a gift. The time you experience each day has been given to you out of pure grace, and with a special purpose in mind. As the Scriptures says, "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
The question must be asked then, aren't you committed to God and His service? If He appeared to you one day and asked you to do something for Him would you not agree wholeheartedly? Of course you would. And you would be relieved to know that all you had to do for Him was receive an unexpected visitor, or listen to a talkative person. Hear then what God wants for you. He has given you the time you use. It belongs to Him, and He wants you to use it for these others, for He has brought them into your presence on purpose. Listen carefully to them and try to learn why.
Now our report details other things that the Evil One wants us to claim as our own. More things which do not belong to us, but have been loaned out to us by God for us to use. Chief among these is our bodies. The Evil One wants us to take ownership of our bodies. He wants us to feel that we are free to use our bodies for whatever we want, no matter what damage it causes. After all, He whispers, "It's your body."
But much like with time, the Evil One does not want you to question this idea. He doesn't want you to wonder if your body is really your own, because he doesn't have a hope in defending the idea. For you and I do not choose our bodies - nor do we create them - nor could we raise them from the dead on the Last day. I suppose you could say we "own" them in the same way a teenager owns his father's car when he takes it out for an evening. The father is pleased to give his son the freedom, but the son understands that he is not free to crash the car. Your body belongs to God, and He wants you to use it in a pure way.
Now there is one more section of the report that is worthy of our attention this evening, and it has to do with the way we speak about what we own. Apparently, the Evil One wants to befuddle us with the way we speak about things that are "ours." Whenever we say "my____" he wants us to lay claim upon it. For example, "My boots" "my wife," "my father," "my master," "my country," "my God." The Evil One wants us to claim ownership of all of these things.
Even a child in the nursery can show the strategy the Devil is using. ‘My Teddybear' could be either, "the special recipient of my love and affection' or ‘the bear I can pull to pieces if I like.' The whole movement sounds a lot like, "It's my birthday and I'll cry if I want to." Ownership becomes an excuse for abuse.
And for this reason the Evil One laughs when we use this word ‘mine' in a possessive sense, because ultimately, we cannot truly speak it about anything. In the long run either God or the Evil One will say ‘mine' about all things that exist, and specifically each of us. Whether it is our time, or our bodies, or our souls, we shall see who they belong to, but certainly not to us.
Our entire report could leave us feeling weak and vulnerable if it were not for our powerful champion Christ. For if anyone could claim ownership of their time, it would be Christ. But Christ gave up His time for you. He welcomed your interruption to His nice quiet evening. He encouraged your intrusion upon his one-on-one get together. He wanted to be inconvenienced - even have His life end early, so that He might spend eternity with you. He was willing to trade His whole life here for an unending time with you in heaven.
And that is exactly what He has claimed. He has claimed you. He has looked on you in Holy Baptism and said, "You are mine." Christ owns you, your time, your body, your life. You are His treasured possession. You may have tried to take these things from Him, but you are forgiven. Washed. Justified. Sanctified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God.
And He has not taken possession of you, to "pull you into piece if He likes," but to be the special recipient of His love and affection. To rescue you from the hands of the Evil One, from the hands of the enemy who used to possess you. And yes, it did cost Him everything, even the ownership of His own time, body and life - but He gave it all that He might have you. This Lent, take one of the moments that God has given you to reflect upon what your Lord had to go through to have you as His own. Consider what He was willing to endure to redeem you, and free you from the hands of the Evil One. For while the Devil has plans to make you angry, your Lord has already won you peace.
Dearest brothers and sisters in Christ, you may not own anything, but Christ owns you. You are safe in His hands. Go in peace, and grumble no more. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr