Posts tagged ‘Blood’

Nice, Turkey, and Baton Rouge

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Baton Rouge police block Airline Highway after a sniper kills three and wounds three officers.  Credit: AP Photo/Max Becherer

Death is grimly efficient.

In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve eat from the fruit of a tree about which God had said, “You must not eat…for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17).  By Genesis 4, death has already had its way as Cain kills his brother Abel.

That didn’t take long.

The grim efficiency of death has loomed large over these past few days.  First, word came from Nice, France last Thursday that 84 people had been killed when a terrorist drove a large, white paneled truck at high speeds into a crowd of revelers who were celebrating Bastille Day.  Then, on Saturday, we learned that around 290 people were killed in a failed coup against the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has now arrested over 6,000 people and has vowed to root out what he calls the “virus” that is plaguing his country.  Then, yesterday, tragedy hit Baton Rouge as three police officers were killed and three others were injured when a sniper ambushed and shot at the officers who had responded to a report of trouble near the Hammond Aire Plaza shopping center.

Three stories of death in nearly as many days.  And these come on the heels of another week before this last week that was also packed with three stories stories of death from Saint Paul, from Dallas, and, again, from Baton Rouge.  Yes, death is grimly efficient.

These are terrible times.  There was a time when weeks like these – with so many major stories of unrest and death – were nearly unthinkable.  But in the summer of 2016, weeks like these are becoming all too predictable.  Indeed, I can sometimes struggle with how to process all of these types of tragedies precisely because there are so many of these types of tragedies.

In processing this week’s worth of carnage, I would point to what I have already pointed to in the past.  After the tragedies in Baton Rouge, Saint Paul, and Dallas, I pointed people to the importance of being empathetic with those who grieve, of receiving Christ’s peace in the midst of unrest, and, most importantly, of remembering that death does not have the last word.  Christ does.

As I look back on this week of tragedies, all of these reminders still hold.  And yet, I wish I didn’t have to remind people of these reminders – again.

Even though I feel a little overwhelmed by so much death in such a short period of time, I am not particularly surprised by it.  After all, death, as Genesis 3 and 4 teach us, is indeed grimly efficient.  It works fast and it works tenaciously.  And it has no intention of giving up on its prey.

What is most striking to me about Abel’s death in Genesis 4 is that even though God condemned Adam and Eve to death because of their transgression against His command, it was their son, Abel, who first suffered under the fruit of their sin.  It who their son, who, ostensibly, did nothing particularly wrong who dies.  Indeed, the reason Abel’s brother Cain kills him is because he did something right.  He made an offering that was pleasing to God.  Cain became jealous of that offering and murdered him.

The first death in history, then, was that of an apparently innocent person.  This is why, when God finds out what Cain has done to his brother, He is furious and asks Cain, “What have you done?” which, interestingly, is the same question God asks Eve when she eats from His forbidden fruit.  God continues by answering His own question: “Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10).

Ever since that moment, the blood that cries out to God has been getting deeper and deeper as death has been spreading farther and wider.  Nice, Turkey, and Baton Rouge have now added their blood to Abel’s.

Finally, there is only one way to stem the flow of death and blood. The preacher of Hebrews explains:

You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:23-24)

Just like Abel, there was a man who was not only ostensibly innocent, He was actually innocent.  Just like Abel, this was a man who did what was pleasing in God’s sight.  And just like Abel, this was a man who had His blood spilled by those who were jealous of Him.  But Jesus’ blood, the preacher of Hebrews says, is better than Abel’s blood.  Why?  Because Jesus’ blood did what Abel’s blood could not.  Instead of just crying out, as did Abel’s blood, Jesus’ blood saved us.  By His blood, Jesus solved the problem of Abel’s blood…and Nice’s blood…and Turkey’s blood…and Baton Rouge’s blood.  For by His blood, Jesus said to death’s grim efficiency: “Your reign will end.  My blood will overtake all the blood that cries with a blood that can save all.”

In a week that has seen far too much blood and far too many tears, Jesus’ blood is the blood that we need.  For Jesus’ blood is the only blood that doesn’t wound our souls as we mourn loss; it mends our souls as we yearn for salvation.

July 18, 2016 at 5:15 am 2 comments

Sermon Extra – More Than Ceremonially Clean

Our world is full of need.  Approximately one in eight people in world lack access to safe, clean drinking water.  Every year, 15 million children die from hunger because they cannot get basic, nutritional meals.  A little closer to home, every night in the US, anywhere from 700,000 to 2 million people do not have a place to sleep.   Right now, somewhere around thirteen percent of men, aged 25 to 54, are jobless and cannot support themselves.  Basic needs – including those for water, food, shelter, and work – are going left unmet in our world and in our society.  And the consequences are tragic.  Everything from bankruptcy to depression to death can occur when needs go unmet.

In our text for this weekend from John 2, an urgent need quickly pushed its way to the forefront of a wedding celebration in a little town called Cana.  As I mentioned in my sermon, in this day, it was customary – and even mandatory – for wedding receptions to come with “open bars.”  That is, the groom was to provide as much wine for his guests as they desired.  But alas, apparently, the groom at this wedding was not much a planner.  Because the wine runs out.  And one of the social necessities of that day is left unmet.

Jesus’ mother, Mary, is mortified by this social faux pas.  And so, she says to her son, “They have no more wine” (verse 3).  At first, Jesus balks at Mary’s concern.  “Dear woman, why do you involve Me?” He asks, “My time has not yet come” (verse 4).  But His time quickly arrives as Jesus commandeers “six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing” (verse 6).  A couple of things are striking about this verse.  First, the number six is striking.  In Johannine literature, this number symbolizes imperfection.  And indeed, this number is used to describe the imperfect and embarrassing situation of running out of wine.  The second thing striking about this verse is the fact that the six stone jars are used for “ceremonial washing.”  The Greek word for this phrase is katharos, meaning, “clean.”  This word is used in spades in Old Testament literature to distinguish between those things which are “clean” and things which are “unclean.”  For instance, when God warns Moses, “You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean” (Leviticus 10:10), the word for “clean” is katharos. Thus, these jars are used by faithful Jews to make sure they remain ceremonially and spiritually clean according to Old Testament law.

But now, Jesus commandeers these jars for His purposes, that He may perform a sign to “reveal His glory” (verse 11).  And instead of filling them with water for ceremonial washing, He fills them with wine as a gift from His gracious hand.  Later, Jesus would fill another jar with wine and declare:  “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).  And this wine, which Jesus says is none other than His very blood, will have a katharos effect on us.  As the apostle John writes:  “The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).  The word for “purifies” is, once again, katharos. Thus, we no longer need large stone jars filled with water to wash us clean ceremonially, for we have the body and blood of Jesus to wash us clean spiritually and eternally.

There is an old spiritual which asks, “Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”  By faith, we may happily answer this question, “Yes.”  Take some time today to thank God that, by the blood of Jesus, you are more than ceremonially clean, you are spiritually clean.  And Jesus’ cleanness is all you need.  For Jesus’ cleanness leads to eternal life.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

June 21, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment


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