Wash Me - Cleanse Me
September 1, 2018 Pastor: Rev. George Fyler
Verse: Psalm 51:7
Psalm 51:7 ~ Wash Me … Cleanse Me
Pentecost 15-B, Proper 17- CELC, Cleveland, OH - 9/2/2018
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!(Psalms 51:2 —Introit)
Given the way sin, death, Satan and hell came on stage in Eden’s Garden (Eve and Adam ate the forbidden fruit!)—Jesus’ teaching in today’s gospel jolts the Pharisee’s trust in tradition’s that will make you and keep you clean, i.e., “undefiled.”(Mk. 7:15)After all, God Himself differentiated between clean and unclean animals, and gave specific dietary laws for His people. The“clean hands and pure heart” axiom of the traditions was built on false correlations. Like Shakespeare’s Lady McBeth, meticulous scrubbing could not erase the “damned spot” that exposed the guilty conscience.
Sin and death are not found in food—gifts of God’s good creation. Neither food nor drink can defile or cleanse you, damn you or save you. Neither fasting nor feasting make you righteous before God. But the way in which God’s creation is received and used—the way in which your food and drink are consumed whether in faith and love, or in idolatry and unbelief—is measured by the Word of the Lord.
All is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. All is to be received from the hand of God with thanksgiving. All things are lawful to those who trust in Him, all foods are clean to the one who eats and drinks in faith. In this way the gifts of God are regarded and used in accordance with His holy Word.
Faith is content, satisfied and happy with what God has given, be it much or little; faith is happy for self and neighbor with whatever God has given. You are not afraid to enjoy what is yours in the freedom of such faith. You are not angered by what you do not have, as though your life depended on it. By faith, you are neither angry nor afraid of anything, but at home and at peace in your Father’s world: a beloved child in His house, and a free citizen of His Kingdom.
So, what’s the problem? Your enemy is not flesh and blood: not your neighbor’s flesh and blood, nor the flesh and blood of any critter, fruit or vegetable. Not food and drink, but the devil is your enemy, with all of his assaults and accusations. He tempts you to sin, then drives you to despair. Your sinful heart is not only vulnerable to his attacks, but conspires with the devil and the sinful world against you. This requires washing and cleansing!
As a child of Adam and Eve—who ate, not according to God’s Word in faith, but contrary to His Word in doubt and disobedience—your own sinful heart does not fear, love, and trust in God, nor heed His commandments. You are not at peace thinking yourself safe and secure, because you do not believe in Him alone; you do not believe His promises or trust His providence. Your need for washing and cleansing are obvious to your heavenly Father!
You cannot protect, rescue, or save yourself from this turmoil and unrest, because you are the problem. Not the Lord, nor His creation, but you are your own worst enemy! Because your heart is not right with God, your body and life in the world are not righteous and holy, either. You do not receive and use God’s good creation rightly, but despise it on the one hand, and make an idol out of it and worship it on the other hand. You also sin with and against your neighbor in your thoughts, words, and actions. You hurt him and speak ill of him. You take his stuff, you covet his spouse and children. You burn with envy and jealousy, hatred and lust, because you lack the wisdom and understanding of God. Do you see your sinful stain—your “damned spot”?
Consequently, you do not know how to really live and you are not able to “possess the land”(Deut. 4:1) or live in it, although God Himself has given you all good things by His grace. You do not see or trust what He is doing for you, so you stumble about from one sin to another, and finally into death.
Of yourself, you do not have ears to hear; nor can your heart or mind comprehend the words of David and God’s good gifts.“Wash me … Cleanse me … Whiter than snow … Clean heart … Renew a right spirit … Joy of your salvation … willing spirit.” (Psalm 51)
Despair not, listen to Christ Jesus. Hear what He says, even before it begins to make sense to you. For His Word actually opens your ears—it gives you ears to hear, and opens them to His Voice—and opens your heart and mind to understand what He says, and to believe and trust in Him.
Here He faithfully and regularly calls you into His house to catechize you, in order to make you His disciple, His Christian, by grace through faith in His Word. By this catechesis, as by your Baptism into Him, He has made of you a new creation. Behold, in Him all things are made brand new. All things are cleansed and sanctified by the Word that He speaks to you. So, listen to Him, and hear Him.
Out of your own sinful heart proceed all kinds of evil things.(Mk. 7:20-23)But out of His great heart of love flow grace, mercy, peace, forgiveness, life, and salvation.
Jesus came forth from the Father and become flesh and blood for you and for all people. He has entered into and become a part of His Creation, by His conception and birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary (by His Word and Holy Spirit). What is more, He has redeemed and sanctified all flesh, and all of creation, in Himself—in His Body, born of Mary, crucified and risen.
Not only has He atoned for all your sins, in order to forgive you, by His sacrificial death, by the shedding of His holy, precious blood; but in Himself, in His life in the flesh, and in His bodily Resurrection from the dead, He has established faith and love for you, and set things right with God and man, both inwardly and outwardly, now and forever.
All of this is what He gives to you, in giving you Himself, by and with His Word of the Gospel, and by and with His own Body and His Blood in this Holy Supper.
His Word thereby declares you to be washed and clean: holy and righteous before Him, in the presence of His God and Father in heaven. For He cleanses and sanctifies your heart and mind, body and soul, by the free and full forgiveness of all your sins. As He has done by the washing of water with His Word, and as He daily continues to do by the catechesis of His Word and the preaching of His Gospel.
That is the Truth, with which you are girded(Eph. 6:14): That all of your sins are forgiven. That you are holy, innocent, and pure. That your body, soul, and spirit are blameless in Christ Jesus, your Savior.
That is your righteousness, or, more precisely, His righteousness(Eph. 6:14), which is credited to you, by which your heart is guarded from attack, so that the flaming darts of the devil cannot pierce you.
That is your perfect peace with God in Christ, in which you proceed in love for your neighbor, in your place, your vocations; so that you possess the land that God has given you.
Now, by faith take up this shield(Eph. 6:16) by giving heed to the Word of Christ: by listening to Him, and by confessing what He has spoken. Wear the helmet of salvation(Eph. 6:17) by filling your head, your thoughts and conversations, including your internal “self-talk,” with your Savior’s Voice.
Do not simply attempt to ignore the devil’s lies —as though you could stop him by sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting at him—but rather fill your ears with the Truth of Christ Jesus. Soak up the Scriptures … the preaching … the Divine liturgy and the hymns of the Church.
Then take up the Sword of the Spirit(Eph, 6:17) by speaking as you have heard, and by the prayer and intercession of the Word of God. Ask for the mercies of the Lord, for the gifts of the Spirit, and for the heart and mind of Christ. Ask, knowing that your Father hears and answers your prayer, according to His Word and promise in His beloved Son.
Intercede also, for this ministry and preaching of the Gospel—and specifically for your pastor in Christ, that he might continue to wield the Sword of the Spirit for the benefit of the Church on earth, for you and for your neighbors.
This ministry and preaching of Christ comes to you from outside of you. It comes from the Lord your God, who loves you. Note: it comes to you from Him, in order to set you free from sin and every evil; to feed you with a consecrated Food and Drink, which are the flesh and blood of Christ Himself.
Here is a holy Food, which not only enters your mouth and your stomach, but into your very heart and soul, your mind and your body, in order to cleanse you within and without, to heal you and give you life, both now and forever. By God’s grace, washing and cleansing are always available here!
Amen. S. D. G.