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Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

August 18, 2019 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Verse: Hebrews 12:1–12:3

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
August 18, 2019
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Pentecost 10
Fix Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Consequently, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses let us lay aside every impediment and the sin that so easily entangles us, and run the race that is set before us with endurance.

Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Yes! Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners so that you might not grow weary or faint-hearted. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

The Bible is unlike any other book you will ever read because it is not really book at all – at least not in the usual sense of the word. It is not a morality tale, or collection of people’s religious experiences from back in the day. And there is this vital difference as well!

Whereas all literature finds its source in the mind of man; Sacred Scripture proceeds from the mind of God! It is the Voice of God, put into human language, to be spoken aloud by lips of clay – the very thing we are assembled to do today.

We must understand this if we want to hear Scripture aright. If we hope to obtain every last morsel of the gladness it imparts to sinners groaning beneath the burden of their misdeeds. Now that is a hard life! To suffer the many symptoms of sin without relief; without the Balm of Gilead to revive us each day. But a life we need not suffer because Jesus gladly endured the cross for us, and we are safely baptized into him.

He who assumed human flesh “for us men and for our salvation” also incorporated our flesh into himself as we heard in our epistle 2 weeks ago. Namely: that our true and genuine life is presently hidden with Christ inside of God. And that when Christ who is our life appears, then we also will appear with him, in glory! (Col. 3:1-4)

No. The Bible is not a story book. Nor is today’s epistle a history lesson, but a prayer instead. One that these 1st century Christians prayed each week as a part of their Eucharistic Liturgy.

Yes, every Sunday this great cloud of witnesses that we heard in today’s (and last week’s) epistle was rehearsed in the ears of God’s people. But it was more than just talk. It was (and still is) the preaching of the full gospel by God’s people to the Joy of the church, and the positive dismay and dread of the devil!

And learn today that there are two elements to Divine Service. The sacred texts given from heaven, contained in the Bible and appropriated by the church for her worship. And the sacred actions: blessing, breaking, giving, eating, drinking and living the New Life that the flesh of Jesus kindles within us.

We learn this from Jesus who is the church’s True Liturgist. (Hebr. 8:2) Who combined sacred words with sacred actions when he stretched out his arms on the cross and prayed the 22nd Psalm “my God my God why have you forsaken me?”

We do the same here every Sunday. We pray divine words and make the divine movements prescribed by our Lord himself: “Take eat this is my body, Take drink this cup is the New Testament in my blood.”

And know this, Beloved, that what is said about the saints of old will one day be said about us. too. “By faith they chose to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” (Heb. 11:25) They worshiped God, lived in their baptism and ran the race that was set before them each day with endurance. And seeing the promises of heaven afar off, they embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims upon the earth.

And so we are, O Fellow Travelers, Strangers and Pilgrims upon the earth bound for a City whose architect and builder is God.

Yes, let us learn to understand Scripture aright.

When St. Paul admonished these worshipers to “look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” he was not speaking figuratively --- but was exhorting the worshipers to look to the altar in front of them, where the flesh of Jesus resides under the forms of bread and wine, and from where he is given to God’s people. Let us do the same today. Let us turn our eyes to Jesus on the altar: before us, and for us.

Let us gaze upon the “author and finisher” of our faith. That is to say the one who created us in the beginning; and who redeems us at the end; thereby bringing all things together in himself; even as he continues to nourish us with his own flesh unto eternal life. That is what is meant by the dismissal you receive each Sunday: “Now may this true body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve you in the true faith unto eternal life.”

Among the many judgments the LORD speaks against the false prophets in today’s Old Testament lesson is this: “ … if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from their evil deeds.” (Jer 23:21-22)

Today we are standing in “the council of the Lord.” And as often as we, “eat this bread and drink this cup” (1 Cor. 11:26) we proclaim his sin-forgiving, strength-restoring and hope-renewing cross until he comes again in glory --- and we can never be the same again!

Indeed! Every week, with each successive liturgy you change.

The congregation changes.

God is at work here! Forming us into the image of the Son until we should all: attain to the unity of the faith, to the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4:13)

To that end our Lord calls us to continually repent the sins which so easily beset us. To wash our minds out with the soap of the gospel, and to run the race set before us with patience; because the race does not go to the swift (Eccles. 9:11), but to the patient.

The example we have for this most satisfying of all human endeavors is our Lord himself who, “For the joy that was set before him endured the cross, scorned its shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners so that you may not grow weary or faint-hearted.” (Hebr. 12:2-3)

This is our life! A life of faith and patient endurance by which we will safely endure the Storm of the Lord that is yet to come.

The cultural narrative of the day is filled with vociferous demands for justice. Well justice is coming. But justice like no high-minded demonstrator ever dreamed. Jesus is coming! Who is justice incarnate!

And he will impose his justice on everyone living and the dead! And the only safe place to stand when that happens is where you are standing today. In the council of the Lord. This holy altar, this holy faith confessed through the ages and still professed by us here today.

“And so,” in the words of St. Paul, “let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is, but encourage one another, especially as you see the Day draw near.” (Heb. 10:25)

Peace to all in Christ.