Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we approach You with awe, wonder, and even some trepidation, cause us to gaze upon Your outstretched arms. Fix our vision upon the fact that You left heaven to meet us here on earth. Refasten our focus on how You come to meet us today with love and forgiveness and welcome—via Your word and the sacraments. And then our eyes will be opened to the joys and the peace of heaven—resting in Your embrace. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR LOVING SAVIOR!
TEXT: Hebrews 12: 18-24
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Road trip. Those words sound magical to American ears. Just getting into the car and driving to destination unknown is cathartic.—It gets rid of stress and replaces it with delicious adventure. By now, most of you have taken some sort of summer vacation. Hopefully it was restful and stress-free. And I’ll bet that you’ve already given some thought to another trip, perhaps that ultimate “trip of a lifetime” we all dream about. So, where would you go? What would you like to see? What kind of food would you treat yourself to? Would it be an adventure trip of climbing mountains and engaging in “extreme” sports? Would it be more laid back—nice hotels, a chauffer driven car for sight-seeing, and 4 star restaurants? Well, hopefully, some day you’ll actually take it!
You and I have a lifetime to plan such adventures. And quite frankly, it’s fun to daydream about them. Meanwhile, don’t overlook the trip you’re already on. Because you see, it is your lifetime! And today that’s what I want to talk to you about:
THE TRIP OF YOUR LIFETIME!
When the Israelites hurriedly left Egypt to escape from their slavery to Pharoah, they were excited. They knew they were going back to God’s promised land. What they didn’t know is that for almost all of them it would be the last trip they ever took. It should have taken 6 months or so to go across the Sinai desert. But, because they became apathetic in their faith and allegiance to God, it ended up taking 40 long years.
Now, when they started out, God, in a visible form, accompanied them. It must have been comforting to have God, hidden in the pillar of fire, out front leading the way, and also to have Him switch positions and serve as a rear guard when enemies pursued them. It certainly would make a huge impact upon me! But, over time, they began to take His awesome presence for granted. Then they arrived at Mt. Sinai where that visible fiery presence of God descended upon the mountain. God in perfect awesome majesty graced that granite mountain with Himself. Suddenly it was holy, so holy that no animal was allowed to even touch it, or it would die. Only Moses was permitted to go up to the summit and there God gave him the 10 commandments, written in stone by God’s almighty finger. It was scary stuff, that giving of the Law. Meanwhile, down below they became anxious, forgetful of God’s goodness is delivering them from slavery and they began to complain about it all. Finally comes their demand for a golden calf, an Egyptian symbol of their god Apis, and their orgy around that calf—all this while heavenly, fiery Perfection swirled above their heads from the mountaintop. You know the rest of the story. Human hubris, human pride and arrogance turned this ultimate road trip into a disaster. Many died then and there, many more perished along the way, and then when they reached the promised land and didn’t trust God to make good on His promise to actually give them that land, God sent them off into the desert for almost 40 years of wandering. With a couple of exceptions, everyone who left Egypt full of hope and promise, died during those wanderings. And they brought it all upon themselves because they gave themselves over to open, flagrant sin.
The writer to the Hebrews reminds his readers of all this in our lesson. “You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.’ The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, ‘I am trembling with fear.'”
This picture is a reminder of how life is without faith in God’s love and forgiveness. It is a reminder of how terrifying Your Trip of a Lifetime is without knowing that God’s Son has come to save you. Without God’s goodness to protect us; cancer, disease, anxiety and death stalk our steps. All this happens when we try to live apart from Him. We get lost on the way because our sinful pride prevents us from asking for, listening to, and following His directions.
Did you notice how that terrifying description began? The Hebrew’s writer really is doing a 180 degree turn from that ancient reality in this lesson. He begins: “You have not come.” Ah, so for the Christian that isn’t our fate in our lifelong journey. But, what is? Well, he goes on to tell us: “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men 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.”
“You have come.” Right now, present reality. You’ve come, you’ve entered the dwelling of God—the holy Christian Church. You and I look around throughout our lifelong journey and often wonder: “Where is God? Where is heaven? I just don’t see it! So, how can this writer say: “You have come.”?” Ah, that is the wondrous mystery of our faith! You see, God’s heavenly reality, the reality of blessed fellow saints, of angels, of sights beyond human words to describe, that reality is but the blink of an eye away from us this very day! No, we don’t physically see it yet, as our journey isn’t completed. But, from God’s vantage point we’re already in it. For you see, Christ has opened that portal for us. He was the mediator between us and God, between heaven and earth. And His blood, sprinkled down from the cross upon us for our sins has permanently marked the path. It has permanently paved the pathway into glory. Thus, it “speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” Abel was the first person killed by another human, his brother Cain. From Abel’s grave his blood cried out for justice and retribution. But Christ’s blood is far more weighty. It is the blood of God’s Son! And it cries out for mercy and forgiveness and peace!
Right this moment, all of us are embarked on a singular trip, the Trip of Your Lifetime. Will you get bored with it all? Will you stumble along the way? Will you walk off that pathway paved in blood because you think you know a shortcut? Will you take a few side trips and get yourself in trouble as a result? Folks, stick to the path. Trust your Savior. Enjoy the tranquil times and learn from whatever obstacles you might find along the way. Go forth with renewed confidence, too! Jesus is better than GPS! And most of all never forget: you’re almost there!