God is with us in Word and Sacrament

Sermon for Vespers at the Gottesdienst Oktoberfest Conference

Gottesdienst Oktoberfest

Pastors’ Conference Vespers

Ephesians 5:15-21


The days are evil. I hardly need to tell you that. You live it. You breathe it. It is around every corner. It is outside every window and in the reflection of all your mirrors. It seems to be everywhere but no where at once—inescapable and ever changing The days are indeed evil. This is evident.

It is no wonder, then, that the blessed Apostle warns us against drunkenness. Who wouldn’t consider drowning the days’ evil with wine and spirits? Which of us isn’t tempted to escape this vale of tears, to numb the pain of suffering with a dram of this or a bottle of that? Who here isn’t inclined to calm the nerves and soothe the conscience from the lingering anger of the past or the fear of what lay ahead? Who doesn’t long to forget this misery and remember it no more?

Brothers, the temptation to forget is strong. But do not give in to this temptation. Walk as those who are wise. For you are not fools. It is the fool who says in his heart that there is no God. You know there is a God. And more than that, you know who He is, for you know him by name. Your eyes have been opened and your consciences cleansed by the blessed washing of water combined with that name. You are wise, filled with the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, who has taken up residence within the temple of your bodies. You know who God is. You know what He has accomplished for you in time for all eternity. You know the goodness, mercy, and loving-kindness of God in Christ Jesus.

It is out of place, then, for the wise to be consumed by dissipation. Those consumed by dissipation have no hope. “They believe in nothing, care for nothing, seek to know nothing, interfere with nothing, enjoy nothing, love nothing, hate nothing, find purpose in nothing, live for nothing, and remain alive only because there is nothing they would die for” (Sayers, Letters, 97). They can see only what is in front of their faces, and to escape that they blur their vision so as to see nothing at all. This is a denial of the hope we have in Christ Jesus. It is a denial of his substitutionary sacrifice, the atonement, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

It is true that Solomon wrote: “give wine to those who are perishing.” But you are not perishing. For do you not know that since you are united to Christ in his death, you are united to him in his resurrection? Or in your zeal to forget have you forgotten this also?

No, the antidote to the days’ evil is not in forgetting it. It is not in putting it out of your mind, in numbing your pain, or soothing your anguish with what you consume, and in so doing, being consumed by sloth and dissipation. Rather, the antidote to the days’ evil is in remembering. Remembering not that the days are evil, for this is evident. It is in remembering that the God and Father of us all is good. That in Christ Jesus, God is not angry with you, but has turned his anger away. For God’s righteous wrath has been consumed in the sacrifice of Christ. It is in remembering that, in Christ, God has overcome the days’ evil, and given you courage for the day, and hope for tomorrow. To remember that we are being conformed into the image of his Son. To remember that nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. To remember that He will never leave you or forsake you. To remember that all things work together for good for those who love him. You love him, and he does all things well.

So drown the days’ evil, not by being filled with wine and strong drink, with spirits that you consume and bring dissipation, but be filled with the Holy Spirit, who by the Word and promise of Christ, dwells in you richly and consumes you with the riches of our Lord’s grace and mercy, and produces a fruit of love, joy, peace and forbearance a hundred fold.

Remind one another of these things. Address one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Do not neglect to meet together to encourage one another, helping those who are struggling to sing to sing, and when you struggle to let the strength of their voices to strengthen yours. And Give thanks. Make thanksgiving for all that the Lord has done and is doing according to his mercy and by his gracious promise—even the crosses he gives to conform you to his Son’s image. Do it out loud; write it down that the days’ evil will be overcome by the goodness of the Lord. And submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Go to confession. Seek the mutual consolation and conversation of the brothers, not to wallow in distress, but for encouragement in the midst of it. You are not alone. For our Lord puts the solitary in a home, and he has made you members of His. And know this, that the Spirit that abides in you, intercedes for you with sighs too deep for words. Yes, the days are evil. But the Lord is good, and his steadfast love endures forever. Amen.


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