Lent 3, 2019

(The Annunciation)

The Epistle – Ephesians 5:1-14

The Gospel – St. Luke 11:14-28

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

+

 

Today we celebrate the third Sunday in Lent. However if you are thinking way ahead…..not to Easter, not to Pentecost or the Ascension, but to a much later date…. Let’s say, 9 months from now…about the time it takes to conceive and bear a child….you will have in mind the Nativity of our Lord or Christmas.

 

We will not hurry Christmas up here today as time already goes much too fast in this life. 

Today we will consider the lessons for Lent. Yet we should keep in mind at least as we do Morning and Evening Prayer tomorrow that it is approximately at this time that the Angel Gabriel announced to the Blessed Virgin that she would conceive and bear a son and call Him Emmanuel. ….God with us.

 

We can consider ourselves fortunate that this day falls in the Lenten season, though in a weekday….for in this Annunciation lies the message of salvation for us.

 

The Collect prayer for tomorrow is this: “O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts; that, as we have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an angel, so by his cross and passion we may be brought unto the glory of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

 

There is no greater message…no greater news than to hear again and again the saving work of God, who has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ…come to us…died on a Roman Cross and then rise again from the dead for our justification.

 

He pours His grace into our hearts, so that we can know Him, and love Him and follow Him.

 

The message of an angel to a young girl is how we come to know about this great and wonderful news of God, Emmanual…God  with us.

 

So also by His cross and passion we are brought unto the glory of His resurrection….and ours on the last day.

 

 

No greater message to keep a hold of especially in Lent as the contemplation of sin dominates our thoughts and the reason why Jesus had to come in the first place was precisely because of sin.

 

There is great power in that message. There is great power in the God who sent a messenger…an angel to tell a young, poor virgin girl that the Holy Spirit of God would overshadow her and that she would conceive and bear a son….that she would be a virgin, and remain a so until she delivered the Christ child.

 

There is great power in the fact that the cross and resurrection of Jesus are the instruments of our redemption.

 

A strange and yet powerful way to save people…by dying for them. 

The other person, the recipient, not having to do anything…just receive the gift by faith.

 

…yet the other strange act here is rising to life again to conquer death.  Dying in order to bring life.

 

It does away with any confusion….for in the resurrection, the power of God is demonstrated beyond all doubt. 

 

This same power is shown to us today in the Gospel. Not only in the miracle of Jesus exorcising a demon from someone…but even in the words of Christ when answering opponents and detractors.

 

 

 

 

Those concerned about the unforgivable of unpardonable sin…the blaspheming of the Holy Spirit, here we have it today in this account.

 

Jesus casts out a demon and some immediately say, that Jesus is doing it by some demonic source. He is casting out demons by tapping into demonic or satanic power.

 

Most pagan exorcists dealt with the removal of demons by magical incantations and formulas.

 

“Rabbis even into the second century still accused Jesus and Jewish Christians of using sorcery to achieve the miracles they were performing.” [1]

 

Beelzebul” is related to the name of the pagan god called “Baal-zebub” (read about) in 2 Kings…”[2]

 

This is a common Jewish name for Satan.

 

So when you think about it, this is a serious charge. The glorious power of releasing someone from demon possession is being mocked and attributed to ….a demon…

 

…the prince and chief of demons himself….which makes no sense…as Jesus points out.

 

Luke 11:17–20 “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. [18] And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?

“For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. [19] And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out?”

 

….In other words, be careful about how you describe what I’m doing here.

 

Some of the people around also must have performed exorcisms or seen it done and their methods probably looked more magical than Jesus’ methods…so they had better consider what they are accusing Jesus of.

 

Jesus says, Therefore they will be your judges. [20] But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (ESV)

 

 

 

If we are in Lent and we are fasting and spending more time on our sins and trespasses against God, then this Epistle and Gospel lesson today have to be telling us something…. giving us something to hold on to.

 

Giving us something to apply to make the season or the practice more meaningful and transformative.

 

We have seen here that there is great power in the lessons we hear today. And when the power of God is emphasized in Scripture, we should take notice.

 

We tend to live very much convinced that we have power within ourselves. We as Americans, in particular, are very much used to using the power of our minds and of our freedoms and ingenuity to get things done.

But we really should see the source behind that power. In all things, it is the power of God that is the source of all that we accomplish.

 

It is by the power of God that the world was created.

It is by the power of God that sin is taken away.

It is the power of God that gives us eternal life.

 

God saved the Israelites at the Red Sea as they escaped the horrible conditions of Egypt.

 

Psalm 106:8

 

            [8] “Yet he saved them for his name's sake, that he might make known his mighty power.” (ESV)

God did it so that He might make known His mighty power. He did it so that they would recall over and over that they certainly did not escape from Egypt on their own strength and in their own time.

 

He did it so that they would recall over and over again that they certainly did not part the waters…and allow them to pass through and then close the waters down …millions of gallons slamming down and crushing and drowning Egyptian chariots and horsemen.  

 

The message we hear at the time of the Incarnation …from that announcement to Mary … is the Gospel.

 

Paul says in his letter to the, Romans 1:16

 

 

 

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (ESV)

 

The Gospel is the power of salvation to all of us who believe. We enter Lent as believers. We commit to activities that will bring a greater awareness of our sins as believers.


We hope to emerge from Lent greater believers.

 

Yet the time of Lent is one that can create problems for us as well. Despair. Disillusionment. Failure.

 

 

 

 

The exact things that are the hardest for us to quit or leave behind or cut back on…the most destructive things that affect body and soul are what we should be addressing in Lent.

 

If we do that well, the strain of the pressure or the guilt or the addiction or even slipping back into it from time to time can be disheartening.

 

We are to let the contemplation of sin drive us down and then the contemplation and… the reality of God’s power of grace lift us up again. ..to hear the forgiveness message.

 

To hear the pardon message.

 

Jesus adds this statement today.

 

 

“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; [22] but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.”

 

It is a great work and desire of Satan to get us to fail, capitulate, give in, despair and ultimately deny the power of God.

 

Jesus here today, by this exorcism reminds us that He alone possesses that power.

 

Satan is the strong man. He is fully equipped with all kinds of evil designs to pull us away from Christ.

 

But as we see, Jesus is the stronger man. He overcomes him, takes away his armor and divides the spoils.

 

Satan is not destroyed by internal division within his kingdom of darkness. He is destroyed by the power of Christ.

 

Who is sent by the Father, armed with heavenly power.

 

Satan’s power was destroyed when Christ came into the world…at His incarnation.

 

His testing Christ was destroyed in the temptation in the wilderness.

 

His power of influence and sin was destroyed when Christ was sacrificed on the cross and all of the sin of the world was laid on Him.

 

His reign of eternal death was destroyed by the power of Christ’s resurrection.

 

And his accusations against us are destroyed by the power of Christ’s ongoing intercession.

 

The soul of the impenitent sinner is where satan resides. It is his stronghold. Fortress.

 

He is only unseated from that strong hold by the power of Christ, regenerating it, renewing it and taking all of our weaknesses and purging them from us and turning us unto Christ for all of our needs.

 

The way to hold to the power of God and keep oneself unspotted from satan’s power is to hear and follow the words of St. Paul today in the Epistle.

 

Paul tells us these things for a reason. They are the power of God being worked in us for righteousness and holiness.

“Be imitators of God, as beloved children. [2] And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

 

Christ’s offering of Himself is like incense to God. It is a fragrance that is pleasing to Him.

 

“But, he says, sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. [4] Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place…” 

 

Out of place for those who are seeking the power of God.

 

 

 

Despite it being Lent and it being a time of darkness, Paul says, remember, “…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light [9] (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), [10] and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. [11] Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” 

 

Jesus’ miracles always call our attention to Him in some way. Today we are certainly called to notice that He has the power even over evil and satan.

 

And if we trust in that power we can then live freely in the pursuit of all of the things that will only be beneficial to us.

 

This should be a hearty desire of ours, as the collect says today.

We called on God to stretch forth His right hand of Majesty to be our defense against all of our enemies.

 

The right hand of God…another reference to His power. Take the knowledge of God’s power with you through the rest of Lent and let not only the knowledge but the reality of God’s power be yours this day and always.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

+



[1] Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Lk 11:14–16). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[2] Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Lk 11:14–16). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.