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Third Sunday in Lent – Oculi
“No Vacant Houses”
St. Luke 11.14-28; Exodus 8.16-24; Ephesians 5.1-9
24 March 2019
Rev. Philip Meyer, Pastor Emeritus
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
Many urban areas have lots of empty houses, abandoned perhaps because the loss of jobs or because they have become unlivable. It’s a problem. They bring squatters, drug dealers, and breed crime. We want families in these houses who will take care of them and make our communities stable and safe.
When Jesus cast out a demon which had made a man mute, some accused him of being in league with the prince of demons. They called him an ally of Beelzebul. Stupidly they said that Jesus was allied with Satan to cast out Satan and his cohorts. In casting out this demon which had caused a man to be mute Jesus makes it clear that he is the strong man who overcomes Satan and his legions.
Spiritually speaking there are “No Empty Houses.” When you were born the house of your soul was already occupied. Our baptismal liturgy makes it clear as the first thing the pastor speaks is the exorcism, “Depart, O unclean spirit and make way for the Holy Spirit.” Christ is speaking through the pastor. Christ is casting out the demons.
When you were baptized God the Holy Spirit cleaned your spiritual house of the demons, that is, he applied Christ’s death and resurrection to you and you were liberated from the oppression of sin, death, and hell. The Holy Trinity took up residence in you. You are “under new ownership” so to speak. Those who confess a decision theology, that is, inviting Jesus into one’s life, simply do not understand the doctrine of original sin. They mistakenly believe that one’s spiritual house is born vacant and one can choose whom he wants to live in his house. They do not understand that Satan and his horde are already living there.
You must realize that you will always be under attack by Satan who seeks to move back into your spiritual house. Evil spirits do not go away willingly. Jesus says they are always looking for a home. Some of you might remember the song by Brook Benton about the boll weevil, an insect that could wipe out a cotton crop in no time. The boll weevil spots a cotton field and he asks to move in. “Gotta have a home, Gotta have a home” is the recurring verse. The boll weevil soon brought all of his family and friends along and the farmer is ruined. At the end the farmer who let him in has lost everything because he let him live in his field.
Listen to the warnings that the Apostle Paul gives in today’s Epistle reading! He warns you not to compromise with evil because doing so endangers your spiritual house. Jesus warns that the evil spirits would love to come back into your clean-swept house and begin redecorating!
Today is Oculi Sunday, Latin for “My eyes.” “My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.” [Ps. 25.15, 2] Paul invokes your calling as a child of light [Eph. 5.8] “In your light do we see light” says the Psalmist [Ps. 36.9b]. After a person has been baptized a candle is presented to the baptized with the words:
“Receive this burning light to show that you have received Christ who is the Light of the world. Live always in the light of Christ, and be ever watchful for His coming, that you may meet Him with joy and enter into the marriage feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom, which shall have no end.” [LSB, p. 271]
Paul warns you not to invite redecorators into your clean-swept house! Sexual immorality is the target of his words. Christians of his day lived in a very sexually immoral world. So do we. Our society has become increasingly hostile to those who try to live sexually pure lives. We are not only bombarded by sexually explicit ads and images, but we are also bombarded by those who accuse Christians of promoting “hate speech” and actions against those who do indulge in these sins. Christians are urged to redecorate their souls with affirmations of that which God has clearly condemned in his Word. Our state legislature has wrestled with a so-called hate speech bill. A laundry list of groups that want protected status was defeated—for now. Few have made the connection between listing those things which God has condemned and our speech as the Christian Church. It could end up being a crime to speak out against sexual perversion from this pulpit or any other pulpit. It has happened in Canada where violators can be jailed. It may happen here.
“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience,” writes Paul. Empty words are some of the weapons that Satan uses. God will indeed judge those who promote and do these things. God can brush them all aside with his finger. We hear Jesus use that term in the Gospel to describe his casting out of Satan. It reminds us that God sometimes uses his “holy arm” to dismiss his enemies, but here it is his finger, the same finger that Moses used in performing the destructive miracles of judgment on Egypt. There will be consequences for the sons of disobedience. But you are not numbered among them! You are a child of the Light. You belong to Christ!
Writing to Timothy Paul said:
“This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith. . . ” [1 Tim. 1.18-19a]. Paul knew firsthand about the devastation of shipwreck, having been involved in three of them [2 Cor. 11.25]. Train wrecks and plane wrecks come to mind as contemporary parallels. The devastation that people experience for a life of immorality quite often results in total destruction. “Live as children of light!”
Yet, Paul also wrote in this context:
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” [Eph. 5.1-2] There is no confusion here. He is pointing us to Christ who forgave his enemies out of love. We are to live in love and forgiveness but we are not to approve what God has condemned. That is not love for the sinner because it does not warn him of his sin and the wrath of God. Our society may not listen but Christians should not be reluctant to speak the truth for the sake of the neighbor. We are to walk as the children of light, which we are by the grace of God. There are those who will continue to live in the darkness, but you live in the light because you are children of Light.
For the Christian this life is a constant battle with the forces of darkness which seek to take up residence again in your house. Yet, be confident because Christ lives in you, especially in the Sacrament of the Altar. On that yellow card in the pew you will find that said exactly along with other salutary words to remind and strengthen your faith and your life as a child of light. “I live, and yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” [Gal. 2.20] He is the strong one who has bound your enemy. He will guard you and protect you!
In the Name of the Father and of the ☩ Son and of the Holy Spirit.