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Summary: A discussion of the Mysteries of the Church. The biggest mystery is forgiveness.

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September 8, 2002 Pentecost 16 “Forgiveness?”

Grace, peace, love and forgiveness are yours through Jesus Christ, our living and reigning God. Amen.

The Mysteries of the Church.

Have you ever heard someone, perhaps another pastor, one of your Sunday School teachers, or maybe me, talk about the Mysteries of the Church?

Usually when we think of the Mysteries of the Church, we think about things like:

The Immaculate Conception – How could Jesus really be born of the Virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit?

The Sacrament of the Altar – How does that bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Jesus Christ?

The Sacrament of Holy Baptism – How, with only water and the Word, can faith be given, even to a tiny infant?

The Resurrection – How could Jesus die, be buried, and yet be alive three days later, be risen from the dead?

There are many other unknowns throughout the Bible that might be called mysteries.

· How did Noah get all those animals on the Ark?

· How did the water of the Nile become blood?

· How did the Red Sea part allowing the Israelites to cross on dry land?

· How did the millions of people and animals survive for 40 years wandering in the desert on their way to the Promised Land?

· How did Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego survive in that fiery furnace?

· How did Balaam’s donkey talk?

· How did shadow of the sun go backwards ten steps? (That’s from the story of Hezekiah in the Book of 2 Kings if you were wondering or if you want to look it up.)

That list could go on and on.

These mysteries, these unknowns, these profoundly non-intellectually understood stories, which reveal the power, the might, the awesomeness of our Creator.

Then there are the accounts of the miracles of Jesus.

· Healing the sick.

· Giving sight to the blind.

· Making the lame to walk.

· Feeding over 5000 people with just five loaves of bread and two small fish.

· Driving out demons.

· Walking on water.

· Raising people from the dead.

Yes, my friends, these mysteries of the Church, these mysteries of the Bible, these mysteries of the life of Christ are innumerable.

Today, I want to talk about a different mystery. It’s probably the mystery that confounds me more than any other, perhaps because it’s a mystery that affects me more personally than any of the others.

That’s the mystery of forgiveness.

If you followed along with the reading of the lessons for this morning, you might think that the message for this morning should be more along the line of confrontation than forgiveness.

In the OT text for this morning, the prophet Ezekiel is picking up on a theme that was established early on in his days as a prophet. That is, that he has been appointed by God to be a watchman.

He has been given a gift by the Lord to talk to the people of Israel. The people that he is addressing are his fellow captives in Babylonia.

You have to understand that Ezekiel is a lot like the prophet Jeremiah. What he had to say to the people was not what they necessarily wanted to hear.

But that’s where his title of watchman comes into play.

I’m sure most of you kids won’t know anything about this, but back in the 1960’s we had, in our country, a Department of Civil Defense, perhaps a forerunner to the Department of Homeland Security. My dad was the head of the Civil Defense team for Sycamore, IL. (That’s because he had been in the military and still owned a uniform that fit.)

On top of the fire station in our little town, there was an air-raid warning siren. It was there to notify the town if we were under attack by incoming nuclear missiles. It also warned us of tornados and other weather related dangers. (I think they may have turned in on when the football team won as well.)

In the old days, back in Jesus day and before, prior to things such as “early warning radar” and NORAD and satellites, the way that towns and cities would protect themselves was by erecting a wall around the outside of the city.

That was great, but they still needed to have someone to keep an eye out just in case the enemy decided to attack. That job of course was given to the watchman. It was the most important job in town. This watchman had in his control, the life and death of the people of the city.

If he did his job, the people could be prepared. They could be prepared to fight, to put up resistance.

They could perhaps overcome their foes. But, if he were to decide to take a little nap, if he decided to sneak away and take a day off, or if he decided that the threats were probably more perceived than real so that he would ignore the movements in the bushes….well, then the city could be overrun and the people could all be killed.

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