1Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
In the name of + Jesus.
In Sunday’s Holy Gospel, we heard Jesus rebuke the disciples for trying to keep parents from bringing their infant babies to Jesus. You can read the sermon here. We were invited to consider how we have likewise sinned, in allowing many things to keep us from bringing our children on the Lord’s Day to hear the Lord’s Word. After all, that is where He has promised to be, and where they are able to receive the blessings of Jesus. Thankfully, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, with repentance and faith, there is forgiveness of sins. And this forgiveness of sins is not only for those children, but for us adults, who have fallen short. In other words, regardless of our age, we all rely on the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. We all rely on the mercy of our heavenly Father. We’re all children of God by faith!
And yet, with repentance comes a new heart, and a Spirit that desires to live as a new man or woman in Christ. Repentance doesn’t say, “Oh well, there’s nothing I can do, at least I’m forgiven,” as if the rest of life is lost. On the contrary, repentance says, “I have sinned; thank God I’m forgiven. Now create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me; I want to live as God’s child.”
And this is where Psalm 1 is so helpful. You see, must of us that fall into the societal trappings of treating the Divine Service as an option, don’t start by doing it intentionally. It happens over time, slowly, as one sin grows into repeated sin, and then we find it difficult even to call our absence in the Divine Service a sin at all.
The Psalm shows us that first, a man will walk with the wicked. And walking, as you know, is a sort of casual relationship. You can walk and talk, but the conversation will be ending soon. And if it’s the wicked with whom you are walking, this implies that you’re dabbling with those who do not desire Christ and His righteousness. This is the first step. In your walking with the wicked, you can’t seem to detect any measurable harmful side effects. Sure, you were missed in Church, but one week absent can’t do too much damage, can it?
But did you notice how quickly you’ve fallen into Satan’s trap, and begun to look for a reason not to be in the Divine Service. You’re trying to justify sin; to say that it’s okay. You’re asking, “When is it acceptable to be absent?” But the question we ask in repentance and faith is, “What must I do to be there?”
What happens, is that walking turns to standing, and we begin to linger in the habits and behaviors of those who do not share our understanding of Christ and our dependence on His Word. The Psalm calls it “standing with sinners.” And once we’ve gotten into the habit of standing with them, it doesn’t take much to push us a bit further, and now we sit with them. In other words, we remain with them, outside of the church, and somehow think that nothing has changed.
But the Lord’s Word hasn’t changed:
· “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Ex. 20:8; Deut. 5:15).
· “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
· “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31).
· “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
The Psalm says it this way: “Blessed is the man…(whose) delight is in the instruction of the LORD, and on his instruction he meditates day and night.”
Why do we seek to justify our sin? Why do we look for a reason to think that it is okay to allow anything to keep us—or our children—from coming to the Divine Service? Why do we allow Satan to trick us into believing that our faith can remain strong when it is not fed by the Means of Grace?
Thankfully, the answer is simple. Repent; every one of us. And with repentance, trust that your sins were nailed to the cross with Christ, and have been forgiven by the Father. But then, in repentance and faith; having a desire to live as God’s child, and to put off the trappings of this sinful and broken world, plant yourselves—and your children—on the firm foundation of Christ and His Word, and keep them there.
For to the one who is planted firmly in the Word of Christ, the Psalm promises: “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all he does, he prospers.”
Living as a baptized child of God means trusting His Word. It means that we do not try to justify our sin; we simply confess it. It means that we know our sin will not damn us; for Christ has brought us forgiveness. But it also means, that in repentance and faith, when we see where we have fallen, we will not give up the fight and give in to the ways of this world. On the contrary, knowing that we’re God’s own children, who depend on His Word for forgiveness, life, and salvation, we will do whatever we can to remain in His Word, to be present in the Divine Service, and to have our children grow up like trees that are planted by streams of living water.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Lord, I love the habitation of Your house and the place where Your glory dwells. In the multitude of Your tender mercies prepare my heart to enter Your house, to receive Your gifts, and to worship and confess Your holy name; through Jesus Christ, my God and Lord. Amen (LSB, inside front cover).