5th Sunday in Lent

March 17, 2013


The Handout

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:8-14 ESV)

We call this building a ‘Church’ but for today we are going to rename it the Department of Eternal Security. We call what we do here ‘worship’ but for today we are going to rename it ‘a handout’. We call this part of the handout the ‘sermon’ but for today we’re going to call it ‘the fine print’. We call you and me the congregation and the pastor but for today we’re going to call ourselves ‘beggars’.

In this Department of Eternal Security we beggars receive our handouts each week.

In this Department of Eternal Security there is no point in us looking around to see who is here, to see which ones we are better than, to see which of the other beggars are grimier than we are for all of us are beggars here.

In this Department of Eternal Security there is a free handout given – new for old – beautiful for ugly – clean for putrid – life for death. We come here – tired, burdened, worried, filthy, scared, guilty – and these are all taken from us and we are given rest, relief, peace, cleanliness, love, and freedom.

A free exchange occurs because of the death that happened on that cross. Jesus died on that cross – and together with his Father, and the Holy Spirit they began the Department of Eternal Security to help beggars like you and me. We were trapped in our filth and death, with a one way ticket to hell stuck in our hand. Only Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit could help us and through the innocent sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf the great handout came about. We get Jesus’ righteousness, new life now, and perfection in heaven. And Jesus gets our sins, our death, and our ticket to hell.

And even though Jesus took our punishment, he still won the victory and the right and ability to give his free handouts to everyone. The power of sin, death, and hell are broken. Jesus’ resurrection and the Holy Spirit are our guarantees that this handout is real.

What a handout! It is the ultimate charity! It is free! It happens at Baptism. It happens at Confession and Absolution. It happens through the ‘fine print’. It happens at Holy Communion. It is promised and happens in the Blessing.

God has saved you purely out of his love. Not one of you is so rotten and low, is such a filthy beggar that your stench of sin will make God gag and not come close to you. Come to the handout and receive Jesus’ righteousness as your own. You won’t see it, feel it, taste it but by trusting in Jesus’ words as you receive the handout it is yours.

This is truly the most amazing free gift in the world but the entire world of Brandon / Lakenheath / Ipswich it seems doesn’t want this handout.

I don’t need this handout – I’m not a beggar. I’ve never taken charity in my life. If I want Jesus’ righteousness I’ll earn it.

I don’t need this handout at the moment. But I know where to go if I ever get really down.

I know I should come to get this handout but I just can’t stand the colour of the carpet there (or the office hours just don’t suit or – this one’s used a lot – you’ve got to wait so long once you’re there, I can’t spare the time).

And then there are the beggars who do come along and so often they say: I know I need this handout but please let me give you just a little something that I’ve got here – I know it’s not much compared to what you give me but at least it will go a tiny way to compensate you.

So often the beggars that come to the Department of Eternal Security are carrying in their hearts some trinkets or baubles of good actions, kind words, and at least an effort made in something. But these baubles of our own righteousness, which we can hold up to Jesus to show that we aren’t as bad as some other beggar, need to be thrown away.

Beggars who hold onto precious baubles in grubby hands are not beggars but proud idiots. Your hands must be empty to receive the handout. Throw away – like you would garbage or sewerage – your own righteousness before God.

For if the cross of Jesus is real than he is the only thing that counts in our lives. Jesus has promised us the eternal handout – it is ours.

But because we are such proud beggars we remain in constant danger of either thinking that we are too rotten to receive the handout or getting too proud to come and receive it. It is salvation by handout alone. That is why we must continue to struggle and persevere against the sneaky sins that worm into us and try and take us down the path of despair or along the path of pride.

The small print today reminds you that the handout is for everyone – but only beggars receive it. For our part we must throw away our baubles of self justification and self righteousness and struggle so that they stay out of our hands.

With Jesus by our side we are the richest beggars of all!

PS. We are to come here each week to the DES for our handout which enriches us for the coming week. May it also teach us not to look down upon those who queue in other departments but lead us to pray that they may also receive assistance and hope there and most especially here – life with Jesus.





Bible References

  • Philippians 3:8 - 14