In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
This ought to send chills down your spine. This is the prophet Isaiah’s description of Hell quoted by Jesus. Hell is not make-belief. Nor is it reserved solely for blatantly evil people, like Hitler and Stalin. It is the place for sinners, the just reward for their works. The place where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched, is the place, O Sinner, for you! For your hand, and your foot, and your eye, all cause you to sin, and worse – your mind, your personality, your heart! If you have never before imagined the possibility that you are not one of the elect, imagine it now – before it is too late.
Repent. Stop lying. Cease your vain posturing and pretending, your foolish bravado. God is not fooled. Do you really think He is so impressed with your knowledge, with your mature faith, with your anti-Pietism, that He’ll wink at your sins? This is no joke. Why do you care so for the opinions of men? Why do you strive to impress them? Perhaps you should consider the merits of being without hands, without feet, without eyes for a while, instead of so quickly finding a loophole around Jesus’ words. Sin is your biggest problem. It causes your frustration, your depression, and your anger. Stop naively daydreaming about receiving the accolades of the masses and being honorably, though filthy, rich. What you deserve is the place where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. Admit it. Confess it. Repent. Woe to us.
And here, O Sinner, and only here, find rest: in the Cup of refreshment received in Jesus’ Name, for Jesus’ sake, at Jesus’ Word, and, indeed, from Jesus’ Hand. Cut off the hands, the feet, the eyes that cause you to sin -from the inside out. Circumcise your heart. Be emptied of yourself and your ambitions. Know only Jesus. Be only Christian, nothing else. Be filled with His Blood which makes all things new. You are His because He says so. He said so in the waters of Holy Baptism. There He gave you a Name, His Name. By nothing less than Divine Intervention, you are His little one, His own precious child, helpless and weak, but adored by Him who has bought you.
This is the meaning of the word, “Holy.” It does not mean “without sin.” It means “belongs to God.” Thus we speak of Holy Baptism, Holy Communion, the Holy Church, Holy Matrimony, the Holy Office, and so forth, because those things have been instituted and belong to God. They are His. And in those things you too are Holy. In those things you are His. Woe to him who causes you to sin. You are God’s own and no one dare tempt you. By Grace, for Jesus’ sake, you enjoy the constant attention and devotion of Him who died for you, who prays for you, who defends you. And you also receive the providence, protection, and care of His Father, the empowering love of the Holy Spirit, and the service of an army of angels. You are His. He has forgotten your sins. You cannot lose. Come, and drink from the Cup offered in Christ’s Name for you belong to Him. The worm is dead, the fire quenched, in Jesus’ side. You are His.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Rev. David H. Petersen, Pastor
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Ft. Wayne, Indiana