One Voice To Rule Them All

Text: John 20:19-23

In the name of Jesus.  Amen. 

Many voices speak to us in culture.
For example, the beauty industry comes and speaks to us, saying that our eyelashes are not lavish enough or that our beards are too grey. And so, we must buy their mascara to have luxurious eyelashes and buy their coloring to have young looking beards.
Those involved in athletics always hear the voice that they are not performing at the level they need to. However, a new type of basketball shoe, an improved hockey stick, or an advanced golf club will do the trick.
And let us not forget our jobs. Performance reviews come to us and speak to us about our inadequacies. The voices of coworkers gossiping behind our backs come to us, bringing frustration and insecurity.  Even other people’s job promotions speak to us - telling us that we are not climbing the corporate ladder as fast as we should, which will result in us not having enough money for retirement.
Tragically, there are harsh voices of authority from bosses and managers that come to us. Voices, not of comfort, but voices that threaten us with power and fear to keep us under a thumb
In our families, the voice of parents can come upon us, weighing us down with the belief that we have not met up to mom and dad’s expectations in life.
Our cell phones even speak to us. We turn on these little 3 inch screens, and they speak to us with text and pictures – showing us all the great things that people are doing, which reminds us of all the things that we are failing to do.
And then all those non-verbals speak to us. The Joneses’ new house that goes up at the end of the street looks down on our homes telling us that the Joneses are prestigious and we are not.
But probably the worst voice that speaks to us is not in culture or even those 3-inch screens, but the voice in our head that regularly condemns us.
Dear friends, it is hard enough to live this life with all of these voices speaking to us, letting us know that we are not measuring up. But it is even harder when we hear that voice in our head that condemns us.  You know what I’m talking about, the world only sees what we do and say on the outside, but we know our thoughts.  And our thoughts?   They have a way of speaking to us, as well.  More often than not, our thoughts condemn us.
It is no wonder why we are so defensive and uneasy as people.  At every turn, we seem to be bombarded by the voices of culture and the voices in our heads. It is enough to make us pull a shield over our heads for protection. It is enough for us to create masks that we wear to cover our sorrowful faces.  It is enough to make us pretend that we are great, confident, and successful in life when, in reality, we are not.
But all this pretending in life is not healthy. Pulling masks on to hide our faces will not lead us to safety. Building up walls to everyone and everything around us, while having to live with the condemning voice in our head is not good.  These tactics are not only foolish, but they make us toxic – they lead to a kind of spiritual suicide.
Dear friends, the voice of the world is a voice of accusation. The voice of the devil is a voice of accusation. And left to yourself? Well, you will have no hope but will be left constantly trying to justify and rationalize your sinful thoughts away. 
To make things even worse, when God’s word of Law comes to you with an accusation, your shield will go up, and your masks will go on.   Thus, making you turn a deaf ear to God’s Law.
But it must not be this way.
Dear friends, you must realize that amid all the voices in your life that the majority of them are intended to manipulate you, shame you, condemn you and plunge you into insecurity, greed, and covetousness. 
Many voices in culture come to you so that you buy their products, jump on the bandwagon, support their cause, intimidate you, and so forth.
And the voice of the devil?  His voice is not to lead you to freedom, but condemn you and leave you for dead in your sins – without forgiveness and hope.
Keep in mind, though, that the Lord’s Law, though, comes to you not to take from you, not to intimidate you into submission, and certainly not to condemn you in your sins forever. Instead, God’s Law comes to convict you of sin. God’s voice of Law brings you to the end of yourself so that you might confess your sins, acknowledge the truth that you have failed, and that you might recognize your need for another voice of God.
Bluntly stated, if you keep silent, your bones will waste away. You will have a heaviness of heart. Your strength will dry up. And your life will be characterized by groaning – sighs and fatigue.  But God’s voice of Law is His voice that brings you to the conviction and confession of your sins.  God’s voice of Law leads you to confess so that your confession might be met with the voice of God’s Absolution. 
Dear Baptized Saints, amid all of the voices of condemnation, power, and manipulation in this life, God’s voice of Absolution comes to you to give.
When the pastor stands before you and absolves you, he speaks with Christ’s authority and on behalf of Christ, so that you can firmly believe that God Himself has completely forgiven you of all of your sins.  The Absolution not only announces forgiveness but it is the voice of the Lord coming to you to forgive.
And so, hear this, Baptized Saints, God’s holy church is that one place in this world where there is a voice that gives to you, and does not manipulate you, shame you, or condemn you.  God’s holy church is that one place in this world where there is a voice that gives to you, and does not plunge you into insecurity, greed, and covetousness.  The church is the steady, consistent, and predictable place where God pours his voice of Absolution – that is forgiveness – into your ears.
Absolution is an Advent gift – it is a gift where the voice of God comes to you.
In the stead and by the command of Jesus Christ, I forgive you all of your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
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