4th Sunday in Lent (B)
March 14, 2021
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Epistle from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
The first zombie movie was released in 1932 and starred Bela Lugosi, one of the greatest actors of the horror genre. Now just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, a zombie is a person who died after being infected with a virus, usually by being bitten by a zombie, and then comes back to life as a shuffling, brain dead being. I’m not sure why there’s such a fascination with the undead. Do people just like horror movies? Or is it because so many people feel dead inside or are worried about the societal changes occurring in our nation? Regardless of the reasons, today the zombie industry is bringing in big bucks as zombie movies, shows, video games, and comic books are once again all the rage.
I don’t know if Paul was familiar with zombie lore, I sort of doubt it, and yet, in the first view verses of the Epistle, he appears to describe them. Zombies are known as the walking dead, and how does Paul describe the Ephesians? “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world.” The Ephesian Christians, and each of you, before being brought to faith, were the walking dead. Not half dead or mostly dead or kind of, not really dead. You were completely dead in your sins and trespasses.
To be dead in your sins and trespasses means that you were physically alive while at the same time being spiritually dead. Like zombies, you wandered through life, focused on your primary goal, which was satisfying your own needs. Paul describes how those who don’t believe in Christ, follow Satan (who he calls the prince of the power of the air) when they follow the ways of this world. He goes on to say, “We all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Outside of faith in Christ, our sinful flesh, our corrupt nature, craves those things that are forbidden. Outside of Christ, we’re children of wrath destined for damnation.
When Paul says “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins” he’s clearly identifying the problem for us. We all trespass and we all sin against God, and while Christians use these words, we don’t always understand what they mean. A trespass isn’t an error in judgment or a mistake. It’s more than that. A trespass is an act of rebellion against God. And while the word sin is more general than trespass, it still has a lot of weight behind it. To commit a sin to miss the mark that God sets before you, it’s failing to live up to God’s holiness. To trespass and sin is to choose death over life, it’s choosing to walk in the ways of this world over God.
I should point out I’m not saying unbelievers are satanic, and I’m not saying they don’t do good things. It’s just they’re spiritually dead and heading towards the eternal death, during which they’ll be eternally alive. Those who reject Christ and choose to follow the course of the world, cannot have any hope for a good life after death.
Zombies can’t have any hope either, I doubt they even know what it is. You on the other hand you can and you do have hope! You’re not trapped as a member of the walking dead because of your sins and trespasses. Listen to Paul: “But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ!” What a miracle! You were dead, now you’re alive. You were trapped by your sins and trespasses, now Christ has set you free. Paul tells the Colossian church, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses… God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses…by canceling the record of debt that stood against us…nailing it to the cross.”
God sent His Son as the antidote to death and the giver of life. His death overcome your sin and your death. It overcame your sinful desire to walk the way of this sinful world. And why did God do this? Because He loves you! And it’s not because you’re so darn loveable! None of us are! God is love so He does what you cannot do in your natural, sinful state, He gives you life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
While there are times when people have been clinically dead and resuscitated, when death comes for the last time, there’s no going back. One thing we know for sure is that dead is dead. Because you were spiritually dead, you couldn’t find God, and if you couldn’t find God you couldn’t believe in Him. You’re as powerless as those lying in the cemetery! When it comes to faith and how the Gospel works on you, you are completely passive, and this is good! If you were left to bring yourself back to life, how well would that work? Not well at all, right? You need help so your gracious God comes to you, gives you faith in Baptism and His Word and keeps you in that saving faith through the same and in the Lord’s Supper. This is God’s grace at work in you. Grace is God’s love extended to you in your guilt and unworthiness, forgiving all your trespasses and sins for Christ’s sake. This love, this grace, is only a gift.
It’s said that blood donors and organ donors give the gift of life. While as awesome as donating blood and organs is, these pale in comparison the gift of life that God has given us. You’re saved, completely, and unreservedly, by God’s grace! What a gift! We boast, we praise God, for giving life to us. As Paul says, God shows us the “immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith.” By God’s grace you’ve been changed from one who was walking dead in your sins, to one who is alive and walking with your Lord.
It’s clear, at least to me, that zombies have no purpose. They chase and terrify the non-zombies, making life a horror movie. Unlike zombies, you do have meaning and purpose as God uses you. Paul says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” The word workmanship refers to a piece of art or handcrafted furniture. You’re a piece of art, created by God to do the good works He has set in front of you. You’re crafted by God to serve Him as you walk in a new way. Not in the way of those dead in their sins, but as one who has received the greatest gift – God’s grace.
I’m not a fan of zombie movies or shows, they’re just not my kind of thing. I think it is partially because they’re depressing. The zombies keep coming and people keep dying. Fortunately, zombies are made up so there are no walking dead among us. Spiritual zombies do exist, and you used to be one, focused only on your sins and trespasses. But God has given you life, and it’s His gift to you. You were dead, now you are alive, free to serve Him and as His workmanship. You used to be the walking dead, following the way of the world, but no longer! And it’s all because you’ve been saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen