The Lettuce Sermon

The text for this sermon is Hebrews, chapter ten, verses twenty two to twenty five:

“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. [23] Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. [24] And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, [25] not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

A little boy came home from church one Sunday and said to his parents, “I sure like that lettuce reading and that lettuce song we had in church today.” His parents were confused and asked him, “What lettuce reading and lettuce song, there wasn’t anything about lettuce in our service today.”

“Yes there was,” the boy insisted.

So the parents pulled out their bulletin and looked. Sure enough they found the lettuce. There it was in the epistle reading: “Let us draw near with a true heart, let us hold fast the confession of our hope, let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”

Then they looked at the sermon hymn: “Let Us Ever Walk With Jesus.” The parents then proceeded to explain to their son the difference between lettuce the vegetable and the phrase “let us.”

This sermon may be called “The Let Us Sermon.” No, it’s not because it will be about lettuce, although I like lettuce and eat it quite regularly. There is even a lettuce factory near where I live, a place where they grow lettuce indoors year round.

This sermon is the “let us” sermon because the phrase “let us” is repeated three times in our text: Hebrews, chapter ten, verse twenty two, “Let us draw near with a true heart.” Verse twenty three, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope. Verse twenty four, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”

The phrase “let us,” is a phrase of exhortation. It is not a command, it is an encouragement. It reminds us that, as Christians, we are all equal in the sight of God. So when it comes to living our lives as Christians we exhort and encourage each other we don’t lord it over each other by issuing commands and demands. The person who wrote our text – either the Apostle Paul or some other important church leader – does not order us around like a master. He encourages us.

The phrase “let us” is used a lot in our faith. When we join with our fellow believers in prayer we often start out by saying, “Let us pray.”

Even the members of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, use the phrase “let us.” We read in Genesis, chapter one, when it came time to create Adam and Eve they said to each other, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”

After the angels had appeared to the shepherds on the night of Christ’s birth the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2.15)

As it turns out, it is a pretty handy phrase. How would we exhort and encourage one another to do things if we did not have the phrase, “let us”?

So now let us look at these three “let us” statements in our text. The first one should sound very familiar. It comes straight from the confession and absolution section of Setting Three in the Divine Service of the Lutheran Service Book hymnal: “Let us draw near with a true heart.”

The same words were in our previous hymnal, Lutheran Worship, and in the hymnal before that, The Lutheran Hymnal. Many of us grew up hearing those words spoken by the pastor at the beginning of the service.

What does it mean to have a true heart? King David explains that to us in Psalm fifty one verse seventeen: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Many times people get the idea that before we can draw near to God we first need to get our act together, to clean up the mess of our lives. Even worse are those who are convinced that their sins are unforgiveable, too bad to be forgiven. Yet listen to what King David says: “A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

And so as we gather for confession and absolution at the beginning of the divine service we do not come with shiny and clean hearts. We draw near to God with broken and contrite hearts.

And God does not despise us. Why? For the sake of Christ. We would not dare come to God with broken and contrite hearts unless we had full confidence that God would forgive us. And he does. We hear the pastor say, “Almighty God, our heavenly Father, has had mercy upon us and has given His only Son to die for us and for His sake forgives us all our sins.” And so, as it says in the text, we can draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.

The next “let us” phrase is, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.” This is such an important exhortation because it reminds us that it is not our job to come up with new teachings or new revelations. Our job is simply to hold fast to what has already been revealed; the confession of our hope.

In chapter two of the book of Hebrews the writer asks, “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, [4] while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”

If there is anything that the book of Hebrews teaches us it is that all of Scripture points to Jesus dying on the cross for our sins as God’s final revelation to us. That is the Good News that we need to hold fast to at all costs.

Jesus says in John, chapter eight, verses thirty one and thirty two:

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, [32] and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

In Hebrews chapter six, verse nineteen it says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” The anchor was one of the earliest Christian symbols, used especially during times of persecution. To the outside world it looked just like a boat anchor but to the Christians it was a powerful symbol of the hope we have through the death of Jesus on the cross for our sins.

And so let us hold fast the confession of our hope.

The first two “let us” statements focus more on our relationship with God. The third statement focuses on our relationship with each other. “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works”

How do we stir up one another to love and good works? It can be a tricky job. We can all probably think of times when believers stirred each other up to things other than love and good works.

In cooking there is a lot of stirring that happens, especially if you are preparing something that has a lot of ingredients whether it is a lettuce salad or a pot of soup or a good old Minnesota hot dish. The ingredients need to be stirred together for all the flavors to blend.

It works that way in the church too. We all have different gifts and talents that blend together to make up the church. By stirring each other up we are blended into a beautiful combination of flavors.

The key to stirring each other up to love and good works can be found in what the text adds to this “let us” statement: “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

We are to stir each other up as we see the Day is drawing near. The Day refers to the Day when Jesus returns for Judgment Day. The Prophet Daniel describes that day: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:3)

In Mark 13:13 Jesus tells us that, “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Jesus did not tell us when he would be returning but he promised us he would return. Rather than be concerned about when he comes, he wants to be focused on doing the Lord’s work when he returns.

We are to stir one another up to love and good works so that we are not caught unprepared when the Lord returns. So that’s the question to ask yourself. Am I trying to stir up others to do the things that they would want to be doing when Jesus returns?

And it goes without saying that in order to stir each other up to love and good works we need to continue to meet together. Thanks to the internet and other marvels of technology there is a lot that we can do remotely. But helping each other be ready for Christ’s return, stirring each other up to love and good works, needs to be done in person.

Since in Christ we are all equally sinful and equally redeemed and forgiven we do not rely on commands and threats. Instead we use “let us.” We exhort and encourage each other to continue in the good and loving things we all want to be doing when Christ returns.

Let us conclude this “let us” sermon with the words of encouragement from verse one of the hymn “Let Us Ever Walk With Jesus”:

“Let us ever walk with Jesus, follow his example pure, through a world that would deceive us and to sin our spirits lure.

Onward in His footsteps treading, pilgrims here, our home above, full of faith and hope and love,

Let us do the Father’s bidding, faithful Lord, with me abide; I will follow where you guide.”

(Lutheran Service Book hymnal, hymn 685, verse 1)

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