Trinity 18 -LWML Sunday- 2021

1 Peter 1:22: “Love One Another Earnestly from a Pure Heart”

Modified from a sermon by Dr. Dale A. Meyer

October 3, 2021

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

This morning in the Divine Service we remember the LWML. “LWML” stands for the “Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.” As the word “missionary” in their name suggests, they sponsor mission efforts reaching around the world. They do that with their mites, small offerings that together help more and more people learn the Good News about Jesus. For this LWML Sunday, I’d like us to think about 1 Peter 1:22, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” They say a picture is worth a thousand words. You can picture today’s sermon by looking at the logo for LWML Sunday, “Our Hearts in HIS Hand.” 

Think about a heart in a hand. Literally, think about holding a real heart in your hand. That’s what a transplant surgeon does. He takes out the diseased heart with his hand and puts in a new heart. That’s what God has done to you and me. Do you see the cross and the drop of water in the logo? You know what the cross represents, Jesus dying for the forgiveness of our sins. And what does the drop of water represent? I’m sure you know: Baptism. Baptism gives you a new heart, a pure heart with all the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection. Long ago God had promised in the prophet Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you,” (Ezekiel 36:26). He has kept His promise. Unlike a physical transplant that lasts some years, the new heart God gives you through Baptism will live forever. 

Because of our fallen sinful nature, we all come into this world with a heat disease.  I have within my heart thoughts and feelings, ideas, and urges that are sinful. We all have things deep down in your heart that would shame you if others knew? My heart by nature is not pure and neither is yours. We are born with original sin, inherited from the sinners before us, all the way back to Adam and Eve, and we daily commit actual sins. Sooner or later, what’s deep down is going to be known. “No creature is hidden from his [God’s] sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). This sin in us, original sin and the actual sins we commit daily, this is the Old Adam who continues in us, even in us who are forgiven. 

This is the wonderful mystery of Baptism. Baptism brings us the forgiveness of Jesus Christ here-and-now and gives us grace to live new and holy lives here-and-now. St. Paul says, “We were buried … with him [Christ] by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). St. Peter describes it as a new birth. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Mysteriously, Baptism is your daily death and new birth. When a surgeon transplants a human heart, new physical life comes to a fatally ill patient. Now God has given you a new heart, a pure heart, newness of life… and with the life God gives, you have love, His love.

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22). Two remarks are necessary here. “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth” sounds like you have made yourself pure by keeping the commandments. That’s not what Peter means. Peter is simply talking about faith and the good works that follow from new birth in Christ, who had made and keeps you holy. Our new heart, our new birth, makes us “children of the heavenly Father” who want to live holy lives for His sake. Being pure before God is not our doing, it’s all grace, a washing clean and declaration that your sin is all washed away. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).  Martin Luther once wrote on this topic and described it this way:

Then what is a pure heart? What is meant by a “pure heart” is this: one that is watching and pondering what God says and replacing its ideas with the Word of God. This alone is pure before God, yes, purity itself, which purifies everything that it includes and touches. Therefore, though a common laborer, a shoemaker, or a blacksmith may be dirty and sooty or may smell because he is covered with dirt and pitch, still he may sit at home and think: “My God has made me a man. He has given me my house, wife, and child and has commanded me to love them and to support them with my work.” Note that he is pondering the Word of God in his heart … If he attains the highest purity so that he also takes hold of the Gospel and believes in Christ — without this, that purity is impossible — then he is pure completely, inwardly in his heart toward God and outwardly toward everything under him on earth. [i]

Second, we are to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” Together with one another, God gives us His Word, His Word of new birth, of life and love in Christ. Together we receive this transforming Word as we hear it, spoken and sung, and as we receive it physically in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. There are various reasons we come to church, but more than anything else, we come because this is where Jesus promises to meet sinners. This is what’s unique about our coming together. It’s here that God comes through His Means of Grace to share His love with us. 

Jesus is not content to hold only us in His hand. He reaches His hand out to others. When a leper met Jesus and begged to be healed, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him (Mark 1:41). When Jairus’s daughter died, Jesus took her “by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cumi,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise’” and she had new life (Mark 5:41). When Peter tried to walk to Jesus on the water, he got scared and began to sink. Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him (Matthew 14:31). And he took them [the little children] in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them (Mark 10:16). Today He reaches out His hand through you and me to people who don’t yet know His life and love, to people who still have spiritually diseased hearts and desperately need the new heart Jesus gives. 

In your bulletin, you’ll find the LWML pledge. It’s printed right after the sermon. Please look at it now. The pledge reminds us why we come to church and why our hearts are in His hand to reach out to others. Our motivation is this: “In fervent gratitude for the Savior’s dying love and His blood-bought gift of redemption.” And since He has put our hearts in His hand, let’s  take His outgoing love to all people. 

[i] Luther, M. (1999, c1956). Vol. 21: Luther’s works, vol. 21: The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (21:33). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.