Sticks and Stones

By Jonathan Holmes –

I’ve been struggling lately. I’m tired. I feel weird. Is there something wrong with me? Yes… I can only read so much in a day. My brain will just stop, and I can’t continue, as much as I would like to. Yes, there is something wrong with me… I’m a sinner, and that means I’m affected by sin, original sin – and there is nothing I can do about it.

My body and mind are frail. I can become easily exhausted as of late. I ask myself, have I done something wrong? I keep catching myself saying the dumbest shit. Like there isn’t a filter between my brain and my mouth – and after I find myself confused by what I just said. I’m always teaching people to think before they speak, but I sure haven’t done that lately. I’ve also been beating myself up because of the pansy that I was and in many ways I am still. I don’t feel like a real man, because I begin to tear up when someone is criticizing me – even constructive criticism – as if what he or she is saying really matters.

We all remember, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Bullshit. A word kills. Why? Because the Law kills. The hurtful words are typically true – just nothing ever follows it but a punch to the face. What is said through the Law cannot make one alive, but only dead in one’s own filth. The Law tells me I am dead to sin, and that I am nothing. My conscience keeps telling me these things. There’s neither a guy dressed in red with horns sticking out of his head on one shoulder, nor a guy with a halo floating over the top of his head sitting on the other shoulder. There’s only the judge, with his mighty gavel. A ferocious war hammer smiting me. “Guilty!” That’s the cry. I’m accused, what can I do now? Nothing, but die and stay dead. I’m a sinner, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m a slave of my sin. It is my master. This master has killed me.

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But at the same time, while “sticks and stones will break my bones” there is something stronger than those sticks and stones. “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but the Word is alive to heal me.” The Word made flesh, Christ, the promised Messiah. In my death to my master, sin, Jesus traveled to Hell itself and rescued me from my enemy who said they loved me. “You are forgiven!” This is the cry from my new master’s wooden throne, where He sits, crowned with thorns. “You are righteous!” This He cries as He steps from His stone bedchamber. He has made me alive. He declares the good news: I’m His and no one else’s – now live!

Through my struggles, I see the one with nails through His hands and feet, blood dripping down onto the dirt of the ground, creating a crimson puddle. While it makes no sense, I find joy in this suffering, because in His suffering and death I am made alive. I was dead, but I am now truly alive. I am His prized possession. I was lost, but I am now found. I was a slave to my thoughts, but I’m now a slave of the external promises, the great decree of salvation. Sin and death are no longer my master, but the King sitting at the right hand of the Father.

Dear reader, you were once enslaved to sin, but now you are Christ’s. Through your birth from above, your baptism, the person you were enslaved as to mistress sin was drowned in a very violent death,  but you – the new Adam – was also raised into new life with a just and righteous master, Jesus Christ. Those thoughts that plague you, the voice you hear saying those things is not strong; for they are just like a lost child hiding in the dark irredeemably speaking. When the light shines, their mouth becomes shut, they have been found out. It is then the grand orator stands and proclaims who you are, and not what your mind thinks. You are not your thoughts, you are who Christ says you are: a redeemed child, purchased with a body given and blood shed. Your reality is now beyond yourself, beyond space and time. It is in Christ, the Son, begotten before all worlds. Jesus, who did not stay dead, but is now alive for you.

Forgiven. Justified. This is who you are – let no one tell you differently.

*Pastor Holmes is the vacancy pastor for Faith Lutheran Church in Moorpark CA and is a friend of The Jagged Word.