I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Psalm 122:1

The Lord Opens Your Lips to Declare His Praises

5th Sunday After Trinity – Pr. Anderson sermon
Psalm 51:15-17 “The Lord Opens Your Lips to Declare His Praises.”
July 9, 2023 | Christ Lutheran Church, Klamath Falls, OR

In Nomine Iesu
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Oh Lord God, Heavenly Father, we come before you in thanksgiving, that you have blessed the members of Christ Lutheran Church with a pastor to serve and shepherd them. We pray that you strengthen the pastor and the congregation in Klamath Falls. We pray that you would forgive us when we fail to follow your commands that you have put in place for our good. We ask that as we continue with our work for the church, that you would give us strength to prevail in this work, and when we fail, remind us that your Son, our Savior has done the work perfectly in our place. Help us to remember that we are not doing this work for ourselves, but that it is the work of Christ. He opens our lips, so that we may proclaim His praise. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. (Rom. 1:7, etc.)

The sermon text for today is taken from the 51st chapter of the book of Psalms. We read selected verses in Jesus’ name:

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by Your truth, Your Word is truth. Amen. (Joh. 17:17)

In Christ Jesus, who is here in this journey of a new pastor serving this congregation, who takes away our sins, and opens our lips to declare His praises, dear fellow redeemed:

My wife and I have made it! We are home! It sometimes felt long and sometimes it felt like a quick process to get here. As we worked to get ready to head to Oregon, one of the things that we had to do was visit with our loved ones and say goodbye. To put it in perspective, we sat at my wife’s grandparents’ house and visited with them for eight and a half hours, which you will soon find out that we are pretty good at talking. My mentor in Iowa might have said that “it was a good thing he taught me how to conduct a visit in an hour!” Now even if some people say I’m great at talking, that is not what is meant when the text says, “O Lord, open my lips.” David is not asking God for help with casually speaking. This text goes much, much farther. When David asks for his lips to be opened, this is the same message that we also want to pray to God for. Without the help of God, we would surely wreck it all.

When David wrote this psalm, he was recording a great confession because he had felt like he had wrecked it all. He had gotten another man’s wife pregnant. He devised what he thought was a perfect plan to bring this woman’s husband back from war so he could be with her. But it did not work. He then had this man, who was one of his trusted soldiers, carry his own execution letter. Two serious offenses of adultery and murder, turned into a great cover up. David is one of our great heroes of faith who showed his trust in the Lord, yet we see very clearly that he was not perfect. David was not opening his lips for praise. David had fallen into unbelief. He needed to be washed clean.

Now the prophet Nathan went to David and David did turn from his sin. We see this as David asks the Lord to wash away his sins earlier in verse two, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” (Psalm 51:2) Not only does David ask for this washing, but he also admits how deep his sins are. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). David understood that he was not perfect. He had failed God completely. He had deserved what his sins brought him and that was death and destruction. David needed help to get out of this, and his help had to come from God. On his own He had fallen away. His sin had become too much for him to carry. David reveals this in the last part of the text. There is no short cut, he can’t just go through the motion of the sacrifice of slaughtering an animal. The sacrifice is “a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

If our hearts are not contrite, if our spirits are not broken, then we feel like David. In Luther’s sacristy prayer the Pastor prays that he does not do anything on his own, or he will easily wreck it all. It doesn’t have to be a great public sin like the ones that David committed that can tear down a congregation. His lips can be opened in a way that hurts his members instead of helping and serving them. The pastor can strive for greatness, but if it is only for self-glory, the devil will make sure that he falls flat on his face. The congregation should realize that the pastor is not perfect, mistakes can be made. One can pray that if a mistake is made a pastor acknowledges it and forgiveness is sought.

Now as the congregation prays that the pastor would look for forgiveness, the congregation should remember that the pastor is there for their confession of sins as well. As a congregation realizes that its body is made up of sinners who were born with sin, the devil is quick to work on those who think that they are doing everything right. David brings out the truth of how easy it is to get caught up in the motions without realizing that it is happening. The sin that David writes about is the exact sin that Jesus warns the Pharisees that they were committing. When we are caught up in the motions of it all, we can lean on and cling to sins without realizing it and when those sins are brought to light, we target the one who cornered us with them. It is here that the point is missed about what David is writing about. When we speak on our own, we fail, but when God speaks for us, our mouths declare His praise!

God wants more than an improved outward performance. He wants a change of heart. David couldn’t produce this change of heart, and neither can we. This change of heart and renewal must come from God. David prays for such renewal. David is asking this because he had been in the state of unbelief. The prophet Nathan delivered the law and pointed out to David his sin. David repented and Nathan restored him in grace. This is the work of the gospel. David can open his mouth and declare the praises of God because of what his descendant came here to do. Jesus came down from heaven, was born of a virgin, lived a holy life and took all of David’s sins onto the cross and paid for them with His suffering and death.

Jesus doesn’t only stop there. He doesn’t take away only the harshest of sins. David correctly states that He was sinful from the time of his conception. That before he was born, he was a sinner. Jesus knows that this is such a hard burden to carry. He takes away all of our sins. He doesn’t leave any of them behind. And as David would have more problems in his life like we all do, this is what Jesus came for, to heal the broken spirits and the contrite hearts.

Broken and contrite hearts, why would Jesus come for that? Isn’t He looking for thriving churches? There is no way that you and I can talk our way out of our sins. On your own, your mouths open in sin and these sins can and will wear you down. Jesus tells the Pharisees, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). He came for your sins, to carry those sins that burden you. His mouth was clean and perfect where yours is not. He spoke the perfect message of His Father in heaven, and not only did He speak it, but He lived it out perfectly for you and me. Your sins are forgiven by Christ who shed his blood for the salvation of the world.

Can Jesus save you when you are stuck in the motions? Of course! Jesus doesn’t tell the Pharisees, “I told you so.” He wants them to repent. This is the work of the gospel. The gospel tells you what Jesus has done for you. That He lived a perfect life and died for your sins on the cross. He was the perfect sacrifice. The Old Testament sacrifices pointed to the one who would take away all of your sins. God wants a broken and contrite heart, and He brings comfort and joy to those who repent because His Son has taken the punishment that you deserved, and those sins have been wiped away.

As your Savior cleanses you of your sins, your mouths can declare the praises of God. When the gospel is shared by the pastor and the congregation, it is the work of the Holy Spirit who works faith and changes hearts. The congregation can’t do this work on its own. The pastor also cannot do the work on his own. They need to work together. With the pastor and the congregation working together, the world sees Christ on display, coming through the Means of Grace. Will the congregation and pastor work together perfectly? No, there will be times when they fail. When that happens, we work together to pick each other up, we repent of our sins, hear the absolution spoken to us, and know that Christ has forgiven our sins.

This psalm is about asking for forgiveness and receiving absolution. That is what David received when he repented of his sins to God after he was confronted by Nathan. We pray this psalm like David, repenting of our sins and receiving absolution from the one who speaks perfectly. This is a new journey. It began with a big move, but here we are. We see the work of Christ on display as He is here right now in the Means of Grace, His Word and sacraments. He will continue to be with us, taking care of our needs here in this life. And as we wait for Him to call us to our heavenly home, we will continue to do His work here on earth. Christ is our mouthpiece, it is in Him we pray, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” Amen.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
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