Kyle didn’t realize it, but he was ruining his life. He thought he was living the big life. The parties on the weekend were wild and carefree. His job was making him a lot of money to play with. His friends were just as wild as he was. But he didn’t realize how ruined he was. He didn’t realize the paranoid feelings he was getting more and more were because his brain was getting fried on party drugs. He didn’t realize how bad his health was getting because of the lack of sleep. He didn’t realize the diseases growing in his body because of the multiple partners he slept with. He didn’t realize his party friends were disloyal and really despised him. He didn’t realize it, but his life was ruined.

But a friend realized it. She saw the wild pictures on Facebook every weekend. She heard from this other friend about his drug habit. She knew how ruined his life had become. So she rescued him. It wasn’t easy, Kyle resisted. But she eventually convinced him that he was a mess. And when the cloud of fantasy that had become Kyle’s life lifted and he saw who he really was, Kyle was filled with guilt and dread at what he had become. But his friend rescued him out of that life and led him to a better one.

That can happen, to us, too, you know. We sometimes live our lives in a fantasy of who we think we are. We ignore our addiction to sin and the disease of wickedness that lurks in our hearts. We forget how ruined sin makes us. That is, until God dispels the fantasy to rescue us. That’s God’s special work, to rescue us from ruin.

You and I stand in the presence of God. You and I who are not good; you and I who are not the light of love; you and I who hate, who lust, who hurt, who neglect—you and I with our unclean lips stand in the presence of God. Ruined by our sin! And you can feel it. Maybe you carry around a load of guilt for what you did years ago. Maybe you have a chip on your shoulder from an argument with a family member last week. Maybe you look into the eyes of a parent or a spouse and you see reflected there God’s disappointment in your poor choices. Maybe you are angry with God for a bad turn in your life. Maybe you hurt all the time because you know you are not right with God. And standing in the presence of God who is holy, we know just how much we are not like him. We’re ruined.

Ruined…but rescued. God sends us a heavenly messenger. He stands before you to tell you that all your sin, all your un-holiness has been turned away. That which cut you off from God’s light is removed. It is removed because it was paid. And the one speaking to you is also the one who paid for you. Christ was sacrificed on the altar of the cross; he was slaughtered there by God’s holy wrath against all your sin and mine. His blood was shed. And that blood is the atonement blood, the blood that touched our souls and covered them, hiding away sin forever and making us holy. And Christ delivers that message to you like the angel did in Isaiah’s vision. For you it is the word of grace. The word…forgiven. The word…atoned. The Word…Christ. This is the good news that is delivered to you through words of gospel, through sacraments of bread and wine and water. “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”