Sunday, September 27, 2009

Trinity 16 Luke 7:11-17

And it happened on the next, He went into a city called Nain, and His disciples were going along with Him, also a large crowd. And as He came near the gate of the city, and look one who was dead was being carried out the only-begotten son of his mother, and she a widow, and a great crowd from the city was with her. And having seen her, the LORD was gut-wrenched for her, and He said to her, "Stop crying." And having come toward, He touched the casket. And the ones carrying stood still. And He said, "Young man, I say to you, arise!" And the corpse sat up and began to speak. And He gave him to his mother. And all of them were taken by fear, and they were glorifying God, saying, that A great prophet has arisen among us and that God has looked upon His people. And the word went out in all Judea concerning Him and in all the region.

In today's Gospel we have a perfectly good funeral procession. The pall bearers have already lifted the casket, and they are heading out to the burial plot, a large crowd gathered to comfort this grieving, and now son-less widow. Everything is proceeding as is expected, that is, until Jesus does His Robitussin impersonation. He interrupts the proceedings and stops the coffin in its tracks. How rude! He then spoils a perfectly good funeral completely by raising the corpse back to life again!

Just Who does Jesus think He is? None other than the LORD Himself, the God of both life and death. He amazes them with this miraculous resurrection, but the people don't see Him for Who He really is. They think he's a great prophet, but not yet do they know Him as God THE Prophet. They acknowledge that God has indeed visited His people through this miracle, but they don't recognize Jesus as God Himself. They just figure he is like Elijah or Elisha from the Old Testament.

Just Who does Jesus think He is? He is an instigator for starters. But folks don't want God to start anything up with them. Often you yourselves might prefer to have God leave you alone, and only have Him respond when you need to call upon Him. But He's not your beck and call God. Jesus is an instigator. He doesn't wait to see if you want Him to speak/act. He does His thing without permission.

But that's just Who Jesus has been for you from the get-go. You were once dead in your trespasses, not unlike this corpse. Jesus didn't wait for dead folks like you to call on Him for help, since dead people do no calling. He was an Instigator. When you were dead in sins, He raised you up in Himself, by water and the word of your Holy Baptism. He not only buried you with Him by baptism into His death at Calvary, but He also raised you up in Him on Easter Sunday to walk now in new, eternal life.

Just Who does this Jesus think He is? He is a prophet. Yet folks really don't want to be prophesied to all that much. You may not want to hear what Jesus wants to say to you in Sunday School or Bible class, finding every excuse not to go their to listen to His Word. You may think that you know enough about the Bible already, so you no longer need a prophet to proclaim to you from God.

But Jesus is The Prophet promised of old Who would declare God's Word to you, whether you think you need it or not...because the truth is that you do. Jesus proclaims your sin and its cure, the gospel here, from the lectern and pulpit each Sunday and festival day. He proclaims His gut-wrenching love for you, no less than for that poor childless widow. His love for you was so great that He took your place in death on the cross, giving up His life unto death so that you now live forevermore in paradise.

Just Who does Jesus think He is? He is the one who stops all weeping. Some folks will say that this is rude of Jesus to forbid crying at a funeral. Grieving people need a good cry, don't they? But remember that Jesus Himself cried at His friend Lazarus' funeral before raising Him from the dead. Yet you yourselves might resent it whenever Jesus tells you what to do, and what not to do.

But in Jesus' words to that grieving, childless-widow, Jesus is tell her to stop crying so she could clearly witness this miracle. Her only-begotten Son was restored to life before her very eyes. Yet another only-begotten Son would also die, giving up His body in death, and shedding His blood for you on Good Friday for the forgiveness of your sins. You eat His body and drink His blood, but not as a cannibal would eat a dead person. You feast on the ever-living Jesus, risen from death to life eternal!

Just Who does this Jesus think He is? He is your God, your LORD, and your Savior. He has saved you from the eternal death of your sin, and has raised you to life in Him forevermore. He returns you to your heavenly Father through word and sacrament, so you may life with Him eternally in heaven.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Trinity 15 Matthew 6:24-34

No one is able, two lords to serve; for either the one he will hate and the other he will love, or the one he will cling to and the other he will despise. You are not able to serve God and mammon. Through this I say to you, stop worrying on your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor on your body, what you will clothe it. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? You look into the birds of the heavens, that they neither sow, nor harvest, nor gather into barns, yet your Father, the heavenly One, feeds them. Aren't you, yourselves worth more than they? And who of you worrying is able to add upon His height one cubit? And concerning clothing, why do you worry? Observe the lilies of the field, how they grow; they do not labor nor do they spin. And I say to you that Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself as one of these. And if the grass of the field being today, but tomorrow into the furnace is thrown, God so clothes, not much more for you, of little faith? You do not worry, saying, "What will we eat?" or "What will we drink?" or, "What will we throw around ourselves?" For all these things the nations seek after; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. And keep seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not worry into tomorrow, for tomorrow worries for itself. The day has sufficient evils of its own.

Anxiety, stress, worry; it's a big problem. Oh, some say that it's parents' prerogative to worry about their children, but that's not really true. Concern is fine, but worry is sinful. That's why Jesus says "don't worry" and "stop worrying", because it's never productive. It can't add any time to your life, but too much stress may take years off your life So what is the solution to worrying? God's gift of faith.

Trusting your heavenly Father to watch over you and your loved ones alleviates anxiety. Relying on God to provide, food, drink and clothing is better than worrying about how you fail to obtain it all by yourself. Believing God will give you more than just earthly needs is a comfort that reduces your stress. But replacing worry with a trusting faith is not so easy for us overly-concerned human beings.

First, we worry about our life, though we shouldn't. How long will we live? How healthy are we currently living? Your diet and exercise regimen probably could use some improvement. So, do you get on nutri-system and join a gym to begin a new work-out plan? You could, but you'd still die from something eventually. It seems that your life is not really in your hands at all...

Jesus reminds you that your life is really in His hands after all. "Seek first the kingdom of God" Jesus tells you. You are only a resident alien here on earth now for a short while. Your real, lasting home is in heaven with God!. Your life here is temporary, but in Christ Jesus your life above is eternal! For Jesus proclaims you forgiven of your sins, and made worthy of everlasting life in heaven because He died for you, in your place, at the cross. His gospel declares you will live forever with Him in paradise!

Secondly, we worry about what we eat and drink, although we ought not. "You are what you eat" people say. But that doesn't make you Colonel Sanders or Dr. Pepper. You watch the price of groceries go up, while your monthly check doesn't, and you become worried. How will you be able to feed your family? How quick you are to forget that your life is more than your food and drink.

Jesus reminds us that God feeds the birds of heaven each day, without their worrying about it. He feeds you too, but not just your daily bread. He gives you the Bread of Life to eat–the body of Jesus in the Lord's Supper, and His blood in the cup for you to drink. And you need not fear that you will become ill this cold and flu season, for no poison can be in the cup your Physician sends you. For healing from the deadly disease of sin is given you in Jesus' body and blood for your life everlasting!

Thirdly, we worry about what we wear. "Clothes make the man" (or the woman) we are told. But no matter how fancy a terrorist or a serial-killer is dressed in the courtroom, such people are still evil. Yet you worry about your work outfits, or school clothes for the children. You are quick to forget that this life is much more than clothing. For the raiment that God provides is always superior!

Jesus reminds your faith to seek His righteousness as your clothing. Your sin-stained garments are washed clean in Holy Baptism, all of your unrighteousness poured out on Jesus at the cross, where He bore your sins. In their place, you now wear His holy righteousness, a pure white garment as your clothing. That white robe of Christ's righteousness is your eternal raiment for your life in heaven.

Hymns for today from LSB:
#419 Savior, when in Dust to Thee
#760 What God Ordains is Always Good
#732 All Depends on Our Possessing

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Trinity 14 Luke 17:11-19

And it happened in the journey into Jerusalem, and He (Jesus) was going through between Samaria and the Galilee. And as He was entering into a certain village ten leprous men met Him--they stood far off. And they raised voices saying, "Jesus, Lord have mercy on us." And seeing them, He said, "Having gone, show yourselves to the priests!" And it happened as they went they were cleansed. But one of them, seeing that he was healed turned back with a great voice glorifying God, and he fell upon his face at His feet thanking Him; And He was Samaritan. And answering, Jesus said, "Were not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not found (any), having turned back to give glory to God if not this foreigner?" And He said to him, "Having arisen, go. Your faith has saved you."

Today we have the familiar Gospel of healing of the ten lepers. It is often read and preached at Thanksgiving focusing on the surprising reaction of the one, Samaritan leper. But there is a lot more to this story than just being grateful. This is also an account all about blame and credit. First, blame is assigned for the misfortune of these lepers. Then credit is accounted for the miraculous healing these lepers received. But if you misplace either the blame or the credit in this story, you will miss the point Jesus is making.

We begin by looking at the blame. Now, some of these lepers were Israelites–God's children. As such they probably expected the LORD's favor upon them. Instead, they contract leprosy, in some cases at what appears to be no real fault of their own. We would not be surprised if some of these lepers would become angry at God for allowing some of His children to become so ill. They might have questioned how a loving God would allow such pain and suffering for His Own children. But is God really to blame?

A noted Rabbi asked the question "Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?" That's a bad question. There are no good people. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Oh, I know that you might think that you are pretty good as compared to terrorists, murderers, and the like. But God makes no such comparisons. A sinner is a sinner, period, no matter how many or which commandments are broken. That means that each and every one of us deserves leprosy and more, even eternal death as the wages of sin.

But there was One *good* Person to walk the face of the earth. Only one, the second Person of the Trinity. He was good in every way, for He was both God and man. As a man, under God's Law, Jesus alone could keep all the commandments perfectly. He was as good as good can be. But then God did the unimaginable. He allowed the very worst things to happen to the only Good One, who suffered and died on the cross, bearing your sin, its blame and punishment unto the death of forsaken-ness and condemnation.

Yes Jesus took your blame at Calvary for your salvation. Which takes us now to the question of w(W)ho gets the credit. No doubt, Jesus alone gets the credit for the miraculous healing of these 10 lepers. They cried out for God's mercy, and Jesus provided it. But what about salvation? Who gets the credit there? Some would look at the last words of Jesus to the grateful Samaritan leper "Your faith has saved you" as somehow crediting this man...after all, it is his personal faith which Jesus credits for his salvation.

But what is faith? Is it your personal decision to believe in Christ? No! Is it your invitation to Jesus to come into your heart? No! Is it your sincere determination to live a life in service to the LORD? No! Is it your willingness to make Him the LORD of your life? No! Is it your choice to surrender your heart to Jesus? No! God's Word says that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. It is God's gift of believing by the power of the Holy Spirit, that you may trust in Jesus for your salvation.

Faith saves you only because it is the God-given means for receiving His gracious gifts. Your faith is not your action, but your passive receiving of God's gifts. The gift of faith received in baptism prompts faithful parents to bring their children to the washing of water and the Word of the font to receive faith there. Faith draws you to hear God's love in Jesus Christ preached to you from the pulpit this day. The Spirit gathers you by faith around the Altar to receive the body and blood of Jesus in communion for your forgiveness.

So, in this story of blame and credit, things become quite clear. Like the outcast lepers, you deserved all the blame as a sinner before your holy, righteous God. But Jesus took your blame in full at the cross, suffering your death so that, in blessed exchange, you receive His eternal life. All credit for the grace which saves you goes to Christ Jesus, Who did everything under the Law to earn life for you. All credit for your faith also goes to the LORD, who gives you the gift of believing, so that you may be receiving salvation!

Today's hymns from LSB:
#865 Lord, Help Us Ever to Retain
#849 Praise the One Who Breaks the Darkness
#846 Your Hand, O Lord, In Days of Old

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009 Trinity 13

And look, a certain law-expert stood testing Him, saying, "Teacher, by doing what will I inherit eternal life?" And He said to him, "In the Law, what has been written? How do you read?" And answering, he said, "Love the Lord your God of the whole of your heart, and in the whole of your soul, and in the whole of your strength and in the whole of your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." And He said to him, "You have judged rightly; do this and you will live." But he, wanting to justify himself said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Taking it up, Jesus said, "A certain man was going down from Jerusalem into Jericho and fell among robbers, who both stripping him and striking blows went off, leaving him for dead. And according to coincidence, a certain priest was going down in that road and seeing him, went along the other side. And likewise, also a Levite having come down to the place and seeing, went along the other side. And a certain Samaritan travelling came down to him and seeing was gut-wrenched, and having come forward He bound his wounds, pouring oil and wine, and setting him upon His own beast, He brought him into an inn and cared for him. And upon the morrow, having taken out two denarii, He gave to the innkeeper and said, `Care for him, and whatever you may overspend, I Myself, in My returning I will give you.' Which of these three does it seem to you became a neighbor of him who fell among robbers?" And he said, "The one doing mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and you yourself keep doing likewise!"

The Good Samaritan parable is told to a single person, but its message is for all, including each of us. It's Law is clear: "Go and do likewise", but its Gospel is the Good Samaritan Himself.

The 1st problem the Law-expert had was his approach to Jesus. He wanted to test Jesus. Oh, he calls Jesus *teacher*, but he hardly acts like a student. He's a know-it-all, and assumes he's Jesus' teacher, and so gives the Lord a test. He wasn't even a nice teacher, since he was hoping Jesus would fail the test, and the law-expert could prove himself to be the superior teacher. Repent of those times you have thought that you knew so much that you didn't need to consult God as your Teacher.

Even though this man was not acting like a good student, Jesus took time to teach him anyway. Christ does the same for you, instructing you with His Word in Sunday School and in Bible Class. He comforts you with His Word in your daily devotions in the Scriptures. Jesus is such a kind Teacher that He even proclaims you forgiven for your poor attitudes toward learning, for He went to the cross to suffer for your rebellious attitudes, punished in your place there for your unwillingness to learn.

The second problem this expert-in-the-Law had was that he was all wrapped up in himself. His initial question reveals this, "What must I do..." As he read the scriptures, this man thought that they were all about him, so he searched God's Word thoroughly for all the Laws it contained. He forgot that this was not *his word*, but God's word. He failed to notice the merciful acts of God by which the LORD would save him. Repent of those times you too have thought everything was all about yourself.

Jesus answers the Law-expert's question...but with two questions of His Own. This man's response to Jesus is half-right. Only by loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and by loving your neighbor as yourself can everlasting life be merited. What he doesn't realize is the only One capable of living life with such perfect love is standing right before him! Jesus kept the Law perfectly for you, and then refused to keep the eternal life He earned, but gave it up at Calvary as a gift to you!

The third problem this Law-expert had was about neighborliness. He asked Jesus who his neighbor was. A 3 year old watching Sesame Street knows this–its the people that you meet each day. But this man wants to limit the # of those who receive his own love. God is perfect and deserves his love, but are sinners and unbelievers (like Samaritans) worthy to be loved? He doesn't think so. Jesus says love them anyway. Repent of those times you have withheld your love for others in need.

So Jesus tells the Good Samaritan story. You would expect the foreigner to be the one in urgent emergency at the side of the road (to test the Law-expert to see if he considers him help-worthy) but Jesus makes the Samaritan the hero. Jesus turns the tables on the Law-expert changing his question into "Who is most neighborly?". Jesus Himself is the Good Samaritan, Who, finding us left for dead in our sins, pays the full price to restore us to life again at the cost of His body given and His blood shed.

Hymns for today from LSB
#887 God, Who Made the Earth and Heaven
#683 Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me
#848 Lord, Whose Love through Humble Service