Sunday, September 26, 2010

Trinity 17 Proverbs 25:6-14 The Difficulty in trying to do the Right Thing

Do not act distinguished in the face of the king, and in the place of great men, do not stand; for it is better that one say to you, "Come up here!", than you be humbled in the face of a prince, which your eyes have seen. Do not go forth to contend hastily, otherwise what will you do afterward, when your neighbor disgraces you? Contend your contention with your neighbor, yet a secret of another, do not disclose. Otherwise, the one who hears will despise you, and your rumor not turn away. Oranges of gold in baskets of silver–a word spoken on its circumstances. And earring of gold and an ornament of refined gold–a preacher of wisdom to an ear that listens. As coolness of snow in the day of harvest–a faithful/true messenger to those who sent him; and the soul of his masters he refreshes. Clouds and wind and rain that is not–a man who boasts in a gift of falsehood.

Today's epistle encourages us to *walk* in a manner worthy of those who are called to be Christians. Jesus, in today's Gospel reminds us to be careful where we choose to *sit*. Wise Solomon teaches us to be careful where we *stand*. So whether we are walking, standing or sitting, we had better be "on our toes" figuratively speaking. For where we choose to be and attempt to "fit in" matters. We need to know first "Who we are" so that we will know "Where to be" and "How to act"...

So...just "Who are you?" Well, you know who you aren't. You're not the King. You aren't even the Prince. You probably aren't anybody very great or noble either. You are nobody special that many people would consider you very important. Oh, I know that you like to think that you are a significant someone at times, but truth be told, you are just one of 7 billion who currently reside on planet earth.

But your God didn't choose to let you remain a nobody. Out of your obscurity your heavenly King sent to you the crowned Prince of heaven to live the perfect life on earth that you've failed to do. He became a perfect sacrifice for your sin on the cross, giving His life as the ransom price for a lowly earthling like you. All so that, you would hear His gospel call saying to you, "Come on up here!" to live with Him forevermore in the paradise of heaven! Humble no more, you are now exalted for eternity!

So now you know who you are, a resident of the kingdom of heaven! But now you need to know just where you are to be? Oh, I know you want to be where the popular people go, at times. The bars, the gambling establishments, the stadiums & auditoriums which attract crowds are enticing. And it's ok to go to one of these places on occasion. But if restaurants, sporting events, campgrounds, school activities, and the like are taking up a bulk of your time, perhaps you're in the wrong places too much.

God's Spirit calls you to "Come up here" where He promises to be each Sunday and holiday, in His house called the Church. He gathers you around His word proclaimed, so that your listening ear may hear God's wisdom preached. Your pastor is pledged to be a faithful and true messenger of that Word. He is no hireling who brags about false hope that your itching ears may want to hear. He brings you God's refreshing word of grace, that descends like rain and snow from heaven to comfort your soul.

You know who you are–a resident of heaven. You know where you are to be–in church where God's words are proclaimed. But how are we to act? Well, you know that you shouldn't act pridefully, although you often do. "I'm a really good person" you like to think. But think again. Are you never contentious? Do you never argue with people or try to embarrass them by spreading rumors? You've never revealed someone's secret, or ever thought to look down your nose at those "beneath you"?

Truth be told, we often act in ways that attempt to put others down so that we seem superior. But that's nothing but sin, which is *our* disgrace before God. According to God's Law, when we show disdain or scorn for another person, we fail to love them as we do ourselves, and become law-breakers, worthy of being sent down to the lowest place of all. When we act that way, we aren't acting as those called to be in God's divine presence on Sunday, or in heaven for eternity.

So what does God do with us? Well, He "could" send you down to that lowest of places where you deserve to be. But He doesn't. He humbles you once again, instead. He sends you His Law to convict you of your sin. Then He gives you the right words to say in confession. First you confess your sinfulness to God so that you will agree with God that you don't deserve heaven. Then you confess once more, this time in the words of the Creed, that Jesus was crucified, suffered, died and was buried for you! Then your Savior feeds you with His body and blood for your forgiveness! Exalted!

Hymns for today from LSB:
#398 Hail to the Lord's Anointed
#557 Seek Where Ye May
#698 May we, Thy Precepts, Lord Fulfill

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Trinity 16 I Kings 17: 17-24

And it was, after these words, he became weak, the son of the woman, mistress of the house; and it was, his weakness was very powerful, up to which there was no breath in him. And she said to Elijah, "What is this to me and to you, ‘man of God'? You have come to me to remember my wrongs, and to kill my son!" And he said to her, "Give to me, your son." And he took from her lap, and he took him up to the upstairs, which he was dwelling there, and he placed him on his bed. And he called to Yahweh, and he said, "Yahweh, my God, also to the widow which I am staying as a foreigner with her, have You done evil, causing to die, her son?" And he stretched out upon the lad three times, and he called to Yahweh, and said, "Yahweh, my God, return, please, the soul of the lad to his inner parts." And Yahweh listened to the voice of Elijah, and the soul of the lad returned to his inner parts, and he lived! And Elijah took the lad, and brought him down from the upstairs of the house, and he gave him to his mother, and Elijah said to her, "Look, your son is alive!" And the woman said to Elijah, "This I know, for a man of God, you are, and the Word of God in your mouth is faithful-truth!"

God perplexes us sometimes. You get a lead on a job that seems perfect for you...then it goes to someone else. You find a special someone whom you want to date...but that person wants a relationship with somebody else. You work hard to live and eat healthier...then you come down with an illness anyway. You know how the widow in the story today must have felt. God had just provided food for her family thru a miracle...but now her one surviving relative, her only son, takes ill and dies.

When God allows such curve balls to be thrown into your life, how do you react? At first, you might react like Elijah, who all but accused God of doing something evil to this boy. "Why did God let this happen!" you might want to shout. Oh, you know that God didn't *do it*. Although you may act like you still think He did. You want to blame God for your troubles, quickly forgetting you deserve them.

Even though you ought to receive many more calamities in your life for your sin, God refrains from giving you what you should receive. God isn't evil. God is Love! When bad things happen to you, it's not because God is bad, but because He desires to use it as an opportunity to show mercy! That's what He did thru Elijah, raising this boy from the dead. That's what He does for you too! Jesus, the author of life gave Himself to death to feed you with His body and blood for your life everlasting!

You may react somewhat negatively like the widow woman in the story. You can almost hear the sarcasm in her voice as she addresses Elijah as a "man of God". It's as though she's mocking him with a "yeah, right, *you* are a ‘man of God'". You may be tempted to forget that your pastor is a "man of God" too. You may even try to dismiss what he teaches and preaches as his own opinion.

But a real man of God, like Elijah, doesn't offer human thoughts or ideas. He offers you words that are faithful and true. God's words. That's why you can rely on what your Pastor says to you as a sola scriptura preacher & teacher. As such a pastor, I'm privileged to proclaim to you today that you too, like this once dead boy are alive again! You who were dead in your sins are now made alive in Christ Jesus! You died to sin at the cross when Jesus died, and you are raised in Him on Easter to live new life!

You might also react to troubles by thinking that the LORD is a vindictive God. Luther used to think that. So did the widow woman, who was sure that God was punishing her for her former sinfulness. She was certain that God was a stern Judge Who kept a long ledger with black marks against her for all her wrongs. You might be tempted to think this sometimes too. But that's not how God acts.

Oh, your God is a God of judgment, to be certain. But His judgment toward you is a good one! He judges you by grace in Christ Jesus! In fact, though the LORD could remember all your wrongs, He chooses not to! He washed you clean from your sins in Holy Baptism! But there was a time when He *did* recall all of your sins, when He remembered to pour out that filthy flood water from the font upon His Son Jesus at the cross. Your God died for you so that you would not die, but live forever!

So, when lousy situations happen in your life that seem all wrong, take pause a bit to see if these are not just opportunities for God to act. Even the death of her last living family member turned out to be an occasion for great joy to the widow, when God used Elijah to resurrect Him. God does the same for you! In fact, He already has! As a believer *in* Christ, that means you were literally *in* Him on Easter Sunday when He raised Himself to life. You are already resurrected to life eternal in heaven!


Sunday, September 12, 2010

I Kings 17:8-16 15th Sunday after Trinity

And it occurred, the Word of Yahweh to him (Elijah) saying, "Rise, walk to Zarephath, which is in Sidon, and stop there; look I have ordered there a widow woman to provide all your food." And he rose, and he walked to Zarephath, and he came to the gate of the city, and look there, a widow woman gathering sticks. And he called to her, and he said, "Bring, please, to me a little water in a vessel, and I may drink." And she was walking to get, and he called to her and he said, "Bring, please, to me a piece of bread in your hand." And she said, "Life of Yahweh your God, if there is to me a supply, for if a full palm of flour in a pot and a little oil in a jug, and look, I am gathering two sticks and I will go in and I will prepare for me and for my son, and we will eat, and we will die." And Elijah said to her, "Do not fear; go, prepare as you have spoken, however, prepare for me from there a little cake first, and bring it to me, and for you and for your son you prepare afterward. For so says Yahweh, God of Israel, ‘The pot of flour will not be consumed, and the jug of oil will not be lacking, until the day Yahweh gives rain on the face of the earth." And she walked and she prepared according to the word of Elijah, and they ate, she and he and her house for days. And the pot of flour was not exhausted, and the jug of oil was not lacking, according to the Word of Yahweh which He spoke in the hand of Elijah.

God provides. We all know this. The Lord provides. This truth has sometimes become almost a trite, pithy statement that people offer during times of need. But it's still true. Jesus provides! Often when it seems like the darkest moment of your life, your Savior is there providing whatever you need. It may appear as though nothing good is forthcoming from God, but He keeps His promise to provide you your daily bread for this world's living, and He adds to that the promises which provide for even more!

Now, things looked pretty bleak for Elijah. Wicked King Ahab had married nasty gal named Jezebel from the foreign land of Lebanon. They persecuted prophets like Elijah, killing most of them. Then a drought comes into the land, and Elijah is spared certain death as God leads him to a brook and provides food for him through ravens. Then God throws a curve-ball at Elijah. He tells him to go to Lebanon, that nasty land Jezebel came from, where God would provide his next meals.

"Of course", you consider at first, "Elijah should trust God and go where He's promised to feed him." But I'm sure it wasn't so easy for Elijah. Picking up and going to a foreign land, trusting God to provide for him there during a great drought? Not so easy. But Elijah trusted that God would provide just as He had promised, and went to the home of the widow of Zarephath. Even there, he continued to trust God could provide, even though her pantry was almost completely bare. And God did provide!

Well, how about yourself? Do you readily, and willingly go where God has promised to provide for you? Quite often, you don't. Do you come faithfully to hear God's word proclaimed each Sunday & holiday from the pulpit? Do you also faithfully attend the bible classes offered here, and do you bring your children, grandchildren, nieces & nephews to Sunday School, so that all of God's family here may be taught from God's Word of truth and be equipped to fend off the devil's temptations?

Do you want to come to the Lord's Table *every Sunday and holiday* for the spiritual nourishment of Christ's Body and Blood? "Well, I'm not sure I'm ready for that..." some of you are probably thinking. Every Sunday communion may seem like foreign territory to us... And do you take opportunity for private confession & absolution, as you learned in the Catechism, so that you may regularly hear God's absolute forgiveness from the Pastor as from Christ Himself? "I'm not doing that!" you think.

But why not come often to receive these gifts God has promised to you? Just because it's outside of your personal comfort zone to do so? It was surely uncomfortable for Elijah to cross the border into hostile territory during a dangerous drought. But he acted not on his personal feelings, but in faith, trusting God's promises each step of the way. So too are you blessed to walk even more often to the Lord's Table to receive the body of Christ given for you, and His blood shed at Calvary for your life!

And you are blessed to come to bear your soul whenever it is heavy with guilt, to hear the wonderful words of forgiveness, that you are set free from your sin, from death, and from the power of the devil! For Jesus promises to provide more than just for your daily bread here and now. He delivers Himself as the Bread of Life at the Cross, and in Word and Sacrament, He feeds you unto your life everlasting! Amen

Hymns for Today from LSB:

#726 Evening and Morning

#760 What God Ordains is Always Good

#719 I Leave All Things to God's Direction