Sunday, September 15, 2013

Proper 19 1 Timothy 1:12-17

I myself am gracious to the One Who has empowered me–Christ Jesus, our Lord, that faithful, He regards me, established into service; the one before being the blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant one; but I was mercied because of ignorance I acted in unbelief; yet the grace of our Lord over-swelled with faith and God's love–the one in Christ Jesus. Faithful-the word, and worthy of all approval, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of which I myself am the first. But through this I was mercied, so that in me, first, Christ Jesus might show the whole patience, the prototype of those about to believe upon Him unto life eternal. And in the King of the ages, undying, invisible, only God, honor and glory into the ages of ages. Amen.  

The great St. Paul wasn't always so great. Nor was he regarded as a saint. Nor did he even go by the name of Paul. Known by His Jewish name of Saul, he was a prominent pharisee, as upright as any Jew could be, even to the point of persecuting that new sect of Jesus-followers called Christians. He spoke against this so called "Christ", and was given great authority to attack Christians, imprisoning some and having others put to death. He even approved of the stoning of St. Stephen. He was lost.

So how did this poor lost soul known as Saul, ungreat, and unsaintly though he was, become the great St. Paul? Jesus had to come and find him, that's how. On his way to persecute the Christian church in Damascus was where Jesus found him. Jesus stopped Saul in his tracks, blinded Him with a light, wrapping him up like a deuce. Then, when he followed Jesus' instructions to go to Ananias' house, he was baptized, regained his sight, and began using his Roman name of Paul to serve Jesus.

You are not unlike Saul because you too have been arrogant just as he was. You've acted selfishly and stubbornly in your own name. You've done what you alone have wanted to do, not caring what God desires. You have spun things in your own favor to place yourself in better light, even when it casts a shadow on your neighbor's reputation. You have acted as though you mattered most.

You are not unlike Saul aka Paul. For just as He was baptized and began using a new name, you too have been baptized. But not in your church's name, or in your pastor's name, or even in your own name, but in the Name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. God has given you His Own name at your baptism, making you His very Own dear child. You are adopted into God's household at your baptism, receiving God's Own family name as your own. Your home now is in His heavenly mansion, forever..

You are not so very different from Saul in that your actions have been anything but holy at times. As Saul has blasphemed against Jesus, your words have taken His name in vain, and have dishonored your Savior. As Saul persecuted the Church, so have you misled believers by your wrong-headed opinions and your attempts to mislead others away from how you know Christians are to behave.

Yet you are just like Saul/Paul in that you are declared to be holy despite your unholy thoughts, words and actions. This is because Jesus died on the cross for you just as much as He did for St. Paul. Jesus proclaims that you are forgiven of all your unholy sins, and that He has exchanged them for His Own holy righteousness from the cross of Calvary. His strong word has bespoken you "righteous", so that like St. Paul, you can be called a saint, shining bright with the glory of Jesus' Own holiness as your own!

You aren't dissimilar from Saul who sinned in his great ignorance. You too are ignorant when you act apart from your God-given faith. You wrongly assume it isn't so bad to take the first misstep of a transgression. Then you figure, it isn't so bad if you take just a couple more steps into Satan's dangerous territory as you keep trespassing there. But then you are stuck in sin, dreadfully lost.

But you are very much in the same boat as the great St. Paul, who was found by Jesus when he needed saving the most. Jesus has found you as your Good Shepherd as well, bringing you to the green pastures of the Lord's Supper, where He feeds you with His body given, and gives you to drink of His shed blood for the forgiveness of your sins. He mercied you there just as He once mercied the great St. Paul. Your greatness now is in Christ Jesus, the Word Who dwells in you richly.

So, just as the great St. Paul once was lost, but then was found by Jesus, you too were once lost in your trespasses and sins; but Christ found you and has returned you to His holy sheep-fold. Paul is a prototype of your own salvation, for just as Jesus mercied Him, so has He likewise mercied you! This Word is faithful: Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Through this you are mercied!


hymns this week from LSB:
#707  Oh That the Lord would Guide my Ways
#609  Jesus Sinners Doth Receive   stanzas   music
#611  Chief of Sinners though I Be

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