Welcome

Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Cost of Discipleship - June 30, 2013 - Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 8) - Text: Luke 9:51-62

I have told this story before, but it is worth telling again. There is a story about a young college man, a Christian man, who got a summer job working in a lumberjack camp. This particular lumberjack camp had a reputation for being a real tough camp, the roughest, toughest lumberjack camp in all North America, full of only the vilest of heathen men. After the summer ended all the friends of the young college man were curious as to how the he had fared at the lumberjack camp. They wondered if he got beat up for being a Christian. One day one of his friends ask him, “did they make fun of you or persecute you for being a Christian?” The young man answered, “no, they never caught on.” The question we might ask is, “is this young man really a Christian?” or does he merely confess to be a Christian with his lips, but his heart is far from the Lord. This morning with the help of the Holy Spirit we hear what Jesus means when He says, “Follow me.” And we will better understand the true cost of discipleship.
 
The question we might get from our text for today is, “What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus?” Our text for today is sandwiched in between the disciples argument about who is the greatest and Jesus sending out the seventy-two to go and proclaim the good news of salvation. In their argument of who is the greatest, Jesus explained to His disciples that greatness, that is spiritual greatness, is not measured in human terms, but that greatness comes in having faith as a little child, which truly speaks of infant baptism. His concluding words are, “For he who is least among you all is the one who is great” (9:48c). Here we have our first hint at what discipleship means.
 
Our text begins with telling us that Jesus time to be taken up to heaven was approaching. That means that we are approaching the time for Jesus’ death on the cross. We are also told that Jesus is resolute in His going to Jerusalem, which is where we know that He was to be crucified. As He is heading for Jerusalem, He needs, either to go around Samaria, which is the long way, or to go through Samaria. However, the people of Samaria did not welcome Him, because He was headed toward Jerusalem. Now, here in this text, we get a glimpse of the character of the disciples (v. 51-56). James and John, the ones that Jesus affectionately called the sons of thunder, react by wanting to send down fire from heaven. They want a show of power.
 
The Samaritans did not welcome Jesus because of who He was, the proposed Messiah. Remember, there was a continual battle going on between the Jews and their “half” cousins, the Samaritans. Neither liked the other. And here we see that just as many of the Jews did not believe in Jesus, so neither did many of the Samaritans. Jesus knows that He did not come to destroy the Samaritans, but to save all people, thus He rebukes His disciples and turns to go another way.
 
All of this brings us to our lesson in discipleship (v. 57-62). “57As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ 58And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’” (v. 57-58). This first man wanted to follow Jesus, but He did not understand the cost of following Jesus. Jesus wanted to make sure he understood exactly what it would cost before making such a commitment. The cost of following Jesus is the cost of giving up everything, including a “permanent” place in this world, a permanent place to sleep, a roof over your head and a nice cozy bed. To us the question might be, “Are we ready to give up everything in this world, the luxury of a bed, and a roof over our heads, even our status quo, for the sake of following Jesus?”
 
Continuing on in our text we read, “59To another [Jesus] said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ 60And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God’” (v. 59-60). Jesus calls this second man, but he has an excuse. His excuse is that he still has family to take care of, but after his family obligations are complete, after his father has died and he has buried him and completed the required number of days morning, then he will follow Jesus. Jesus’ response might sound a bit crass, “let the dead bury their own dead,” but He wants us to understand that to be His disciple means He comes first. To us the question might be, “Are we ready to give our lives for Jesus now or is something else standing in our way? Do we want to put off being a disciples until a more opportune time?”
 
Continuing on His journey, we read, “61Yet another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ 62Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God’” (v. 61-62). Here again, this third man steps forward and volunteers his service, yet, he too has an excuse, he needs to go back and say good-by to his family. To us the question might be, “What is standing in our way of being disciples of Jesus? Are we too busy with the things of this world?”
 
One, two, three; three strikes and they’re out. Each of these three incidents teaches the same lesson; true discipleship of Christ implies a denial of self and all earthly ties, and in certain circumstances even the obligations of blood-relatives. Service to Jesus requires an unconditional allegiance.
 
In our epistle lesson for today, Paul outlines the difference between being a disciple, a servant of Jesus and walking away from such service. He uses the terms, living by the Spirit or living by the flesh, that is our sinful nature. Listen again to what Paul tells us, “13For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:13-25).
 
So, what does this mean, to be a disciples of Jesus? To be a disciple of Jesus means to recognize that it is not we who choose Jesus in order to follow Him, but rather that He has chosen us. He chose us through His Word. He chose us at our Baptism. He chose us and gave His life for us. He gives us forgiveness of sins and faith. He is the one who does everything for us and gives to us everything that we need. He does, He acts.
 
Jesus calls us to faith and He calls us to discipleship. When it comes to being a disciple of Jesus we are reminded that we cannot compartmentalize our lives. We cannot be like the young college student in our opening story, that is we cannot be a Christian only when we are at church and then not be a Christian when it might be difficult to be a Christian. We cannot divide our lives and the times of our life as such: this is work time, this is family time, and this is Jesus time. Jesus calls us to lifetime discipleship, that is that all our of life and all parts of our life are lived as a disciple. When we work, we work as a disciple. When we are at home, we are a member of our family as a disciple. When we play, when we do whatever we do, we do all as a disciple of Jesus. Our lives are lived in such a way that they say, “I am a disciple of Jesus.”
 
Finally, Jesus is not a now or later proposition. At the beginning of our text we read, “51When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (v. 51). The time is now, there may be no tomorrow. About this, we rejoice. We rejoice, because we are New Testament Christian. We have God’s Word which tells us that everything has already been accomplished for us. Jesus has given His life for ours. Jesus has paid the price for our sins. Jesus has suffered and died on the cross for us. Jesus has told us, “Your sins are forgiven.” Jesus has risen from the dead. Jesus has ascended into heaven. Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to work faith and strengthening of faith in us. The Holy Spirit works in us so that we are disciples of Jesus. Jesus has promised that He will return.
 
The cost of true discipleship is your life. And this is not a half and half proposition. A person cannot be a Christian part of the time and say leave me alone the rest. We are either one hundred percent God’s, or one hundred percent not His. So, whose are we? What do our actions confess about us? What does our stewardship confess about us? What does our Divine Service attendance say about us? What does our Bible Class attendance say about us? What does our participation and volunteer service at church say about us? Are we trying to be a part time Christian. Are we only lukewarm for the Lord? Can we relate to these words from Revelation where God says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15,16). Unfortunately, because of our inborn sinful nature, we are poor Christians, but take heart, because we have a God who does not do fractions. He did not die a little for us. He did not give us some forgiveness now and some later after we “make the cut”. We have a God who gives us the whole lot of His grace and forgiveness and a whole lot more. We have a God who is not lukewarm. We have a God who is not our God just part time, only when we are at church. We have a God who is always our God, one hundred percent of the time and one hundred percent our God. We have a God who has given us His everything, once and for all. The cost of discipleship was the price of His one and only Son. And He paid that price for us. I now live, because He lives in me.
 
We are disciples of Jesus. By faith in Him, faith given to us by Him, we are His disciples. We may not be perfect disciples and we will never be perfect disciples, at least not this side of heaven, but we have our Lord’s promise that He will be with us. He will continue to work on us to mold us into being the disciples He wants us to be. He will continue to help us as He has paid the price for our discipleship.
 
My prayer for each one of you is that the Holy Spirit might continue to work in your lives, working faith, strengthening your faith, and keeping you in faith so that you do have your eyes looking forward in service to Jesus and His Kingdom. So that ultimately we might all together stand before the Lord’s throne and say, with all the saints, “to Him be the glory,” for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Friday, June 28, 2013

America’s Dislike for Standing on Principle

So, I am rethinking about a statement made after the BSA voted to allow openly avowed homosexual boys to be active members, that because a boy said he was gay at his Eagle board of review he was not allowed to be an Eagle scout, and someone said, “Shame on the Boy Scouts.” Really, shame on the Boy Scouts for standing on principle? The young man knew the standards and expectation of being a Boy Scout. He could have simply passed his board of review and later, perhaps after turning 18 and being declared an adult and actually, maybe understanding his declaration, said he was gay. In other words, perhaps he was looking for a confrontation.

Any other organization for any other reason would be commended for standing their moral ground. What would we think of a judge who declared a guilty man innocent just because . . . ? We would not think him very just. Anytime we join groups with certain expectations and criteria, we know their expectations before joining. If we have a problem with their expectations, instead of thinking ourselves heroes in changing the organization, perhaps we should join a different group or create a new one.

So, not shame on the BSA, but shame on the one with the hidden agenda, the one trying to change the organization to which he owes so much, especially so much in character building. A young man’s sexuality (sexual preference or orientation) should not even be an issue for these young men under the age of eighteen, because that is not a part of the Boy Scouts of American program, unless of course you consider sexuality under the issue of a scout being morally straight (which excludes the immoral practice of homosexuality). Our society has failed our youth yet again in its immoral pressuring. If instead of being lenient and allowing promiscuity, always with the excuse “They’re going to do it anyway,” and instead we held them to a higher standard, expecting them not to be promiscuous, they would live up to our expectations.

But again, one more problem we have in our culture is that we attempt to shame those with high moral principle in order to ease our guilty conscience for our own wishy washy-ness. We simply cannot stand someone with good strong moral principles which is a big problem in and of itself.
    As is the case with one joining any organization, check out what you are joining before you join. To join with the intent to change the organization to your standard is unfair to that organization. If no organization meets your standard, create your own. The rest of the members of that organization did not join with the expectation of having to conform to your standards, so shame on you for your attempt to change them.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Medium Is the Message

Let me begin by saying that I am not perfect and I do not always get everything right. Also, there are probably times I make doctrinally confusing missteps in my leading of Divine Service as well. My hypothesis is that I believe not everyone is cognizant in making the connection between the medium and the message nor doctrine and practice. My Sunday worship experience will help illustrate my hypothesis. I do not believe there was any ill intent in certain messages that were subtly presented in the church we visited, and it is more than likely that ninety-five percent of people attending did not perceive the messages I did.

So, we go to visit a sister congregation for church on Sunday. This particular congregation has a beautiful new sanctuary. When we enter the sanctuary, we see a very large beautiful wooden cross hanging from the high ceiling over the altar. To the right of the altar is the beautiful baptismal font and to the right is a beautiful pulpit. From this sight one’s first impression concerning the doctrine of this church would be that this is a church there the sacrament of Holy Baptism, the Sacrament of the Altar and the preaching of the Word of God are central, not to mention Holy Absolution. The pews all contained new copies of the church hymnal giving the impression that the hymnal was regarded as a useful tool for Divine Service. The other positive from this service was that the pastor’s sermon was a good sermon consisting of law and a wonderful proclamation of the good news of the Gospel.

With the positives stated, it is unfortunate that these positive messages were confused with other negative messages. As we noted the central doctrinal message of the font, altar and pulpit, we also noted the entertainment message of the screens on both sides on the front walls, both displaying much of what was in the worship folder. Unfortunately, only some of the hymns in the worship folder were from the hymnal in the pew which was not used at all. Instead, the worship service was filled with other “liturgical” aberrations. One of the most interesting and doctrinal befuddlements was the fact that the female lay reader read all the lessons, including the Gospel lesson from the pulpit, but the pastor preached from in front of the altar.

I guess I am just frustrated with the fact that we cannot understand the unity that comes from uniformity in doctrine and practice. For all who call for diversity, do we not realize that the word “diversity” contains the word divide, not unite; thus there truly is not unity in diversity, rather there is division in diversity. At one time we all spoke the same liturgy at somewhat the same time across the Lutheran congregations of America and even in other countries. Can you imagine that amount of unity before God. Now God hears a mishmash of voices and “liturgies” rather than a unity. This experience has strengthened my resolve to be more perceptive in my own planning processes and in taking care of presenting the right message, through the right medium, and in teaching others the importance of our Lutheran doctrine and how it is seen in Lutheran practice, so that there might one day again be unity.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Deviled Ham - June 23, 2013 - Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 07) - Text: Luke 8:26-39

Just as a reminder, we are in the non-festival part of our Church year, meaning that we have had all our celebrating in Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost, so that now we are in the Pentecost season and the Sundays after Pentecost. Our liturgical color is green and will be green for another twenty or so Sundays. And let me remind you that the color green is the color of growth. I say all this to help us understand that this is the season of the Church Year that we are to grow in our knowledge of the Lord and in our faith in Jesus as our Savior. Which brings us to our message for this morning. Previously in our growing in the knowledge of the Lord, that is last week in our Gospel reading we heard the narrative of Jesus calming the sea. This week we move to the disciples landing the boat opposite Galilee.
 
The landing reception Jesus and His disciples received was that they were met by a demon possessed man. What a reception. Interestingly enough Luke tells us that this man had been demon possessed for some time and the people of the town had tried to deal with him as best they could, at least humanly speaking. Luke makes note that there had been unsuccessful attempts to chain the man (v. 29), both for his own good and for the protection of the townspeople.
 
This man has been demon possessed so long that he has lost all shame. At this time we are told that he now lives among the tombs in the grave yard which is considered to be living in unclean places, meaning that this man is in a constant state of spiritual uncleanness. His complete shame is seen in the fact that we are told that he no longer wears clothes. Actually this scene is quite a warning to us in our world today. The temptation and lure to evil abounds in our world and once a person begins to go down that road it is indeed difficult to turn around.
 
Of course, as we have been seeing, following along with Jesus, for Jesus to approach this demon possessed man, for Jesus to venture into a place of uncleanliness is not a problem, because Jesus is perfect cleanliness, and He is the One who brings cleanliness. As Jesus approaches, the demons recognize Jesus, which is kind of interesting as we will see that the people of the town do not want to recognize Jesus and as the Jewish religious leaders the Pharisees and teachers of the law never recognize Him either, yet these demons, these minions of Satan do recognize Jesus and they are afraid of Him. They are afraid of Him because they already know of their eternal demise.
 
The demon recognizes Jesus and begs Him not to torment them. Jesus asks the name of the demon and we are told his name is Legion which is really more of a description than a name. His name indicates that this man is possessed not by one demon but by many demons. This possession by many demons again shows us that the road of evil quickly leads to more and more evil.
 
Finally, as Jesus commands the demons to come out of the man and honoring the request of the demons to not be tormented, Jesus casts the unclean demons into the unclean swine. And yes, here I have to say it, this is the first mention in the Bible of deviled ham. The demons enter the pigs which rush down the steep bank and into the lake where they are drowned.
 
So, Jesus has landed in the country of the Gerasenes and having had His first reception into town being made by the demon possessed man, now He is ready to have the rest of the town receive Him. As the people of the town come out to greet Jesus they now find the once demon possessed man sitting at Jesus’ feet and in his right mind. While this is going on, the herdsmen who had witnessed Jesus cast out the demon and watched as their livestock committed suicide, told everyone what had happened.
 
The townspeople feared Jesus, probably because of their superstitions. These were simple people who had seen demon possession, but now they were seeing something even greater, greater enough to cast out the demons and this frightened them.
 
Their response to these events was that they asked Jesus to leave. They did not want anything worse to happened. They were afraid for their lives. And so Jesus honored their request and returned to the boat to leave. As Jesus got ready to leave, the previously demon possessed man asked to go with Jesus. He knew who had saved him. He knew his Savior. He also knew his former life and did not want to return to being demon possessed.
 
Jesus tells the man to return to his people as a missionary. Here we see Jesus’ love for these people, even though they asked Him to leave, He wanted to make sure they heard the good news of forgiveness and salvation. And as a response of faith, the man did return to his home. He did rejoice in the Lord. He did proclaim throughout the city what Jesus had done for him.
 
So, what does this mean? Again, with the reminder that we are in the Pentecost season and the fact that this is the season, the time of the church year that we are to grow in our Christian faith, in our knowledge and understanding of our Lord, here again we see that Jesus shows Himself to be divine, to be truly God through the signs, wonders and miracles He performs. We see that He is truly God with power over the waters and power even over demons. We see that He is truly God as even the demons, even the minions of Satan himself recognize and fear Him.
 
The ceremonial laws of the Old Testament all pointed to Jesus. The laws regulating clean and unclean, or clean things and common things all pointed to the distinction between the common or unclean things of the human world and the Holiness of God Himself. God is holy. We human beings live in a world tainted by sin and there were many ways one might become unclean, spiritually unclean and not worthy of entering the presence of the Holy Lord until returning to a spiritually clean state. As for Jesus Himself, He is truly God. He is truly Holy and so Jesus brings good news, Jesus brings cleansing to the unclean, especially to Gentiles, even more especially to us.
 
Just as the townspeople in our text who were confronted with Jesus rejected Him, or at least asked Him to leave from their presence, so too even today when people are confronted with Jesus too many either reject Him or ask Him to leave from their presence. Personally, I believe this rejection is because people know in their hearts that Jesus is the only One True God and as they are worshiping false gods and idols in their own lives they know their uncleanliness in standing before Jesus and rather than confess their sins they would rather He simply leave them. And yes, even as Christians there are times in our own lives when we reject Jesus. We reject Him while we revel in our sin, not wanting to admit nor confess our sins. We reject Jesus when we fail, neglect, and outright refuse to make use of the means of grace, that is when we neglect our own reading and hearing of God’s Word, when we neglect to remember our Baptism, when we neglect confession and absolution, and when we neglect partaking of the Lord’s Supper.
 
And so, for us in our world today, just as Jesus sent the healed man back to his own town to share the good news of salvation with his own family and friends, so too today, Jesus continues to send missionaries in His name and with His Word, even to us. And at times, through our vocations, as the Lord heals us of our spiritual sickness of sin, doubt, despair, and sometimes even outright unbelief, so He sends us through our vocations to be missionaries to our family and friends, to our coworkers and those whose lives we touch.
 
It has been said that seven days without the Lord makes one weak, meaning weak in faith. During this Pentecost Season, it is especially important that we continue to make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, being in Divine Service and Bible class every Sunday, reading God’s Word every day, and hearing it proclaimed every Sunday, remembering our baptism, confessing our sins and hearing His Word of absolution, and partaking of His body and blood in His Holy Supper, because for us too, seven days without the Lord makes us weak and vulnerable. God has given us His means of grace so that we might be strengthened and kept in faith. And it is through these means of grace that God comes to us to give us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give, blessing He earned for us on the cross, giving His life for ours, especially faith, forgiveness of sins, life in this world and even more eternal salvation. Our response of faith, our response to all the good gifts and blessings our Lord gives to us is to desire even more to be where those blessings are distributed so that we might be given even more. Our response of faith is to be given too! Our response of faith is like that of the previously demon possessed man, to be with Jesus.
 
As our great and loving God strengthens and keeps us in faith through His means of grace, then He also sends us out in our vocations to be ready to give an answer for the hope and joy we have in Him. God does not ask us to be confrontational nor in your face about giving an answer for our faith in Jesus. He simple asks us to live lives of faith. He asks us to be given the gifts He has to give. He asks us to always be ready to give an answer for our faith and why we live lives of faith. And as He asks us to always be ready to give an answer, He also is ready to actually give us the words to speak in answer. Those words we are to speak are His Words which He gives to us and here we are back to the means of grace, His Word which we read and hear are the words which He gives us to speak.
 
Paul gives us our words of hope in our Epistle lesson for this morning. Paul’s words are the very words which our Lord gives to us to speak when asked to express what is the hope that we have. So we may give an answer for the hope that we have we may say as Paul says, “4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Gal. 4:4-7). We are children of God, brothers and sisters of Christ, bought back by the blood of Jesus, forgiven and made saints. What a great God we have, a God of love and forgiveness. How can we not rejoice and say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Jesus Gives - June 9, 2013 - Third Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 05) - Text: Luke 7:11-17

Last week our readings encouraged us in our prayer life. Perhaps even as parents we were encouraged to pray for our children, but even more, as Christians we were encouraged to pray for each other. Interestingly enough, the people who put together our pericopy system obviously were not accustomed to our American holy days, because after reading our lessons for today, both the Old Testament and the Gospel, one might think these would be fitting texts for a Mother’s Day celebration, with these text being the giving back to mothers the lives of their only sons who had died rather unexpectedly. And yet even though it is not Mother’s Day, today we rejoice in the giving of our Lord’s Word and His Word which does what it says. Today His Word gives life and so we are given life. And we say, “Thanks be to God.”
 
Our text for this morning follows immediately after our text from last week. Luke transitions us by saying, “soon afterward,” that is, soon after Jesus healed the centurion’s servant He went to a  town called Nain. Jesus has been doing this “Messiah bit” for some time now. He has changed water into wine, healed and cast out demons, cleansed lepers, and made paralytics whole. He has preached the word, and He has forgiven sins but up to this point He has not yet shown His real power, that is, His power even over death, which we know is a result of sin, but that is about to change.
 
Soon after Jesus healed the centurion’s servant he went to Nain. There, as He entered the town, He was met by a funeral procession. And in quick succession Luke tells us a lot about this funeral procession. “A man who had died,” was being carried out. This man was, “the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.” Luke says a lot in just a few words. We may well be moved to have pity for this woman, wife and mother. There has been much sorrow in her life. Her husband had previously passed away leaving her to raise up and care for their only child, a son. And if that were not enough, now her only son, the child who was to grow up and take care of her into old age has passed away. Certainly we cannot stress the fact enough, but here we see the horrid result of sin. Not necessarily the sin of this young man or his mother, but the result of sin in general in our world, even the result of the first sin in the Garden of Eden. The result of sin is death and as we see, with death is sorrow and mourning.
 
Luke continues to tell us that many from the town are grieving with her as there was a considerable crowd in the funeral procession. “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her.” Unfortunately our English word, “compassion” does not do justice to the feeling and emotion which Jesus felt. And I do not know if we can completely understand the Lexicon’s explanation of this compassion that is that Jesus was deeply moved to the depth of His being. Jesus approached the woman and encouraged her with the words, “do not weep.” Certainly easier said than done, but with Jesus, He does not just speak empty words. Remember, Jesus’ words always do what they say and with Jesus speaking, “do not weep,” there is more to His words than an empty sentiment.
 
Risking becoming unclean, Jesus reached out and touched the bier. He touched the casket so that the pall bearers had to stop. Jesus is risking becoming unclean, because touching anything dead would make one unclean and unworthy to worship in the temple, yet for Jesus there really is no risk because rather than becoming unclean He is there to bring life from death, to bring cleansing and healing.
 
And Jesus said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” Jesus commanded life, even life from death. “And the dead man sat up and began to speak.” Sin brings death, Jesus brings life. Sin separates us from God, Jesus restores that broken relationship. Jesus is truly God with power over all things. When Jesus speaks, His word does what it says. Jesus says “arise,” and the man arose. The man was brought back from death to life and he sat up.
 
And yet, Jesus is not done yet. After raising the young man from the dead we are told, He gave the young man back to his mother. His words to this mother, “Do not weep,” are made real as He takes her tears from her by giving her back her son, her only son, her flesh and blood, the one to care for her in her old age. What joy wipes away the tears of mourning as gladness comes from the Lord.
 
The reaction of the crowd is that “fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has arisen among us!’ and ‘God has visited his people!’” As Jesus continued to show Himself to be the Messiah, the people began to realize more and more that He was more than just a good man and a good teacher.
 
The people are beginning to recognize that Jesus is prophet. Not everyone necessarily recognized Him as the Messiah, but they do recognize Him as a prophet. Similarly in our Old Testament Lesson for this morning you may have noticed that Elijah, although not the Messiah, was a prophet who was sent from God who himself was not always recognized as such, at least not until, as the Old Testament reading describes, he raised a child from the dead. Certainly this power over death was a sign of one being sent from God and one being a prophet and in our text Jesus is now being recognized as such.
 
And so we ask, “What does this mean?” First, I believe it is imperative that we recognize the result of sin in this world. We are living on the sin side of the fall into sin in the Garden of Eden and we see how sin has infected, not only the earth, with thorns and thistles, with tornadoes and hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters, but sin has also infected all humanity. All people are conceived and born in sin and thus all people are born and destined to die. You and I are conceived and born in sin. We daily sin much and are destined to die. Without forgiveness, not only would we die like the young man in our Gospel reading, that is not only would we die a physical death, but we would also suffer eternal spiritual death, eternal separation from God. Left to ourselves we would have no hope. Our hope and our salvation must and does come from outside of us.
 
You may have noticed that in our text for this morning and in the previous miracle, the healing of the centurion’s servant, there is no mention of the faith of the one who was healed and raised from the dead. Contrary to what many of the so called “faith healers” will tell you, it is not the faith of the one being healed or raised from the dead that make these miracles happen. And here I am reminded of the fact that God can do whatever He wants to do because He is, after all, God. No amount of unbelief or sin on our part can keep Him from healing or raising from the dead. Our hope and our salvation must and does not come from inside it comes from outside of us.
 
In our text from this morning we see that Jesus is truly human. He has feelings. He cares and shows it. He is moved to the depth of His being. In the same way He cares for and loves each one of us. The reason He came to this earth was because of His great love for us. A love that is not from within us, but that is a reflection of His first loving us. We love because He first loved us. We are lovable only because He makes us lovable. Our hope and our salvation must and does come from outside of us.
 
Also, in our text for this morning we see that Jesus is truly God. Who else can forgive sins, except God. Who else has power over all creation, even over death except God. Jesus had power. Jesus has power to forgiven sins. He has power over death. Jesus is God.
 
And so the people of Nain rightly recognize, Jesus is a prophet, and more, He is God visiting His people. We would rightly say, He is the Messiah. Sin brought death, Jesus came to bring life. He came to bring life by giving His own life.
 
But what about today? Today we still live this side of the fall into sin. Today we still suffer the results of sin in our world. Today people still sin and with sin people still suffer and even die. Death continues to be the result of sin. And yet, even today, Jesus still has compassion on us. Jesus does not like to see us suffer. Suffering and death were never a part of His plan. Life, even eternal life to its fullest were His plans. Jesus still has compassion on us today and He continues to show His compassion on us through His means of grace.
 
Jesus still brings healing to us today. He brings physical healing through doctors and medicine. Even more importantly He continues to bring spiritual healing through His Word and Sacraments. Jesus’ Word continues to do what it says, give forgiveness, strengthen and keep in faith. His sacraments continue to do their work, giving and strengthening in faith.
 
Jesus still gives life. He gives us life more abundantly in this world and He gives us eternal life. Jesus has power over sin, death and the devil. He is the one who died and rose defeating eternal spiritual death. And He trades His death for our death so that we have life.
 
In our text we are shown the sorrow of the widow who had suffered the death of her husband and her son. We are shown the horrid result of sin, the sin of Adam and Eve that is born in each one of us and our own actual sins, that result being death, physical death. Yet, even more horrible would be death apart from Jesus, because apart from Jesus and faith in Jesus would be eternal spiritual death, which is hell as well. However, thanks be to God, this morning we rejoice and give thanks to our great God, our God who is a God of love, a God who loves us so much that He sent His one and only Son to live perfectly for us, in our place; take our sins upon Himself, suffer and die in order to pay the price for our sins and to rise again showing us that by simple faith in Him, faith which He gives to us, we too have the gift and promise that we too shall rise again and that we too have eternal life in heaven with Him. And so we rightly respond and say, “To God be the glory,” for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

No Greater Faith - June 2, 2013 - Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 04) - Text: Luke 7:1-10

Hopefully we are taught in confirmation that when we pray, we pray in faith, that is, we pray believing the words which we pray. Perhaps you have heard the antithesis of that statement as being, “when we doubt, we undo our prayers.” In our text for today we are brought to meet a man who is described as having a great faith, yet, I believe that we also will see a man who has a great love.
 
Our text begins by moving us past the previous chapter in the Gospel according to Luke in which Jesus was preaching to the people, and now we move into Capernaum where we will meet a Roman centurion, a Roman soldier. Luke describes the events as we read, “1After He had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was valued highly by him. 3When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant” (v. 1-3). We are told that there was a centurion whose servant was sick and about to die. The fact that this man was a centurion meant that he had a rank placing him over one hundred soldiers. He had the charge and responsibility for the lives of one hundred men. Evidently he had worked his way up in rank and was a good soldier.
 
This centurion, who is unnamed, had a servant who was ill and so ill in fact that he was about to die. Our text tells us that this centurion, who was a Gentile, not a Jew, had heard of Jesus and we might deduce that he had also heard of the many signs, wonders and miracles that Jesus had performed. His actions indicate his love for his servant as well as his faith in Jesus. The fact that this centurion had only heard of Jesus tells us that he probably had never personally met Jesus. The approach of the centurion was that he did not go himself to see Jesus, rather he sent a delegation. He sent a delegation consisting of Jewish elders, who were his ambassadors, who spoke for him. What he told them to tell Jesus was, “ask him, politely, nicely, humbly, to come and heal my servant.” He did not expect Jesus, a Jew, to defile Himself by coming into his Gentile house.
 
And so, this delegation of Jewish elders went to see Jesus. Continuing in our text Luke tells us, “4And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, ‘He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.’ 6And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 7Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed’” (v. 4-5). Did you notice the difference in what the centurion asked the elders to say compared to what the elders actually said. The centurion simply asked the delegation to ask Jesus to come and heal his servant. The message of the elders, with their embellishment, was that this man “deserved” to have Jesus come and heal his servant. Here we see the respect this centurion had among the people. They loved him as he loved them.
 
The delegation pleaded with Jesus, telling Him that this centurion, this person who is an outsider, a Gentile, loves our nation, even though he is not a Jew. This outsider built our temple, perhaps even suggesting that he built the temple from his own money. This man loved the people and we see that they loved him.
 
Jesus’ response was immediate and decisive, He set out to go to the home of the centurion. He left to go with the delegation, with the elders. He went to go to the house of the centurion in order to heal his servant.
 
But Jesus never made it to the centurion’s house. We continue reading in our text as Luke tells us, “6And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 7Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. 8For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, “Go,” and he goes; and to another, “Come,” and he comes; and to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it’” (v. 6-8). So Jesus was on his way to the centurion’s house, but when the centurion found out that Jesus was coming to his house he sent a second delegation to Jesus. This second delegation was a group of friends who came to tell Jesus that He did not need to bother Himself with coming to his house, but simply that all He needed to do was to say the words and his servant would be healed.
 
Notice that when the centurion explains his position of authority saying, “For I say to this one go and he goes and to this one come and he comes,” he is not making a comparison of himself to Jesus, that is, that Jesus, too, is under someone else. No, rather he is expressing his faith in Jesus and His authority, saying that he himself, the centurion is under others, but that all are under Jesus.
 
Finally in verses nine and ten Luke tells us, “9When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well” (v. 9-10). Jesus’ response to this second delegation, to this delegation of friends, was a response of amazement. This centurion was not a Jew, but was a Gentile. This centurion came, asking in faith for his servant to be healed. This centurion believed that Jesus could heal him, and could heal him by simply saying the word. Yes, this man was a man of great faith, so great of faith, in fact, that Jesus says He has not found a greater faith among His own people, the children of Israel.
 
Jesus did not need to go to the centurion’s house and so He did not go. Jesus left to go to Nain and the delegations left and went back to the centurion’s house. And when they returned to his house they found the servant was already healed.
 
So the question we might ask is, “All that is fine and good, but what does this look like in our world today?” Today, this looks like an encouragement to us to “take it to the Lord in prayer,” but also to do so in humility and faith. We are to approach the Lord with all our earthly cares and concerns. We are to approach the Lord, with all boldness and confidence, not doubting, but firmly believing, but we are also to approach Him knowing that we are undeserving in having Him answer our prayers.
 
Today we are given a glimpse of who is Jesus. He is the one who is true man, but also who is true God. He does have authority over all the earth, as a matter of fact He has authority over all things. He hears and answers our prayers and we are thankful to Him, because as He answers our prayers, He does so not necessarily according to what we might ask, that is according to what we might think we need, or simply want, but even better, He answers according to what He knows is best for us, according to His good and gracious will.
 
Today, we are reminded once again that Jesus came to save. He came to save all people, Jew and Gentile alike. He came to save even “outsiders.” He came to save us, you and me. It is our sin which separates us from God. It is our unbelief on which the devil preys. Thus we see our constant need to pray without ceasing, and our constant need to make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, so that we might be strengthened in our faith, so that we might, with the help of the Holy Spirit, resist the temptations to unbelief from the devil.
 
Today we also have a lesson in faith and love. It was the love of the centurion for his servant as well as his faith in Jesus which moved him to send for Jesus to ask Him heal his servant. It is God’s love for us that moved Him to send His only begotten Son to suffer and die for us on the cross so that we might have forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
 
Notice that as always it is the Gospel which motivates us for our good. Certain the law may motivate with the negative consequences, at least on the short term, but it is truly the Gospel that motivates for the long term. In other words, the centurion was not motivated because of some threat of the law of not doing something, praying for his servant or the like, rather he was motivated by the Gospel, by the good news that Jesus is a man with authority, perhaps even that Jesus is truly God in human flesh, even the Savior of the world. It was the Gospel, the good news of something wonderful that he knew Jesus could do that motivated him to pray and ask in faith that Jesus would heal his servant. So too are we motivated, not by the dos and don’ts of the commandments, but by the good news of the Gospel, the good news that Jesus lived, died and rose for us, so we are motivated, to confess our sins, to live lives of faith, to always be ready to give an answer for our faith, and to always having an urgency about being given the gifts our Lord has to give.
 
Three weeks ago we celebrated Mother’s Day and in two weeks we will celebrate Father’s Day. Perhaps, as mother’s and fathers, as parents we might see something in the centurions love for his servant and his faith in Jesus which reminds us of our love for our children. And we might also see an example to us as parents of how that love might be acted out. As this centurion loved his servant and as he demonstrated his love and faith by his prayer to Jesus, so as earthly parent’s we might see our need to be in constant prayer to our Father in heaven, praying for our children, for their faith, as well as for all their other needs. And that as we pray for them we might pray in faith, firmly believing and not doubting that our Father in heaven will answer our prayers for our children on earth.
 
Finally, my prayer for all of you, brothers and sisters in Christ, is that the Holy Spirit will stir in you a strong desire so that you might have an urgency about yourself to make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, remembering your baptism, hearing and reading His Word, confessing your sins and hearing His words of absolution, and coming to the Lord’s Supper, so that you might be strengthened in your faith and so that you might resist the temptations to unbelief and so that you might stand firm until the end. To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.