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, August 14, 2022

Christ Brings Division - August 14, 2022 - Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 15) - Text: Luke 12:49-53 (54-56)

At Christmas time we hear the familiar Old Testament verse, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Is. 9:6). We sing the song, “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed. . .” and we sing about how “no crying He makes.” What a nice picture. What a serene view of the world. Everything is calm and peaceful. And then we get to our text for today and all the demons break loose. It is Jesus, Himself, who tells us that, “49I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” (v. 49-51). After reading our Gospel reading for today, instead of declaring that this is the Gospel of the Lord we might rather ask, “This is the Gospel of the Lord?” In the next few minutes we will look at the divisions and separations between unbelievers and believers about which this text is speaking.
 

First this text is speaking to the unbeliever. To the unbeliever Jesus was a good man and a good teacher. Jesus had some good words to teach us about how to get along with others, how to live peacefully in this world, and how to bear up under the struggles of life. To the unbeliever, Jesus was a good example. Through the life of Jesus we are shown how to live in peace and harmony with one another while we are living in this world. To the unbeliever, that is all there is to the life of Jesus, that He was a good man, a good teacher and a good example, no more, no less.
 

On the other hand, to the believer, to us who have faith in Jesus, to those of us who believe that He is truly God and truly man, Jesus is so much more. Yes, Jesus is a good man and a good teacher, and we say that in the present tense, because He is still alive and through His Word He is still teaching us. Jesus is a good example, but He is not just an example, He is more. Jesus is the one who came to do everything for us and ultimately to give His life for ours.
 

As we read in the Old Testament lesson for today, Jesus is our God who is far off. He is so big of a God that the universe cannot contain Him. He is so big that He fills every expanse, every space of the universe. He is everywhere present. He is in every inch of the universe. There is no place that we can go that we could get away from Him or hide from Him.
 

At the same time, Jesus is our God who is very near to us. Jesus is right here with us. Our God did not create the world and then leave it to run on its own. Our God is not “watching us from a distance.” No, He is right here with us. When we are alone and there is no one else around, Jesus is with us. When we are feeling lonely and are in need, Jesus is with us. He is with us every moment of the day, watching over us, guarding and protecting us, loving and caring of us.
 

Yes, Jesus is our “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Jesus is true God, who gave up all the glory that was His in heaven, took on human flesh and blood, was born as one of us; one like us, one with us, expect without sin. He was born as a baby and placed in a manger, in a feeding trough for animals, in the small town of Bethlehem. He grew up in Nazareth and began His public ministry at the age of thirty. He is a real historic person. After He turned thirty years old, for three years He showed Himself, beyond a doubt that He is the Messiah, the Christ, the one promised by God to come and save the world. He showed Himself to be the Messiah by the signs, wonders and miracles He performed, by doing those things that only God and only God in flesh could do. Jesus is the one who was sinless, without sin, perfect and holy so that He could and did take our sins upon Himself. He is the one who suffered and died, who paid the price for our sins, who suffered the eternal death penalty of hell for us, in our place. He is the one who died for you and for me. The baptism that He was to be baptized with is His suffering and death on the cross for us in our place. He is the one who brings forgiveness, life, and eternal life to you and to me.
 

And for us Christians, Jesus brings peace. He brings peace, not as the world thinks of peace, not simply a moment or two of calm in an otherwise chaotic day, but He brings true peace. His peace is the peace of forgiveness of sins and forgiveness of sins is the greatest peace because with forgiveness we know we have eternal life. Indeed, Jesus gives the greatest peace, true spiritual peace. Yet, His peace is only offered to those who believe in Him.
 

And so, as Jesus brings peace, He also brings division. Jesus has given His life for ours and He has given us His Word. It is His Word through which the Holy Spirit works to bring us into His Kingdom. There is only one way into the Kingdom of Heaven and that way is through Jesus and faith in Him. The Christian faith and Christian teaching, that is, the Bible teaches the exclusivity of the Gospel, that is that there is only one way to heaven. Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” And that is why Jesus brings division. The people of this world do not want to be judged by the standard which Jesus gives. The people of this world would rather set their own standard and yet we can see the hypocrisy in that as well, because they do not want to be judged by their own standard either.
 

As Christians, we believe the Bible is the Word of God. We do not believe the Bible simply contains the Word of God, which would allow for the possibility that some of the Bible may not be the Word of God. We believe all of it. As we say, God said it and that settles it. We believe that our God is a God who does not tolerate sin or lack of faith. And so there is division. The people of this world would rather go on living like they want to live, with the focus of their lives being on the things of this world, the temporariness of this world as we talked about last week, and they do not want to be condemned by God, so they condemn those who do believe.
 

Jesus, Himself, tells us that He came to bring a fire on earth. He came to bring division. The fire He came to bring is the fire of judgement. Jesus is the only way to eternal life. If there were other ways to heaven, to eternal life, certainly He would have told us and if there were other ways, why would He have allowed Himself to suffer and die on the cross? As Christians, now, living in the pluralistic society in which we live, we are left to face the divisions created by our faith in Jesus.
 

So what do we expect? Well, it does not look good. We can expect intolerance toward us as Christians, especially from those who espouse a doctrine of tolerance. We can expect ridicule from those who say there is absolutely no absolutes, there is no one truth, but truth is relative, in essence, that everyone is right. We can expect hatred from those who suggest we love each other, as they define loving each other. That is the way our world deals with people who believe that there is only one way to eternal life. That is what happens to people who believe there is a right and a wrong. That is the way the world treats those who believe in absolutes, in an ultimate authority, in other words, that is the way the world treats Christians. That is the way the world treated Jesus and we should expect nothing less as His followers.
 

Jesus’ words ring true still today. He comes to bring division and He even brings division in families. How often it is that, as a family, when we gather together, we do not discuss religion or as we say, religion and politics, which I believe are probably two of the most important things we need to discuss. Have you ever noticed how good the Devil is at distracting us from talking about what is most important, our faith. He does that by fooling us into believing that our faith is a matter of opinion. Everyone has certain “opinions” and everyone believes their “opinion” is the right opinion. Notice I said opinion. God’s Word is His Word. His Word is truth. Too often, we tend to become like the rest of the world. When we read and hear parts of God’s Word which we do not like, we develop our own “opinion” about His Word. We impose “our own understanding” or “our own” misunderstanding, instead of letting His Word speak to us and believing what it says. Thus, we too become trapped in our own hypocrisy. There are times that Jesus’ Words are hard words. His Words demand that we put aside our opinions and cling only to Him. His Words demand our complete allegiance, and with so many other things vying for our attention and allegiance in our world today, that makes it very hard for us and it often moves us to a divided allegiance, thus a divide house. Yes, Jesus brings division.
 

But we are not alone. Jesus never said we had to go it alone. He has promised that He will be with us, even to the end of the age. And so, once again, what can we expect. We can expect that Jesus will be with us. He will strengthen us and give us the strength we need as we struggle through life. As we read in the Epistle lesson, Jesus will give us the strength we need to endure the hardships that come in this life. And as He strengthens us, we are to strengthen each other, our bothers and sisters in Christ.
 

Our text for today is one of those texts that is hard to comprehend. This text takes Jesus out of the role of being a nice God and puts Him into a role that we do not like to see or admit, that He is also a just God and so He is then a God who brings division. But that cannot be helped. That is the nature of our world and the sin which has infected our world. We cannot have it both ways, thus there is division. We are either for Jesus, or against Him. And if we are for Him, we are for Him, one hundred percent.
 

Jesus is for us and He has shown how He is for us in that He has given His all for us, one hundred percent, His life for ours and He calls us out of our lives of sin. He puts faith in our hearts, gives us forgiveness of sins and eternal life. And as He has promised, so He is with us, even unto the end of the world. My prayer for each one of you, then, is that the Lord would continue to work in your life, as you make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, reading your Bible, attending Divine Service and Bible class, remembering your Baptism, hearing Jesus’ words of Absolution and coming to the Lord’s Supper, so that you might be strengthened in your faith, and kept in that faith until Jesus comes again to take us to be with Himself in heaven. To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Be Ready - August 7, 2022 - Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 14) - Text: Luke 12:22-34, 35-40

Our text and really all of our lessons help us to understand the difference between wanting to earn our salvation, trying to pay Jesus with a few good works for His paying our eternal death penalty, and wanting to respond with thanks for a gift for which we could never pay. Now, please do not label me as a doomsday naysayer, but the fact of the matter is, the end is coming. Either the Lord will return to take us out of this world, or we will die and leave this world, those are the only two ways we have of getting out of this world. And it will happen. The end will come, sooner than we know and sooner than we might expect. In our text for today we are encouraged to be ready for when it happens and we are given an indication of how we know that we are ready.
 

We will first look at being ready and we do that by looking at the last part of our text. Jesus says, “35Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks” (v. 35-36). We are to be ready for the Lord’s return. How do we get ready for the Lord’s return? We get ready by being about His business, that is by being in the Word (remember Mary who chose the one thing needful); by reading our Bible, being where the Lord gives His gifts, in Divine Service, being in Bible class, having personal and family devotions and the like. It is through these means that our Lord comes to us to get us ready and to keep us ready for His return. When we absent ourselves from these means, then we take away the means He has of getting us ready. It is like being ready for a sporting event or music recital. Athletes and musicians practice and practice in order to get ready. When they fail to practice, then they are not ready. When we fail to make use of the means of grace, then we are not ready.
 

And what happens to those who are ready? We continue with our text, “37Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them” (v. 37). The master, and here we are talking about Jesus, who finds his servants ready, will do, not the expected, but the unexpected. What normally happens when the master returns home is that he sits down and the servants wait on him. In the case of Jesus, our Master, when He returns to gather us, His faithful people from this earth, those who are ready, those He has made ready, He who humbled Himself and took on the form of a servant and gave His life for us, will serve us.
 

Our text continues, “38If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (v. 38-40). The kingdom of heaven, Judgement Day, will come. It will come whether we believe it will come or not. It will come before we know it and when we least expect it. It will come, sooner than we know and sooner than we might expect. Check the obituaries in the newspaper and you will see how it comes at any age. It will come like a thief in the night. And so we are to be ready at all times. We are ready when we take our focus off our feet firmly planted in this world and move our focus heavenward. We are ready when we take our focus off our temporary surroundings and focus on our permanent eternal life in heaven.
 

Which brings us back to the first part of our text and the question of “How do we know if we are ready?” One way we know we are ready is by our not trying to purchase our salvation, but by responding to the gift of eternal life earned for us by Jesus and given to us by faith worked in our hearts by the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God. We respond by being good stewards of all that God has given to us and by knowing who or what is our god.
 

In our text we read, “32Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (v. 32). Here we are assured that heaven is a present reality. Heaven is ours, now. Heaven is not something we have to wait for, it is ours now. Yes, we will have to wait until, either we pass away in this world, or until Christ returns in order to move into heaven, but heaven is ours at this time.
 

Jesus goes on to tell us that there is a difference between earthly treasure and heavenly treasure. He says, “33Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys” (v. 33). Jesus mentions this more than once in His preaching and here He reminds us again. Our treasures here on earth may last twenty, thirty, eighty, or a hundred years, but our heavenly treasures last forever, for eternity.
 

And so we are back to the question, “How do we know we are ready?” “How do we know what is truly our god?” Jesus tells us plainly in our text, “34For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (v. 34). “Where your treasure is,” that is, where you spend you money, where you spend your time, where you use your talents, “there your heart will be also,” in other words you spend you time, talent and treasures on what is most important to you in your life and that truly is your god. These are not my words, I did not make this up, this is what God tells us and this is an indication of what is important in your life. Where is your treasure? Where do you spend you money? How do you spend you time? Although we may profess certain priorities in life, if we really want to know what are our priorities, they are what we live, what we do, how we speak, where we spend our time and our treasure.
 

I believe one of the Devil’s greatest victories is to have us profess with our mouths that our faith is our greatest priority. Having made this as a profession, then he subtly draws us into many other things which draw us away from this priority, so that even though we may profess with our lips that our faith is our number one priority, our actions betray us. I have always said it and I will say it again, “You do not have to tell me what your priorities are, I can see them, because you live them.” What is your priority when you say, “Pastor, church is our number one priority and our faith is our number one priority, but we have (and here you can fill in the blank of whatever it is that you have) on Sunday.” What is the priority? Yet, we are confident that our priority is our church and our faith, because we have said so.
 

Again this week, to drive home the point, we have the Old Testament Lesson which is referenced in the Epistle lesson to help us understand the difference between trying to work for our salvation and responding to what God has done for us and given to us. In the Hebrews lesson we are reminded of the example of the great people of faith. These people of faith were not great because of what they said, or even what they did, but because of what God did through them. And even here, notice that it is their actions which demonstrated their faith, even if it is God working these actions through them.
 

And why did they do what they did? Because the Lord commanded them to, because the Lord promised to be with them, and because the Lord worked in and through them. Notice that the focus is not on them, even though they are mentioned by name, but the focus is on what the Lord did. And so, because of what the Lord did through them, they have received their reward of heaven. “He has prepared a city for them.”
 

In the first half of our text for this morning, the part I have not read, we are reminded of just how important we are to God and how much He loves us. Indeed, He reminds us that all our cares and worries in this life are a result of our lack of faith. Let me repeat that just in case you missed it, all our cares and worries in this life are a result of our lack of faith. Unlike Abram and all those great people of faith listed in the Epistle reading, we fail in being good stewards of our time, talent and treasure because of our lack of faith. We may somewhat acknowledge that all we have is a gift from God, but we stumble when, as we have the opportunity to allow by our actions to respond with our first fruits we fail, we fail to return to the Lord as we should because we truly do not believe His promises that He will continue to bless us. Yes, it is a faith issue.
 

So how do we take this text and apply it to our own lives. We do this by taking a sober look at our own lives and what we value. What is it that we value? What is truly our god? Do we look at what we have done for God, or what we think we have done for God, and reconcile our account with what He owes us, or do we acknowledge what God has done for us and give thanks for all His good gifts and blessings? And what has God done for us? God has done everything for us. He has given us life at conception. He has given us new life, eternal life through Holy Baptism. He has given His Son to take on human flesh and blood. He has given His Son to live for us, perfectly in our place. He has given for His Son to take all our sins upon Himself and suffer and die, to pay the eternal death penalty of hell for us, for each one of us. He has given His Son to earn eternal life, heaven for us.
 

Jesus lived on this earth never owning property, a house, anything, except the clothes on His back. And yet He never worried about these things either. Of course, He is God, so certainly He was well provided for, but the point is, He knew the reason He came to earth and He never let anything get in the way of His plan and purpose for life. And for that we say, “Thanks be to God.”
 

After His resurrection and before His ascension, Jesus promised that He would return. And He will return, thus it is imperative that we are ready. So now, we add to all that our Lord has already done for us the fact that He also works to get us ready. And He does that as we make regular and diligent use of the means He has given to get us ready, His means of Grace, the Bible and the sacraments.
 

Let me put it into an eternal perspective for you. We may live on this earth for sixty, seventy, eighty or a hundred years, but what is this short amount of time compared to eternity. Thus, more important than our lives in this world is our eternal inheritance. So the question is, are we ready to meet our Maker? It is like the message on a shirt I once read. On the front it said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” On the back it said, “It’s all small stuff.” This world and our life in this world is all small stuff compared to our eternal life in heaven and yet, how often we spend so much time and energy on the things of this world instead of what is most important? Believe me, I know and understand the temptation. I enjoy the things of this world as well. Yet, even I have to set priorities about what is most important. So, even though we are faced with the tough decisions of our priorities, that is not to say we do not go on living while we are in this world, that is to say that we will, with the help and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep our focus where it needs to be, heavenward. And when we do fail, and we will fail, there is forgiveness of sins.
 

Finally, we are left simply to respond to all that He has done for us and given to us and we respond by praising Him for all His good gifts and blessings. I urge you, be ready. I encourage you to know that you are ready as the Lord makes you ready. We will see Jesus, sooner than we know and probably sooner than we might expect. May the Lord make you and keep you ready. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

What Is Better - July 17, 2022 - Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 11) - Text: Luke 10:38-42

Last week we heard the parable of the Good Samaritan. While the point of the parable was to answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?” the point of the encounter with the expert in the Law was to answer the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The intent of the parable was to show the expert in the Law and us that there is nothing we can do, that there is no way we can possibly save ourselves, because we cannot love God and love others as God would have us to do. Which brings us to our text for this morning. In our text for today, Jesus is visiting Mary and Martha. Our text is a account of which I am sure most of us are well acquainted. My prayer for each of you this morning as we revisit this well known narrative is that you might better understand what is the conflict at the heart of this account, and how each of us is a part of this same conflict today.
 

All of us, or most all of us, like to entertain others from time to time. We like to invite others over in order to share in food, company, entertainment, and simply for conversation, or as some have put it, for food, fun and fellowship. At the same time, we all understand the importance of being a good host. We want to make sure that everything is just right. We want to take care to make sure the food is good. It has to be prepared just right. The presentation and service of the food have to be just right. We want to make sure the food is the right temperature, that it looks good and that it tastes good.
 

We want to make sure the atmosphere is right and helps to set the mood for the afternoon and/or evening. We want the right music to be playing. We want to make sure the decorations are just right, depending on the type of entertaining we are doing. We want the atmosphere to set the tone for a pleasant evening.
 

We also want to make sure that all the preparations are just right. We think about our company, the people we have invited over to entertain and what they might like. We want to make sure that we make time for talking, sharing, visiting, perhaps playing games, watching a movie or television, and the like. We do not want our guests to be neglected.
 

Yes, when we invite others over to entertain them, we always want everything to be just right. Now, think about the pressure of wanting to get everything just right when you know your company is Jesus.
 

Mary and Martha were sisters. They and their brother Lazarus were good friends of Jesus and we hear about Jesus friendship with them more than once. They shared this house and probably shared the chores and duties of making sure everything was just right. Perhaps they shared in getting everything ready in order to have Jesus come and be their guest. Yet, when Jesus arrived we see two different personalities. First there is Mary. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to everything He had to say. We might say that she was making sure that Jesus was entertained, made to feel welcome. We might say that her role was to keep the guest from feeling neglected. At that same time, because this guest is Jesus, as Mary sat and listened we know that she gained from this experience. She grew in her faith. She sat at the feet of the Lord and was given the gifts He has to give.
 

But the question which comes up in our text when these two sister confront each other is, “Can we say Mary was being a good host?” Hopefully about now you are asking yourself, “Am I like Mary?” But do not answer that question, yet. Before we answer any questions, let us look at Martha’s role.
 

Martha was concerned about the food, the atmosphere, the rest of the preparations that need to be made. She was concerned that everything would be just right and who could blame her, remember that her guest was none other than Jesus Himself. Interestingly enough (and here I will tip my hand a little) in our text we are told that “Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made,” and we even hear Jesus say, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things.” Martha was troubled and distracted wanting to make sure everything is just right.
 

Like her sister Mary, Martha wants to make sure that Jesus feels welcome and is not neglected. For Martha, she has a different emphasis and understanding of how to make sure things are just right. Mary is concerned about entertaining and Martha is concerned about food. So, just as we asked about Mary, we ask about Martha, “Can we say Martha was being a good host?” And again, hopefully you are asking yourself, “Am I like Martha?”
 

And so we have the confrontation. Martha comes to Jesus and explains that there is a lot of work to be done, would He please tell her sister to help? As we listen close to Martha’s words, could it be that she is blaming Jesus for Mary’s not helping. After all, would Mary not be helping if she were not distracted by listening to Jesus? Maybe it is Jesus’ fault that Mary is listening and not helping? And maybe some of the fault is Mary’s. Maybe Mary is just too lazy and that is why she is not helping. Certainly Jesus should side with Martha and straighten this whole mess out.
 

Yet, Jesus’ answer is in favor of Mary. Jesus even says, “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”  So, now what? What is Martha to do now? Does she stop getting things ready and listen? Does she run out of the house screaming and throwing a temper tantrum? Actually, we do not know what happens next. Evidently what happens next is not important. What is important has already taken place and has already been said. Or, did we miss it?
 

We live in a world which has more opportunities available to us than we could ever even imagine. There are so many things vying for our time and attention. There is our work which calls for much and even most of our attention. There are clubs which we can join: card clubs, fitness clubs, golf clubs, swimming clubs, self-help clubs, book clubs, more clubs than we could ever be a part. There are sporting events ever calling for our attention, as well as many cultural events. There is our family and our family life calling for our time and attention. Perhaps we have children involved in things at school and after school that calls for our time and attention, time for travel, practice, and actual events. Our spouses call for our attention. Yes, there are many things vying for our time and attention and the list goes on.
 

And God calls for our attention. Interestingly enough more often than not, we only hear His call once a week, for one hour and this is when we come to Divine Service. Jesus is our guest, not just at Divine Service, but in our homes and in our lives, or is He? If you want to know what is really happening in someone’s home, ask their children. Have you ever asked your children if Jesus is really a guest in your home or in your life?
 

Last week we had the question, “What must I do to gain eternal life?” This week we ask the question, “What is better?” There is a reason that these questions are asked in this order, because you see, we cannot know which is better until we know that we have eternal life. We cannot have eternal life apart from faith in Jesus. And we cannot have faith in Jesus apart from His Word and Sacraments. It is His Word which tells us that we are sinful human beings and are in need of forgiveness. It is His Word through which the Holy Spirit works to bring us to confess our sins and be given His forgiveness, earned for us by Jesus suffering and death on the cross. It is His Word which tells us, “Your sins are forgiven.”
 

I believe this narrative also informs our participation in Divine Service, that is that unlike having a worship service on Sunday morning wherein we think we need to do something in service to and for God, in Divine Service we are here to be given to, to listen and respond with psalms, hymns and prayers. God, speaking through our pastor is the one acting, giving and distributing His gifts to us, thus, actually He is the host and we are His guest, and we are the ones who are given the good portion as we listen attentively.
 

Only after hearing such wonderful words and news of forgiveness and life, then and only then are we able to respond in faith, to give works of service which are also motivated by the Holy Spirit. And this is not works righteousness, but is a response of faith.
 

Are we a Mary or a Martha? I will not answer that question, you will have to answer it for yourself, however, I will suggest to you that your actions will betray you. What I will say is this, the order of importance is this, that we first hear the Word and are given the Sacraments. It is through these means that our Lord gives, strengthens and keeps in faith. When we absent ourselves from these means, that is when the rest of the world, which is vying for our time, comes in and takes us away from these means, then we are like Martha and we are distracted. But, when we make regular and diligent use of these means, that is when we daily read our Bible, weekly attend Divine Service and Bible class, have personal and family devotions and the like then we are like Mary, then we will have chosen the good portion and it will not be taken away from us. We cannot have it both ways.
 

The first thing of importance is our faith, which is given to us by God through the very means He gives faith, through His means of grace, through His Word and through Holy Baptism. God gives faith and He strengthens and keeps us in faith, also through the very means He has given, His means of grace, remembering our Baptism and being reminded of our Baptism through the Divine Service, especially through the invocation and benediction. He strengthens faith through His Word, and through the Lord’s Supper. He gives forgiveness earned and paid for by Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross and here I would remind you that forgiveness along with faith are the greatest gifts, for without forgiveness there is only eternal death and hell, but with forgiveness is life and salvation. Indeed, God gives forgiveness also through the very means He has given, through His Word and through the Lord’s Supper, but most especially through confession and absolution. These are the first things that God gives and the most important things. Without the first there can be no second thing of importance. The second thing of importance is doing the good works which God has for us to do. And we do good works, we serve God by serving others as we are motivated by the Holy Spirit working through the Word and Sacraments. We do them so that they are done to His glory. And so we see in the lives of active Christians that God’s gifts are given. God’s gifts are responded to.
 

My prayer for each one of us is that we might resist the temptations and the pull of the distractions of this world in order to make sure that we are involved in the one thing which is needful, immersing ourselves in the Word of God through which He gives us faith, strengthens us in our faith and keeps us in faith until He comes again. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Go and Do Likewise - July 10, 2022 - Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10) - Text: Luke 10:25-37

Again, I remind you that we are in the Pentecost season, the season of green, of growth, of growing in our Christian faith and life. Thus, this morning our lessons continue. Jesus has been with His disciples for some time now, and they still do not understand what it means that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. Yes, they have confessed, with Peter speaking for the group, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, but they still do not know what that means. They have argued about who will be the greatest in the Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus has taught them about greatness in terms of discipleship reminding us that to be a disciple of Jesus means giving up everything, including our lives in this world. Jesus has sent them out to “practice” being disciples and reminded them that better than being able to show power and authority over the devil and the world is the fact that their names are written in the book of heaven. And now, here in our text, Jesus is confronted by an expert in the Law. Jesus had a lot of work to do in the three short years He spent in ministry here on this earth.
 

Our text begins with a confrontation between Jesus and a learned man, at least in human terms a learned man, a modern legalistic lawyer of the day, “25And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How do you read it?’ 27And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’ 28And he said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live’” (v. 25-28).
 

This is a man who has learned the letter of the law we are told, who comes to Jesus to ask this question. If this man truly is a learned man, you might be thinking, this must be another one of those traps that the Pharisees were continually setting for Jesus. But, Jesus is not deterred. The question of this learned lawyer is, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” That question brings with it the implication that I must do something in order to be saved. This lawyer is not unlike many Christians in our world today who point to themselves for their own salvation. To this learned lawyer, being saved has to do with what is on the inside of a person, what is a person’s character, what is it that we bring to be saved.
 

In answering this man’s question we see that Jesus is truly a Texan, because He answers the man’s question with a question. Jesus refers the man back to his own law, letting him answer his own question. “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” You might say that Jesus is letting the man get away with his own interpretation and understanding of the law, and you hear this in Jesus’ word, “How do you read it?” The learned lawyer answers quite well, even quoting Scripture, “Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” What this expert has done, whether he realizes it or not, is that he has summarized all ten commandments into two statements of love. The first three commandments are summarized in the words, “Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” If we could love the Lord with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, we would not break any of the commandments. The problem is, as we well know, we cannot love God this way. The last seven commandments are summarized in the words, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If we could love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we would not steal, kill, covet, commit adultery, gossip, speak evil of others and the like. The problem is, again, as we well know it, we cannot love our neighbor as ourselves. The problem is, this expert in the law does not know that these are things he cannot do. He actually thinks he can live in this manner as prescribed by the law.
 

Jesus’ response is simple, “Do this and you will live.” Okay, so we get this account right, the lawyer believes that salvation is dependent on him and his keeping the commandments and he actually thinks he can keep the commandments and that he has been keeping the commandments. At this point he may even believe that he has been and is good enough to be saved. He is really no different than many Christians today who like to think that they are good enough to be saved, because we have never actually stolen anything, killed anyone, or committed adultery. I guess we can all feel pretty good about ourselves.
 

But, this parable is not over. We continue in our text, “29But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ 30Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35And the next day he took out two denarii  and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back”’” (29-35).
 

Here we see that this learned lawyer did think that he was able to keep the commandments because we are told that his next question was asked in an attempt to justify himself. His questions is, “Who is my neighbor?”
 

To answer this expert’s question, Jesus tells the parable, the earthly story with a heavenly meaning. In the parable we are told that there was a man, obviously not a bright man, but a man, by himself, who was on his way through the rough territory from Jerusalem to Jericho. The implication is that this man was a Jew, a fellow brother in nationality as well as in faith. He went on a road which was known to have frequent robberies, yet he went anyway and by himself. As he was going down this road, he was mugged. He was stripped, beaten and left for dead.
 

As the parable continues, we are told that there was a priest who just so happened to be going down this same road. This priest was a pious man, a leader in the church. This priest was a religious man. Certainly, if anyone should stop and help someone in need, it would be a priest. Yet, all we are told is that “he passed by on the other side.” We are given no reason, no excuse for his behavior, simply that “he passed by on the other side.”
 

Next, as the parable continues, we are told that there was a Levite who also just so happened to be going down this same road. This Levite was a lay associate in the church. He too was a religious man. Certainly, if anyone, other than a priest, should stop and help someone in need, it would be this Levite. Yet, all we are told is that “he too passed by on the other side.” We are given no reason, or no excuse for his behavior, simply that “he too passed by on the other side.” It certainly does not look like a good day for pious, religious, church leaders. And I would suspect that if this same account happened today, we would get very similar results. How often do we have the opportunity to help someone and instead, we too pass by on the other side. But, we are not yet to the point of the parable.
 

Finally we are told that “a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was.” The fact that this man was a Samaritan is important. Samaritans were half Jewish because somewhere in their past some of the Jews married some of the people of the land they were to wipe out, thus Samaritans were half Jewish and half something else. So this Samaritan was a cousin, a half brother of this man who had been mugged. The problem is that Jews and Samaritans did not like each other. Jews did not like Samaritans because they were not full blooded Jews and Samaritans did not like Jews because the Jews discriminated against them. So, knowing that this man was a Samaritan, helps you understand that this was the man’s enemy who happened to be traveling by. Certainly, if anyone would pass by on the other side, it would be this Samaritan. But, and here is the twist in this parable, we are told that this Samaritan, this enemy of this man, is the one who stopped and helped him. And not only did he stop to help him, he bandaged his wounds, he took him on his own donkey to an inn and took care of him. He paid the bill for the inn and he told the inn keeper that if there was any further expense that he would pay for it.
 

And now the question Jesus asks the expert, “‘36Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?’ 37He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You go, and do likewise’” (v. 36, 37).
 

The question was a simple question. If you were paying attention, you could not get the answer wrong. Yet, this learned lawyer, because of his own prejudices, cannot even answer that it was the hated enemy, the Samaritan, rather he must answer, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus’ answer and commission is, “You go, and do likewise.”
 

Many times today, many people, even perhaps you and I might ask, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” And, like the expert in the law, we know the answer is that we are to “Love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.” And like the expert in the law, there may be times that we think we are doing these things. It is only as we are confronted by the facts, that we realize that we are unable to do this. We are sinful human beings. We are conceived and born in sin. We are born in sin and daily we add to our sin. We are unable to be a neighbor, at times even to those we love, even though we have Jesus’ directive that we are to be neighbor even to our enemies.
 

Thanks be to God that there is another way, and that way is His way. The way of God is that He has given His only Son, Jesus to come and be a neighbor for us. Jesus did all that we are unable to do. He loved the way we are unable to love. He did everything perfectly for us and He gave Himself for us. He suffered and died on the cross to pay the price for our sins, so that we might have forgiveness, and so that we might rejoice in His Word to us, “Your sins are forgiven.”
 

Instead of asking, “What must I do to have eternal life?” we might well ask, “What has God done for us to earn for us and give us eternal life?” and His answer is a resounding, “Everything.” What a great God we have, what a loving God. Not only has God created this world for us and given us all we need for our body and life, He also sustains us, gives us faith, forgiveness and eternal life. God does all and gives all and we are done to and given to and we are even moved to respond with praise and thanksgiving.
 

And so, we pray God’s richest blessings on us that He might work in and through us so that we might, with His help and by the power of the Holy Spirit, “go and do likewise.” To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.