Monday, July 15, 2013

Pentecost 8 Sermon

Jesu Juva

“Mercy? Mercy!”
Text: Luke 10:23-37 (Colossians 1:1-14)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

You are the man!
Yes, you - the man in the Holy Gospel we just heard.
For you have been assaulted by the devil and his merry band of demon-robbers, and left to die in your sin.
Just as he did to Adam and Eve in the beginning, and to men and women ever since then.
The devil doesn’t care who you are, he just wants to use and abuse you.
To satisfy his appetite for human flesh and bone.
To steal and take what is not his.
To assault and murder.

You never see him, though you see his work: the debris of humanity left by the side of the road.
You never see him because he is more clever than to be seen.
Instead, he gets others to do his work for him: namely, you. Me.
Us and our sinful human nature.
And so the assaults come upon men and women through men and women. Through treachery and deceit; through gossip and back-stabbing; through selfishness and pride; through gluttony and lust and greed.
We’re killing each other and killing ourselves.
But make no mistake who is behind it all.
The old evil foe, laughing with delight and leaving a trail of death in his wake.

You think it would be different in church, but even here . . .
We are infected and affected too.
Not stopping to help when we should; not wanting to be bothered or interrupted or inconvenienced.
The priest and the Levite who passed by the desperate, dying man were just as desperate and dying as he, weren’t they?
They just didn’t realize it.
They thought they were living, but they were dying too.
Satan spares no man in his murderous assaults, attacking from without and from within; attacking with truth and with lies - whatever works; attacking with deadly persistence and consistency.

You are the man.
Assaulted and left for dead.

That’s why the lawyer’s question to Jesus really doesn’t make sense.
What shall I do to inherit eternal life?
Man, you’re in the ditch! You’re life is slipping away! 
What exactly do you think you can do?
The lawyer asking what shall I do to inherit eternal life is like a man whose body is completely infected by cancer asking: how can I take care of this hangnail?

But that’s what we do isn’t it?
The lawyer, and all the little lawyers inside each of us.
Trying to justify ourselves.
Trying to find loopholes in the law. 
What does that word really mean? Who is my neighbor . . . exactly?
Jesus gives him an answer, though he’s not going to like it.
Loopholes closed. No excuses. No rationales. 
You go, and do likewise.
And with those word, the lawyer looked around and saw only ditch.
What about you?

But to you, in the ditch, has come a most unexpected helper.
A Samaritan - someone most folks wouldn’t even notice, or if they did, wouldn’t care about.
Who are those people today?
We see them, but we don’t really see them?
We see them, but look down on them? 
We see them, and only think: Thank God I’m not them.
But that one is the one who stopped to help.

He stopped with the very opposite of assault: with compassion.
His thoughts didn’t belittle, but cared.
His hands didn’t hurt, but healed.
He poured out not wrath, but oil and wine.
And he paid for the man’s care.
Had he done this before? He seemed to know the innkeeper and have his trust, that his credit was good.
This Samaritan, who no one wanted as their neighbor, was everyone’s neighbor.
Stopping, mercying, healing, caring.
He is a saviour to this man, giving us a picture of our Saviour, come for us.

For, in fact, Jesus is the Saviour come for us and all who have been assaulted and left for dead.
He is not only everyone’s neighbor - even more, He is the Son of God come to be our brother.
The one who comes in compassion, not to hurt but to heal, to pour out His own blood for our healing, and to pay for our care with His own life on the cross.
A payment of infinite worth for a debt of infinite depth.
That the sin we commit be forgiven.
That the sin committed against us and the death that seeks to devour us be overcome.
That the old evil foe be robbed of his prey, and his laughter and glee be turned to mourning and sadness.

This is our Saviour for us.
Who stops for us not because we ask, but because He has compassion.
Who raises us from death and gives us life again.
Who demanded nothing from the wounded man, because He knew what he would do.
That he would “go and do likewise.”

Because those who have been there, know what its like.
You know what its like - to have been assaulted and trampled on and just left there.
To have little or no hope.
To be despairing and hurting.
But having been forgiven, having been raised, having received the washing and the body and blood of your Saviour Jesus, there is something now new in you.
Not the same as before.
A new Spirit, a right Spirit, a compassionate Spirit.
To see ourselves in others, and others in ourselves.
And knows their desperation, for it is our own.
And so stop to help. To do likewise. To do as has been done to us.

Not perfectly, to be sure. We’re a long way from that.
But just as the old, evil foe uses us and our sinful nature to do his dirty work for him, even more will our Saviour use our new, risen, forgiven nature to give His compassion to others.
And when we do, it is no longer satan laughing with delight, but the angels in heaven rejoicing over sinners who repent.

And so yes, you are the man - the man no longer dead, but risen and given life!
You are the man to whom Jesus has come with His healing, forgiveness, and life.
You are the man who, as St. Paul said, has been qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
That’s passive. 
It’s what has been done to you.
It is what God has done for you.

So you are the man, now blessed and just.
Blessed and just in Jesus, your Saviour.
That you may now live in His mercy, and His mercy now live in you.

In the Name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Pentecost 7 Midweek Sermon

Jesu Juva

“Bread of Sin, Bread of Life”
Text: Mark 8:1-9; Genesis 2:7-17; Romans 6:19-23

If you’re like me, you take bread for granted. It’s so basic and it’s so everywhere. You just go to the store and buy it. White bread, wheat bread, potato bread, corn bread, rye bread, soda bread, sourdough bread, pita bread, black bread, pumpernickle, sliced or in rolls or flat, baguette, biscuit, or bageled, challa or croissant, leavened or unleavened, and I could go on for a very long time. I googled “different kinds of bread” and got 20.5 million results. 

But it was not always so. In fact, there was a time was there was no bread. In the beginning. There was no bread in Paradise. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve simply ate the fruit of the trees and the vegetation God had provided for them. There was no work involved - just picking, eating, and enjoying. Good gifts from their heavenly Father. 

But with sin everything changed. The good and pleasant work God gave Adam become toil. Weeds and thorns and thistles would now grow and choke out good plants. For, God told Adam, cursed is the ground because of you. But then also this: and by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread. No longer would their everyday needs be satisfied so easily and so well. Now, bread would be their food staple. Bread, which takes work. Tilling the ground, planting the seed, harvesting the grain, grinding the kernel, kneading the dough, and baking. Exhausting labor, just to eat. Just to live. Just to survive. 

When Adam and Eve reached out for that one fruit God asked them not to eat, they thought things would get better. But they got worse. Much worse. And not even just sweat of the brow to eat worse, but as St. Paul reminded us, death worse. For the wages of sin is death. Bread is a reminder of sin.

But we’ve tried to make the best of it. That’s why we’ve come up with so many different kinds of bread over the years. So many different tastes and textures, shapes and sizes. But we do that with all that sin has brought into our lives, don’t we? We try to make the best of it. Do what we can. Accept the things we cannot change. But you can only do that so long. Because sooner or later sin is going to catch up with you. Sooner or later, sin beats you up, chews you up, and spits you out. Sooner or later, sin is going to reap its wages. Our friends and loved ones, you and I, are going to die. And that’s a pain that doesn’t soon go away.

But then in steps Jesus. We hear of Him today in a desolate place. That too caused by us, caused by sin. No desolate places in the beginning, in Paradise. But Jesus came from His Paradise and stepped into our now desolate-in-sin world. For He has compassion. He makes your problem His problem. And so He has compassion on the 4,000 people there with Him. The 4,000 who have been with Him for three days, feasting on His teaching, on His Word, but have nothing to eat. Their problem is His problem. So He will feed them, just as He did Adam and Eve in Paradise - freely, easily, and well.

And just as He did when He fed the 5,000. The disciples were there with Him for that miracle too, and not that long ago - but they still don’t get it. They still wonder how? How will Jesus feed so many with so little?

But this is exactly what Jesus has come to do - break and undo the power of sin and reverse the curse. To turn our little into much, our need into bounty, our death into life. And so in that desolate place, Jesus takes the little we have and makes it Paradise again. There is an abundance. More than enough. The people all eat and are satisfied, and there still is more. For that is the way of it with God. More than enough. Blessing upon blessing. Grace upon grace.

And this is a picture of what Jesus would do for us to meet our spiritual need as well. For did you catch that hint in the reading? The people had been with Jesus for three days, Mark says. An historical fact, yes, but more than that. An intentional timing. For what happened to Jesus after three days? That’s when our problem - not of food, bigger than that: of sin and death - was resolved. That’s when Jesus rose from our death, from our tomb, after having paid the price we couldn’t pay. He went to the most desolate place of all, the cross, where He was forsaken not only by man but also by His Father. He made our problem His problem and now makes His victory our victory and His life our life. He took our sin to the grave and left it there. Dead. Gone.

And that is the victory and life given to you in Baptism, when in those waters you died and rose with Christ. That is the victory and life given to you in Absolution, when Jesus proclaims to you the forgiveness of all your sin - that your sin is His sin and your sin is now dead and gone. And that is the victory and life given to you through the new tree of life, as you eat that fruit - the Body and Blood of Jesus - and are filled with His life. Life that will never end. And with that, Paradise is restored. What Adam and Eve lost is restored, and more. It’s yours, to come and eat. To come and live. To come and enjoy. All the work of Jesus. All His gift. All for you.

In the Name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Pentecost 7 Sermon

Jesu Juva

“The Peacemaker Cometh”
Text: Luke 10:1-20 (Galatians 6:1-10; 14-18; Isaiah 66:10-14)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

In the Gospel we heard last week, in the verses just before the Gospel today, Jesus turned His face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). And because He was going to Jerusalem, and because the old rivalry between the Jews and the Samaritans was still going strong, the Samaritans rejected Him. So the disciples asked Jesus (Luke 9:54): “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” If you’re like them (and like me), that thought has crossed your mind from time to time for a few choice people in this world, too! A little fire from heaven would come in handy once in a while . . .

But Jesus doesn’t think that too good an idea. In fact, it’s a pretty bad idea. So He doesn’t just say no - much more than that, He rebukes them. Because this isn’t just a bad idea, it’s a completely backwards, upside-down, 180 degree wrong idea. The fire that was going to come down from heaven, it wasn’t for them, for the Samaritans, for sinners, it was for Jesus. This is why He was going to Jerusalem. To go to the cross. That on that altar, the fire of God’s wrath against all the sin of all the world all come down upon Him and consume Him instead of us. Jesus came to be their Saviour too.

And this wasn’t the first time Jesus rebuked His disciples like this. Not too long before this, when Jesus was teaching His disciples about this same cross, Peter interrupts Him and says (Matthew 16:22-23), “No, Lord, this will never happen to you!” And Jesus rebukes him and says, “Get behind me, satan.” Yes, this will happen. This fire. This sacrifice. This is why Jesus came. This is why He was going to Jerusalem.

So instead of fire, today we heard Jesus send His disciples out two-by-two ahead of Him, to go into every town and place where He Himself was about to go, not to bring fire but to bring peace. Because fire is what they already knew. They’d been burned by the sins of others, by their own sins, by the world; by foes and sometimes even by friends. Fire is what they already had - the fires of pain and grief and troubles that always seem to mount and seldom go away. You know what it’s like. Fire they already had; peace is what they needed. They just didn’t know where to find it. They didn’t know in whom to find it. They needed to know. They needed someone to tell them.

So Jesus sends out these 36 pairs of disciples to proclaim this One who has come not to bring more fire but to bring peace and to make peace between God and man through His own sacrifice on the cross. But in going, Jesus says, it won’t be easy. There will be rejection, and more. They will be like lambs in the midst of wolves. 

For satan, who broke this peace and wants it to stay broken, will oppose them at every turn. And while that may not be a very good mental image to go out with, it is a very Christological one. For in this they are imitators of Jesus, the Lamb of God thrown to the satanic wolf to defeat that wolf. And that’s good news: for while in the world, wolves always win contests against lambs, it is not so with God. With God, the Lamb wins.

So they are to go and proclaim peace. Just like the angels when Jesus was born, they are to proclaim “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace goodwill toward man” (Luke 2:14). The peacemaker is here. And if they are rejected, they are rejected. But no fire. Just peace. Just forgiveness. Just the good news. The good news that the kingdom of God has come near them. Come near through the preaching of the Word; through the coming of the Word made flesh. For where Jesus is, there is the kingdom of God. And where the Word is, there is Jesus. And so the disciples are sent not alone, and not even just two-by-two - even better, they take Jesus with them. He who hears you hears me, Jesus says.

Now, there is a judgment, for those who will not have this peace; for those who will not have Jesus. Woe to you, Jesus also says. But this judgment is not yet. And this is not what Jesus wants. He has come to take our judgment on the cross, that our judgment on the last day be good news. For on the last day, not fire from heaven but the fire of hell will be the fate of those who reject the cross; who reject their Saviour.

So Jesus sends the preaching of His Word that none be lost. His Word calling us to repentance, calling us to faith, calling us to forgiveness and life. Calling Jews, calling Samaritans, calling all. Calling you.

For who are you in this story? Where are you? Are you the ones who have heard the Word of God? Yes. This good news has been proclaimed to you through the pastor (or pastors) sent to you. This good news has been poured over you in baptism, and preached to you, and announced to you, and placed into your mouths in the Lord’s Supper. Yes, the kingdom of God has come near you and is in you. Wonderful news, that!

But is that all? Or might you also be of those who have rejected the Word? Oh, maybe not all of it, but some of it? Rejecting the parts you don’t like, ignoring the parts that are inconvenient or difficult, passing over the parts that aren’t popular or politically correct or condemn what you like to do? Repent then. Repent and return to the Lord. Repent and hear the Word of the Lord - His Word of peace and forgiveness and life that He would give to you.

Yet maybe you are also those sent out with the Word. Yes, this is you too. For while you haven’t been called and sent as pastors, and you’re not sent two-by-two like the 72, you who have received the good news and good work of Jesus go out with this good news and good work, taking to your friends and neighbors, to family and to strangers, what you have here received. Today we will bid farewell and godspeed to the Tallmons as they go out from this place to Wyoming. We say goodbye to the Hensleys today as they begin their trip back to California. But not only them, you too. Whoever you are and wherever you go. And the kingdom of God draws near to those to whom you speak Jesus’ Word of forgiveness and peace. As you speak the good news of a Saviour who came and took the fire for us and for all people. No matter who they are or what they have done. 

This is what Paul told the Galatians, that in our life together we bring not fire, but peace. Restore those caught in transgression in a spirit of gentleness, he says. Bear one another’s burdens. Do not grow weary in doing good. Boast only in the cross of Christ. These things don’t ignore sin or approve of sin or pretend there is no sin, but recognize the reality of sin and point to the solution to sin: the cross of Christ.

And with that Word, satan falls! The 72 returned with joy at the peace that came through them in the Word, and that still is. For the Word is still working and the Spirit still active. The harvest is still growing. And by that forgiving and life-giving Word, satan and his lies and fires are still struck down. His lies silenced by God’s truth. His accusations silenced by Jesus’ forgiveness. His deception silenced by the Spirit’s wisdom. His fires doused by the blood and water that flowed from Jesus’ crucified and pierced side (John 19:34).

The wolf’s teeth are no match for the Lamb’s blood. The wolf’s hate no match for the Lamb’s love. The wolf’s appetite no match for the Lamb’s forgiveness. Though it may not always appear so, in our world with so many problems and so many sins - sins legalized, sins flaunted, sins demanded to be regarded as normal and even good, and more and more arising everyday . . . but who you gonna believe? Yourself, the world, or Jesus? Weak you, a proud world, or the Creator of all things? Sinful you, a fallen world, or the Lamb of God risen from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father? There is much more in this world than meets the eye.

So come and receive the victory of Jesus as He and His kingdom draw near you today. Or as Isaiah put it: nurse and be satisfied from her [the church’s] consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance. For thus says the Lord: Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river . . .  Peace, for here is His font and pulpit and altar of peace, His Word, His absolution, His Body and Blood for you for the forgiveness of your sins. Drink deeply and receive the gifts He sends and gives to you.

And take that gift with you now as you leave this place, wherever you go. For still the harvest is plentiful. And even if for now you, like Paul, bear on your body the marks of Jesus - suffering and persecution for His name - know that you will share in His glory also. For your name, too, is written in heaven.

In the Name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.