Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sermon for 7/21/13 Luke 10

Busy life, busy people, multi-tasking young and old, shifting attention frenetically
focused “like a hummingbird on cocaine”
Sometimes we take pride, excessive and sinful pride, in being too busy.
“Martha, Martha...” We say this in our household a lot.

Didn’t have time? Didn’t take time? What kind of a fix are we in?
 neglect family
 neglect home
 neglect community
 neglect friends
 no time to smell the roses
 didn’t notice seasons passing
Wait - isn’t there something more?
 What about our Lord?
     Bible reading - nonexistent, occasional, hasty, matter of form
     Contemplate God’s Word and the world he has created
     Join with others for Bible study, worship, prayer
     Do we really think we can lead others in the community of faith when we are not actively engaged in it ourselves?
 Outside of the weekly divine service, the most important thing our congregation can do is join in the weekly Bible studies where we dig deeply into God’s Word to ask and answer questions about how we live before God in our culture.
 Do we want the church to grow? The most important factor in growth is involvement in weekly Bible study. Churches in which most of the adults attend weekly Bible classes, including Sunday school, are almost always thriving and growing churches. When we take God’s Word seriously it shows.

What does this have to do with Martha?
 There’s always plenty to do. But Jesus says there’s always plenty to BE. As we sit at Jesus’ feet, soaking up His word, learning from him, we take the time to reflect on his goodness, his grace, his love for us, our state without him. We learn to bring that good news to others. We find ourselves telling our neighbor that Jesus sees us in our troubles and has given himself for us. We find that the message of the cross is powerful. We find that our Lord’s care for life, for learning, for families, for the whole world becomes specific to us. We deliver, we show in ourselves, the good news that Jesus loves us and has given himself for us.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sermon for 7/14/13 Luke 10

Today’s Gospel lesson is a very special one.
 Most Christians who have been reading their Bibles for any amount of time know the story.
 Luke set this parable among Jesus’ parables of grace, yet it’s a little hard to find the grace in it.
Let’s see ourselves in light of what Jesus and this lawyer talk about.

The question - How can I earn an inheritance?
 How can you earn an inheritance? Jesus turns the question around.
  ignore the impossible - an inheritance can’t be earned
 Love the Lord with all your...
 Love your neighbor as yourself.

How are we doing on that?
 Our lives show that we don’t love God.
 What is more enticing? The Bible or the television?
 What do we know better? Sports statistics or God’s word?
 What do we care more about? When we can hear God’s words of grace or when we can eat?
 How about God’s priorities - to seek and to save the lost? Yet one of our great fears is sharing the Gospel with our family, friends, neighbors, and associates.

Our world cries out for authenticity. And here we claim that Jesus is the only savior, the only one who will ever rescue anyone from certain doom. And we don’t tell about him. We don’t look to him in hope. We don’t love God.

Yes, lawyer, you are right. Love God with all your heart. Do that. Please.

And the lawyer thinks he’s doing well. How is it that we look into God’s Word and don’t see ourselves reflected? How do we see the speck in our neighbor’s eye and overlook the plank in our own?

But he goes on, and Jesus lets him. Love your neighbor as yourself.

NOW he sees something wrong. Who is my neighbor?

Chilling words I read this week. An acquaintance on the Internet posted a plea especially for pastors. What do you say to someone who is dealing with depression, fear, or other troubles and says, “I can’t come to church for a while. I can’t seem to put on my mask that says everything’s all right.”

What will happen to us if we come to church without our masks on?

What if our neighbors in the pews see us for who we are - people who are hurting, people for whom everything isn’t really all right, people who are crying out to the Lord to rescue us from this painful world? What if our neighbors in the pews see us as people who really are confessing real sins and really asking that the Lord would take them away because if he doesn’t we will be crushed?

Do we love our neighbor?

Wait a minute, says the lawyer. You’re thinking of someone who isn’t my neighbor.

Jesus tells him a story, and in the story, Jesus is there.

Rejected, beaten, disfigured, unable to help himself, scorned, the priest and Levite may even have wondered if he was actually alive. All this happening on his journey down from Jerusalem, the place of worship and forgiveness, to Jericho, not only a city most famous for being sacked, but also a place some 3500 feet below Jerusalem. It’s almost a thousand feet below sea level. This man is descending into the earth from the mountaintop. And he is captured, attacked, everything he has is taken away from him.

Who is this man? It is surely Jesus, your neighbor and mine, the one who seems to have nothing to offer, the one who is unloved and who, in his humiliation has nothing to give us.

last, lost, least, lonely

stricken, smitten and afflicted, ‘tis he

How do we love Jesus? How does this foreigner, the one who was at enmity with God, the Samaritan, someone called from afar, like you and like me, love the man of sorrows?

interrupts life
risks time - cares for him and puts him on his animal so the Samaritan has to walk
risks credit - gives him all he needs
risks attack - there are enemies in the area, remember?
loves his neighbor

If this is all the parable says, we leave you short. We have left you with the Law. We’ve already established that we don’t love God well enough and that we don’t love our neighbor as ourself. As we’ve described the neighbor it looks worse and worse. There are three responses we can have.

1) God didn’t really intend that high of a standard. We can decide that really we love God quite well and that we are loving our neighbor as well as he could expect.

Be perfect as I am perfect
Be conformed into the image of Christ
Seek and save the lost
Pray without ceasing

Lord give us repentance of our arrogant attitude that says we keep Your Law! Change our hearts!

2) God does have that high of a standard. I can’t keep God’s standard. Therefore I despair. There’s no hope at all.

If we confess our sins
Jesus loved us while we were yet sinners
The Father made the Son to become sin for us so we could be the righteousness of God in Christ.
He forgives us each and every sin.

Despair won’t cut it, then. Arrogance and despair are out. We need our third possible response.

3) Jesus, the man of sorrows, the one who suffered and died, did it all for you. He is the only one who has ever loved God perfectly and he is the only one who has ever loved his neighbor as himself. He has done this. He died doing it. And he rose from the dead so that all who believe his promises may have his perfect life.

Trust that Jesus is the savior of the world.
Trust that Jesus is your savior.
Come to him again and again, receiving his forgiveness, which we can never earn ourselves.

The Lord’s table is a time of repentance and restoration. It’s a time when Jesus gives himself in a very concrete way, in true body and blood for you, for your forgiveness. It’s a means of receiving the forgiveness we need. As we prepare for the Lord’s table, may he create in us a clean and new heart, filling us with repentance and pouring out his grace upon us. Jesus has loved you, his neighbor, as he loves himself. He will rescue you.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sermon for 6/30/13 1 Kings 19

Elijah - time of discouragement
God asks “What are you doing here?”
Elijah’s discouraged answer - much like ours might be
 we tried, tried hard, worked hard
 God’s people departed from Word and Sacrament (covenant and altar)
 God’s people have rejected God’s servants, even to the death
 Persecution all around this world, rejection of the Lord
 Confessional, faithful, historic Christianity seems to be languishing
 feels like you’re going to die

How many of you have heard the sermon that goes on from Elijah’s discouragement to put him into the cave where he witnesses all sorts of shows of power then finally hears God in the still, small voice that tells him what to do? You are then supposed to look within, listen for God’s still, small voice, and take comfort? This isn’t that sermon.

What does God do? He tries to blow up the mountain? He doesn’t try very hard, because the mountain isn’t blown up. But he terrifies Elijah! Wind, breaking rocks, an earthquake, fire - Go through that and just tell me you aren’t scared.

I can just picture Elijah hiding behind a rock, hoping that the cave doesn’t fall in, wondering if he’ll get through this alive. Finally it becomes quiet, he hears just a small sound, and he plucks up his courage to come out.

Why are you here?”

Elijah has the same answer. He’s like most of us. We don’t understand that the Lord who can create heaven and earth and everything in them can take care of us. We still fear. We still go to hide under a rock, thinking maybe we’ll be safe there.

So God finally tells Elijah why he is here.
 Go anoint a king of Syria. Hazael, though a Syrian, attacked and defeated the unfaithful leader of Israel.
 Go anoint a king of Israel. Jehu, who took the throne after Hazael sacked Israel, defeated many of the remaining unfaithful forces of Israel.
 Go take a follower who will take your place. Elisha had a relatively long and productive ministry as God’s prophet.

All this moved Israel down the path that Elijah desired, the path God desired. Elijah was frustrated. We also are often frustrated. It doesn’t seem that we are accomplishing anything. But God’s Word is not fruitless. Our Lord accomplishes His desire, as Word and Sacrament are being administered.
 growing in  grace
 fruit of the Spirit

Where’s Jesus in all this?
 mighty one of God
 speaks peace and salvation to us
 gives us a kingdom that will never pass away, gates of hell cannot prevail
 appoints us to work as well-trained servants of the Word
 has us pass on the gifts God has given to future generations

1) Fearful about your calling in life? Feel like a failure? Jesus has called you and does not leave you alone. Remember the thousands he appointed to be faithful in Elijah’s time.

2) Wonder about your hope for the future? Jesus builds his Church and it will prevail. Persevere without fear!

3) Wonder if you are one of the Lord’s opponents? Trust that Jesus has come to suffer and die for that state of opposition. Trust that He died for you. Know that he gives you forgiveness and places you in just the right place to serve him in his kingdom.