Saturday, September 22, 2007

Tomorrow's sermon

To save stress on the morrow - I am finishing up my sermon and printing the copies for my hard of hearing folks tonight. Here it is.

Trinity 16 – September 23rd – Luke 7:11-17

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +

Did you see it, dear Christians, did you see the fierce battle fought in our Gospel text? Did you hear the din of the ancient war, did you hear the echoes of the combat and contest that was our Gospel text. Oh, no, there were no swords, no guns or bombs, no bloodied and broken bodies strew across the ground – but make no mistake – our Gospel lesson was indeed a battle – it was an episode of the Great battle. Our Gospel shows us the battle between God and Satan, between life and death.

Behold the two armies marching out to meet each other. The army of Light and life follows its captain, Christ Jesus our Lord. Soon afterward He went to a town called Nain, and His disciples and a great crowd went with Him. And this army is fresh off of a victory. Jesus has just healed the servant of the Centurion, cut off the old foe death at the pass, prevented the enemy from gaining any ground. As so, the crowds follow Christ to a little town called Nain. And as they approach, they behold a second army arrayed against them. As He drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. A second army, following in the wake of death. A second throng, united in misery and mourning – a miserable procession with death at its head, death shouting and taunting – look oh Christ, oh healer. Too late, too late, death has already had it’s sway here. A second army, following death, and expecting nothing other than death.

So, what does Jesus do? What is His response seeing this funeral procession? Will He yield the field, stand aside and let them march their most unmerry way to the cemetery? No. The royal banners forward go, and the Son of God marches forth to war. And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion upon her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Behold Christ’s weapons which He uses in His struggle. Compassion and mercy – with compassion Christ strides forward to take on death, determined to show mercy. Then He came up and touched the bier and the bearers stood still. He walks up and puts His hand on the bier, the open casket, virtually grabs the body. There is no hesitation, no nervousness that we might have around a dead body, no fear of death for Christ. He simply marches in and puts down His hand, stops the procession of death in its tracks. And then, our Lord speaks. Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. Christ speaks, and death is undone. The Lord of Life opens His lips, and a mother regains her son. Jesus acts, and everything that was expected, all the words of vain comfort the villagers had planned melt away into nothing, destroyed, defeated, no longer needed. Christ goes forth to battle, and He wins. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited His people.” And the forces of death flee, death’s army breaks and scatters – Satan flees in terror while death’s deserts cling to Christ and God is praised and glorified. This is the battle we see in our text this morning – Christ taking the battle to Satan and Death, and Christ defeating them both.

This battle, this contest, dear friends, it should be a familiar one to you. It is one you fight every hour of every day. Do you realize that you are constantly fighting, constantly engaged in a battle of your own? We tend not to think of our lives that way – maybe on occasion, if we sing “Onward Christian Soldiers” or something – but even then we tend to think of big groups of Christians doing great and good and wonderful things in the world. But this is not of what I speak. No, today, let us spend a moment to look at the battle you yourself wage, every hour of every day – against sin and death. Do you feel Satan attacking you – the old crafty foe crouching at your door like a ravenous lion – the temptations that swirl around you? You realize that is Satan trying to kill you? All sin is death – all sin is tiny little bits of death that well up and try to dominate our life. An unkind word to a friend, and a little bit of the goodness and blessings of our life dies. A simple white lie to get out of trouble, and our good name and reputation dies a little bit. We choose to ignore the Word of God, have something better to do – and a small little dagger is driven into our faith, trying to whittle it away to nothing. A bit of desire for what our neighbor has, and our contentment and thankfulness for God’s blessings dies. Satan is always attacking you with sin and death – the two are hand in hand – and Satan is always attacking, seeking your downfall – whether it may come with some great gross sin where you openly defy God, or by a series of small ones – paper cuts leading to the death of faith. This is what Satan has planned for you.

But Your Lord Jesus Christ does not leave you to your own devices in your battle against Satan. Just as in the text, He is the One who fights Satan in your life. Think on this. You are baptized. What does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. God Almighty – the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost – the Triune God has joined Himself to you, placed His own Name upon you, sealed by water and the Word – to what end? That daily your old sinful nature might drown, might die – that daily you might put death to death – so that the New Man, so that Christ Jesus Himself might shine forth in your life. Christ Jesus does it for you and in you. Stay close to Him, cling to Him, cling to His Word so that He might do His Work in You.

But what of the times, oh those dread times, when you don’t drown the old man like you ought – when you ignore the Word, when you sin. When you look at your life and you see the hurt you have caused others, the hurt you have caused yourself. What then? What when you feel like the dead man from the text, lying in the casket of your sins, stuck and unable to fix it? What then? The same thing as what happened in our text. Christ comes to you. Did you think that He would abandon you – that Satan’s small victories in your life would sour Christ upon you? No – He comes to you – and He speaks His Word of life to you. He sees your sin and says, “I forgive you” and that sin is done away with. He sees your broken, sinful body that struggles and strives against temptation and so often fails – and just as He put out His hand and stopped that funeral bier in its tracks, as He physically wrested that young man from death – ponder what Christ does for you. Physical He intervenes and strengthens your weak, failing flesh, with His prefect, immortal, life giving flesh – Take and eat, this is My Body, given for you – take and drink, this is My Blood shed for the remission – for the retreat and defeat and destruction of all of your sins.

Do you see dear friends, what Your Lord is doing? He is focusing your eyes upon Himself, He is bringing Himself to You, He is uniting Himself to you in Word, by what you see and smell and taste. All of this – uniting you to Him. And why? Because the true battle, the final and ultimate battle – it’s already been done. Our Gospel text today – it was just foreshadowing, a preview of what was to come. And dear friends, your life, Satan’s attacks on you – the death throes of a defeated foe. The great battle has already been fought, when Christ Jesus took on death square on – walked into death’s domain willingly, like a lamb to the slaughter. When Christ went to the Cross, He was fighting death, fighting death for you – and Satan thought he was winning, Satan cackled with glee as the whips rent Christ’s flesh and Satan danced as nails held Christ fast to the cross. And Jesus died. And Jesus went to death. But there was no victory for death – no final triumph for our foe – for Christ Jesus strode forth from the tomb on Easter Sunday, alive. Death could not hold Him and was thus defeated. Nothing more could death do – defeated, defanged, destroyed.

And everything Christ Jesus does in your life, dear friends, is simply taking what He has done with His death and resurrection and making it the center, the highest reality of your life. Satan tempts you with sin, seeks your downfall. Christ says, “Begone, for this one is mine – I have died for him and claimed him as my own in the waters of Baptism.” Satan hounds you with guilt, says that you deserve death for what you have done. Christ with His Word says – “You did deserve death, but I took death for you, and death has no more hold upon you – for you are my forgiven child.” Satan points out how weak your flesh is – and Christ says take and eat, for indeed, you are My Body, you are My own, and all that I have done and all that I am – I give to you freely that you may be with me forever. All that Jesus does, He does to give Himself to you, to unite Himself with you – to declare you not only forgiven, but alive in His name.

And so, we see struggles in this life. Temptations come, and sometimes they come hard and with avengence. Sins cry out to us, and sometimes they sound good. Our flesh seems weak, and our bodies even fail, and we can even see our own death approaching. Yes, Satan still tries to attack us horribly – but we know that the battle is done, that Christ is the Victor – and so we cling to Him, we struggle on – and what comes, it comes. But in all things we go forth in this life with victorious confidence – for we know the battle is won – and even should the day come where our eyes close in death – we know what will happen. That with the sound of trumpet, we will on the last day hear our Lord say, “I say to you, arise.” Amen.

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