Saturday, October 13, 2007

Tomorrow's sermon

Trinity 19 – Ocotober 14th, 2007

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +

You don't think like Jesus does. Don't take that as too stinging a critique – but it is true. You don't think like Jesus does. I don't think like Jesus does. The folks who produced and translated the very bible I had at hand when I wrote this sermon don't think like Jesus does – and none of us will completely on this side of heaven. Here on earth, in sinful flesh, our thoughts don't quite measure up. And as an example of this – if I were to ask you what our Gospel text was – to give a title for it – what would you say happens, what is the big deal in it? My bible entitles it “Jesus Heals a Paralytic”. Oh yeah, it's the story where Jesus heals the paralyzed guy! That's what we think, that's our gut reaction to this text – and we completely miss the point. This story isn't about Jesus healing a guy who is paralyzed – that's not the focus, that not Christ's focus – and oh that we thought like Christ, that our focus was the same as His focus, that what we willed was what He wills. Let us spend some time today looking at what Christ sees as important, what Christ stresses, and God grant by the power of His Word that by this we are shaped.

And behold, some people brought to Him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Take heart, My Son; your sins are forgiven.” People don't see things like Jesus does. What do you see, when you hear those words what images are conjured in your head? A poor man, lying helpless on a cot or stretcher, carried by sad, worried friends who lay him before Jesus? Is that what you see? A pitiful paralytic, and sad friends. Would that you saw what Jesus sees! And when Jesus saw their faith! Jesus doesn't see some sad and pathetic fellow – Jesus sees a man of faith, a man who loves and trusts in God. We see the frail body, we pity this man because he is weak and can't move – and Christ Jesus is moved by the strength of the man's faith. We don't see things like Jesus does.

If you want more proof, hear again Jesus' Words. “Take heart, My son; your sins are forgiven.” What did you see when you saw the paralytic? A man in dire need of healing? A man who needed to walk again? That isn't what Christ saw. Christ Jesus saw a sinner in dire need of forgiveness, a man who needed God to forgive him his sin. And so Christ tends to what He sees, what He knows is the bigger problem. Yes, this man lying on the ground in front of Him is a man of faith – but like all mortal men this paralytic was a sinner, a man who struggled with his sin daily, and probably struggled against anger and resentment and coventousness in a battle more persistent and harsh than you or I can imagine – and God grant that we never have to face what this man faced. But there were struggles – and the depths of those struggles, and the times when the man failed, the guilt that he bore for unkind thoughts and his failures – that's what Christ sees, and that's what Christ deals with – Take heart, My Son; your sins are forgiven. Jesus forgives the man and does away with the sin that hounds him.

Do you see things the way that Jesus does? Do you see sin, your sin, as the greatest problem in your life? What troubles you more – your lack of money or your lack of righteousness? What do you think is the bigger problem in your life – your ailing physical health or your spirituality that isn't what it should be? Which is the bigger problem – that you don't know enough good people, have enough friends and are lonely, or that you don't know God's Word like you ought? What troubles you more – the things of this world, with all it's vaunted treasures, or your sin? What's the bigger problem in your book – that your life isn't everything you could wish it could be – or that daily you struggle with sin, and daily you fail and give into sin? Which is the bigger problem?

We see what Jesus says is the bigger problem – which one He deals with first. Take heart, My son; your sins are forgiven. Christ sees the true problem and He cuts to the chase. Jesus sinners doth receive. Christ Jesus does all that is required to fix the true and great problem, the root of all problems – the blemish and stain of sin. Christ Jesus marches to the Cross, will let nothing stand in His way – yells at Peter “Get Thee Behind Me, Satan” when Peter tries to disuade Him from the cross. Jesus sees what is important, knows what we truly need. And if only we saw it too – if we actually learned to beat down our sinful desires and simply live in Christ's forgiveness – delighting in it, rejoicing in it, viewing everything in our lives in light of Christ's forgiveness. Everything else would be small potatoes, brief, flickering annoyances that we know will be laughter on the morrow.

But sometimes, dear friends, the problem goes deeper than just not thinking like Jesus. And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This Man is blaspheming.” This Man is blaspheming. He's a liar. He can't do what He says! How can He forgive people – how can this Man give out God's mercy and righteousness to people. By what right can He do this? That is what the scribes were thinking – and so they look upon Jesus with disgust and disdain. They don't believe it. They hear what Christ says, they hear the Word – and they think, how can that be?

Jesus doesn't let this stand. But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think such evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” - He then said to the paralytic - “Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. It is one of the most dramatic moments in Scripture. There Jesus is, and He has just forgiven this paralytic's sin – and people start complaining, start thinking evil thoughts. And Jesus calls them on it – why do you think such evil. . . this is serious, how often does Jesus flat out call something evil? And then, in the middle of addressing these scribes, Jesus turns to the paralytic and tells him to rise and walk. See – I have authority to forgive sins! Do you see what Jesus thinks is important, what message Jesus wants to get across? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . . That's what Jesus thinks is important. You need to know that I can do this – that I can deal with sin! The physical healing, that's secondary. Just an object lesson. All too often we are blind to broken souls – we can't see them. But we can see a broken body. Oh, look, Jesus heals this broken body – maybe He actually means it when He says He deals with my broken and contrite spirit! Jesus' point here is all about the fact that His Word forgives sins – that He has this authority, and that He isn't afraid to use it.

Now the question is – do you believe it? Do you believe that God's Word is powerful and does what it says? Do you believe that there is authority on this earth to forgive sins? That's what we claim here. In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all of your sins. Do you believe that? That God by His Word heals your spirit here in His house, that it actually happens? Given and shed for you – all your sins have been forgiven by Christ the crucified, go in peace? Do you believe that this actually happens?

This is one of the things that we in America, that the Church in America across the board is dealing with. People don't believe it, people don't believe that the Word of God actually has power. “Oh, I don't get anything out of Church.” I forgive you your sins. “Oh, I had better things to do.” Take and drink, the blood Christ, shed for you and for the remission of all of your sins. “Oh, there are just some things there that I don't like.” This is the Word of the Lord, thanks be to God. And it even has affected us Lutherans. We believe it, but sometimes I wonder if we really appreciate it. We say the words – but then we flitter off. We confess in the Catechism “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Christ Jesus my Lord, or come to Him, but that the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel” - but when numbers are down, do we strive to focus more on the Gospel and let the Holy Spirit work when and where He wills, simply tell our friends and neighbors and let God do the work, or do we wait for the next Synodical program to come along, the next neat trend that will pack them in? We sing God Himself is Present – and yet not once have I been asked to have service more often here so that we can gather together in the presence of God and hear His Word together. In fact, the past month I haven't done Matins and nary an eye has blinked – and most mornings that includes my own eyes. I can't get up in the mornings now – oh well, I could do it later. . . but it doesn't happen. When it gets down to it – do we realize, do we appreciate, do we understand the miracle that goes on every time God calls us together in this place? When I look, when I examine myself – I have to say the answer is no, not like we ought.

But you know what – that doesn't cheapen what happens here at all. Is God's Word somehow less powerful because we don't appreciate it like we ought? Is God's Word somehow less true because we tend to blunder along like dunderheads? Is God's gift of forgiveness to us weakened because we spend so much time looking at all the flashing lights of the world? No. Because what makes God's Word work isn't you, it isn't how excited or how dedicated you are. No – forgiveness is about God – it's about Christ Jesus and what He does for you – He is the One who is doing it, it's on His power, it's His authority, and that's why it sticks. And in His great mercy and love, He still calls you here to His House, and He gives you His forgiveness over and over again, and you receive it and have life in His name. And that is real, and that is true, and that is the most important thing in your life. Yes, your sinful nature riles and fights against God – but Christ Jesus has had mercy upon you and has forgiven all your sins. And He shapes you by His Word – makes you to think like Him, see things like He sees them – so that you might know His forgiveness and rest securely there in. Take Heart, my son; your sins are forgiven. Amen.


Past Elder said...

Thank you for an excellent sermon I needed to "hear".

I hope the confessional Lutheran pastors who blog know their sermons are of great value to us here in the blogosphere.

Anonymous said...

A Post 1960's Hippy Said