Sunday, November 9, 2014

Trinity 21 Sermon

Trinity 21 – John 4:46-54 – November 9th, 2014

In the Name of Christ Jesus, Who shall come again +
          We are coming to it.  The end of the Church year.  And the texts are beginning to shift, to move to thoughts about the beginning and the end, creation and the re-creation of all things on the Last Day.  And here we have Jesus in our Gospel lesson returning to Cana.  Cana, where He had done His first miracle, where oh so quietly Water had been turned into Wine so that the party, the wedding feast would go on, where as the Scriptures had foretold the hills would drip with sweet wine. And when Jesus returns to Cana, we hear this:  “And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill.  When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.  So Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.’”  Wait a second – why the somewhat cold shoulder that Jesus gives here?  I mean, Jesus rebukes this fellow a bit, chides him.  Jesus almost sounds exasperated – isn’t this a great thing?  I mean, the fellow comes from Capernaum, the town over – the town that would eventually basically become Jesus’ headquarters.  What’s to complain about, what’s to imply that this fellow didn’t believe?

          To answer that question, let me ask another.  What is the point of Jesus coming?  Why did He bother to come down from heaven in the first place?  Was it just to be a wandering healer, a turner of tricks?  Was He basically a really good snake oil salesman?  Here let me rub JC’s miracle exilir on your scalp, it’s good for what ails you.  Will make your cough go away and cure your baldness.  Because, that is basically what this official thought.  Does that sound too harsh, too judgmental?  Note what he says – come down and heal my son.  And even after Jesus rebukes him, he says again, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”  Do you see the nuance?  Jesus, it’s nice that you brought your healing dog and pony show back to Cana, but you need to get on to the big time, come to my town, Capernaum.  I need the healing circus there!  You don’t do anyone any good up here in Cana, what good is it to have you here?  I need you at my place and you can work Your mojo there.  So chop chop, my son is dying.  He doesn’t believe yet – He doesn’t understand that He is talking to God Himself when He is talking to Jesus.

          Consider – we all have prayed to God for healing for someone.  It’s something we do all the time, every service here we have prayers for somebody.  And when we pray to God, we just pray.  Please heal, take care of this.  We don’t pray to God saying, “God, you had better send an angel, and maybe even Elijah back down here this instant so they walk into that hospital room and can do some good.”  We trust, we understand that God can heal whomever He wants whenever He wants however He wants – there’s no hoops He has to jump through.  That’s not what this official believes.  That’s not what He thinks of Jesus, yet.  He doesn’t understand – even the rumors of the wedding at Cana that had reached him, He hadn’t gotten everything together.  So Jesus would give another sign.

          “Jesus said to him, ‘Go, your son will live.’  I’m not going to play by your rules, I’m not going to do things your way.  Don’t worry, official, I will handle things, but I will handle them My way… and that way is this.  I will speak, and your son will live.  And we know what happens.  The fellow then believes, heads home, the runners come announcing that his son got better, and what do you know, it’s the exact same time that Jesus spoke that the son was healed.  This is the sign that Jesus does.  And what is it a sign of?  A sign that He is God Almighty.

          In Hebrew, there was an important distinction in words.  Humans could make things, could fix things, could do things.  We could take what is already there and fashion it, shape it, tend it.  However, in Genesis, in our Old Testament Lesson, we heard a word that is only ever used by God.  Create.  Barah in Hebrew – berasheith bara Elohim et Hashemaim ve-et haarez.  In the beginning God CREATED the heavens and the earth.  And in all the Scriptures, God is the only one Who “creates” – Who simply speaks things into being, into existence.  Let there be light, and there is.  Let there be trees, animals, birds – and there are.   That’s creation, creation from nothing, and only God does that.  Man, we can shape and mold things.  We can plant seed, and crops will grow – it’s God who says let there be, and then there is.  And so here comes Jesus, and this official is just thinking that He is a mere man – and so he’s expecting Jesus to fix something, to do something, to make a potion, or even turn one thing into another.  Those are all things that men of God, the prophets might have been able to do.  But he isn’t expecting Jesus to speak and simply have things happen – he’s not expecting Jesus to create.  That’s a God thing, and he isn’t expecting that.  And so this is the sign that Jesus gives, hearkening back to Genesis 1 – I, the Word of God incarnate, by Whom all things were made, I will speak, and your son will live.

          So now, let us consider ourselves, our own lives.  What do we expect of Jesus?  What do we think of Him, what do we think He has come to do?  I look around at the mentions of Jesus on the tv, on the radio, and I see and hear how Jesus is treated as merely a really good fellow.  A healer.  If you buddy buddy up to him, he can give you goodies and blessings, but if you upset him, boy are you in trouble.  It’s almost like Jesus is treated like a really powerful mafia boss – If you make Don Jesus happy, He’ll give you protection and money, but if you upset him, you might wake up with a horse’s head in your bed, capice?  It’s a “jesus” who will give you your best life now, or a “jesus” who is sending us Ebola because you people didn’t vote for the right person.  And it can rub off on us – where we start thinking of Jesus merely in terms of the here and now, of how my day tomorrow is going to be impacted and that’s it.  It’s the spirit of the age, and we can get caught up in it.  A short term Jesus, a Jesus for right now, and if things in your life today go poorly and badly and don’t shape up the way you wanted them to be, well, I guess you didn’t do enough for Jesus.  That is what we hear, what we can even fear.

          Now, over and against that, think of what we just confessed in the Creed.  Who is Jesus?  He’s not just some guy thinking about what this afternoon is going to be like.  He didn’t come merely to provide some short term fix or give you advice on how to be a nice person.  No – He was Crucified, Died, and was buried.  He rose, He ascended, and He will come again to judge the living and the dead, and because of this we believe in the forgiveness of sins and what?  The forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.  The problem isn’t any particular problem we happen to come across.  The problem is that Creation, the Creation which God had so lovingly created, called into being; it was messed up by sin.  And Christ Jesus came to restore it, to re-create it.  To undo sin and death with His own death and resurrection, and to undo everything in this fallen world by coming again on the Last Day, wiping the slate clean, and starting over with a new heavens and a new earth and putting us there.  Jesus’ primary focus isn’t a temporary fix, it isn’t your best life now, it is your life everlasting.  This time here, it’s a blip, that’s all.  A drop in the bucket compared to eternity, and that is what Christ Jesus has set up and prepared for you.  And here’s the thing – this fallen world, our own sinful flesh with all its fears and worries, even Satan himself try all to distract us, to trap our minds and thoughts merely on the here and now, to minimize Christ, to not see Him for what He is, and to judge Jesus only on whether or not we are getting what we want right this instant.

          This is the point of that Ephesians passage – the armor of God.  Satan schemes against you – he tries to attack and distract and destroy you now.  But note – we are fighting in this “present darkness”, the day of evil.  Those are all short term things.  Yes, right now will not always be enjoyable – them’s the breaks in a fallen world where there is sin and strife and backed up sewer lines.  But Jesus hasn’t come merely to pat you on the back and send you back out there – He didn’t come to just leave you in this present darkness, to let you see only a day of evil and that’s it.  No, He will support and protect you – rest in Him, in His righteousness, in His Gospel, use the Word of God against these temptations.  But what is the point of His righteousness, His Gospel, indeed what is the point of all of the Word of God?  Christ Jesus, the very Word of God who brought Creation into existence, has come and suffered and died for you, so that your sins are removed, and He has risen so that He will, on the last day, raise you and pull you out of this place of suffering, and He will give you all blessings, and not just for a time, not just for a day, but for all eternity.  This is what He has done, this is what He will do – and God grant that we see this ever more.  In the Name of Christ Jesus, Who Shall Come Again +

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