Saturday, September 23, 2017

Trinity 15 Sermon

Trinity 15 – September 23rd and 24th, 2017 – Matthew 6:24-34

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Well, that's a great way to start a lesson, isn't it? It just sort of drops a great big bomb on our laps. Two things are set against each other – God and Money. And we are made to think about this, to ask ourselves the question. How often would I rather serve money than God. Oh, these are dangerous waters, aren't they? Money sermons in church can hit too close to home, too close to the wallet, too close to my hobbies and all the other things that I really, really like to do.

The fact is we all love money. It makes us feel powerful. We'll do stupid things for money, and then we'll do even stupider things with our money. But here's the thing. Money, wealth, mammon, stuff – they're a cruel master. Right after bringing up this distinction, Jesus talks about worry and being anxious – worrying about what you will wear and what you will eat and all those everyday humdrum fears we have. You do realize what Jesus is pointing out. Money, loving money, serving money, will only make you anxious and worried. Even the world recognizes this. You get this in pop music, even in rap. Mo Money, Mo Problems. You spend your money to buy something really nice, then you have to buy even more insurance because what if something happens to it. You get a decent car instead of a beater, and then suddenly the ads tell you that you need an even nicer car, and you're no longer content. When money dominates our lives we just get thrown into a never-end cycle of fear and discontentment. Think about it – how many times this past week were your fears and anxiety based upon money, based upon stuff – whether there was enough for all the things you “need” or for all the things you want to do? I paid bills this week – I didn't sit down and cheer when I paid them, I cringed.

This is because we think that Money is power, that money gives us control. We think that if we had just a bit more cash then we'd be in control, that we would be able to make everything the way we want it to be. We think money is power, never recognizing that is takes control and rules over us and becomes our master – and money is a terrible master. Makes you work and sweat and fret, and it's never enough. Do you see, do you understand how many stupid and wretched things your sinful flesh will do to just try to be in charge? I know at the temptation of Jesus, when Satan says, “I'll give you all the kingdoms of the world if you just bow down and worship me” we can think, “That's a silly temptation.” Yet, how often do we jump through hoops for cash, thinking that cash will let us control our lives? Then the money doesn't bring us happiness, it doesn't bring us joy. And even the world will finally admit that in the end, you can't take it with you.

You cannot serve God and money. So what does this mean, Pastor? If I'm being honest about myself, it's clear that entirely too often I want to serve money, that I want to be all about the Benjamins and cold hard cash. Does that mean that I'm up the creek without a paddle? Listen. Jesus says: You cannot serve God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life....” This is one of the happiest “therefores” in all the Scriptures. So often people will present “You cannot serve God and money” as a chance for a choice, for a call for you to make a better decision. The only thing is that if we're talking about “money” and decisions, we tend to make terrible decisions. But Jesus doesn't tell you to choose between Him and money. He says “Therefore I tell you.” You can't have two masters – it doesn't work. Therefore I will be your Master, I will be your Lord, and I will be the one telling you how things will be, not money. Money tells you to fret and worry and be anxious – but I, Christ Jesus, your Lord and Master, say unto you, don't worry about stuff, because stuff, your food, your clothing, your life – that is all in My hands, not money's hands, and I will take care of you. Period. Because I am your master, and you will listen, not to your fears and anxieties driven by money, but you will listen to Me. You don't have two masters; you have One. His name is Jesus.

And here's where our sinful flesh wants to chime in with a giant and loud “BUT!!!” Okay, Jesus, we get that God is in control, we get that we pray for daily bread, and yeah, we talk about in the Small Catechism in the Creed how God has made me and all creatures and given me my body and soul... BUT what about this? And then our flesh throws out some fear in front of us. Sometimes, in hindsight, the things we worry about are flippant and silly. I remember when I was devastated because my mom bought me the wrong Transformer toy – how am I to get my daily bread when my mom can't tell one transformer from another! Sometimes the fears are big and nasty. Maybe this is the second notice on that power bill. Or “your position has been eliminated and your services will no longer be required.” Or Dad just had to buy a hospital bed for mom. Those are scary things. But let's ratchet it up. What about the day, our flesh cries out, what about the day when I'm the one who needs the hospital bed, what about when it's my eyes that can't see anymore, what about when I die, huh? What about then, huh?

Well, first of all, the day I'm dying money isn't going to do anything for me. Money's a vain and fleeting master – when I kick the bucket any money I have will just go to some other folks; hopefully they won't fight over it too much. But more important than the powerlessness of money is the greater truth – Jesus Christ, O Christian, is your master. Even in the face of death, Jesus is your master. And do you know how you know that He is your master no matter what comes in your life? We saw it today. A few minutes ago, we saw Christ Jesus publicly declare that He was Lord and Master of (Bennet and Gunnar / Jax). He joined them to Himself in the waters of Baptism, placed His name upon them. You see, Baptism isn't just some cutesy ceremony, it isn't just a photo op (although baptismal photos are cute). Baptism is where the Trinue God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit publicly says that you, the baptized, are His own child, now and forever. And why does Jesus stake this claim upon you?

Well, when Adam sinned in the garden, Satan had his nasty little fingers on us – Satan had a claim on us. We had sinned, and the wages of sin is death. We were consigned into Satan's kingdom of death. And Jesus does not want that – He doesn't want us just stuck in death, and so He would have to rescue us. And you know what that rescue means? He had to go where we were. If my son gets stuck in a slide and I have to rescue him, I have to climb into the slide and drag him out. Since we were stuck in the kingdom of Death, Jesus had to enter into death itself. That is why Jesus became man, that is why He went to the cross. He suffered and died because you and I were going to die. And if we were left to die on our own devices, that would have been it – the grave would have been our last stop. But no, Christ went to the Cross and He died and He entered a tomb of His own. Then He blew the kingdom of death apart by rising on the third day. And what Jesus does in His Church is takes what He has done with His death and resurrection and brings it to us in Holy Baptism, He brings you out of the kingdom of death and brings you into His kingdom of everlasting life.

Whatever comes in your life, whatever trials and doubts or fears or problems you face – even up to and including your death, because if the Lord tarries and doesn't return soon, death will come for all of us – whatever comes – you know for certain that Jesus Christ is your Lord because He has baptized you, He has joined you unto Himself. And in fact, He spends your life preparing you, training you to face down the fears Satan throws at you... even the fears of death. You've already died and live with Christ. Remember the lesson from your Catechism days – 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. Where is this written? St. Paul writes in Romans, chapter six: We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” This is the greatest and highest reality of your life, who you are. You are one who has died to sin and is alive to God in Christ Jesus.

And we forget that sometimes, don't we. We get turned away from Jesus and get focused upon other things. Like money. That's the example in the text. We start thinking money will fix our lives. There are others. Our ego, lust, anger, pride. All these things try to make us think they bring us life, try to make us forget that Christ is our life. And so often we run after these things and slam headlong into the muck and the mire and get burdened by fear and shame and guilt and worry. Those fears, those worries, that guilt and shame are what we end up focusing on, no matter how hard we try to pretend they're not there. We start acting as though money were our master – or whatever other idol tells us that it is our Master. And that is when Jesus says to you again, “No - I am your master, not money, not Satan, not sin, not the flesh.” He pulls our eyes off of all that other junk and says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Seek first the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom that you were made a member of when you were baptized. Seek Jesus' own righteousness, the righteousness that He gives you whenever He forgives your sins! 
 
Do you see? No one may serve two masters – and while we might forget that, Christ Jesus does not, and He always remembers that He is your kind and gracious master, your good and gracious King, and so He will always call you back unto Himself, back to His Kingdom. How could He not – for you are His own, baptized into Him. You have life in Him. This the reality of your life – not your cash. You can't take your money with you, but Christ Jesus will take you with Him for all eternity, for He has purchased and won you from those lousy masters Sin, death, and the devil, all so that you will be His own and live under Him in His kingdom forever. You belong to Jesus, and He will never abandon you. God grant us ever more to remember this! In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Trinity 14 Sermon

Trinity 14 – Luke 17:11-17 – September 16th and 17th, 2017

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
Ah yes, the “thankfulness” text. The healing of the ten lepers. The text we hear twice a year, both today and on Thanksgiving Day where we can get the lecture, the waging of the finger – you little boys and girls need to be thankful, so you better go turn around right now and tell God Thank You! And if the preacher is a bit unscrupulous… or maybe if the budget seems tight, you might even hear “and by thank you I mean put more money in the plate you ungrateful slobs.” Too often this text is treated as an occasion to just hammer people for ungratefulness – to say “God wants you to be thankful… or he’ll be mad at you” – as though God is petty and only gives blessings just to make us grovel for more. No that's not how it works. God blesses us purely out of His Fatherly divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worth in us, and He doesn’t need our thanks. So this becomes the question, the question our text will answer today why, if God doesn’t need our thanks, why does He want us to give thanks? Let’s dive into the text.

“On the way to Jerusalem He was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.” The very first thing to note is this – Luke tells us that Jesus was headed to Jerusalem. In Luke’s Gospel, that’s not just a note, a factual snippet. The second half of Luke’s Gospel over and over repeats that Jesus is headed to Jerusalem – and why? Because it is in Jerusalem where Jesus wins salvation for us by His death and resurrection. Luke 18:31-33 explains this focus – Jesus says: “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For He will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging Him, they will kill Him, and on the third day He will rise.” Over and over in Luke, we are reminded of Jesus being on His way to Jerusalem, on His way to the Cross to win salvation. So – that is the background of this text, what we need to have in our heads – this text will be teaching us about Christ’s struggle against sin and death, it will be teaching us about His death and resurrection – He is on His way to Jerusalem to defeat sin and death.

“And as he entered a village, He was met by 10 lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’” The impact of sin, death and decay show up in His path. He comes across 10 lepers who cry out “Lord, have Mercy” - the same thing we have already cried out today here in Worship today several times. These men who are ravaged by this disease call out to Christ seeking mercy – and mercy He will show. “When He saw them He said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed.” Under the law of Moses, if you had leprosy, had a skin disease, you were exiled. Had to be for the good of the community. But, if you were healed, then you could go and show yourself to the priest, who would examine you and let you be restored to the community. And Jesus says, “show yourselves to the priest” – but did you note? They weren’t clean yet – it was only as they went that they were healed. That, my friends, is faith. Jesus says, “Go” – and even as they look at themselves they see their sores and wounds – yet they go, because Christ has said so. And again, we too are often in this same position. Christ has said to you, “Go, you are forgiven, your sins are no more.” And yet, when we look at ourselves, so often we see more and more sin, more and more flaws. Christ has said that we are washed clean in Baptism, that we are a new creation, that we will have the life everlasting – yet often, it doesn’t look this way. I wrote the rough draft for this sermon on Monday morning, and even as I wrote it I knew that there would be countless way between Monday and the weekend where I would do stupid, foolish, hurtful, sinful things – wretch that I am. Yet, over and above what I see in my life, what we see in our lives, our regrets, our shame, our guilt – Christ Jesus has said that we are clean, that we are forgiven – that he has presented us as His own Bride without spot or blemish – and thus in faith we believe what Christ has said, we trust His forgiveness.

And now we get to the turning point of our Gospel lesson. “Then one of the 10, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.” Literally, the turning point. One of the lepers, seeing that he is healed, turns around, praises God and gives thanks. And Jesus looks at this a bit wryly – “Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give thanks to God except this foreigner?’” Now, here is the danger for us in reading this – we can read this and suddenly want to go and condemn the other 9, say “ah, those evil, wicked nine – bad bad bad!” But this isn’t our Lord angry – we don’t hear “And then Jesus cursed those other nine with leprosy nine times worse.” No – they are still healed, they are forgiven, they are showing themselves to the priest just as Jesus had commanded. But because they did not return to praise God and give Him thanks, they miss the most wonderful thing. “And [Jesus] said to him, ‘Rise and go your way, your faith has made you well.’” Jesus explains everything to this leper, and only he understands fully because he returned for praise and thanksgiving.

Now, there are two very, very important things we need to notice to understand this. Let’s work backwards – Your faith has made you well. We don’t hear this rightly as Americans. We hear the phrase “your faith” and we think it’s talking about how strongly we believe, or how dedicated we are. That’s not the point. Jesus isn’t saying to this man “You are well because you really really really believed.” This is the type of claptrap we hear today – oh, if only you really believed then X will happen, you’d get the new car you want, your kids would behave better, your life would be great… if only you believed more. That’s not what Jesus is saying – Jesus is talking about the “object” of this man’s faith, talking about who this man believed in. This man believed in Christ, and because of Christ he has been healed. Consider – what if this leper had really really really believed that the Greek god Apollo would heal him? He’d still be a leper. No, it was faith *in Christ* that brought about this healing.

And what does the one who has faith in Christ hear? “Rise and go”. Now, we miss it because we don’t speak Greek – “rise” is a resurrection word. Jesus isn’t just saying “stand up and get out of here” – He literally says “you are rising and going” – you are being raised, you are being given life. Jesus isn’t simply saying, “Go away kid, you’re bothering me” – He’s giving the man life and salvation, and He tells him this so that the man sees and understands what it is that He has. You, Samaritan, you are receiving now what I am going to Jerusalem to win for you – you are receiving now the fruits of My death and resurrection as you are being raised and given new life now even as you will be totally raised and totally given everlasting life on the Last Day. This is forgiveness of sins and life and salvation.

And that fact, dear friends, lets us know what this text is about. It’s not an admonition to be grateful – it’s not the wagging of the finger. It’s a call to worship. This text is telling us, teaching us that we benefit from worship together. Consider – what does the leper do, seeing God’s goodness to him? He praises and gives thanks? Now, where do we generally turn from our normal everyday lives, enjoying the blessings God has given us, and pause and praise and give thanks to God? Worship right here. We call upon the Name of the Lord, pray, praise, and give thanks. And again, if we knew Greek, it would stand out more so. Where do we generally gather for communion? Here in Church – and what is one of the common names for the Lord’s Supper – the Eucharist. And the word Eucharist means “He gave thanks” – it’s from the words of institution – and on the night when He was betrayed, He took bread, and when “He had given thanks”. Again – in the Scripture “thanks” isn’t just personal thing, a feeling of gratitude – it was always tied to worship. Thanks meant going to the temple, it meant prayer and praise, worshiping God and receiving His gifts.

And this is the point of this text – we are called here into Jesus' presence, to this place for worship – so as to receive from Christ His good gifts of salvation. And this isn’t because we have to prove anything to God by our diligence. It isn’t as though if we miss too many Sundays suddenly we are off the salvation gravy train. Rather this – Christ Jesus your Lord loves you, and He would have you constantly know and receive His love, His mercy – have it preached to you, have it fed to you in His Supper. He knows what life in the sinful world is like. He knows that you sin daily and often, so over and against that He would have you hear forgiveness proclaimed often, He would have you taste His forgiveness as often as you eat and drink the Supper. He knows that life in the world beats us down, that if we listen to the world we forget the wonders of His blessings for us and instead become shaped by greed and lust and earthly power – so He calls us out of life in the rat race so that we can see and know what is going on. Yes, you are still a sinner in a sinful world, but over and above that another more wondrous truth stands out. Christ Jesus has died for you, He has risen for you, and He is raising you. He raises you now so that you may face the trials of this life standing upon Him, resurrected by Him. He shall raise you forever more on the last day. Whatever you see this week, whatever happens, whatever the world looks like this week – Christ Jesus is still your Lord, He still has had mercy upon you, and He will still call you to this place so that you may hear, may receive His mercy and forgiveness and love over and over so that you may stand fast and enjoy all of His blessings to you, come what may in this world. Christ has so much to give us for He has gone to Jerusalem, He has defeated sin and Satan and death, He has overcome the world – and we are raised and have life in Him. Rise and go your way, your faith has saved you. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Trinity 13 sermon

Trinity 13 – September 9th and 10th, 2017 – Luke 10:23-37

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
Before we consider the familiar story of the Good Samaritan, it would be good for us to look at the introductory verses, because they really do set the stage for what this whole text is going to be about. Jesus says to the disciples, Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” And this really drives home the wonders of being in the New Testament Church, wonders that we can overlook. On occasion, we will think about the events of the Old Testament – prophets and the Red Sea and all those type of things, and we can think, “Man, how cool would it have been to be around back then.” Yet Christ shows us something that is true – the pinnacle, the highlight of all of Scripture, isn’t the Exodus. It isn’t the fall of Jericho, it isn’t the kingdom of David, or Elijah defeating the priests of Ba’al, or Daniel in the lion’s den. No, the thing that all those people, Moses, Joshua, David, Elijah, Daniel, the thing which they all hungered to see was the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus, was what we see and know from the 4 Gospels. Jesus is the highlight, the point, of Scripture.

And yet, so often, He is overlooked. Forget this talk about Jesus, forget this talk about what He does – let’s get on to the good stuff, you know, stuff about me, what I have to do. That happens now, and it happened then. And behold, a lawyer stood up to put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Now think about this – Jesus has just pointed out that kings and prophets would have given their eye teeth to see Jesus, and what is the question – what shall I do to inherit eternal life. A question about me, about my actions – forget focusing upon You, Jesus, let’s get back to me. And we can’t even lambaste this lawyer too much, because this is what sinful human beings do: turn everything back onto themselves – it’s about me, me, me – and Christ is overlooked.

But Jesus will answer him – what does the Law say, what does the bible say? Well, it says Love God and love your neighbor. Yep, that’s what you are supposed to do – if you want things to be about you, go get to work. It was a silly, simple question – what am I supposed to do? Show love. Duh. That’s sort of basic Christian living 101 there – as a Christian you are to love God and love your neighbor. That should have been obvious.

But now the fellow is embarrassed. He had wanted to put Jesus to the test, to ask an impressive question, and he had failed. He had wanted a good answer about what wonders he himself could do – and got this. And then we are told – But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “and who is my neighbor?” So, the guy is embarrassed because he just asked an obvious question, and so as to make himself look good, he asks, “who is my neighbor?” Do you see what’s going on? Jesus has just commented on how the kings and prophets of the Old Testament would have loved to see Him face to face here on earth – and the guy right there in front of Jesus couldn't care less about Jesus. He’s trying to focus on himself, to make himself look good. Even his question “who is my neighbor” isn’t a matter of “I want to serve my neighbor, who is this one whom I should serve” – but it’s an attempt to make himself look good. This man is focused entirely upon himself. He’s not seeing Jesus. So Jesus will tell a story to change his focus.

Let me reread the story, so we all have it fresh in our minds. A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among some robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now, the road from Jerusalem winds through passes in the mountain, so it was a dangerous road, and this fellow gets mugged and beaten. This is a very real scenario. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. So we have two people who go by – a priest, one of the leaders of the people – sees the guy and hurries on. Now, this is lousy, but understandable. Think about driving through a bad neighborhood; if you see evidence of bad stuff going on, isn’t your instinct to lock your doors and drive a bit more quickly? Same thing he does here. And then the Levite, he is another respected member of Jewish society – the good family. He does the same thing. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. Remember, the Samaritans were the descendants of the northern kingdom, the rebels, the semi-Jewish scum of the day. People Israelites looked down upon. Yet this Samaritan sees the beaten man and has compassion, feels for him, and is so moved to act. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.” And the care that this Samaritan gives is fantastic. Oil was used to clean, wine was used to disinfect. Good care. He puts the guy on his animal, meaning he has to walk – meaning he puts himself in danger – if the bandits come, the animal and the hurt man might get away, but this Samaritan would be in a heap of trouble. And then, when they reach shelter, the Samaritan doesn’t just dump him off, but cares for him, and then, when he must go, pays for his continual care. And after this, Jesus asks, Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers? Yeah, the Samaritan. And Jesus tells us to go and do likewise.

So, how then, is this parable about Jesus? I mean, there is instruction for us – this is how we are to show love, fully and completely, and even at danger and risk to ourselves. That’s the standard that we are to hold to. It’s the standard we don’t live up to – the fact that this is the standard is the reason why we all had to say, “I a poor, miserable sinner” just a few minutes ago and confess our sins to God. But here's the point. So often we will duck responsibility and try to justify ourselves, but if we focused honestly upon ourselves, upon what we do, we'd see nothing but how we come up short, nothing but how there is more and better love to show. Indeed, we know that we should always strive to show better love to our neighbor, but if we honestly looked at ourselves in this matter, we'd see it's not pretty. Sin has battered and bruised us; we do not show love like we ought.

So let me ask you the question, which shows how this parable is all about Jesus. Who is your neighbor? When you are broken by sin and guilt, when people whom you should have been able to count on fail you, when the world is dark and cold and dangerous – who is your Neighbor? Christ Jesus is.

Consider again who the Good Samaritan is. He is someone who is looked down upon. Does that not describe Jesus, for He is treated as an outcast. His own did not receive Him. He was looked so down upon that He was even crucified? And what does this Samaritan do? When he sees the man, he has compassion. Likewise, Christ Jesus has compassion upon you – we had a sermon a few weeks ago at the feeding of the 4000 that used that very word – compassion. Christ is moved to act when He sees us broken by sin. The Samaritan came and bound the man’s wounds with oil and wine. What does Christ do – He comes and He binds our wounds with the gifts of Baptism and the Supper. Back in the day, baptismal rites almost always included oil – the part where we mark the Cross was done with oil. And in the Supper, Christ gives Himself, His life and forgiveness to us by giving us His Body and Blood through bread and wine. And more than just binding our wounds, what does Christ do? The Samaritan carries the wounded man to an inn – Christ brings us into His Church where He continually cares for us. The Samaritan charges to the innkeeper to care for the man, giving him two denarii, two coins with which to do it. Christ Jesus has charged me, as your pastor, to care for you, giving me His Word and His Sacraments, with which to do it.
With this parable, Christ is not merely teaching us that we are to love our neighbor. Rather this – He is showing us and teaching us about His love for us, what He does for us, and indeed, why we should long for this care. His love for us is so complete, so thorough and full, for He provides for us all that we need, He gives us the forgiveness He won upon the Cross, and sees to it that this forgiveness is still proclaimed through His Word, still handed out through His Supper. He has brought us here today to hear His Word of life, which we have. What remains for us today, then, is to receive His other gift for us, His own Body and Blood in His Supper. His love for you abounds, abounds in ways that would have boggled Abraham’s mind. Jesus gives you a feast that Solomon, in all his splendor, would have given all his wealth for. Let us rejoice in His gifts to us together, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Trinity 12 Sermon

Trinity 12 – September 2nd and 3rd, 2017 – Mark 7:31-37

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
So Jesus is just walking by, on His way to wherever He is going, and suddenly, the people bring to Him a man who is deaf and mute. Can’t hear, can’t talk. These people beg Jesus to lay His hands upon him, to heal this poor man. These are good people, these are good folks. They are utterly kind to this deaf man, bringing him to where he might be healed. They are good and faithful folks, trusting in the goodness of our Lord. And of course, they expect Jesus to heal the man, as do we. But let’s look at what Jesus does in how He heals this man.

First, we hear this, “And taking him aside from the crowd privately”. The very first thing Jesus does is He pulls the man apart from the crowd. Consider what life would be like for the deaf-mute. He has a hard time communicating – he can’t understand, he can’t speak and let his own wants be known – he is cut off. And then, his friends come, and they rushedly bring him out to Jesus – do you see how this might be confusing? So what does Jesus do – first thing, he takes the man aside. There’s not going to be a whole crowd for this man to see and try to take in – Jesus brings this man’s focus onto Himself. And then, what do we see? “… He put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.” I really do think that this is one of the most beautiful things in Scripture. Well Pastor Brown, why is jamming your fingers in someone’s ear and spitting and grabbing his tongue beautiful? Because Jesus lets this deaf man know exactly what He is going to do for him. You can’t hear, can you? Well, you can feel – do you feel My fingers going into your ears – well, in a moment My Word is going to come into your ears and open them. You can’t talk, can you? Well, you can see. Can’t spit out the words – well, after I speak My Word, this tongue that doesn’t work right will be able to spit those words on out. It is wonderful care and compassion – it is the Great Physician letting His patient know what He’s going to do. And Jesus didn’t need to, I suppose – He could have just healed the guy right away – but now the man will understand this healing, understand the love that God has for him.

“And looking up to heaven He sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘be opened.’” A little bit more visual demonstration – see, I am praying, see, my movements tell you what is going on. And then the Word is proclaimed – “And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.” The Word of God once again takes effect. The Word of God, which brought all things into being in the beginning is spoken once again, and there is recreation. Sin, death, the falleness of the world, these all try to destroy creation – try to break it. This man couldn’t hear – broken. This man couldn’t speak right, had an impediment – broken. And then the Word of God comes in, and creation is restored, things are made once again to how they ought to be, those ears that were meant to hear hear again and lips that were meant to speak speak again.

So, what does this mean? What do we learn from this? We see that Christ Jesus, out of His great love, will speak His creative and restorative Word to people to heal them. And this is true for you. Consider your own body. I’d wager that quite a few of us here woke up with aches and pains today, bits and pieces where our own bodies no longer quite work right. I know that some of you, like the man in the lesson, don’t hear so well – and some of you don’t hear nearly as well as you think you do. I’m not immune – I’ve got myself a speech impediment, and I know aches are coming and my ears, my eyesight are all going to be going soon enough. We are sinners in a sinful world, and as such the impact of sin ravages our bodies. That’s what this world brings us – we talk about 40 being over the hill. No, really once you hit around 23, 25, the body’s not improving and growing anymore – it’s starting its slide down towards the wages of sin. And that’s simply where we’d be ending up – but for one thing. Christ Jesus our Lord delights in speaking a Word of creation and restoration. Sometimes we see this in healings here – people getting well again from things they had no right to get well from. Many of us probably could have been dead already, and if it weren’t for God’s care and compassion and healing, we would have been. I should have died at birth; my heart stopped. Yet here I am. It’s why we pray for folks every week – every day. But it's even more than that, dear friends – “and I believe in the resurrection of the body, and the life of the world to come.” The full and complete restoration will come then at the last day when we hear our Lord with the cry of an archangel raise us from the grave, restore our Bodies, restore not just hearing and speech but every sense and every power and every faculty to these bodies here – whether we are alive when He returns or whether our bodies have been long decayed. Either way – spoken unto life again. This is God’s great love for you. You too shall be healed, and it will be for all eternity.

But this text, dear friends, while speaking directly to physical healing, also teaches us and reminds us of more than just our physical healing. This text, this lesson, is an image of the spiritual healing and creation that goes on in your life as well. Spiritually speaking, when you were born, you were born Spiritually deaf and dumb – sin had you cut off from God, cut you off from man. And that’s what sin does – it makes you deaf to hear. It makes you unable to speak rightly. And what happened? Someone brought you to Jesus, someone brought you to where the crowds were gathered around Christ Jesus. Again, this deaf mute wasn’t left to find Jesus on his own, he was brought to Him. Of course, this man had to be brought to Jesus – he wasn’t going to find Jesus on His own. Likewise, someone came to you – perhaps your parents before you can remember, perhaps a friend, and you were brought to Jesus.

Now, let’s keep thinking about this. Brought to a place where crowds were gathered around Jesus – do we know a place where people all gather around Jesus, even today. . . oh, yeah, Church. And what happens to you in God’s Church? God deals with you directly. The Word of God is proclaimed, and you are given faith – your own callous, sinful ears are pierced and opened by the Word of God, and you understand the forgiveness He has won for you upon the Cross with His death and resurrection. And Christ Jesus Himself, through one of His servants, didn’t spit, but took water and spoke Christ’s own Word, and baptized you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – and you were washed clean of your sin, made a child of God, restored to the community of the faithful.

And this isn’t just a thing of the past. Are you still a sinner in a sinful world? Yes, indeed. Satan still tries to clog your ears, tries to tie up your tongue. How about it? This past week, anytime you turned a deaf ear to anyone, anytime you failed to speak words of love and care to another? Of course, and if you think you hadn’t failed this past week, you need to think again. So what does Christ Jesus do? He brings you again to His House, to His Church, where He speaks His Word into your ears to open them, where He places His own Body and Blood upon your tongues so that you are forgiven and may show forth His love. This place is all about how we receive from God through the Word, through the Sacraments (which are nothing other than God’s Word tied and joined into something physical for physical people like us), how we receive from God the love and forgiveness which Christ Jesus won for us upon the Cross. The same sort of things that this deaf man received, the same pattern holds for us here today in what we receive here.

Now, I would like to just take a moment before we conclude to do a little teaching, a little explanation. I have mentioned that I think it is beautiful when Jesus sticks His fingers in the man’s ear, when He grabs the fellow’s tongue. These actions, these physical actions tell and teach what Jesus is going to do. Here in God’s House, we have physical actions that tell and teach us about the faith. Consider – what happens before the Gospel reading? Those who are able to rise do so. Why? What does that movement teach – that something wondrous and worthy of respect and honor is going to happen – the Words of Jesus will be proclaimed. That is worthy of respect. That teaches. In a few moments, I will ask you to rise – why? Because you will receive a blessing from God – and that too is worthy of respect. When I give that blessing – I will make the sign of the cross. Why? Because that tells and teaches you that because you are baptized you can be assured that you have this blessing, that you have God’s peace which surpasses all understanding. These movements, standing or sitting, the sign of the cross – when I kneel in confession, whether I face y’all to speak the Word to you or whether we all face the altar in prayer towards God – these things all teach and focus us upon the receiving of God’s Word – so that even if our minds wander, our bodies move and pull us back onto track. Even these little things, like bowing of our heads in prayer are designed to continually focus us back upon the love and mercy that Christ Jesus has for us.

And so, with this in mind, my dear friends in Christ Jesus – when you hear and consider this text today of the healing of the deaf mute – know that the same Christ Jesus who healed this man does the same for you. He cares not only for your body, which He shall raise again on the last day, but with the power of His Word He has spoken faith into you, brought you into His Church, where our lips are opened and we proclaim the glories of the God who has brought us redemption and forgiveness. For this we shall give Him praise with all the heavenly hosts, even forevermore. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +