Sunday, October 12, 2008

A sermon

Well, I did do things this week - just not on the blog I guess. Here is today's sermon

21st Sunday after Trinity – John 4:46-54 – October 12th, 2008

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
I would hope that you would have seen the parallels between our Old Testament lesson and our Gospel lesson this morning. In the Old Testament we hear God speaking, and by His Word He creates, He brings all things into being. Let there be light – and what do you know, there is light. God speaks, and it is done. Is this not what also happens in our Gospel? A man comes to Jesus, begs Jesus to come with him and heal his son. And what does Jesus do? Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. And of course, the guy heads home, meets servants who tell him that his son is recovering. And the guy asks when his son started getting better – and wouldn't you know it – The father knew that it was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” Of course there is a connection – when Christ speaks, He is God, of course there will be creation – healing, recreation – creation put back the way that it ought to be. We have a wonderful demonstration of Christ Jesus being true God in our text this morning.

However, dear friends, let us spend a few moments thinking about how this truth – that Jesus is the God who creates – how this impacts us. The first thing we ought to remember goes right along with what we see in the Gospel text – God provides for our bodies and this life. God is the One who created us, and He is the One who preserves us, who upholds us in this life. Our body and soul, eyes, ears, all our members – these are things that He provides for us purely out of Fatherly goodness and mercy. It is as simple as that. Did you note how Jesus deals with this man who desires healing for his son? Jesus doesn't make the man jump through hoops, Jesus doesn't demand work – rather – out of love and compassion, Christ simply gives. Think on you yourself. Has not God given you many wonderful talents and abilities? Hasn't He provided you opportunities in your life? Hasn't God placed wonderful people into your life through which He has blessed you? Remember this dear friends – our God is the Creator – and He delights in creating, He delights in blessing, He delights in making whole. God will care for you throughout all your days – and He will cast aside and fight down all fears that would try to make you forget this truth.

However, dear friends, from this text this morning we should also remember that Christ Jesus our God not only cares for our physical needs but our spiritual as well. When we see a healing we should remember the root cause of all illnesses, all strife, all problems we face in this world – and that is sin. Plain and simple, we have to fight and deal with sin. The world we live in today is not as it was when God created it in Genesis 1. Every time God created then – and it was good. Things were right – we were made to live – to have life. And then, you have the fall, and that is ruined. Our bodies – they begin to fall apart, to age, and to die. The animals, the plants – they too die, they too don't work right. Fields produce thorns and thistles and bugs instead of just healthy crops. Things all fall apart. It is not just, dear friends, that we are occasionally sick, or that things occasionally don't work right, but rather sin, our own sin as well, constantly breaks things down, throws them into the muck, ruins things. All sin attacks creation. What is needed is recreation, what is needed is mankind to be made a new, to be remade righteous and holy. And this is what Christ does.

Ponder with me what Christ does when He goes to the Cross. Upon the Cross, what exactly is it that Christ is doing? Here you have the perfect Man – Christ Jesus, true God and true Man. And He suffers and dies. We are told that He who knew no sin became sin for us – that Christ Jesus who was perfect took up all the muck and weight and burden of sin upon His shoulders – and He died. Why? There was a turn of phrase in the Gospel that caught my eye. The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” Think on this. We know what happens at the Cross, that forgiveness is won for us upon the cross. And what does Christ say as He is being Crucified? Father, forgive them. It is finished. When Christ Jesus goes to the Cross, He says to our Father in Heaven – Father, Your son Adam will live, Your son Abraham will live, Your sons and daughters whom You claim in the waters of Holy Baptism, they will live. Jesus dies so that you might live. Do you see – forgiveness is simply healing of the soul, preparing you to live again – to live forever. When Christ gives you forgiveness, He is making you ready for life eternal, preparing you for the joys of heaven and eternity. That is what Christ Jesus does when He goes to the cross – He wins forgiveness for all believers in all times and in all places at that very moment. That is the why we focus so on the cross, because that is where it happens – that is where the Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world.

But there is another side to this matter of forgiveness. The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” Jesus is true God who brings healing, that is always true – but when in time, when in that child's life in the text did Jesus bring this healing? At the time when He spoke. Likewise, dear friends, when in your life does Jesus bring you the healing, the forgiveness which He won upon the Cross? When He speaks His Word to you. That is why we as Lutherans put such an emphasis on the importance of Baptism, of preaching, of absolution, of the Lord's Supper – because these are the ways in which God takes Christ's forgiveness won upon the cross and applies it to you in your life, in time. The Cross, which wins forgiveness for all people in all times and in all ages, is applied to you, a very specific and individual person, in your time, in your life. And how? By the Word. Consider Baptism. It is not simple water, but water combined with God's Word at God's command – and what for? For the washing away of sin – for the making of a child of God – for taking what Christ did upon the cross and making it a reality in your life. It isn't just that God died for the whole world – but behold, you are baptized, Christ Jesus died for you and for the sake of your sins. Christ brought to you by the Word.

We have the same thing with preaching. What is the point of a sermon? Why every Sunday do I climb up here in this pulpit? The sermon isn't just an information session. The sermon isn't some type of pep rally meant to get you fired up. Rather this – again, the sermon is to take God's forgiveness, won by Christ upon the cross – and apply it to you here and now in this time. Satan does not want the eyes of this congregation focused upon Christ, Satan wants you filled with doubt and fears, Satan wants you to fall into sin and vice. So what goes on in a sermon? The Word of God is preached – the Word of God which warns of Satan's tricks in our lives – and the Word of God which defeats Satan and gives forgiveness. A sermon is nothing else but a weekly application of God's Word of forgiveness to heal the spiritual bruises of the past week – to make whole again God's people.

The same thing with Absolution. In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins. That's the general one in the service – and why do we have that – so that first and foremost we always receive God's forgiveness. The Peace of the Lord be with you always. Why – so that we receive again God's peace. God works when His Word is spoken. But what of the times when guilt continues to flitter about you – when Satan whispers, “he's not talking to you, that's not for you.” What about when there is some sin that bothers you? That's why we have private absolution – which isn't some scary burden where the pastor will sit and get to be a mean judge, but rather where your pastor can speak directly God's Word for forgiveness to that issue. Think on our Gospel text. Oh, sir, is your son ill – let Me heal him. Oh, my friend, you are struggling with this sin – let me speak God's Word of forgiveness. Yes, it is for you, even now as you struggle with this trial.

And this is why on the night when He was betrayed, our Lord established His Supper. At Baptism we are joined to the Body of Christ – in His Supper our Lord gives us His own Body, the very Body that was given for you, the Blood that was shed for the forgiveness of all your sins. The Words of our Lord are spoken over bread and wine, and we then receive His Body and Blood. And do you see the focus here – once again – be forgiven, be joined to Christ, be strengthened in your faith. This eternal truth, let it be real in Your life now. Again and again, over and over – Christ comes to you and brings the fruit of the Cross, brings His forgiveness to you, over and over, so that you always have that forgiveness – so that your faith and trust in Him is firm. And this Word of God, you not only hear it, but you see it and taste it and smell it and touch it – by every sense you have God brings His forgiveness to you.

This, dear friends, is how God goes about making you a new Creation in your own life. By His Word, whether attached to water in Baptism, or spoken to you, or in His Holy Supper, God takes up the wounds of this life, the wounds that we humans have had to face and struggle with since the fall, and He heals them. This is what we know. One more quote from the Gospel to ponder before we conclude. Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. Jesus speaks the word, the man believes and then goes about his business. For this time on Sunday morning, for that time when we do our daily devotions, we pause, we hear God's Word - and believing we go on our way. The man goes, trusting that there will be healing – he sees, he gets the servants' reports only later – but he goes nonetheless, trusting the Word. Likewise, we hear God's Word, we receive His forgiveness – and then we go on our way. We know that we have forgiveness, we know that we are washed clean – but we will see it most clearly later – we will see it in ourselves on the last day when our Bodies are fully washed clean of every spot and are glorious, we will see it when we are reunited with our loved ones who have died in the faith, we will see it when we behold the Lamb who was Crucified for the sin of the world and fall before His throne. But until then we walk in this life, we go about our business. But we are not alone in this. Know, dear friends, that you are God's new creation – that He is zealous to defend you, zealous to protect you – that He is your armor – at home this week consider Ephesians 6 – it is the armor of God – not just that which belongs to Him – but that armor is God Himself – Christ is Righteousness, Christ is the Word – God Himself covers and protects you, accompanies you – and always, at the end of a hard day, a hard week in this life – He speaks His Word of forgiveness and life to you. God grant that we remain steadfast in this word! Amen.

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