Trinity 21 – November 13th, 2011 – John 446-54
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost +
As Lutherans we believe something very simple, yet vital to faith. God’s Word does what it says. Now, that’s not an earth shattering statement. I would hope that most of you, hearing me say “God’s Word does what it says” thought, “Well, duh, of course it does.” However, remember that the Devil’s chief ploy, His chief goal, is always to get you to doubt God’s Word. That’s the way it’s been since the beginning, since the Serpent said to Eve “Did God really say?” The heart of Lutheranism from the days of the Reformation up to this very day has been a clear and strong focus on what God’s Word says. If God says something, we simply believe. Scripture is Scripture and we place ourselves under it. And also, if Scripture is silent on a matter, we remain silent as well. Our focus is always on what God’s Word says and nothing more – we don’t pry into unrevealed mysteries, but rather delight in what God’s Word shows us plain and simple.
So why this rant to start off this morning? Because in looking at these three texts, each of our readings, we see an example of God’s Word doing what it says – we have signs displayed before us so that we might believe God’s Word. From these lessons we see three of the things that God’s Word does. God’s Word creates, God’s Word Restores, and God’s Word Protects. This is the very same Word that is at work in His Church, at work in our very own lives. Let’s take a gander at God’s Word at work in these texts, and also meditate on how God’s Word is at work in our lives.
So let’s start with our Old Testament lesson. Creation. In all of Scripture the first thing, the first idea that is taught is that God’s Word Creates. “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” God speaks, and it is done. Where there was no light before, God speaks and then, suddenly, there is light. “And God said, ‘Let the Earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the Earth.’ And it was so.” Isn’t that wonderful, just how matter of fact Scripture is here. And it was so. In fact, by day six of Creation, it’s just assumed that when God speaks, what He speaks is created. Okay Pastor, we get the idea, so what’s so important about this? There is no light, and God speaks, and suddenly there is light. There were no plants – God speaks, and suddenly, there are plants. No animals, God speaks, there are animals. God’s Word creates by Itself. God brings forth and actually brings stuff into being, makes things out of nothing. When we make, when we so-called create, we use stuff, material. If you make a dress, you make it out of fabric. If you make a car, you make it out of steel and plastic and wires. Our creations come from something else. But when God speaks His Word, He truly Creates – He speaks and it is. It’s not a molding, not a changing, but a true creation. A new creation. Where before there had been nothing, see what God has done by the power of His Word.
And this, dear friends, is your story, is the story of your faith. The reason you have faith, the reason you believe isn’t about you, it isn’t about what you have made yourself into, but rather God brought His Word to you, and by the power of that Word and the Holy Spirit, He created faith in you where there had been no faith before. The Word is proclaimed, and faith is created. The reason you have faith, the reason you believe, the reason you trust in these promises of God is that God Himself has worked faith in you. That God has called you. That God has given you faith. I believe I cannot by my own reason or strength come to Jesus Christ my Lord, or believe in Him, but that the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel. This is what that means – that God’s Word created, worked, brought forth faith in you. This is why we gladly celebrate infant Baptism – because we see in it God’s Word at work, God’s Word creating faith in the heart of a small Child – God’s Word giving both forgiveness and the very faith which believes that forgiveness. And what’s sad is our sinful flesh doesn’t want to believe this. We want salvation to be something we do, we want our part – we want to be able to point to a decision we made, a vital point where we did what was important. Adam never chose to be made. None of us chose to be born. Yet God called us into being. Likewise, as regards our faith it’s not that we chose God, but rather God in His mercy has called each of us by His Word and given us faith to receive all the gifts and blessings He gives us. God’s Word creates, both the world and our faith.
And then, when we look at John, we see another thing that God’s Word does. It restores. “Jesus said to him, ‘Go, your son will live.’ The man believed the Word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, ‘Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.’ The father knew that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’ And he himself believed, and all his household.” God’s Word restores. We hear of a son in need of healing – Jesus speaks, and the son is healed. Dear friends, we live in a world that is wracked with sin, where things don’t work right. Bodies get sick and frail and die – that’s not what we were created to be. Sin has unleashed upon the world all sorts of strife and violence and illness and all that other bad stuff. Sin unleashed a fever upon a young boy nearly 2000 years ago – and God speaks, and the boy is restored. The fever done away with. His life, his health, restored to him. God’s Word restores, puts things back right they way they should be, returns to life.
God’s Word restores even unto this very day. And I’m not talking about faith healings here – God hasn’t promised us the ability to heal the sick or anything like that – rather we pray and leave that in God’s hands, to work healing if it is His will either through extraordinary means or by the men and women he has given talent and training as doctors and nurses. But today God’s Word restores, God’s Word combats and fights and breaks down not just the symptoms, but the cause of problems in this world – God’s Word fights against sin – and not just the sin of the world, not just “sinfulness” in general – but very specifically our own sin. Jesus knows our condition, knows that we struggle daily with sin, that daily we give into sin – that our sin threatens to grind and wear down and destroy the gift of faith that He created in us. So God has given us a promise. Later on in the Gospel of John Jesus says to the Disciples in the upper room after His resurrection “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you. . . . Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven.” This is the promise that Christ Jesus has given His Church – this is the promise that you asked me to exercise the day you called me to be your Pastor – to be the person who speaks God’s Word of forgiveness here in this place. And God is at work in that Word. Our Worship, our time together these Sunday mornings isn’t just a play acting. It’s not just sitting around remembering good old Jesus. God gathers us around His Word and speaks it to us to that we might be restored. God calls us here so that we might hear “You are forgiven” and know that yes – God has spoken that Word of forgiveness to me, right here, right now, and I am forgiven this very hour. Just as that boy’s fever broke at the 7th hour, every week in that hour following 10:45 our sin is broken, done away with, destroyed, and we are forgiven. God is at work in our lives restoring us, creating in us clean hearts. His Word gives what it says, and God sees that His restoring Word of forgiveness is preached and proclaimed daily and richly in His Church.
And finally, I’d like to spend just a few moments looking at our Epistle lesson. Put on the Armor of God. This passage is like an old friend. On the way into school each morning my mom would go over this section of scripture with me as we put on the full armor of God. But again, this is all about God’s Word. Put on the belt of Truth. That’s the Word. Christ Jesus says I am the Truth, He’s the Word. Put on the Breastplate of Righteousness – we are made Righteous because of God’s Word – because Jesus Christ gives us His own righteousness through the Word. All of this, the whole armor is simply Paul’s way of discussing the various ways in which Christ Jesus comes to us through His Word and gives us protection, the ways in which Jesus Himself protects us with His presence. It’s the Armor of God – it’s the armor that comes from God, it’s the armor that is God at work in our lives protecting us. Is this not wonderful – that God devotes Himself to our protection – that He constantly gives Himself to us by His Word for our protection against so many things? You see, that’s the heart of what it means to live as a Christian – to be in Christ. To have Christ over you and in you – to have Christ dwell richly in you through His Word.
And this is what we celebrate whenever we have the Lord’s Supper at this altar. Jesus Himself comes into our life and gives us all His righteousness and holiness, preserves us in His truth by His Word. And what Word will Jesus have spoken to His people? Take and eat, this is My Body, given for you. Take and drink, this is My Blood, shed for you. Jesus knows the struggles you face, He knows the dangers of life in the world – but that’s where He wants us to live. Out there, in the world – out there being lights in the darkness of sin that enshrouds the world. And so, He calls us together to His Table, brings us to His supper. And why? So that His True Body and Blood will keep us in the faith, will make us and clothe us with His righteousness, will give us strength to face the trials of this world. Jesus gives us Himself in the Supper, and where Jesus is we have protection and strength. And again, should any of you desire this Supper, be it on a non-communion Sunday, or during the middle of a stressful week, or the night before what will be a trying day, simply ask, and with joy we will receive Christ’s forgiveness and strength from His Body and Blood together.
God’s Word does what it says. This is why we are people of the Word – this is why, as Paul says, we are determined to know nothing but Christ and Him Crucified. It’s all about Christ Jesus, the Word made flesh. We believe the Word, because the Word is how God comes to us – be it His Word recorded for us in Scripture, His Word preached, His Word Spoken or sung in the Liturgy, His Word attached to water in Baptism, His Word attached to Bread and Wine in His Supper. We are people of the Word, who delight in the Faith that His Word has created in us, who thirst for the forgiveness that His Word gives us, and who shelter in the Protection we receive in His Word. Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word. Amen.