Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sermon for Trinity 19

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost +

          How often we look for the wrong things.  How often our eyes are off wandering and we miss the amazement that is there before us to behold.  How often doubts and fears assail us, and the wonder and mystery of the ages slides on by – for indeed, there is nothing new under the sun.  We too today overlook the mighty acts of God, just as the people in our Gospel did.  And so Christ must again teach us and show us what is important, where our attention should be.  Hear our Lord and learn this morning.

          And getting into a boat He crossed over and came to His own city.  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.”  Put yourself there.  Behol d, here is Jesus, the great healer, the Man who works miracle after miracle, who has restored hundreds to health.  And a paralyzed man is brought, laid before Him.  And then what does Jesus say?  Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.  It sort of seems like Jesus has His priorities wrong.  It’s sort of seems like Jesus ain’t doing what He should be doing.  If I went to see my doctor and the doc looked and me and said, “Take heart, your sins are forgiven,” I’d be sort of upset.  What kind of diagnosis is that?  What kind of healing is that?  Jesus, there’s a man lying paralyzed in front of you – get too it, take care of him, show him love!

          Our eyes are off so often – so often we fail to see what is real, what is important.  We see a man lying paralyzed – we see a body in need of healing.  What does Christ Jesus our Lord see?  A man in need of forgiveness.  We see the body held fast by a crippling disease.  The Lord sees a heart held fast, crippled by sin.  Jesus is wise, so much wiser than we.  Think on this for a moment.  What is it like, on those sleepless nights, where you lie in bed – can’t sleep, stare at the ceiling – and thoughts come in – regrets, sorrows, things that you know you shouldn’t have done, cruel things said carelessly to loved ones now long gone?  What are those nights like?  We struggle through them, but eventually morning would come, and we get up and begin our day.  For this man, for this paralyzed man, there is no getting up in the morning.  For him, he is always stuck in bed, trapped there with nothing but his thoughts, his fears, his worries, his guilt.  And what does Jesus do?  Jesus gets to the more dire problem.  “Take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven.”  Jesus gets to the point.  Jesus says what needs to be said.  This paralytic’s heart was heavy burdened, and so Jesus tends to that.  Besides, guilt is a much more serious affliction than paralysis.  You know what I mean.  When you are feeling guilty and sore – you don’t do anything.  You shrivel away, you crawl away, you hide away.  Guilt and remorse chokes us down.  Christ removes guilt.  This is what Christ does for this man.  He gives the man peace, He releases this man from the burden which he could not bear.  This is the love Christ shows.

          Alas, Christ’s love does not please all, and there are those who dislike it when it is shown.  And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”  So, why do the scribes think that Jesus is blaspheming?  Because forgiveness is the purview of God.  Forgiveness is God’s business – so who does this Jesus think He is?  Think of it this way.  Say I went to the Co-op and filled up my car with gas – and then I just charged it to your account without asking you.  You’d be upset – because I have no right to do that.  The scribes hear Jesus, and they think, “He has no right to do that – He is misrepresenting God.”  That’s why they think Jesus is blaspheming.

          Except, well, Jesus isn’t blaspheming God – because He is in fact God Himself.  And so, Jesus desires to teach these scribes, to show them that is He right to forgive sins.  But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think 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.  Did you catch it – did you see why Jesus does the miracle?  It’s not primarily for the paralytic’s benefit.  It’s not for the sake of the paralyzed guy.  Jesus does this healing to teach, to show love to the scribes who doubt Him.  This miracle is a bit of proof, a bit of evidence for Jesus.  It demonstrates His credentials.
          When Jesus speaks, His Word does what it says.  If Christ Jesus says, “You are forgiven” then you are forgiven.  Period.  Case closed.  That’s the way it is.  If Christ Jesus says, “Rise and walk” then you will rise and walk.  Period.  Case closed.  That’s the way it is.  That’s the way of God’s Word – it is creative, it does what it says.  God says, “Let there be light,” and there is light.  And sometimes we have a hard time with this idea.  Sometimes we have a hard time trusting to simple words.  Why?  Because our words – they don’t really have that much power all that often.  I remember many-a-time my mother saying, “Eric, clean your room.”  She said it many-a-time because. . . the room didn’t get cleaned like it should.  Mom would speak, but nothing would happen.  And that’s the way it is with our words, what we speak.  I’m sure you don’t have to think hard to remember some grand plan that just never happened.  Bold times where you’ve said, “I’m going to do this. . .” and nothing ever happened. Our word fails. Our plans crumble. Our vows get broken.  We don’t live up to what we say always – and so we can tend to mistrust words a bit, tend to eye them a bit warily.

          And then we hear Christ’s Word – and sometimes we doubt it as well.  It seems beyond our ability to believe, it sounds too fantastic.  We hear the Word say that God loves us and blesses us – and then we see tragedy and trial strike – and we can doubt the Word.  We hear the Word say that we are to love our neighbor, and we feel their scorn, and don’t really want to love them, and wonder how even God could possibly love them.  We hear the Word say that we are forgiven, but Satan is there breathing His threats and lies against us day and night – and we wonder if that Word is true.  This is nothing new.  Satan has always tried to get us to doubt the Word of God.  That was the first temptation.  Did God really say. . . come Eve, doubt God’s Word.  That was Satan’s plan from the beginning – to make us doubt.

          But that You may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, Rise, pick up your bed and go home.  Christ wants to remove your doubt.  This is why Matthew records this healing.  Because it demonstrates who Jesus is, it demonstrates His authority.  His Word is true and good and valid and right.  Those doubts that we often have, Christ’s Word trumps them, triumphs over them, casts them aside.  Hear and believe that God’s Word is true, that God’s Word is powerful and does what it says.

          When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.  This makes people afraid.  They see more, they understand that something bigger than just healing is going on.  God has given authority to men.  And what authority?  Authority over the body?  The ability to heal?  That’s not what’s amazing.  The amazing thing is the authority to forgive sins.  The authority to speak for God.  The authority for a man to open his lips and have God’s Word pour forth.  That is the wonder, that is the amazement, that is what dumbfounds and shocks these people.

          And we miss it.  Ours is a callous and indifferent generation.  We behold the wonders of the ages, we see what Abraham and Isaac and Jacob longed to see.  We see that which is more impressive than all miracles and stairways to heaven or holy ladders or the like.  What happens here?  What happens in this place?  I don’t think we really realize it.  I don’t think we really understand what goes on here in God’s Church.  God has given to His Church, to His people here on Earth the authority to forgive sins.  Think about that.  Think on the wonder and amazement and miracle that we sort of slough off, treat as casual and commonplace.  God speaks here in this place to us today.  This same authority which Christ exercised in our Gospel is exercised here whenever the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed.  My job, my duty, my privilege and honor is to speak God’s Word of forgiveness here in this place.  Your sins are forgiven – and that Word rings true – it resounds to the skies and opens the gates of heaven – it burrows down and collapses the very gates of hell in defeat.  Because fundamentally – I’m not the one saying it.  I speak not on my own authority, but on God’s authority.  Is that not astounding?  Every Sunday in this place – God’s Word is proclaimed.  We open our hymnals for service and Satan hides in fear.  The Word is proclaimed, and forgiveness is given, and we receive life.  Our hearts that are paralyzed by guilt and fear – they are made new, created clean again.  This is the House of God – it is the gate of Heaven, we come here and taste the heavenly meal that David and Elijah and Jeremiah could only dream of – we get it.

          The Church service isn’t about us and what we do.  It isn’t about what we bring.  It’s about God and what God does for us and what He brings to us here.  Even the things we do in the service – it’s God doing it.  The Lord opens our lips, and we declare His praise, His glory.  What have we spent the morning doing?  Our liturgy – that’s God’s Word being spoken back and forth to each other.  Our hymns aren’t just little ditties that are to make us smile and feel good – they are about more than tapping our toes.  Our hymns recount what God done, what He is doing in this place.  They proclaim the truth of His Word.  They are about what Jesus does.  All that goes on here, every word from both my lips and your lips, spoken, preached, recited, or sung, they all point to Christ Jesus, the Lamb who was slain for you and for the sins of the world.  That’s what this service is, that’s what Sunday morning is about.

          That’s why God has called you here, out of your busy schedule and out of your work.  Because He wishes you to take heart.  Because He speaks to you again His life giving Word – Your sin is forgiven.  We receive here in His house a miracle greater and more astonishing than healing.  Christ Jesus, in His great love for you, has seen to it that this place has been established so that you might always hear His Word, has called and sent me here to speak that Word to you, and not just on Sundays but whenever you need to hear it, whenever your heart is faint within you.  Your sin is forgiven – and though our hearts often fail, and we are weak, and slide into sin – He comes to us again and again, and forgives us anew, and always gives us life in His name.  This is our joy, this is our hope, this is our song and hymn.  This is why we praise God and acknowledge Him to be the Lord.  Because He has delivered man – He was born of a virgin – He over came the sharpness of death on the cross and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.  And so now we sing until Judgment day, when He shall come and see us, and our great and glorious Judge shall say, “I have redeemed you with my blood and I count you as one of my saints, come to the feast prepare for you.”  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

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