Monday, June 28, 2010
Good afternoon, fellow redeemed!
134! That was the total of children attending Vacation Bible School today. What a joy it is to share the Word of our Lord Jesus Christ with children, even though they're sometimes a bit noisy and their attention span can be a bit short. Yet, in the midst of what I call organized chaos, the Word of our Lord is shared!
The rest of the week is a bit enigmatic. With the appearance of Tropical Storm Alex, the attendance for this week will be something to watch.
Approaching this coming weekend is July 4, the birthday of our great nation. I have to be honest, the story of the writing of the Declaration of Independence is not all that exciting. Instead, a really great story is from the War of 1812 - the bombardment of Ft. McHenry in Baltimore Harbor. At the end of the story comes some poetry written by an attorney who had been trying to secure the release of client. The attorney's name? Francis Scott Key. As we approach July 4, we have the opportunity to praise God for His gift of the nation in which we live. Many will be traveling, my family included, and we pray for those who will be making their journeys to other places.
Vacation Bible School over the rest of the week
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney and John Miller's niece (Afghanistan), Andrew Epley (Iraq), Richard Rhode (North Carolina), Dru Blanc, John Sorensen, Ryan Radtke, Michael Baker (Corpus Christi)
The three children from Mt. Olive who are at camp this week
The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod as its convention approaches
The faith of the baptized throughout the world
This Week at Mt. Olive
8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Vacation Bible School
Monday, June 28
Wednesday, June 30
Pentecost 06, Series C July 4, 2010
Lessons for Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (LSB Proper 09)
Isaiah 66:10-14 ~ Isaiah proclaimed God’s promise to bring the exiles back and restore Jerusalem to peace.
Psalm 66:1-7 (antiphon: vv.8-9)
Galatians 6:1-10, 14-18 ~ Peace is restored when sin is confronted and the sinner moved to repentance.
Luke 10:1-20 ~ The seventy-two prophets of peace proclaimed the kingdom of God in word and deed.
GATHERING THE TEXTS: Disturbing or Restoring the Peace
Isaiah brought God’s promise to restore Jerusalem and bring peace to His people when He would return them from exile. The seventy-two were whom Jesus sent out to were messengers of God’s peace; they proclaimed: "Peace to this house. The kingdom of God is near you." St. Paul wrote, when our peace is disrupted by sin we are to restore the sinner, gently. What counts is the new peace that God has created in Christ.
PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Make me an instrument of your peace, Lord. Where I have known turmoil, you have given me tranquility; when I have known sin, you have granted me forgiveness. Help me share your grace with others, not disturbing the peace, but restoring it. Amen.
STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: Jesus sent the seventy-two out with few provisions and no money to demonstrate their dependance on those who heard their proclamation of God’s Kingdom peace. We support the teaching of the Gospel when we provide for those who bring God’s Good News.
OFFERING PRAYER: Your Kingdom, Lord, does not depend on moneybags and wealth,
But rather on the riches of Your love and grace and truth.
From love of earthly goods and power, we pray, grant us release,
And bless these gifts that they may spread Your promised word of peace. Amen.
CONVICTION AND COMFORT: We think peace is promoted by quietly putting up with sin, especially if we are the ones who are guilty! But Jesus says there can be no peace when sin is not acknowledged and repented. When sin has trapped a person, she or he can be released and restored by a believer who leads the sinner to the forgiveness offered through Jesus who has given believers authority over sin and Satan.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
The text for our meditation on God’s Holy Word is the epistle lesson appointed for the day. I bring you grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Just imagine if you attended a church where you were taught that your relationship with God and your eternal salvation depended not only upon faith in Jesus Christ—but also upon you: upon some decision that you had made—upon some feeling that you were supposed to have—upon doing enough in your life to please God.
And hearing this Sunday after Sunday, what if you looked back and realized that the decision you had made to follow Christ was made for all the wrong reasons—to please your parents or because everyone else your age was making the same decision. What if the feeling that was so compelling—so real—that you based your life with God upon—left you? What if you were never really sure just how much you had to do as far as religious deeds to be saved?
You would never really know whether you were forgiven or not. You could never really be confident that throughout your life you really were God’s child. You would never really know for sure what would happen to you when you died.
This is what happens when our faith is placed on anything—anything—other than the person and work of Jesus Christ. To move from that rock-solid foundation of Jesus’ blood and righteousness and place even a bit of our life with God on something else—whether it is a decision we make or an emotion we have or some work we do—is to lose the Gospel itself: the incredible, comforting, life-changing good news that we are saved by God’s grace alone-faith alone-in Christ alone.
This is what was going on in the Christian congregations in Galatia—people were being taught that faith in Jesus was not completely sufficient for their salvation—in this case they were taught that believers in Jesus also had to keep all the Jewish laws. And so Paul wrote this letter to attack this false teaching in the strongest terms.
He said that there could be no compromise between salvation by faith and salvation by works. He said that this teaching of “faith plus something else” was no Gospel at all. He said that those who taught this way should suffer the fires of hell.
In this controversy, forgiveness and salvation and life with God and eternity itself was at stake-- and to return to the idea that salvation depends upon human beings—was a return to slavery. Instead, the Bible says that it is:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery…For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
God has not created us and redeemed us by Jesus and sanctified us by the Holy Spirit to be slaves. The relationship he wants from us is that of a Father to his sons and daughters. God wants you to be his child. And anything- and any teaching- and any person- that would take away that glorious freedom that is ours as God’s children—must be resisted.
But we also have to understand that those things and people and teachings that would imprison us once again—that would take away our status as the free children of God—are not just outside of us—but are also within us. Let me explain.
Who we are as new people—reborn by the Good News that Christ has set us free from sin and death—this new person in us delights to do God’s will and desires to do nothing other than that which will bring glory to our heavenly Father. But this new person that we are through faith in Jesus still has to contend with our old sinful flesh. Paul knew this about himself—and it is true of us too.
And there is always the temptation within us to use our glorious freedom as the children of God as a license to do whatever we want: the idea that since Christ has done it all, I can live however I please. But this is not Christian freedom! It is a return to slavery—not to slavery under the law—but slavery to our own sinful flesh-- which is much, much worse!
Instead, the Bible says that genuine Christian freedom means freedom to serve one another in love—freedom to live as God’s sons and daughters remade in the image of Jesus who lovingly served us by laying down his life for us on the cross.
We have been set free from the curse and condemnation of the law- and we have been set free from the tyranny of our own flesh-- so that we can serve God and others in love. This is what we have been saved FOR.
This then is the measure of true Christian freedom: freedom to be like Christ—glorifying our heavenly Father through loving service to those around us. The Bible says that:
The whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
The believer who has been set free from sin and death by Jesus—the child of God who has been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit—wants to know how they can please the One who saved them—they want to know how they can bring glory to their heavenly Father for all that he has done for them.
And so God does not leave us to our own devices in this—he does not leave us without guidance on what truly pleases him—our heavenly Father has a will for his children and that is found in the law.
But isn’t the law the very thing that Paul says we have been set free from? Well, yes, if we are using it to try to earn our salvation. If we are trying to earn our way to God by keeping the law it will always be a curse and condemnation for we can never meet God’s perfect standard that is revealed there.
But for the child of God who knows that his salvation has been won by Jesus who truly and perfectly loved his neighbor as himself, the law is the Father’s answer to his children when they ask: How then should I live? What pleases you? How can I thank you for all that you have freely given to me in Jesus?
And this life of love—love for God and love for one another that is the fulfillment of the law and God’s will for our lives—stands in stark contrast to our old way of life that tries to lift up ourselves and tries to tear down others. The Bible says that we are to:
Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
I’m not sure that new Christians always realize it-- and I’m not sure that more mature Christians always remember it—but from the moment we came to faith in Jesus Christ and his Spirit took up residence in our lives, a battle has raged within us—and we ought not be surprised by it.
Paul deals with this inner, spiritual battle within the Christian in vivid terms in Romans chapter 7 where he talks about the conflict between the good he wants to do and the evil he often times finds himself doing instead. This was Paul’s battle and it is every Christian’s battle-- for who we are as new people re-created in the image of God-- and what our flesh is, turned in upon itself—these two spiritual realities within us are diametrically opposed to one another and at war with one another.
When Paul finishes describing this battle within the believer’s heart between the spirit and the flesh he cries out: Who will deliver me from this body of death?—and then gives the answer: Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord—there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus for we have been set free from the law of sin and death.
Those who have been called by the Father and forgiven by Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit no longer have to fear the condemnation of the law-- for that has fallen upon Jesus—and no longer do we have to fear the outcome of the battle within us because we have been filled with the Spirit of God himself as a guarantee of all that he has promised—including our final perseverance in the faith.
This saving work of the Holy Trinity who has elected us in eternity and redeemed us in Jesus and filled us with the Holy Spirit makes all the difference in how we actually live our lives—for the spirit takes the lead rather than the flesh—and the difference between who we are now and our old way of life is obvious. The Bible says that:
The works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
It is so very easy and so very tempting to selectively read this list of sins and check off the ones we are not doing: sorcery-nope—orgies—nope—sexual immorality—nope. But what about envy—desiring the success of a fellow student or co-worker? What about strife in our marriage or family? What about divisions—taking sides in someone else’s strife? What about fits of anger when the folks in line in front of you aren’t moving fast enough or you get caught behind the train? What about idolatry when we worry rather than trust and when we find confidence in the bank rather than God’s provision? Anger. Strife. Divisions. Envy. Jealousy.
Now the list hits a little bit closer to home-- and the warning of Paul—that those who do these things will not inherit the kingdom of God—finds its proper object—which is not the sins of others-- but my own sins.
It’s important to note what Paul is—and is not-- talking about. He is not talking about our former way of life before we became Christians—for if some sins were excluded from Christ’s cleansing blood then none of us could be saved. And he is not talking about the Christian’s occasional fall into these sins so long as we repent of them.
What he is talking about is those who continue in these sins. We should be very, very clear: Those who continue in unrepentant sin WILL NOT inherit the kingdom of God. This is what the Bible teaches-- and the old Adam in each of us needs to hear this warning for the sake of our eternal souls.
To live in continuous, unrepentant sin—whether it is strife within our families or some sexual sin or substance abuse or anger and bitterness in our heart—is to forfeit eternal life because it is: a denial of the Father’s holy will for our lives—a denial of the Savior’s redeeming work—and a denial of the Spirit’s presence within us.
The only solution for the sin in our lives is to immediately repent of it, ask for Jesus’ blood-bought forgiveness for it, and by the power of the Holy Spirit show forth the fruits of faith in a new and different kind of life that is led by the Spirit. The Bible describes that life this way:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Fruit is seen—you see apples on apple trees and peaches on peach trees—when you see it there is no doubt what kind of tree you are looking at. So it is to be with the Christian’s daily life.
That the Spirit of Christ dwells in us is self-evident in how we live our lives and how we act towards others. The Fruits of the Spirit that Paul lists- and the life they reveal- could not be more different than the works of the flesh- because one of them shows the absence of Christ and the other the presence of Christ.
The connection to Christ that was begun in us in Holy Baptism is to be continued throughout our life as we repent of our sins and hear God’s Word and receive his sacraments to strengthen our faith in Jesus. This is how our flesh is crucified and our life with Jesus is renewed in us again and again.
His life is to be evident in our lives. Paul says it this way: If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. In other words, if we claim to be Christian—if it is or confession that Jesus Christ has set us free from sin and death—if he lives in us-- then let us show that in how we live our lives. This is what we have been set free FOR. Amen.
And now may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Want to keep up with the 64th Regular Convention of the LCMS?
Everything you want to know about the convention can be found
online at www.lcms.org/convention including:
Official election results
Videos and photos
Also, gavel-to-gavel coverage—including the opening worship to the
closing devotion—will be available for viewing beginning July 10.
Additional convention information also will be available at:
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Pentecost 05, Series C June 27, 2010
Lessons for Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (LSB Proper 08)
1 Kings 19:9b-21 ~ When Elijah anointed Elisha to be prophet in his place, Elisha was committed to serve.
Psalm 16 (antiphon: v. 11)
Galatians 5:1, 13-25 ~ Christ has set us free from the condemnation of the law and the bonds of sin.
Luke 9:51-62 ~ When Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem, He would not be hindered in His Kingdom goal.
GATHERING THE TEXTS: Embrace Freedom With Commitment.
When Elijah was discouraged and ready to give up, God told him there were still 7000 faithful in Israel and sent him to call Elisha to be the next prophet. Elisha showed his commitment by burning his plow and sacrificing his oxen. St. Paul made the connection between commitment and freedom very clear: if we are committed to the freedom of Christ's redemption, we will be guided by the Spirit of God. In Jesus’ day, some who thought they were ready for a life of discipleship decided they were not free to make that kind of commitment when they saw the urgency of Jesus’ mission. We must examine our lives in terms of our commitment to Christ.
PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Lord Jesus, you have called me to follow you through the trials and joys of this life to the eternal bliss of heaven. Make my joys of service to you greater and lighten my trials in faithful commitment to you, that I may live my life guided by your Spirit and filled with love, peace, patience, kindness and self-control. Amen.
STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: When the instruments of his occupation lured Elisha away from God’s call, he sacrificed them to steel his commitment to God’s mission. God has put many such material things at our disposal. When we are committed to God’s work of freedom in our lives, we are ready to commit our resources to the message of God’s grace.
OFFERING PRAYER: Lord, You have set us free from sin to live for You,
Free to bring the message of Your love to friend and neighbor.
Keep us free from harmful goals, and help us use
The blessings of our land in service to our Savior. Amen.
CONVICTION AND COMFORT: We dream of being free from all commitments. We want to be able to spend our time and live our lives the way we want to, but Jesus frees us from the encumbrances of our sinful nature. We are set free from the condemnation of the law and the burden of sin, but then we find ourselves committed to the call of God’s grace. When we are embraced by Christ’s freedom, we are caught by the commitment to “go and proclaim the kingdom of God,” and all that it means by extending God’s love and forgiveness to all.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Good evening, fellow redeemed!
As we begin the project of listening to the New Testament over the next 40 days, this morning's Bible Class included some of the words we use when describing Holy Scripture. I'm going to be fleshing these thoughts out more over the next few days on my blog. The words I'll be discussing are: inspired, historical, inerrant, and infallible. You can keep up with the discussion at revkev97.wordpress.com.
This week at Mt. Olive, there will be a canvassing effort for Vacation Bible School. VBS has joined Sunday School and Mt. Olive Lutheran School as reasons for which Mt. Olive is known in the community. Monday through Thursday evenings at 6:30 p.m., come to the church for about an hour's worth of neighborhood canvassing. I'll try to have some ice cream available for canvassers.
Also concerning Vacation Bible School, here is the schedule for this weekend:
Saturday, 10 a.m. - Set creation and training
Sunday, 2 p.m. - Decoration and set up
Finally, in preparation for Vacation Bible School, Ruth Prytz reminded me that there is the need for cookies and punch. In years past, we've had around 150 children attending!
Please help us bring Christ to children!
This coming Sunday (June 27) will be a Voters Meeting Sunday. That means the following special schedule:
9:30 a.m. - Divine Service (Guitar Worship this Sunday)
10:30 a.m. - Sunday School, Voters Meeting
11:30 a.m. - Meal (Brisket, congregation is invited to bring sides and desserts)
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney, John Miller's niece (Afghanistan), Andrew Epley (Iraq), Richard Rhode (North Carolina), John Sorenson, Dru Blanc, Ryan Radtke, Michael Baker (Corpus Christi)
The teachers, helpers, crew leaders, preparers and builders who will be preparing for Vacation Bible School
This Week at Mt. Olive
Monday, June 21
Tuesday, June 22
Wednesday, June 23
Bible Class - 2 Thessalonians
Thursday, June 24
Guitar Worship rehearsal
Saturday, June 26
VBS training and set making
Sunday, June 27
VBS decoration and set up
Sunday, June 20, 2010
The text for our meditation on God’s Holy Word is the Gospel lesson appointed for the day. I bring you grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Each time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we ask our Heavenly Father to deliver us from evil and as we pray that prayer-- and especially that petition-- we show that we understand the world around us very differently than do many of our fellow citizens. We recognize that there is evil in the world. Doesn’t everyone believe that? No. Most of us have heard the phrase that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”—the idea that the only thing that makes something or someone good or evil is our own perspective on it. How anyone who has lived their life in the 20th century with Hitler and the Holocaust can believe that is beyond me—but they do.
And not only do we Christians believe that there is good and evil in terms of moral categories regarding people and their behaviors--we Christians believe something else that renders us positively medieval in the eyes of the modern world—we believe that there are also spiritual beings who are evil.
From the beginning of Genesis where we see Satan working for mankind’s destruction-- to the last chapters of Revelation where we see the final destruction of Satan and the evil angels-- the Bible teaches that there are evil, personal spiritual forces in the world who are opposed to God and work for our spiritual destruction.
The Good News for us today is that as strong and as powerful as these evil beings are—they are simply no match for Jesus. Luke writes Jesus and the disciples:
…sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs.
One of the consequences of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin through Satan’s deception was that they saw that they were naked and they were ashamed and hid from God. Where before they had lived in perfect innocence with one another and in perfect fellowship with God—Satan destroyed both of those relationships—and they were ashamed.
The man in our Gospel lesson—completely under Satan’s power-- had lost that sense of shame-- but his nakedness was not a return to innocence and fellowship. Instead, it indicated a total loss of any spiritual sense that something was wrong with him-- so deeply was he held in Satan’s bondage. We Christians may be called naive for believing in evil and evil beings—but his shamelessness is strikingly modern.
We live in a culture that has lost its sense of shame—not because of mankind’s return to the innocence of Eden --but because mankind is has lost the innate sense that something is wrong in their relationship with God and with one another.
All manner of sexual perversion is called normal. Our neighbors incur debts that they have no intention of paying off. Politicians look us dead in the eye and say one thing knowing all the time that another is true. People dress immodestly even for church. And those who do these things are shocked-- that we’re shocked.
The complete and utter lack of shame that we see around us is not a sign that we are throwing off the fetters of a puritanical morality--but a revelation that so many in our world—under the influence of Satan-- have lost any sense of shame. This is not progress—it is death. The man in our story today lived among the tombs and a more vivid picture of our world is hard to imagine—physically alive—while spiritually dead.
When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me." For Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.)
For the man that day there was no earthly power strong enough to restrain him physically—but neither was there any earthly power strong enough to set him free spiritually. In fact, he didn’t even want to be set free—he didn’t even know what freedom was anymore, so deeply was he held captive under Satan’s dominion.
But Jesus loved him too much to let him go on living like that forever. The Lord has the same loving attitude towards all people. He is not content to let us continue on under Satan’s dominion but has come to set free from Satan’s power—a deliverance and redemption that only he can accomplish.
As great and as powerful as were the spiritual beings who held that poor man captive—they were simply no match for Jesus—they had to bow at his feet in submission for they knew exactly who he was and what he had come to do: the Son of God who had come to destroy the works of the devil.
From the very beginning, God promised this day would come—that he would send a Savior—one born of a woman who would destroy Satan and restore everything that he had destroyed—one who would set us free from slavery to sin and death. What was about to happen for that man was sign revealing what Jesus would do for all people—rescuing us from the hell that we deserve on account of our sins. Luke writes:
Jesus then asked him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Legion," for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss.
In Jesus’ day, a legion was a group of Roman soldiers—6,000 of them—that is how may demons had taken possession of this poor man—but they were still no match for the One who was sent to destroy them.
That is important for us to remember when it comes to the devil. Two different human attitudes please Satan when it comes to our understanding of who he is. The first is when modern people deny his existence and give him a free reign to go about his destructive ways—and we see plenty of that in our culture today. But the second is when some religious people overestimate his power—and there’s plenty of that kind of superstition in the church today. Yes, Satan is real and yes Satan is powerful—but he is not more powerful than Jesus.
6,000 demons bowed at Jesus’ feet that day and begged him not to send them back to hell which is another biblical teaching denied by many modern people. Hell is a place of eternal torment and suffering for the devil and his angels. Despite modern denials that hell is simply an ancient fable designed to scare people into behaving themselves. Hell is real—and it’s torments are terrible—and they are eternal.
The great tragedy of hell is that there are also human beings there when it doesn’t have to be that way. Jesus Christ has fully atoned upon the cross for all our sins. There he suffered the pains of hell in our place and rose up victorious on the third day showing Satan a defeated enemy. The way of salvation is open to all people through faith in Jesus Christ and hell need not gain one more soul for its eternal torments. For the demons that day, anything was preferable to being sent back to hell.
Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
Bible scholars don’t fully understand why Jesus sent the demons into the pigs. Wouldn’t it have been better for the demons simply to have been destroyed by Jesus? But the final destruction of evil takes place on the Last Day when when Satan and his angels are cast by Jesus into the lake of fire for eternal torment and perhaps the drowning of the pigs is a picture of what is to come for them on that day.
Didn’t the demons know what would happen once they entered into the pigs—bringing about their own destruction? Not necessarily. Satan and his angels do not possess omniscience as God does and we see another example of their blind, self-defeating hatred in their joy at Christ’s crucifixion-- completely failing to recognize and take into account that Christ’s death on the cross was really their own defeat.
Was it right and just of Jesus to let these demons destroy the livelihood of those who kept the pigs? But what are pigs compared to a single human soul? What the drowning of the pigs did show in a dramatic, undeniable way was the destructive nature of Satan—that he is a destroyer of all creation. At the very least, the death of thousands of pigs showed in an undeniable way that something dramatic and life-changing had just taken place in that community. Luke writes:
When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed.
For the man that day, his life had been changed forever by Jesus’ healing. His mind was whole and his relationship with God was restored. Clothed, in his right mind, and sitting at the feet of Jesus—a complete change from where he was before. Because Jesus was his Savior, Satan was no longer his master—Jesus was now his master.
That is a picture of every person who has been healed by the mercy of Jesus Christ. By his death and resurrection Jesus has defeated Satan for the sake of the world and as we come to faith in Christ by the powerful working of the Holy Spirit, the reign of Satan over our lives comes to an end.
No longer are we burdened by the shame of the past because it has been washed away by Jesus’ blood. No longer are our minds at warfare with God because now we have the mind of Christ which is strengthened daily in us through word and sacrament. And no longer is Satan our master, for Jesus is our Lord to whom we give our willing obedience and our loving service—bearing witness to what he has done for us—just like the man that day. Luke writes:
Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you." And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.
"Deliver us from evil" is a prayer that God answers every day until that final day when evil is no more. Until that day, Jesus has work for us to do in his mission to bring healing and wholeness to the world. The man who was set free from Satan returned to return to his home town and told what Jesus had done for him. Jesus asks the same of us.
People around us may deny evil and deny Satan and deny hell—but their denials don’t ring true. Just like us, they live in a world that is broken by evil. They experience temptations and suffering. They are afraid of what will happen to them when they die.
We have the solution to their fears and that is the Good News of Jesus Christ--that he has delivered us from evil in the most wonderful, loving way—by shedding his life’s blood upon the cross to set us free from Satan’s rule over our lives and rising up from the dead to guarantee us an eternal life with God. Jesus says to us today what he said that day: Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you. Amen.
And now may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Pentecost 04, Series C June 20, 2010
Lessons for Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (LSB Proper 07)
Isaiah 65:1–9 ~ Although the people of Judah forsook the Lord, God promised to restore some to Jerusalem.
Psalm 3 (Antiphon: Psalm 3:6)
Galatians 3:23—4:7 ~ Now that we have been set free from the curse of the law, we share our faith in Christ.
Luke 8:26–39 ~ After Jesus freed a man from many demons, he told everyone what Jesus had done.
GATHERING THE TEXTS: God Brings Good out of Bad Things.
Even though Israel would not call out to God and defied Him by their idolatry, God rescued them from their own deception and made them heirs of the promise. That promise made to Abraham was fulfilled in Jesus even though it took the cruel curse of the law to turn us to God’s grace. Jesus manifested God’s saving grace to the man who was possessed by Legion, rescuing him from the demons’ power and redeeming his life for the proclamation of God’s grace.
PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Lord my God, even when I don’t look for You, You keep Your eye on me; even when I don’t cry out to You, You hear the fears of my heart. For Jesus’ sake, redeem me, restore me, and renew me that I may serve You by proclaiming how much You have done for me. Amen.
STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: God rescues sinners from the clutches of the law as one might pull a cluster of grapes from the compost. Instead of fine wine, God produces heirs of eternal life. Even a herd of pigs is worth less in God’s sight than a child of His in the clutches of Satan! How much is it worth to you to rescue those who do not yet know of God’s grace in Christ?
OFFERING PRAYER: Oh Lord, You know that we would work great wonders if we could,
But You alone can take these gifts and make them something good.
Turn dying slaves to kingdom heirs through faith in Christ Your Son,
And use our lives in loving deeds to tell what You have done.
CONVICTION AND COMFORT: Under the law, we are enslaved to our sin. Even when we break ourselves free from the shackles of morality, we still find ourselves living among the tombs in a spiritual death. What we envision as success turns out to be failure. But God turns loss into gain. He rescues a cluster of grapes from the compost and produces fine wine from its juice. In Christ we are no longer slaves, but heirs of God’s grace, children of Kingdom-life, set free from our demons to declare to all the world what God has done for us.
Good morning, fellow redeemed!
In yesterday's Old Testament Lesson from 2 Samuel 11 and 12, we hear of King David's escapades and the consequences. In the Gospel from Luke 7, we hear of a woman who is a sinner, as told by Luke. What is most amazing is that, in both cases, King David and the woman know the severity of their sinfulness. King David is confronted by a parable from the prophet Nathan. The woman will not even lift her eyes to see Jesus; she clings to her feet.
As both are brought to repentance, both hear the word of forgiveness from God Himself. For King David, he hears God's forgiveness through the prophet Nathan. For the woman, Jesus' proclamation is one of forgiveness. Both are for the sake of Christ.
As I hear and talk to folks through the week, I hear our society affirm that all people, at heart, are really good. I think more than anything it's attempt not to appear judgmental, that a wrong done is really just an error in judgment. God's Word, however has a different diagnosis: we are all sinners. We have a problem, and that problem is a God problem: we have transgressed His Law.
Praise God, then, that He gives us a Redeemer, someone who becomes our curse so that, in Him, we become righteous. Praise God for Christ Jesus who suffered and died for us!
This week at Mt. Olive brings a reminder:
Vacation Bible School begins two weeks from today! Still needed are volunteers - crew leaders, set up, and the like. I'm sure Kathy will be sending out a list of needs in the next couple of days.
Also this week at Mt. Olive, many of our children are attending Camp Lone Star for a week of fun and growth. Please keep these young people, and the counselors who will be caring for them, in your prayers.
Along with Vacation Bible School, ...
June 27 is a Voters Meeting Sunday. A special schedule is included for that day:
9:30 a.m. Divine Service
10:30 a.m. Sunday School and Voters Meeting
11:30 a.m. Meal
1:30 or 2 p.m. VBS Set up!
Finally, a reminder:
Next Sunday, June 20, Father's Day...
This is the starting day to listen to the New Testament over the next 40 days. With discs provided by Faith Comes By Hearing, Mt. Olive will turn its attention to hearing the Word of God!
Those who serve in the armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney and John Miller's niece (Afghanistan), Andrew Epley (Iraq), Richard Rhode (North Carolina), John Sorenson, Dru Blanc, Ryan Radtke, Michael Baker (Corpus Christi)
Those who travel during this busy summer season
The unemployed, underemployed, and the homeless
Preparations for Vacation Bible School, that many may hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ
This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, June 14 (Flag Day)
Wednesday, June 16
Thursday, June 17
Happy Birthday, Mom!
Saturday, June 12, 2010
It can happen even without our intending it. We’ve had a hard day at work but it’s our wife that we yell at. We’re out having a good time with friends and before too long we’ve had too much to drink. We work closely with someone for years but almost overnight it develops into an affair. We did not intend to do it or set out to do it—but we’ve sinned. Now what?
We can excuse it. We can justify it. We can try to explain it away or cover it up. But none of it helps—not really—not in the way that we need to be helped. What we need is to come face-to-face with our sins. What we need to do is confess them and be forgiven and restored to God.
This is exactly what we see in our text today in the story of David and Bathsheba. Most of us know their story. A woman who was immodest. A man who did not guard his eyes. Two people who gave in to lust and committed adultery. A plan to cover it up that resulted in death. The Bible describes that downward spiral of sin like this:
Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
But this story that we have today in our Old Testament lesson is not only about THAT sin of adultery and THOSE people (David and Bathsheba)—it’s about us and about our sins-- and God the Holy Spirit saw fit to have it recorded in the Bible so that when we come to that place of real sin and failure in our own lives-- we can know what God’s attitude is towards us --and what he is doing in our lives in the aftermath of sin to re-make us and restore us as his people. The Bible says:
When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she lamented over her husband. And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.
No one was around when David spotted Bathsheba on that rooftop. His order sending Uriah her husband to the front lines was his to make. Taking the poor widow into his home would have been seen as an act of mercy. The evil behind all of it was hidden to everyone but the Lord—to everyone BUT the Lord. But the Lord saw—and the Lord was displeased—and it is the Lord’s judgment that mattered. So it still is today.
Human beings still try to hide their sins. It has become fashionable to call family wrecking adultery—romantic dalliances. Greed and coveting is called-- ambition. The murder of children is called—a civil right. The wholesale acceptance of sexual perversion in large parts of the church is called—the work of the Holy Spirit.
But the Lord still sees the truth of what is in our hearts and lives-- and it is still the Lord’s judgment that matters. And he has made his will for our lives very clear in the Ten Commandments—the righteous demands of which never change with the times.
We may try to rename our sins—we may try to justify our sins—we may try to hide our sins—but they are not hidden from God and he will not explain them away.
Instead, through the words of Nathan the prophet, we hear God call them what they are.
First of all, they are a denial that God is our Creator and we are his creatures. God had richly blessed David and yet David took what belonged to another. Adam and Even were blessed with a garden to eat from but they wanted the one thing forbidden. God has blessed us with a home and spouse and possessions and yet we covet what belongs to others. When we sin it is an affront to the Creator who has blessed us and set very few parameters around those blessings—and yet we cast them aside.
Second of all, our sins are a despising of God’s Word and ultimately a despising of God himself. David knew the commandments: Thou shalt not covet—Thou shalt not commit adultery—thou shalt not murder—but he did the very things they commanded him not to do-- and his contempt for God’s Word—God counted as contempt for his own person and that which was evil in his sight.
God’s holy Law is not just words on a page—there is a holy, living being who stands behind his word and he does not permit us even in the least to set it aside-and when we do transgress it by our sins—it is he who is offended.
This then is the true picture of human sin—contempt for the Creator’s gifts—contempt for God’s Word—contempt for God himself. And knowing that he is holy and knowing that he cannot abide with sin you would think that he would cast us away forever—but he does not. He seeks after us so that we can recognize what we have done—repent of it—and return to him. To that end and for that purpose, the Bible says that: The Lord sent Nathan to David.
It is God who seeks out sinful man to save him. God is the initiator of our relationship with him. It all begins with God’s love for man. When Adam and Eve sinned against God—their eyes were open and they knew that God was good and that they were evil and they fled from him in fear. It was God who sought them out in love.
That is the story of the Bible from beginning to end—God seeking out sinful man—God calling out to man—God desiring to restore a broken relationship with us.
That is what we see in these verses. David and Bathsheba thought they had concealed their sin. They thought that they had tied up all the loose ends. Nobody knew what they had done—except for God—he knew what they had done-- and he knew what sin had done to their life with him. And so he sent Nathan the prophet to speak his words and restore their broken relationship.
If I were to ask you to sit down with a bible and come up with a picture and a definition of the Holy Ministry you might look at the call and sending of the apostles or turn to the pastoral epistles where the qualifications for the pastor are laid out.
But to define the ministry you could not do better than the verses we have before us today. A man sent by God to speak God’s Word for the purpose of restoring sinners to a right relationship with him.
Nathan was sent by God. He was not a hireling who did what the king commanded—he was above all else, God’s man first. And in his work he had one task that was above all others: to speak God’s Word—not his opinions—not what the king wanted to hear—but to speak God’s Word—to say, as he did: Thus says the Lord.
This part of our story—the sending of Nathan--as small as it is—is critical to understanding how God works in our lives.
Sin breaks our fellowship with God. God wants that fellowship restored. And so he calls and sends men to speak his words: to speak his words of law that reveal and rebuke our sin--but also to speak words of forgiveness that restore us to God. A man who is called by God to this work has no higher responsibility than to say: Thus says the Lord! and it is our responsibility as God’s people to hear it as that—God’s Word.
God has established this office of the Holy Ministry because we need to hear God’s Word spoken from outside of ourselves because we have a terrible ability to hide our sins and justify our sins even to ourselves and it has always been that way.
When Adam and Eve sinned against they fled from God and try to hide their shame.
This exactly what happened to David and Bathsheba—they tried to hide their sins away and in fact, had succeeded so well that they had even hidden them from themselves.
They same thing happens to us. We tell ourselves that our spouse is responsible for our argument and we are innocent. We tell ourselves that the person driving 55 in the passing lane is the reason we got angry and used bad language. We tell ourselves that that Walmart has overcharged me in the past and so I can keep the extra change this time.
We become so good at justifying ourselves and excusing our actions and blaming others that unless God breaks into that self-deception with his Word—we will remain right there—unrepentant and separated from God. But God loves and sends his messengers so that the truth about us might be revealed.
That’s exactly what Nathan did. He told a story about a grave injustice that had happened in David’s kingdom. A rich man had stolen a poor man’s little lamb and used it for himself. Such was David’s spiritual blindness that he didn’t even recognize that Nathan was talking about him. The Bible says that:
David's anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”
David was absolutely right. The man in the story who robbed and killed deserved to die—it is the sentence demanded by God’s law: the wages of sins is death. But what David didn’t realize was that he had pronounced that sentence upon himself-- such was his self-imposed, spiritual blindness.
We need to take heed-- for we are not immune to that disease that hides the truth about our sin even from ourselves. In conflicted marriages and families it is so easy to point the accusing finger at the other person and ignore our own failures. When we are angry, someone else has not MADE us mad. When we worry and fret it is not God who has failed us—we have simply cast him down from his throne.
Which is exactly why God sends men to speak his Word of law—so that the finger we are all too eager to point at others-- can find its proper object and direction: Nathan said to David, “You are the man! David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
There is only one proper response to the accusation of the Law: contrition and confession—sorrow over our sins and sincere repentance. That’s what David did. No excuses or rationalizations or explanations or justifications—just a simple, heart-felt confession of his sins-- and what they did to his relationship with God.
And this is an important point. All sin is ultimately an offense against God. We may have had a fight with our spouse or we may be in the midst of family conflict—but we should have no doubt that it is God himself who is offended—he is the only one who can make things right—and he did. Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.
We talked earlier about the role of the holy ministry when we have sinned—that the man of God is called by God and sent by God to reveal our sins sin and rebuke them. But that is not an end in itself—it serves another purpose—God’s real purpose—and that is to forgive us and restore us—which is what we see going on here.
God wouldn’t and couldn’t ignore David’s sins and he can’t ignore ours—but he can and has dealt with them. God took them off of us and placed them upon his Son. Jesus is the One who suffered the punishment of the law that says that the wages of sin is death. He paid those wages with his shed blood, suffering, and death—and all forgiveness is spoken and given in his name.
Holy baptism and Holy Absolution and Holy Communion all draw their power to forgive our sins only because they connect us to the crucified and risen Savior. And so when the man of God says I forgive you and I baptize you and take and eat this is my body, take and drink this is my blood—it is Christ’s voice that is heard and his forgiveness that is given—and those whose sins have been taken away by him—have passed from death to life.
When we have sinned and done what is wrong in God’s sight—when guilt weighs heavily upon us—when we wonder, “now what?”--what a comfort it is to know that because our sins have been taken away by Jesus—things are right between us and God—even if we have to deal with the consequences of our actions.
David was restored to God—but there were consequences from what he had done. Nathan told him, by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, so the child who is born to you shall die.”
This is a warning that all forgiven sinners must take seriously. When we speak hateful words—their memory continues even after they are forgiven. When we misuse alcohol the physical effects do not magically disappear when we come to faith. If we have an affair and destroy our marriage—we can be forgiven but that does not mean the marriage can be rebuilt. There are terrible consequences to our sins just like there was for David even after he was forgiven and restored as a child of God. This warning is given to us in love by God so that we never regard his forgiveness as a license for more sin.
I’ve sinned. Now what? I confess it to God. I receive God’s forgiveness in Christ. And I resolve with the help of the Holy Spirit never to do it again. Amen.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Good afternoon, fellow redeemed!
The real Gospel! That's what Paul gives in Galatians 1, the Epistle for yesterday. It's the real Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We all know that, but we also know the false gospels, that really aren't gospels that plague us in our world. The Galatian churches endured Judaizers, while we are told that we just need to be good. The Galatian churches were told they needed to become Jewish in order to be Christian, while we're told about Christian behavior from those who aren't Christian or don't understand the Gospel. The Jewish rituals which identified them as God's people were pushed upon the Galatians, while our world tells us the vast array of activities that will be beneficial for our children and our families. False Gospels, every one of them, always wind up ignoring Christ the Savior.
The real Gospel: Jesus Christ who was delivered up for our sins in accordance with the will of God the Father. The real Gospel: That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scripture. It is this message alone that tells us of our Savior! It is this message alone which grows saving faith! It is this message alone which gives confidence on the day of judgment! It is this message alone that comforts us when we are confronted with our sinfulness!
This week at Mt. Olive has a couple of fun activities in the works.
Zumba aerobics meets here on Monday and Wednesday evenings. While I see this same kind of course advertised around town, very few, if any, include this great word with their course: FREE! That's right! At 6 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, FREE Zumba aerobics courses meet here at Mt. Olive!
For many years, scouting of different kinds has shaped young leaders for our society. The Girl Scouts of America is one of those kinds of scouting. The Girl Scouts meet here at Mt. Olive each Monday evening at 6:30 p.m. and take on a number of different endeavors, each intended to broaden the experiences of these young women as they grow in age, stature, and wisdom.
Tuesday evening of this week, the LWML will be meeting.
A special Tortilla Making Demonstration will be held as part of that meeting at 7 p.m. One of our own here at Mt. Olive Lutheran School will lead a demonstration in making flour tortillas, and, hopefully, corn tortillas (I asked!). The congregation is invited.
A short business meeting will be held before the demonstration at 6:30 p.m.
Finally, a joint venture Car Wash will be held by Mt. Olive Jr. Youth and Andrew Jones Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
I will be out of the office most of Wednesday and all of Thursday with Boy Scout Troop 3 Chicken BBQ (By the way,...well, you know...)
Thanksgiving for recovery for Gricel Shumway, Sean Hanelt, and Betty McChristy
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families, especially: Rob Vadney and John Miller's niece (Afghanistan), Andrew Epley (Iraq), Dru Blanc, John Sorenson, Ryan Radtke, Michael Baker (Corpus Christi)
Those who travel during the summer months
The VBS ministry of Mt. Olive as we prepare for it in a few weeks
The LCMS as it begins its convention next month
This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, June 7
Tuesday, June 8
LWML Business Meeting
Tortilla Making Demo sponsored by the LWML
Wednesday, June 9
Saturday, June 12
9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Pentecost 03, Series C June 13, 2010
Lessons for Third Sunday after Pentecost (LSB Proper 06)
2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-14 ~ David repented of his sin with Uriah’s wife when confronted by Nathan.
Galatians 2:15-21; 3:10-14 ~ The righteous shall live by faith because justification comes only by grace.
Luke 7:36-8:3 ~ A sinful woman anointed Jesus’ feet with great joy because here forgiveness was great.
GATHERING THE TEXTS: When Our Reasons Hide Our Sin
We have all kinds of reasons for the things we do, even when we ought to know better. David had plenty reasons for having Uriah put in the thick of the battle until he was killed by the Ammonites, and plenty of reasons for wanting Bathsheba to be his wife. Those reasonable explanations kept him from recognizing his sin. St. Paul wrote that if we can excuse our actions and deny our sins, then we really have no need for Christ’s death! Simon the Pharisee could give plenty reasons for his actions, but couldn't excuse the life of the woman who anointed Jesus' feet with tears and perfume. Those who can recognize that they are sinners in spite of their reasons are the ones who repent and receive God's forgiveness.
PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Lord God, gracious Father, when I am blinded to my own sin, send a word or a sign that I may see where I have fallen. By Your Spirit, open my eyes to my sin that I may seek Your grace in Jesus Christ my Lord. Restore me to the joy of Your salvation. Amen.
STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: God’s generous grace in Christ Jesus covers even the greatest of sins. Though we are wretched rebels, he regards us as his loving children. When we realize the magnitude of our sin and the greatness of his grace, we are generous to share our goods to bring this good news, and provide relief, for all who are in need for both God’s grace and his sustenance.
OFFERING PRAYER: Gracious Lord, we’re quick to notice when our brothers sin,
And just as fast we cover up the wretched mess we’re in!
But when by faith we know your grace, our hearts are opened wide
And through these gifts from loving hands your bounty will provide.
CONVICTION AND COMFORT: We usually do something if we think it is worth doing; we help others when we think they deserve it, but the grace of God's kingdom comes to us even though we are not worthy! The faithful life is a response to God’s great love. Any message that makes God’s acceptance of us depend on approval from others or on our efforts to please God is no gospel at all! Rather, the more we recognize the greatness of our sin and the magnificence of God’s grace, so much greater will our faith-filled life be.
The text for our meditation on God’s Holy Word is the Gospel lesson appointed for the day. I bring you grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
This last Monday our nation observed Memorial Day and that observance had a face as we learned that the 1000th member of our armed forces in Afghanistan died in battle. Corporal Jacob Leicht of Kerrville was killed on patrol and as I looked at the pictures in the paper of his father holding his picture I was reminded again of what a terrible thing it is for a child—no matter what their age—to precede their parent in death.
If there is anything that signals to us that this world is broken and dying-- it is for a parent to stand beside their child’s grave-- and that very scene is repeated ten of thousands of time across the world on any given day. Sadly, it’s nothing new. Luke writes:
Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her.
The name of the town “Nain” means “Valley of Beauty” but that day it was the valley of the shadow of death. That contrast between beauty and death is the way of life in this world.
Most of us go for many years experiencing nothing but God’s blessings—seeing life in this world as nothing but green pastures and still waters-- but then some tragedy occurs that reminds us that all of human life is a journey through the valley of the shadow of death. We just see it more clearly when we face a tragedy-- like the widow of Nain.
That poor woman—long before the death of her son—already knew about heartache: she was a widow. When I look out at this congregation, I thank God for all of the good marriages that we are—couples who have not only stayed married—but genuinely still love and care for one another. Those of us blessed by God this way--with one who is truly flesh of our flesh—know that we have been blessed by God with the greatest earthly blessing he gives.
But we are reminded today by the widow’s story that there will come a day of parting—when that one who is as close to us as our own flesh is parted from us by death—and we know how painful that will be. That is what that poor widow of Nain had already gone through—but even then, with that painful loss, she was not finished walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Her only son had died.
To lose a child is the worst pain a human being can endure. All of us can imagine what she was going through-- but what not may be immediately apparent to us is what this death meant for her own life as a childless widow.
Women in that time and place were almost completely dependent upon the men in their lives for their welfare. They grew up under their father’s authority--went from there to live with their husbands—and if their husband were to precede them in death—they went to live with their sons. That is how women were cared for.
As heart-broken as she was over the death of her son, somewhere in the back of her mind she was already wondering to herself: how in the world was she going to live? That was the burden that weighed upon her as she walked behind her son’s body in that procession of death—until she met the Lord of Life who invites us to cast our burdens upon him. Luke writes that:
…when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep."
This is the first place in his Gospel that Luke, as the narrator of these events, addresses Jesus as Lord—the only One who has the power and the authority to change the painful reality of death. And not only did he have the power to do so, he was moved with compassion to do so.
This Greek word for “compassion” is used several times in the New Testament to describe Jesus’ feelings for individuals and groups. The word means to be moved in one’s inmost being—his heart went out to her: one, poor, mourning widow in an obscure town.
Jesus’ attitude of love and concern for those without much earthly power must have really made an impression on Luke, because he tells us again and again in his Gospel that Jesus reaches out to help those who, the rest of society, regards as having little value-- and we see that same thing here.
In terms of the world, one, poor woman in an obscure town doesn’t count for much—but the Lord counts her worthy of his powerful help and merciful compassion. Both compassion and power are perfectly joined together in Jesus and that’s what makes a life-changing difference.
There are many people in the world with the power to make human lives better who do not use it-- even the face of great human need. People in Africa are starving to death while millions of tons of food pour into their countries from across the world because their own leaders—the people in power—find it politically expedient to starve their own citizens rather than help them.
Of course this problem is not just some one else’s problem—it is ours too. We have much more power to help than we think. We are the richest people on the face of the earth but we love our luxuries more than sacrifice for others. We know that there are people who need to be encouraged but our schedules are so busy. We have power-- but much too often we lack compassion.
We justify our lack of compassion by telling ourselves that the poor should have worked harder and the addicted shouldn’t have taken the first drink and so on. And maybe those things are true—but a compassionate person can still identify with individual human tragedies.
Jesus certainly did-- and as Lord he had the power to do something about-- what to human eyes --was a hopeless situation-- and he told the widow “Do not weep.”
If we didn’t know how all this would turn out—if we were simply part of the crowd that day we could appreciate Jesus’ word as simply a kind gesture—but one that was ultimately empty-- because it couldn’t really change anything thing.
But when Jesus Christ says “Do not weep” he means it! Do not weep-- for there is no reason for tears in the presence of the Lord of life. Luke writes that:
Jesus came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, arise."
People of that day were not buried in coffins but were wrapped in cloths and laid upon a bier (which is a stretcher) and carried to their graves. As the widow’s son was being carried to his grave, Jesus walked up to the stretcher and said “Arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak.
Just- like- that! And what is perhaps even more stunning than the dead man being raised-- is how it was accomplished—simply by a word—spoken by the One who brought all things into being by his Word.
What we see here is that the One who was in the beginning—the One through whom all things were created—is not some impersonal force far removed from our lives. Instead, he is the living Word of God who took upon himself our flesh and was moved by compassion at what we have done to ourselves by our sins to reach out and help.
That day at Nain, the Word spoke—and the Word was spoken—and life came where there was only death before.
The scene that we have before us in Luke’s Gospel gets our attention because it is so common—so easily recognized. It is familiar to every person on earth because: 1. we recognize ourselves in that group of mourners—2. we recognize ourselves in that poor mother—3. we recognize ourselves wrapped in grave clothes upon that stretcher being carried to our own graves.
And Jesus wants us to see our helplessness in the face of it all—because that is the painful truth about us too.
There was absolutely nothing that anyone there that day could have done to change what happened—there were no tears of grief that the mother could have shed which would have brought life back to her dead son. There was no show of support from the friends powerful enough to change tragedy into triumph. There was certainly nothing the dead man could do to help himself.
But Jesus could—and did—and at Jesus’ Word the man was restored to life.
Through this miracle, Jesus wants us to recognize and believe that there is now something greater than sorrow and death in this world—he wants us to recognize that he has entered into our sorrow and death and that changes everything.
When Jesus touched the stretcher of the dead man that day-- according to the law he should have been ceremonially unclean. But just the opposite happened—Jesus’ wholeness and cleanness and life came to rest upon the man.
And the Good News for us today is that what he did for that one man—he did for the world—for you and for me.
Jesus took upon himself all of the uncleanness that comes from sin and death and carried it to the cross where it was washed away in his shed blood. Three days later he rose up from the dead, promising us that we too will rise from death-- and that word of the Gospel that he speaks-- continues to bring life in the midst of death-- even two thousand years later.
Each of us, spiritually, by nature is like that dead young man on the stretcher—we are helpless to change anything about our spiritual condition on our own—but when the words of Jesus are spoken to us: in Baptism (that we have died with him and been raised with him) and Preaching (rebuking our sins and calling us to faith) and Absolution (that we are fully and freely forgiven all our sins) and Holy Communion (that his body and blood are given for us)—when these words of Jesus are spoken to us --death is transformed into life—real life—abundant eternal life that only God can give. Just like he gave that day at Nain. Luke writes that: Jesus gave him to his mother.
Too often, we hesitate to give ourselves to the Lord because we don’t know what the Lord will ask of us and we’re afraid to follow him wholeheartedly. Like the faithless Israelites, too often we would rather live as slaves than as the free children of God because at least we know what slavery entails.
But Jesus tells us that it is the devil who comes to kill and steal and destroy --while he has come to give life—rich abundant life—a full measure pressed down and overflowing. And we see that here. The community was given their friend. The widow was given her son. And the young man was given his life. And none of their lives would ever be the same. Luke writes that:
Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and "God has visited his people!" And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.
The Good News for us today is the God has indeed visited his people in his Son Jesus Christ and in his compassion and power has brought us a new life that is just as real and just as life-changing as what occurred that day at Nain that day for the widow and her son.
The dark shadow of sin and death has been driven from our life by the cross and empty tomb. And Jesus invites us to take our place along side of him, glorifying God by speaking to others his words of hope and faith that give life. Amen.
And now may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.