Sermon for August 21 2016 “Striving to Enter” Luke 13:22-30

22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying towards Jerusalem. 23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us’, then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

When I was a boy in Scotland we would travel around the country from time to time taking in the history of the nation.  One thing that always intrigued me was when we would visit castles and fortified areas, the doors were always tiny.  Like most people would, I surmised that it must have been because people in those days were just as tiny so there was no need for massive doors.  However, my thoughts were corrected by a tour guide who informed me that the tiny passages were not because the people were small but because it would make it more difficult for the enemy to break in, because they couldn’t simply enter on horseback or even standing straight.  They would have to stoop over, making them vulnerable to the attack of the defenders.  I share this because it helps us understand the type of context in which Jesus is speaking to his disciples then and now.  For there would be similar archeticure in Jesus’ day, designed to keep out the unwanted, while allowing passage only to a select group.  FOR THE MASTER OF THE HOUSE HAS RISEN AND SHUT THE DOOR, AND THOSE WHO ARE SAVED ARE FEW.

Keeping on his theme of division in the world from last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus now addresses a question that is on the minds of all gathered there, and certainly I’m sure on the minds of many gathered here; “Lord, will those who are saved be few?”  The answer that we want to hear however, is not the answer that Jesus gives.  We would like to hear Jesus say, “Nope!  Everyone will be saved no matter what!”  Or at the very least, “As long as you are a good person you’ll go to heaven.”  But sadly the desire to hear these words betrays the reality that our “Christianity” is not the Christianity of the Gospel, but the Christianity of Works.  We love to think that we can be saved by simply being a good person, no matter what our religion, or if we have one at all.  As long as we don’t kick the dog or say unkind things to our neighbour then we are golden.  Yet Jesus shatters our hopes with his words, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”  These words certainly would shake up our reverie and might cause us to protest.  After all we all know good people, why should they end up in hell, just because they don’t believe like we do.  The truth is that basing salvation on works, can only end in hell, because it takes away from the only work that matters, Jesus own saving death on the cross.  So it doesn’t matter if you are a good jew, or muslim, or JW, or Mormon, or Buddhist or atheist, or any other religion of works, all of these good works are but rags which burden the bearer of them and prevent them from entering the narrow door which is Christ.

Yet it isn’t only those of other religions who must beware.  Millions of Christians also bear their works upon their back, thinking that if they can just do enough they can please God; millions of others having once heard the Gospel of Christ’s death on the cross for their sins, now think that they are now free to live as they want, doing works that please themselves, thereby rejecting again the very work of Christ for them.  Therefore in the very same way, millions of these “Christians” will find on the last day that they will “begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us’, then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’”

For Jesus, the master of the house, HAS risen and shut the door.  Following his death on the cross to pay for the sins of the world, Jesus also rose from the dead so that all who are baptized into his death will be raised up to new life on the last day.  With this very act of resurrection Jesus has shut for ever the door to those who would seek to be saved by their own works.  In fact not only has he shut the door, we hear in John’s Gospel the 20th chapter, that Jesus has given the very keys of the kingdom, the keys of absolution, the forgiveness of sins, to those whom he sends in his name, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”  Therefore no one can depend on his or her works for salvation, rather one can only depend upon Jesus forgiveness of his or her works, for salvation.  It is for this reason that Jesus calls on you and me to ““Strive to enter through the narrow door.” But this striving does not mean trusting in our works, but rather trusting only in Jesus’ work, by rejecting our human desire to save ourselves and clinging only to the cross of Christ, and receiving and hearing that forgiveness won for you regularly.  Every time the Lord gathers you around his word, where you hear forgiveness, life and salvation proclaimed to you the door of heaven is opened to you.  Every time the waters of holy baptism are poured over a person, every time the sign of the cross is made to mark that person as one redeemed the door of heaven is unlocked to him or her.  It is also for this reason the early church practiced truly closed communion, closing the doors of the sanctuary to the unbeliever or the catechumen during the service not permitting them to approach the table of the Lord, for they were unprepared to enter through the narrow door and to eat and drink with the fellowship of saints.  Yet for those who had been instructed in the faith, and held to the true body and blood of Jesus in, with, and under, the bread and the wine, they were able to approached the Lord’s table and receive the very body and blood which purchased the forgiveness they were now receiving.

For this reason also, our Lord has not reserved salvation for people based upon their ethnicity or their bloodline, but rather upon his own blood gathering to himself Christians people from east and west, and from north and south, who even this day recline at table in the kingdom of God. For fellow believers, even now all around the world gather at the Lord’s table to receive this very forgiveness, trusting only in Christ, and not themselves, clinging to his promises alone!

Those who are saved will be few, and therefore we strive to enter the narrow door, not by our works, but rather through Christ’s work alone.  Amen!

Sermon for August 14 2016 Baptised by Fire Luke 12:49-53

49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

How great is my distress until it is accomplished!  Jesus words here are not unlike our own when faced with a great and terrible trial.  We await and greatly dread, the results of the medical test we just endured.  We anticipate with fear and trembling the pink slip which will take away our livelihood.  We just want the suffering to be over, for the axe to fall, so that at least the worry will pass us by.  But Jesus words in our Gospel concern something quite different, suffering for your benefit, suffering which in the end will take away far more than worry.

FOR JESUS COMES TO BE BAPTIZED BY FIRE, NOT FOR HIS CLEANSING BUT FOR YOURS.

Shortly following our Gospel reading from last Sunday, as Jesus calls on his people to “Fear not”, Jesus gives you ample reason why you need not fear.  “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” Strange words indeed from the prince of peace aren’t they?  They don’t seem like those pretty, and pithy, words which adorn our favourite posters and calendars.  Nor are they the mediocre maxims which embellish our “Christian T-Shirts” either.  Jesus words speak of something which most Western Christians would skip over, yet they do this to their detriment.

For while Jesus is the prince of peace, He himself has said he did not come to bring peace rather He came to cast fire on the earth!  The reason is quite simple, Jesus has come to cast fire on the earth that all of the dross of sin would be burned away and all sin be forgiven.  Yet this fire would cause suffering both to Jesus and to you.  For Jesus came to be baptised by the fire of the cross; there on that cross he suffered for your sins, he paid the price for you, he endured the full and complete wrath of God for you, Jesus died the very death you deserve that you would not spend eternity where the fire is not quenched and the worms does not die!

Therefore you are baptized, also have been baptized into that fire, in the waters of Holy Baptism sanctified by the saviour, you are cleansed of all your sin, being raised up to new life in Him. It is this, of which John the Baptist speaks when he says,

“I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

It is of this that the prophet Malachi proclaims,

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.”

Yet this is no simple thing.  For your Old Adam continues to rebel against your newness of life, unreasonably desiring to return it is filth rather than to live pure and holy in Christ.  Therefore, Dr. Luther reminds you in his morning prayer to make the sign of the holy cross and say “In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit” remembering your baptism, and drowning anew the old Adam which seeks to drag you down.

Nevertheless, being purified in the furnace of the font, you will follow your saviour into further struggle and strife, facing further refining now in the kiln of the world.

For Jesus warns his disciples then and now,

51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.

So many believe that Christians need to cast aside all of the controversial aspects of the Christian faith, many Christians call for this in the name of unity, many unbelievers call for this in the name of peace.  Yet Jesus proclaims that his very doctrines, indeed his very death, will be the centre and source of division not peace.

Unbelievers have long persecuted Christians for their Christ, having long sought to destroy He who is our head, but destroying we who are his body.

This is why the author of our Epistle reading demonstrates the glorious cloud of our Christian brothers and sisters saying,

“Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[a] they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

Though we do not face such heinous acts, the attacks we face are more subtle and effective in countering our Christianity.  The Christian faith is no longer welcome in our schools.  The name of Christ and Christian symbols no longer are given respect.  Secular activities such as sports and clubs draw away our time from God’s House and His Word, leaving our “Christianity” Christ-less.

But the baptism of fire that Christians face does not only come from without, but also from within!  For this reason we even pray in our collect this morning, “Merciful Lord cleanse and defend your church by the sacrifice of Christ.  False teaching and false belief are rampant among the people of God as they have been since Christ’s ascension.  Of them the prophet Jeremiah proclaimed, “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” Instead those who cling to the doctrines of Holy Scripture are ridiculed as being haters and encouraged to set aside God’s Word for the sake of “getting along.”

There should be no surprise then at Jesus words, “52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

For false teaching from within and without the church will cause strife, at times tearing apart the very fabric of families, leaving no thread of connection between them.

How odd to think that this is what Jesus came to bring!  Yet for you who believe, who have been cleansed by the refiners fire, who cling to the cross of Jesus, who intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully; who intended to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death; who intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it, Fear Not!  For the world has no hold on you, false believers have no claim.  You have been united with Christ in Holy Baptism, and your treasure is secure.  Your sins have been washed away and there is nothing from within or without that can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus!  Beloved in the Lord, do not be distress, for your salvation in Christ has been accomplished!  Amen!

Sermon for August 7, 2016 Have no fear little flock Luke 12:22–34

22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with money bags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

In his first inaugural address during the midst of the worst financial disaster in history, Franklin Delano Roosevelt boldly stated,

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Roosevelt was seeking to inspire his nation to boldness in the face of despair and diligence in the face of depression.  While Mr. Roosevelt’s words were for his time and place they also have profound mean for us today, for the only thing that we have to fear is… Fear itself.  And for us this fear is paralyzing, disabling, and worrying, fear that affects our every waking Hour.  It is to this fear that Jesus speaks in his parable this morning, “FEAR NOT, LITTLE FLOCK, FOR IT IS YOUR FATHER’S GOOD PLEASURE TO GIVE YOU THE KINGDOM.”

We all have certain fears which impact our lives, perhaps it is a fear of spiders, or a fear of strangers, or if you are like me, a fear of heights.  But these fears, in fact all fears, are irrational for the Christian.  Not that I’m trying to diminish your fears, but the truth is for the Christian Christ has already defeated those things which frighten us, so to be afraid of them is truly irrational.  The most irrational fear that we all of face, however, is financial.  We worry-warts are always concerned over our finances, sometimes pinching pennies until our fingers bleed.  For some it is because we grew up in tough times, for others it is because we have never known hard times and don’t want to start experiencing them now.  Look around you at our community for example; homes, boats, cars, etc., all for sale.  Belts are tightening. Savings accounts growing.  Financial fear is rampant.  Entertainment expenses are cut and our giving to the church dwindles to nothing.  How can we survive?

In the midst of this Jesus says,

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?”

You see fear is irrational.  Jesus tells you that life is more than food and the body more than clothing.  What is more Jesus points out that Almighty God, your heavenly father, provides for the ravens that do not work at all, yet they never go without, the Lord provides all that they need.  Jesus further illustrates his point saying,

“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!”

Those last words really dig at us don’t they!  “O you of little faith!”  Fear, worry, anxiety, is nothing more than lack of faith, disbelief in the God who provides all things for you! So Jesus says, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?”

Have you ever thought about that?  Not one bit of worry can assist you in any way, it can’t add one hour to your life, though if you believe the doctors, it can certainly subtract a few can’t it! What is worse is that all of our worry and fear earns you nothing; in fact, no one pays you to be afraid!  No, your fear is nothing more than faithlessness in the Father who has made you and all things.

So Jesus reminds you, “do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

In other words, Fear not little flock! For as we confess in the meaning of the First article of the Apostle’s Creed

“I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.”

If your father richly and daily provides you all that you need to support this body and life, of what are you afraid?! Rather this truth should embolden you to freely give, to freely use the resources, financial and otherwise, for the furtherance of the kingdom; it should inspire you to willingly pour out your coffers, recognizing that these are but worldly things, and what you should seek is the very kingdom of God!

And to this Jesus adds “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.” You father has already given you the kingdom of heaven, in all of its riches and treasures. These he has given you, as he does all things, purely undeserved.  He lavishes you with his love, his forgiveness, his life, and his salvation, for he himself opened the coffers of heaven and poured out his own Son on the earth, who bore in himself, all of your fear, your worry, and your anxiety, and who poured out the coffers of his own body, shedding for you his own very body and blood, to pay for your sins, and purchase and win from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

Beloved the kingdom is already yours, it has your name on it, and it awaits you at the proper time.  For this reason Jesus tells you, “fear not little flock, sell your possessions and give to the needy.”  Whatever your financial position may be you already are rich beyond your wildest dreams.  The possessions of this world are but rags which will rot and fade away even before your death, therefore you are encouraged not to cling to them out of fear but to discard them and use them to care for others.

In this regard then Jesus calls you to “provide yourselves with money bags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.”  This can only be done by the casting off of those things that anchor us down and keep us from clinging to Christ.  But why is this so hard? Here then, Jesus gets to the very heart of the matter. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Fearing not, relinquishing our fear, and our worry is impossible, because our heart is tied into our earthly treasure, and as long as this is the case, we will forever worry about our finances.

Yet remember Jesus says, For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Beloved in Christ, your true treasure is in heaven, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Already the kingdom of heaven is now yours, and Jesus gives you a foretaste of that here today.  Do you fear what you will eat?  Come to Jesus’ table where he gives himself for heavenly food, his own body and blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins; a richer banquet than you will find at even a 5 star restaurant!  Do you fear what you will put on?  Beloved in Christ, in Holy Baptism your father has given you the robe of righteousness, a raiment so glorious that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like you! Are you anxious about your life? No worry can add but a single hour, yet your heavenly father has given you life eternal!

Have no fear little flock for the kingdom of heaven, the true treasure is yours in Christ!  Amen!

Sermon for July 31 2016 Living within the means of God Luke 12:13-21

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of one’s possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God.”

Sermon for July 24 Be watching out! Colossians 2:6-15

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it (Be watching out)  that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities[b] and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.[c]

 

There are 66 books in the bible yet of them there are few that have the blatant, in your face, Gospely goodness that Paul pours out in his letter to the Colossians.  In verse after verse St. Paul proclaims with total boldness the Gospel of Jesus with no ifs, ands, or buts, in a way that is rarely seen, to this level, in other books.  The reason for this is quite clear; Paul is having to deal with in-your-face false teaching which is rapidly stealing assurance of salvation from the Christians that he loves so dearly.  So Paul boldly proclaims the very thing which you and I need to hear again: JESUS HAS MADE YOU ALIVE, FORGIVEN YOU ALL YOUR SINS, AND CANCELED YOUR RECORD OF DEBT!

So many people will say, yeah, I know this, you don’t need to tell me again.  Others will say, yep, now let’s get on to real Christianity.  These are the kinds of things which were floating around the churches in Corinth at the time of St. Paul’s letter.  There should be no reason then that Paul begins his attack on false teaching with a bold statement; See to it, or better translated as Be watching out!  False teaching comes not from outside of the church, but from within, the wolf in sheep’s clothing, strolling through the flock seeking someone to devour.  So Paul says “be watching out”; remain ever vigilant, be on the lookout, stay on guard against those who preach and teach falsely. The reason Paul gives is one that we rarely consider but is absolutely important, “that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world, and not according to Christ.”  This phrase that no one takes you captive implies being carried off as a prisoner of war; having been taken as a captive by one who has overpowered you.  This is how Satan, our true opponent, the true author of false teaching accomplishes his will.  He introduces doubt in the heart of the Christian, the same way as he did in the garden, with the words “Did God really say?…”

Paul addresses just how these false teachers deceive and lead astray the believer throughout his letter but here in this verse he describes these methods; First, by philosophy and empty deceit. There are many both within and outside of the church that seek to use human logic and reasoning to lead you away from the Word of God.  So called arguments from science or philosophy are designed to create doubt in the believer and lead him to another path.  Secondly, according to human tradition.  There are many within the Christian church that seek to place their own idea of Christianity ahead of the bible, making a law out of the gracious gift of the gospel.  How many times have you been heard someone say, you aren’t a Christian if you haven’t made a decision for Jesus, or if you don’t speak in tongues you aren’t a real Christian? How often have you heard people say that your only a Christian if you feel it in your heart?  How often have you heard people say your aren’t being a good Christian if you don’t feel the spirit moving in your or you are doubting your faith? How often have your friends mentioned that they can’t drink something or eat something, or they have to do something, to show God that they are faithful Christians?

Beloved, these are human inventions, with no Scriptural basis, which when you answer them in the negative can begin to lead you astray to false belief and despair. Finally, St Paul addresses elemental spirits of the world; often understood as evil spirits Paul addresses non-Christian religions and cults, those whose own religious teaching seeks to convert you and if statistics are to be believed are very effective at this.

It is against just these things that St. Paul says be watchful!  Instead Paul directs you and me to the very Gospel which he preached from the beginning, the true Gospel, not of men but of God. It is to this that we must cling and in this that we can resist the temptations of the World.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Beloved, most of you were baptized as children in the faith, though some because Christians as adults.  It is here that Paul says you received Christ Jesus as Lord, the Holy Spirit by the Word of God working faith in you, not through intellectual argumentation.  This seed of faith being planted in you Almighty God is nurturing it through the Holy Spirit that you are rooted and built up and established in the faith.  One who is thus planted cannot be easily removed from the foundation despite the best efforts of the enemy.

And the very essence of this seed of the Gospel is not based upon any works on your part, but wholly and completely on the Work of God in Christ Jesus. St. Paul writes, “ For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. This statement the whole fullness of the deity dwells bodily, is the very true statement that Jesus, is true God and true Man, the Whole deity of God in human flesh.  If this were not true, then Jesus death would benefit you nothing.  What is more is that Paul addresses salvation by works stating, 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. Circumcision was long a sign of having been included in God’s saving covenant, yet now in Christ, baptism not only supersedes circumcision; by it in Christ you have died to sin, and forgiven in your baptism and thus raised to new life in Christ.

St. Paul also addresses our own actions in our salvation stating, “13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. We who are spiritually dead can do nothing to save ourselves, not even believe.  Instead our salvation must come from outside of you, thus Paul says God made you alive together with him, having forgiven you all your trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against you with its legal demands. This was done on the cross as Jesus himself nailed your sin, your faithlessness, your rejection of him to the cross with the very nails which pierced his flesh.  Thus even the faith by which you would receive this forgiveness, life, and salvation is but a gift not some intellectual act on your part.

As if to put the final nail in the cross (so to speak), St. Paul, points out to you Christ’s victory over those who would lead you astray through false teaching, “15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities[b] and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”  By his death and his resurrection, Jesus has made a laughing stock of their heresy, pointing instead to his own work, and his own satisfaction of the law of God on your behalf, his payment of your debt and his death for your life.

For all this then St. Paul says, “Be watching out” for there are those who would take you  captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world yet JESUS HAS MADE YOU ALIVE, FORGIVEN YOU ALL YOUR SINS, AND CANCELED YOUR RECORD OF DEBT! Amen!

Sermon for July 17 2016 “It is better to receive, then to give” Luke 10:38-42

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus[a] entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary.[b] Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

If I asked all of you here this morning what the purpose of worship is, my guess is that many of you would respond as most Christians do, to praise God.  What if I told you that this answer is only half of the real answer, and the lesser important part at that?!  In our Gospel reading this morning Jesus demonstrates to Mary, to Martha, and to us, that the primary purpose of worship is to receive, and it is only from this reception that we can give in return.

For many Christians the essence of worship is to praise God, to serve God, to make God happy, and while these aren’t bad in and of themselves, Almighty God doesn’t need us to do them, in fact he has multitudes of angels who do it far better than we.  Also, Almighty God isn’t like a pagan God who depends upon our worship for his own sustenance, a divine being who can’t take care of himself.  Rather the essence of worship for Christians is to receive from, rather than give to, God.  The Lutheran reformers focused on Gottesdienst (God’s service) the idea that we come to God’s house to be served by him, after all isn’t that what the host of the house is to do, serve the guest?

Our Gospel reading finds Jesus having entered the house of Mary and Martha, long time friends of Jesus and supporters in his ministry.  Martha fills her role appropriately busying herself with duties of a good hostess; prepping food, tidying up, making her house presentable for her guest.  Luke addresses the effect of her work saying, “Martha was distracted with much serving.” In other words, her hen-like hustle doesn’t contribute to the cause, rather it inhibits her hearing what Jesus is saying, what is worse is that her attitude detracts more from Jesus’ message as she complains to Jesus about her “lazy” sister and demands, “Tell her then to help me.”  Normally, Martha’s service orientation would be quite correct, however, in this instance she fails to recognize what Mary already gets.  Wherever Jesus is, there he is the host.  There will be plenty of time for her to get out plates of cookies, and a nice pot of earl grey.  But now, Jesus is the host and what he offers is far better than a light luncheon.  Jesus illustrates how true this is as he responds to Martha’s demand saying, ““Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”  With these words, Jesus points out that all of this busyness is causing her to miss out on just what he has to give, and that because Mary is content to sit and let Jesus serve her, he will not take that away.

Sadly, many Christians have this same mentality as Martha in our text.  But instead of Jesus coming to their houses (which by the way many will not let him in either in prayer or in personal devotions) they take this mentality when they come to Jesus’ home.  While we often talk a good game about this being God’s house, the truth is that many Christians see this as our house, and that we have to invite Jesus to come and be among us, that we might placate him and please him with our praise and worship; the only way we know that it’s working is if we have this excited feeling or this burning feeling in our hearts. They like Martha are “distracted with much serving” their worship little different from the Prophets of Baal.

Yet, as Jesus points out that Mary has chosen the good portion, it is best for us to set aside our busyness and our need to be good hosts, and recognize that Jesus is the host, and what he gives is the only thing necessary; Himself!  Jesus gives Himself to you today in His house, he gives himself to you in his own word and in his own holy sacrament.  But he doesn’t simply give you his own holy presence; some ethereal essence floating about in the building that we hope to appease.  Rather he is here truly and concretely.  He speaks to you very clearly in his own word read and preached to you, in the same way as he did for Mary.  He announces his own forgiveness to you which he himself purchased for you on the cross, and which he gives to you in that same body and blood given and shed for you in his own holy supper, for you see this is HIS house and HE is your host.  And he serves you faithfully in these ways.  This is why you are commanded to come to his house, not that you may serve him, but that HE may serve you, for this is the one thing necessary for you!

Now you might say, but Pastor, aren’t we supposed to serve God?  Yes, in fact St. Paul reminds us, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” But notice our service is not ours, rather it is God who serves through us.  Therefore he gives us the words by which we might, thank, praise, serve, and obey him in our very liturgy which is nothing less than God’s Word itself. He also permits us to serve him, by using our hands and hearts, to care, not for him, like some pagan God, but for our neighbour who needs are help.  So even our very service to God, which of our selves is little more than distraction, is simply another gift to us and our neighbour.

It also alleviates the despair and doubt that also comes with “being distracted by much serving.” For we are never sure if we are serving God well enough, and our only means of evaluating it is that exuberant feeling we hope to get.  Yet for the Christian we find comfort in the knowledge that God himself serves us and our neighbour, not just through our hands and hearts, but with his own holy word and sacraments, which forgive us, renew us and lead us, so that we may delight in God’s will and walk in His ways to the glory of His holy name.

Beloved in Christ, Jesus has called you into his house this day, not that you might serve him, but that he might serve you with his gracious gifts.  He invites you to sit at his feet and listen, for this is the one thing necessary, this is your good portion and it will not be taken away from you!  Amen.

 

Sermon for July 10 2016 “Jesus is your good neighbour” Luke 10:25-37

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.35 And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

It happens all the time; you’re driving down the road and a car has pulled off with steam rising from under the hood.  Or perhaps the car has gone off the road and lay on its roof the wheels still spinning.  As you near the scene myriad thoughts run through our head, “Should I stop and help?… No, I’ll just let them be….  Someone else will come by…  Oh look, someone has a phone, they are calling for help…  I’m off the hook…  But maybe I should stop, they might be hurt…  But they could be a criminal, I don’t want them to hurt me.” With these thoughts all being voiced at once your own car passes by the scene without your notice.  Finally as you look in the rear view mirror, you console yourself regarding your failure to assist with the knowledge that it is both too late and too difficult to go back and help. Not very neighbourly, now is it?  Such behaviour calls into question whether or not we “do love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” Doesn’t it?

The truth is that our discussion here this morning is little different from Jesus’ own discussion in our Gospel reading.  We, like the lawyer, often like to see ourselves as good people, sure a little flawed, but in ourselves good enough in our works and ways to deserve to enter eternal life, on merit alone.  In fact, we are quite good at obeying the letter of the law aren’t we, the spirit of the law on the other hand, well let’s not discuss that.

So we like the lawyer often come before Jesus asking, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  We are hopeful that Jesus will give us a list of how-to’s which will be easy to complete thus confirming our self-righteousness.  So when Jesus answers the lawyer saying, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” We answer with the lawyer, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” We secretly rejoice that on the surface Jesus doesn’t ask us to do anything too hard.  Now many Christians leave this answer as is, living happy in our ordinary lives, for ignorance is bliss.  However, as Christians we ought to go deeper, and when we do the profundity of Jesus’ answer is more than we can fathom.  So, trying to confirm that we have all of our t’s crossed and i’s dotted we also ask, “Who is my neighbour” after all we want to know just what is expected of us and also how to do the bare minimum to satisfy God.

You see, Jesus’ parable isn’t just for the lawyer, it is also for you and for me.  Jesus’ parable, like our own example gets to the very heart of our sin, and Jesus’ compassion.  Jesus tells of the man beaten and left for dead and the two men who pass him by, excuses leading the way.  How often do we do this, not only with broken down vehicles, but with broken down people?  How often we lack compassion for the sinner before us, and walk over to the other side of the road, unwilling to speak the words of forgiveness and grace, the gospel of Jesus, to bind up their wounds and sooth their souls.  No, often we would rather walk on by turned away by the disgust of their sin, or by our understanding that while they need help, someone else will get to them.  How many in our world will die in their sin, never once having heard the Gospel because everyone who passed by failed to act?

What makes Jesus parable all the more poignant is that the “hero” if you will is an outcast from polite society, a Samaritan, hated by the Jews, amazingly this Samaritan nature is becoming more the place of Christians in our modern society is it not?

Thanks be to God, however, that Jesus parable ultimately isn’t about us a Pharisee, lawyer, or Samaritan, but us as the beaten man, and Jesus as the Samaritan.  For we are indeed the beaten man according to our sinful nature, we have been beaten and left to die by Satan himself. While those religions of works would pass by us, wanting to avoid our unrighteousness, at best only encouraging us to save ourselves, Jesus himself, comes to us in our time of need. Jesus comes to you, beaten and afflicted by our sin, and sorrow, our unrighteousness, yes, even our lack of compassion for others in need, for Jesus words “You go, and do likewise,” speak also to you.

Yet in his mercy Jesus has compassion on you.  Jesus, looks at your guilt and your doubt, and binds up your wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He does this because Jesus himself fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, but it wasn’t just Pharisees and soldiers which did this, it was also you and me, our sin, striking Jesus, afflicting him, driving him mercilessly to the cross, where he would die for it.  But in this case Jesus isn’t left half dead, rather Jesus truly died for you.  Jesus’ death, therefore is restorative and redemptive for you.

It should then be of little surprise that Jesus describes in detail the elements the Samaritan uses to care for the man.  Oil has always been seen as a restorative, the fats aiding recovery, and so not coincidently the early Christians used oil in holy baptism to remind the newly baptized that in baptism the Holy Spirit also restores the heart and heals the baptized man.  Wine in Jesus’ parable also directs us to the use of wine as a painkiller and as a cleaning product to destroy the germs which would infect wounds.  This wine, Jesus’ uses in his own Holy Supper to do the same for you, forgiving you your sin and strengthening and preserving you in the true faith unto life everlasting.

Having therefore bound up your wounds Jesus have brought you to an inn, his church, for you, Emmaus Lutheran Church, he has given his deposit not of coins, but of the Holy Spirit to care for you until his return, when he will come and gather you and all believers to himself.

Beloved in Christ, Jesus does not pass aside as we do, rather has proves himself to be your good neighbour, binding up your wounds and restoring you by his word and sacraments.  Amen!

Sermon for June 26 2016 “Vengeance belongs to God Luke 9:52-56

And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.

It is quite common for us to become defensive when we feel that others have wronged us.  It is even more common, however, that we become defensive when we feel that others have wronged those we love.  Our defensiveness in both circumstances often ranges from a disgusted look to physical attack and because we believe that vengeance is ours and it is our right to hurt them back.  And this itself stems from our own sinfulness which just compounds the sin of others.  This is the case with our Gospel reading this morning.  We hear that Jesus had sent some disciples on ahead of him to prepare for his entrance into a Samaritan village.  While this would be normal to announce the arrival of any visiting dignitary, it would be of even more importance because the Samaritans and the Jews were in a love/hate relationship; they loved to hate each other, so sending messengers to prepare the way for Jesus’ entrance into the village would hopefully help to smooth over any concerns with Jesus’ arrival.  Apparently this didn’t work.  The people didn’t welcome Jesus coming, but not because of who he is, but because of where Jesus is going.  He was heading to the Jewish holy city, Jerusalem, which demonstrated to the Samaritans that this Jesus must only be there to cause strife rather than bring peace.  But it isn’t Jesus who is about to cause strife in our Gospel reading, but Jesus followers.  They are angry that their Lord has been “harmed”, in their view, by being refused entry into the village. James and John justify their request of Jesus  “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” on the idea that the Messiah’s reputation was hurt, that he deserves better honour than this.  But in reality it isn’t Jesus that is their real concern, but themselves.  They are miffed that the one that they associate with has been turned away and this reflects on them.  Jesus of course understands this and instead of giving them permission he rebukes them, he calls them out for their sin, he points out that they are wrong rather than the Samaritans.  This must hurt their feelings but they need to be aware that it is not their responsibility to defend Jesus nor protect Jesus, rather it is his responsibility to defend and protect them.  In fact soon Jesus will say that if he so desired, his father would send a multitude of angels to his defense.  What is more is that God says “Vengeance is mine!”  Vengeance does not belong to us, it is not our right to take out vengeance on those who have wronged us or our loved ones. Remember these are Jesus followers, these are his disciples of the prince of peace, their faith in him should bear the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.  Instead these disciples should realize that  If there is a need for vengeance Almighty God will dispense it in greater measure and greater power than we can ever muster.

As if this is not enough, it is important  for Jesus disciples then, and for us today, to realize that we also are deserving of vengeance, whether because we do not welcome him, or because of any one of the other myriad of sins on our resumes.  In fact were it God’s desire to pour out his vengeance upon sinful man not one of us could escape.  For just as we often fail to exhibit these fruits of the Spirit that St. Paul describes, we also do good job of highlighting one or more of the works of the flesh that St. Paul mentions a few verses before: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. These things are just as great an offense against Jesus as failing to welcoming him and thus deserve as great a punishment.

But it is not Jesus desire that any should endure God’s vengeance and punishment.  It is not Jesus desire that anyone suffer the wrath which should rightfully be poured out on them because of sin.  For this reason 1 Timothy says that God desires all men be saved.  Yes, this even means you and me!  It is this very desire which leads Jesus on his course to Jerusalem, this course which starts this whole controversy.  Jesus is going their precisely to endure in himself the very vengeance that James and John want to call down on the Samaritans.  But Jesus does not deserve this vengeance, he did no wrong to anyone, but our sin wrongs him greatly.  Yet Jesus goes to Jerusalem to suffer all of God’s vengeance, to endure all of God’s wrath, far beyond simple fire from heaven.  Jesus endures being forsaken by the father, God’s greatest punishment, for you and me!  On the cross, Jesus pays the ultimate price in our place so that we will not suffer the vengeance that we ourselves might like to call down on those who harm us. By this very action Jesus demonstrates in himself the very fruit of the spirit that St. Paul mentions, forgiving all of our many works of the flesh.

What is more is that having endured this vengeance Jesus is also raised from the dead.  This means that this vengeance has already been suffered once for all.  There is no need for God to pour out his vengeance again. Instead Jesus is raised from the dead so that eternal death is no longer what we deserve.  There is also then no need for us to seek out vengeance against those who wrong us, there is no need for us to try to compound the harm caused by others with our own desire to harm them in return, for this is no fruit of the spirit but a work of the flesh.

Thanks be to God that He has already poured out his vengeance on Jesus so that we instead can receive only his blessed gifts.  Amen!

Sermon for June 19 2016 “He commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man! Luke 8:26-39

 26 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission.33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

In 2010 a horror movie called the last exorcism came out purporting to be a documentary of  Pentecostal preacher who was known for casting out demons (but who in reality was a charlatan) facing for the first time a real demon possession, and a battle which would cost him his life.  Sadly, this is often the reality of “spiritual warfare” in the church, charismatic preachers, mouthing words of binding Satan, but if faced with a real demon would shudder in their boots, and with good reason.  Fighting the demonic forces is no kind of play, it is serious business, and there are only a few Catholics priests, and Lutheran pastors who have been trained for this kind of war fare.  Yet there are smaller battles that take place, real exorcisms which occur on a daily basis, which you have both seen and experienced, exorcisms which find there basis in our Gospel reading this morning, exorcisms where JESUS HAS COMMANDED THE IMPURE SPIRITS TO COME OUT OF YOU.

When Jesus and his disciples arrive on the other part of the lake they are met by a demon possessed man from the nearby town.  We don’t know if this poor man saw Jesus coming or happened to be along the shore having been driven there by the unclean spirit.  Luke tells us that For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs.  This would appropriate considering the work of the demonic forces from the time of the fall.  The unclean spirit reduced the man to nothing, literally to death, as that is how he is before God in his possession, and thus his appearance is appropriate for one who is dead, naked and abiding among the tombs.

Having seen Jesus, the demon (as they all do) recognizes that Jesus is the chosen one of God who has come to defeat them and immediately pleads not to be sent into the abyss, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!”  Now this isn’t the regular abode of demons, rather this is the place reserved for Satan, demons, and all unbelievers on the last day.  So we can understand the devil’s plea.  Interestingly Jesus response is not what we might think.  Jesus questions the demon asking “What is your name?”  There are some who say that you can only control a demon if you know it’s name, but this isn’t the case.  Jesus inquiry                              .

Legion is a very telling name, for the latin term implies a military force of up to 6000.  While this could simply be the name, our text demonstrates more that this is a description of the number of demons inhabiting the man.  Yet their multitude means nothing to Jesus, for even as powerful as they are, Jesus is he by whom all things, even they, are created.  So their fear is very, very real, as we hear And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

Jesus gives them permission to enter the pigs when they leave.  Notice that their leaving the man is a foregone conclusion, there will be no battle, there is no negotiation, they leave the man and enter the pigs, only to be carried by them into the sea, which the ancient world understood to be the realm of chaos and an abyss.

Surely this seems to be a rather “mundane” exorcism compared to the Hollywood horror movies, but the effects are far reaching and far more powerful.  When the demons leave the man, Luke writes the man is found sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind, now cleaned and pressed and dressed, this man is restored to his right relationship with his god.  No longer is he naked and fit only to live in the abode of the dead.  In fact, he is now completely restored to his proper place. Now he, who once opposed all things divine, and certainly the divine one, Jesus, desires only to be where Jesus is, to remain in the place and presence of Almighty God.

Yet Jesus does not allow him to, for Jesus is preparing for his own last exorcism, in his death on the cross, both to pay for your sins, and also to redeem and restore you, defeating for you sin, death, and the power of the devil.  For in Jesus death, Satan and his demons have already been judged, sentenced to the abyss.  For Jesus himself like the demon possessed man was also found naked in the abode of death, both as he hung on the cross, and then laid into the tomb.  With his words, “It is finished” the defeat of the demonic forces was accomplished, and their fate was sealed.

Therefore because of Jesus last exorcism,  this exorcism in our text is not the only exorcism which is heard today, nor is it the only exorcism of which you have been a part.  Here this morning, little cute, Tobias was also exorcised of the unclean spirit which was in him from his conception.  Here today you heard the words,

This are not simply some ceremonial words which I made up to make the baptism sound cooler.  These words are the very command of Jesus casting out the unclean spirit, which bring Tobias, born naked into the world of the dead, from the realm of death in to the world of eternal life.  These words combined with mundane tap water do not seem impressive, but truly they restore Tobias to his proper place and seal him into the family of God.

These are also the same words which purged from you your own unclean spirit, whether you were baptized as an infant, a child, or an adult.  For with these words, I baptize you in the name of the father, son, and holy spirit, Christ himself cast out from you the unclean spirit which would have driven you with it into the abyss of everlasting hell.  Now your mind also has been restored and you have been properly dressed in the robe of righteousness.  This is why Christians have for centuries traditionally used baptismal gowns as symbols of this robe of righteousness.  This is also why the ancient Christians properly were baptized naked entering the water themselves exposed both in body and sin only to emerge from the baptismal waters cleansed from their sin, restored in their soul, and were then clothed in white robes which were now rightfully theirs in Christ.

Having been restored both in body and soul, Jesus gathers you that abide with him.  You do not need to beg to follow him, rather he calls you by that same exorcising word to come to him again and again that you might continue to hear how much Jesus has done for you!

Therefore beloved in the Lord, while spiritual warfare is real and dangerous, not a trifle with which to be played, you are assured that in Jesus this warfare is already won in you, JESUS HAS COMMANDED THE IMPURE SPIRITS TO COME OUT OF YOU. Amen!

 

Sermon for June 12 2016 “He Cancelled all debt” Luke 7:36-50

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” 41 “A certain money-lender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning towards the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Many of us here understand the concept of debt; whether mortgage and car, or credit card and student loan, virtually all of us have at one time owed something to someone.  And try as we might we just can’t find true peace as long as that debt is hanging over our heads. It is even harder for us when our debt is unmanageable, when either by our fault or the fault of others, our debt has become so great that it can never be paid.  Often, in our world, when this happens we file for bankruptcy and those to whom we owe our debt end up having to settle for little or no payment, but after a few years we can begin to build up our credit again.  But Jesus example here isn’t involving earthly debt, but spiritual debt, and this is a debt for which there are no bankruptcy laws or payday loans, yet this is the debt which Jesus pays, for unrighteous woman, a self-righteous man, and you!

It is of no surprise that Jesus is asked to have dinner at Simon the Pharisee’s house.  It was common that a travelling Rabbi would be a guest of the upper crust of society, both to demonstrate honor and respect for the holy man, but also to gain his measure.  After all, Jesus isn’t the only Rabbi out there and each one would have reputations which preceded themselves.  So Jesus is invited to Simon’s house for a great feast in his honor.  Many would be there of every status level, also to demonstrate Simon’s own status to the attendees.  What is interesting is that of everyone there only one has actually come to see Jesus, and this one has no status at all.  As a woman she would have a more humble place in society in general, but Luke tells us that she is no ordinary woman, this one is a sinner.  Now while it is true that all gathered there are sinners, it seems that her was publically known.  It is not appropriate for us to speculate regarding her sin, but it seems serious enough to warrant Simon’s disdain.  It’s not enough that she has come into Simon’s house, now she comes and has the nerve to approach Simon’s guest.  The fact that Jesus doesn’t recoil at his touch and cast her out, tells Simon everything he needs to know about Jesus, that he is no rabbi that deserves his reputation.  What makes it worse is how she is engaging Jesus, not only is she touching him, she’s weeping and sobbing wetting his feet with her tears, and then wiping his feet with her hair.  This gives us the understanding that her head is uncovered.  While many today freak out over the use of hijab’s by Muslim women, head covering in general by women in most cultures during Jesus day was quite common.  To remove your head covering gave even further credence to this woman’s sinful reputation.

While Simon is mumbling under his breath, Jesus speaks quite clearly regarding Simon’s thoughts, but Jesus doesn’t bring public attention either to Simon’s thoughts or the woman’s sin. Rather, in compassion for both, Jesus assumes his Rabbi role to demonstrate who he really is.  The parable Jesus tells has ultimate importance for more than Simon and the Woman, for Jesus is also speaking about you in his tale.  41 “A certain money-lender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” For the sake of understanding let me translate, 41 “A certain money-lender had two debtors. One owed five hundred days wages, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Now we are tempted to focus on the size of the debt, and this isn’t wrong, because Jesus himself addresses this, but let’s not miss 6 important words, he cancelled the debt of both.  Neither debtor could afford to pay their debt, neither had the money, and according to the law, could be imprisoned until they paid off their debt (which they couldn’t pay in prison) or sold off as slaves to pay the debt.  The fact that this money lender cancelled the debt of both means that both are forgiven an unpayable debt.  Why Jesus brings out the difference however is to demonstrate the difference in the responses to this forgiveness.  The one knew that there was no chance that the debt could be paid, while the other still held out hope that he could do enough to pay it himself.

Now before Simon, Jesus parable is played out.  Hear again Jesus words, ““Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Now there is much misunderstanding regarding Jesus words, but listen clearly.  This woman demonstrates to Jesus all of the appropriate behaviours of the host of the house when a guest comes in, doing everything Simon should but doesn’t.  In this regard we hear Jesus words, Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much.  Notice that Jesus isn’t conditioning her forgiveness on her love, rather he is stating that her love is a result of her forgiveness, for this is the appropriate reaction of the forgiven sinner.  Very often however our response is like Simon’s, we love little, because we are forgiven little.  How often do we deny the true depravity of our condition and the simple fact that outside of Christ our only guarantee is hell.  How often do we take for granted our forgiveness, busying ourselves with our reputations or our desires, rather than truly celebrating the forgiveness that we are given in Christ.  How many regularly separate themselves from receiving the blessed gifts of forgiveness life and salvation all to prove a point or to take advantage of the weather.

Yet the reality dear brothers and sisters in Christ is that you have been forgiven much!  All of your sin, the burden of which would crush you, all of your debt, so profound that you could never pay it off, the debt is now cancelled, all of it has been paid, not because of anything you have done, but because of Jesus.  Jesus own blood has paid your debt, and you are free.  I often think that our baptism certificates ought to be stamped with the words, “Paid in full!”  So this is truly a reason to celebrate!  And so Jesus throws a feast in his house.  He gathers here, all those who cling to this forgiveness, and he does not fail in his job as host.  As you gather in His house, Jesus doesn’t simple give you water to wash your feet, rather he himself has cleansed you by water and word, both inside and out.  Jesus wipes away the tears of your confession, not with his hair, but with his gracious words, I forgive you all your sins.  Better than giving you a kiss of peace, and anointing you with oil Jesus has given you the Holy Spirit that you might know the peace that surpasses all understanding.   And he welcomes you to his table that you might taste and see that the Lord is good!

Beloved in the Lord, Jesus has cancelled all debts, you are forgiven, not because of what you do, but what Jesus has done for you.  Amen!

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