Month: July, 2018

“The Eye (I) of the Storm”

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 12); July 29, 2018 / Deacon Rex Watt

Genesis 9:8-17 / Ephesians 3:14-21 / Mark 6:45-56

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. +

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dear Saints of Redeemer.  When things are going good in life, we often say life is like “smooth sailing.”  But things don’t always go good in life.  When we encounter things in life that are not so good, we’ll say that we are going through some “rough waters.”  And if something really bad happens, we may even say that we are in the “midst of a storm.”  Some of you this morning might be experiencing smooth sailing.  Others of you may be going through some rough waters.  I know that there are more than a couple of you who are in the midst of a storm.  I want all of you to know today, that wherever you find yourself, Jesus is here.  He is with you.  He’s “in your boat.”

Our sermon hymn, “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me” was written by the Rev. Edward Hopper in the 19th century when he was pastor of a New York church for mariners.  Not the baseball team!  While his parishioners often experienced the literal perils of the sea, many Christians have come to love this hymn, which speaks metaphorically of Jesus guiding us through life.  “Jesus, Savior, pilot me Over life’s tempestuous sea; Unknown waves before me roll, Hiding rock and treach’rous shoal. Chart and compass come from Thee.  Jesus, Savior, pilot me.” (LSB 715:1)

These days, when many of us fly more often than we sail, Jesus as our pilot might suggest a different image.  In the old days, ships often found themselves trapped in the midst of storms that suddenly blew in.  Nowhere to go but to ride them out.  When you fly, radar can often enable the pilot to avoid such storms, and then guide the aircraft around them altogether.  I suppose we’d all like our Jesus to be that kind of pilot, wouldn’t we?  But it doesn’t work that way in life, does it?  No, it does not.  Our gospel lesson for today tells us that Jesus doesn’t steer us clear of every storm, but He is right there with us in the middle of them.

In the larger context of our gospel lesson for this morning, we see that Jesus’ disciples had just returned from their first ministry journey, successfully casting out demons and healing many who were sick.  That story was the Gospel lesson from three weeks ago.  It had been a long day, and Jesus, as you heard in last week’s Gospel, urged them to, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”  And so they did.  However, their “R & R” was short lived.  As soon as they got to their “desolate place” they were inundated by an army of people.  After Jesus had taught them, he fed them, 5,000 men, plus others.  Can you imagine how long it must have taken Jesus’ disciples to distribute fish and bread to over 5,000 people?  Let alone taking up the baskets full of leftovers!  It had been a long day indeed.  A really long day.

Our text for today picks up at the end of that really long day with Jesus sending his disciples back into the boat and instructing them to go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida.  The disciples do what Jesus asks.  Then Jesus goes up to a mountain to pray.  Surely Jesus, who created the wind and rain and sea, could arrange for some “smooth sailing” for his disciples after such a long day.  Jesus was praying alright, but apparently not for fair weather!

Jesus does not steer us clear of every storm in life.  He’s not the airline pilot.  Contrary to some of the popular books in Christian bookstores, Jesus didn’t come to give you your best life now.  Your best life is going to come later!  This life, the life we have now, here, in this flesh, is sometimes filled with not only rough waters, but downright storms.  And the reason for that my brothers and sisters, is Sin.  Not just your own personal sins, which may indeed cause rough waters or storms in your life, but Sin, with a capital “S”.  We live in a fallen world.  There is no promise anywhere in Holy Scripture where we, as Christian people, are exempt from the trials and tribulations of this world.  We Christians suffer the same illnesses, the same diseases, apparently the same divorce rate, and the same percentage of car crashes as the rest of the population.  And last time I checked, we die at the same rate (100%) as everyone else too!  And our deaths are not particularly less painful or easier than the deaths suffered by unbelievers.  No, Jesus doesn’t steer us clear of every storm in life.

The disciples were in the boat.  They were doing what Jesus had told them to do, but they were “making headway painfully, for the wind was against them.”  Now you’d think that a boat with at least a third of its occupants, if not half, who were professional fishermen would be able to weather some rough water.  But this storm was getting the best of them.  The Gospel of John tells us that when they had rowed three for four miles, Jesus comes to them walking on the water.  When the disciples saw Jesus, they cried out in terror, for they thought He was a ghost.  “But immediately” our text says, “He spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart; it is I.  Do not be afraid.’ And He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased.”

You may be going along in life, doing the vocation that Jesus has given you to do when storms arise.  Sometimes, they blow in out of nowhere; like an acute medical condition that throws you for a loop; or a diagnosis that you didn’t want to hear.  Sometimes, they are the result of your own doing, or maybe I should say your own undoing; like a failure to live according to God’s Commandments.  Sometimes it’s Sin (capital “S”) that brings those storms; sometimes it’s your own sin that brings those storms.  Just as the disciples were struggling mightily against the wind and the sea, you struggle in the midst of your storms.  But I want you to see something in our text that I believe is God’s word for us today.  Jesus came to the disciples; He spoke words of peace and comfort to them; and He got into the boat with them.

Jesus came to the disciples.  He not only came to the disciples, He came “for” them.  Had He not come to them, they’d probably still be rowing their boat ashore!  They’d been rowing for hours and making little headway.  And you, while you travel through this storm we call life; with its rough waters; its squalls; and even its hurricanes, Jesus comes to you.  God sent His Son, your dear Jesus, into your flesh, your sin-soaked flesh, to rescue you from your certain doom.  This Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and buried, for you.  And it didn’t end there!  As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Rom4:25), this Jesus, your Jesus, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty.  From thence He will come, not only to judge the living and the dead, but to you, for you, right now, in the midst of your life’s storms.  Just as God delivered Noah and his family through the waters of the flood; just as Jesus came walking on top of the stormy waters to his disciples; Jesus comes to you in the waters of your Baptism to deliver you from death to life.  He takes waters of peril and waters of destruction and turns those waters into a water of life.  Yes, Jesus came to, and for, His disciples; and also He comes to you…and for you.

When the disciples cried out in fear, Jesus spoke to them the comforting words of the Gospel.  “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”  Can there be any more blessed and comforting words than these?  Do you remember when you were a child and you experienced your first major thunder and lightening storm?  You’d been put to bed and the lights were out.  Loud crashes of thunder and bright flashes of lightening had you scared stiff.  You cried out for your parents and your mother came into the room and said, “It’s OK honey, mommies here. You don’t need to be afraid.”  Or maybe you were the parent in this scenario, and as you spoke those words you saw the calm come over your child.  Jesus says to you today, in the midst of your storm, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

“It is I.”  In the Greek, this phrase is “ego eimi” which are the same words as the famous “I Am” sayings of Jesus.  These are the words that God spoke to Moses at the burning bush when Moses asked God what His name was.  “Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” What shall I say to them?’”  God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”  And He said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14)  This Jesus, who came walking on the stormy sea toward his disciples, is none other than the God of creation who created water in the first place.  A few chapters earlier, on a previous crossing of the sea He spoke the words, “Peace! Be still!” and there was a great calm.  A little later on He spoke the words, “Little girl, I say to you, arise” and He brought a dead girl back to life.  Last week He spoke some words over two fish and five loaves of bread and fed over 5,000 people.  Today, He speaks these words, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” not only to the disciples in the boat, but to you.  Your Jesus, the creator of all creation; the One who has conquered sin, death and the devil all for you, comes to you right in the middle of your storm and says, “Peace! Arise! Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

When I was in the Air Force, I did my electronics training at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi.  Back then the main purpose of the base was electronics training.  Today, Keesler is home to the US Air Force’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, better known as the “Hurricane Hunters.”  Their mission is to fly right into the heart of all kinds of tropical storms, including category 5 hurricanes to gauge their power and movements.  From what I understand, it’s quite the ride into and through the storm, right up until they enter the eye of the storm.  In the eye of the storm, it’s perfect calm.  Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus is the “I” of your storm.  Jesus, the “I am”, is with you in the midst of your storm, whatever it is.

 

Mark tells us that when Jesus got into the boat with them, “the wind ceased.”  For the disciples, when Jesus entered the boat, their nemesis was defeated.  When you, dear Saints, received Jesus, your nemesis was defeated.  The real storm of your life: Sin, death and the devil, has been defeated.  When Jesus hung on that Cross on Calvary, nearly 2,000 years ago bearing the sins of the world, your sins, my sins, He was defeating your nemesis, my nemesis.  When He cried out, “It is finished.”  It was!  Believe His words to you today, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”   He is with you.  He’s in your boat.  He will get you to the other side.

“When at last I near the shore And the fearful breakers roar Twixt me and the peaceful rest, Then, while leaning on Thy breast, May I hear Thee say to me, ‘Fear not, I will pilot thee.’” (LSB 517:3)

 + In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. +

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

 

 

“Compassion In Action”

Pastor Don Mossman

Text: Mark 6:30-44           Theme: Compassion in Action

Introduction

The story is told of a seminary student who was invited to give his first sermon before his home congregation.  The gospel reading for the Sunday was the miracle of the feeding of the 5000.  The young man was honored and took the opportunity to write his best sermon and to commit it to memory to do a commendable job of preaching before friends, parents, grandparents and the curious of course.  He stepped up to the pulpit in a dramatic fashion and said, “Jesus took 5000 loaves and 2000 fishes, and he fed five people!”  He also had the leftovers picked up.  He paused dramatically and continued, “Could you do that?”  At that point everyone roared with laughter, and he couldn’t imagine what was going on.  Finally, the pastor stood up and explained to the young seminarian what he had done wrong.  Of course, the congregation and pastor was very forgiving and said, “Look, everyone makes mistakes.  Forget about it.  You work on your sermon and next Sunday try it again.”  Next Sunday the young seminarian begins again: “Jesus took five loaves and two fish and fed 5000”.  Then after a dramatic pause he asks, “Could you do that”?  At which someone from the congregation stood up and said, “Sure, I’d do it with the baskets of food left over from last week.”

  1. He has compassion on them
  2. Like sheep without a shepherd
  3. The disciples had just returned from the Galilean towns and countryside after speaking of the kingdom of God and casting out demons. According to vs 30, they give Jesus a report of their many activities. After hearing the report, Jesus wants to get them away for a little R&R.  “Come away by yourself to a desolate place and rest awhile.”  So they get into a boat to sail to a quiet, restful place on the shores of Lake Galilee.  But the crowds somehow had determined where Jesus would make land and run ahead of them.  Before the boat even got to shore there was a huge crowd waiting for Jesus.  When Jesus went ashore “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
  4. He had compassion on them. Now there is a difference between “feeling sorry” for someone or something, and “compassion”. When I see those commercials sponsored by the SPCA and those sad-looking dogs and cats, I’m moved almost to tears.  Or, when we see some child hurting on TV, one of my possible responses might be, “poor kid.”  Compassion, however, is more than feelings; it means suffering with someone in the other person’s misfortune to the extent that deeds of mercy begin.

EG:  Shakespeare – The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene 1) – see quote

  1. And that is the kind of mercy and compassion Jesus has on people. His mercy is such that sinners are forgiven, the lost are found, and the hurting in body and soul are nourished and fed.  The religious and political leaders of the day, the scribes, Pharisees, lawyers and Sadducees weren’t shepherding their people.  Rather they left the flock to predators of sin and despair and false hope.  There was no mercy there.  There was no involvement in their lives.
  2. They Smell Like Sheep 
  3. A few years’ back I read a book written by Dr. Lynn Andersen entitled They Smell like Sheep. It was written especially to challenge clergy to set aside the illusion of professional ministry in order to do the difficult and dirty, yet, ultimately beautiful work of living with and loving God’s people. I other words,  spend your time among the sheep, following them, leading them, protecting them, loving them, in order to fulfill Christ’s commandment to “love one another as I have loved you.”
  4. And feeds them spiritually and physically
  5. Mission and ministry. 
  6. The presence of Jesus among the crowds should not surprise us. He loves leads and rescues.  And as those so loved are given the ultimate taste of compassion imaginable – victory over sin, death and given the ultimate gift of eternal life with him in heaven.
  7. Our response is to love as he loves, how he loves us and the crowds. Jesus is concerned for the whole person, soul as well as body. It’s tempting to think that we as individuals or as a small congregation we are too small to make a difference.

EG: Remember the story of the starfish on the ocean shore?  – Person goes along ocean shore picking up starfish and throwing them back in the ocean.  Stranger watching.  “You can’t make a difference to starfish.  There is a mile of shoreline to address.”  Person picks another up, throws it into ocean and says, “Made a difference to that one.” 

  1. RLC has stepped-out to make a difference, as small as it is: Ferndale Food Bank, Lighthouse Mission, and Compassion, Prayer Shawls, Quilting for people in Bellingham and around the world, Prayer warriors, Love, Inc., and others who perform individually outside of the congregation or without recognition. We do have a number of people at RLC who smell like sheep.

Conclusion

Jesus smiles and says, “Bring what you have to me.”  He’ll take us, blesses us, breaks us for his purpose, and then give us to the world for the benefit and healing of many in body and soul.  Praise God that he called us to receive his compassion, his mercy.  With him there is always enough to go around – enough compassion, enough forgiveness, enough of Jesus for every heart and soul.

sdg

 

“Not Good Enough, but Special”

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, July 15, 2018

Text:  Amos 7:7-15 / Ephesians 1:3-14 / Mark 6: 14-29

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. +

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dear Saints of Redeemer,

Travel back in time with me, if you will.  Let’s go back to our elementary or junior high school days.  Let’s go back to the playground at recess or the gym class.  You all remember the event.  It’s game time and the teacher has picked two people to be team captains.  You weren’t either of them.  The game was going to be dodge ball or some other such game.  Each captain got to pick their team members one by one, alternating between the two captains.  The best (or maybe most popular) kids got picked first.  Then the so-so kids got picked.  Last of all, if at all, you got picked.  You weren’t a first round pick.  Not even a second round pick.  Maybe not even a third, fourth or even fifth round pick.  Heck, maybe they didn’t even pick you at all.  You weren’t good enough.

Whether it’s a game at recess or gym class; or getting a part in the school musical; or being selected for that promotion at work, or being put in charge of that big project; each one of us wants to be chosen.  Whether picked for the team, picked for the play, or picked for that particular task at work, in this world, being picked says something about who we are.  It gives us a sense of identity, of belonging.  In many ways, being chosen means you’re special.  And we all like ‘being special.’

When we are not picked, when we’re left out, it implies that for some reason we don’t measure up, that we are not good enough.  If we measure things by the world’s standards, it’s easy to get the feeling we don’t make the cut.  If we cannot afford the right clothing; don’t drive the right car; don’t look beautiful or handsome enough; aren’t smart or in the know about all the latest trends, then we feel like we don’t measure up; we aren’t good enough; heck, maybe we don’t even belong.

Well, dear saints, I’ve got some bad news for you today.  You, and I, don’t measure up.  We are not good enough.  We don’t make the cut.  When we get right down to it, none of us is special enough to be chosen by God.

How do I know this?  If you’re like me…you’ve broken every one of God’s commandments sometime this past week.  Each one of us has plenty of moments we can recall when we’ve failed to live as God created us to live.  We may have a particular sin – or even many sins – we’re so ashamed of that we’ve never admitted them to anyone.  I’ve got those kinds of sins.  And I think you do too.  And those sins, separate us from God.  Make us His enemies.  Keep us out of His presence.  In fact, they prove that we are not “good enough” to be in God’s presence…let alone be chosen by Him.

But then we read the words of St. Paul in our text this morning from Ephesians.  These are words of good news!  Let’s look a few of these verses in the first paragraph.  Follow along with me and focus on who, exactly, is the subject in these verses.  Pick out who’s doing the action in each sentence:

(v 3), He has “blessed us”; (v 4), He “chose us”; (v 5), He “predestined us”; again, in (v 6), He has “blessed us”; (v 8), He “lavished upon us”; and (vs 9), He “set forth”.  Notice that in each of these verses, it is God who is doing the action.  He is doing the choosing.  He is deciding who belongs to him.  And on what basis is He doing the choosing?  It is not that we were holy and blameless to begin with, and for that reason God took a liking to us and chose us.  No, far from it!  He chose us when we had no righteousness to offer.  In fact, Paul says He chose us before we were born, before the world even existed!  God chose us, Paul says, not because we were holy and blameless, but He chose us to be holy and blameless.  “In love,” (v 5), “He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ.”  “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (v 7).  He chose us – sinners that we are – in order to make us righteous in Christ.

Why are we chosen?  God chooses us for one reason and one reason only.  Hard as it may be to believe, it isn’t your good looks or your smarts or your good deeds that led Him to choose you, or me!  Instead, he chose you—as he chooses each of us—based not on our merits, but on the merits of Christ, which are freely given to us.  Freely credited to us.  By faith, we are made His.

In Jesus—through our faith in His life, His death, and His resurrection—God loves us and chooses us.  Therefore, we belong.  He’s the captain, and He has made us a part of His team, part of His family.  And if you look in the Bible, you’ll see story after story where God chooses someone to be His, not because they are so worthy, but simply because He loves them.

In our Old Testament lesson for today listen again to the words of Amos when he had been accused of conspiring against the king, “Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, ‘I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees.  But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”’”  It was God who chose Amos.  Look at David, a scrawny shepherd boy, who later in life would have a man killed in order to steal that man’s wife.  Still, God chooses him as king, and as forerunner to Christ.  Or look at Paul himself.  Persecutor of the early believers, hands covered with the blood of the first Christians.  Still, God chooses him to be an apostle to the world.  Did God choose these men because they were so good?  No, he chose them because He loved them and wanted them to be His.

In the paragraph the precedes our Gospel lesson for today, (which was part of the Gospel reading for last week) we see the twelve disciples being sent out two by two.  Not exactly pillars of society, these men.  Still, Jesus sends them out into the world armed only with His authority.  And as the disciples go out, they do great things.  Not because they are great people, but because they belong to Him.  As Luke records this event, he tells us that when the disciples returned they were really excited about all the things they had done: demons were cast out, the sick were healed.  But Jesus tells them that they shouldn’t be so excited about the great things that they could do.  They should rejoice instead that their names are written in the book of life.  Rejoice, He says, because you belong.

I invite you to close your eyes just for a moment so that you can visualize a scene from the past.  The distant past.  A time, in fact, before time even was.  In the vast emptiness before creation, God alone existed.  And before He ever said, “Let there be light,” He chose you.  Paul says, “He (God) chose us in Him (Jesus) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.  In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will” (vv 4–5).  Before you were born—before anything was—God chose you.  That makes you special—special to Him.  He wrote your name in the book of life, for He wants you to be with Him forever.  What a source of joy!  What a source of comfort!  To know that we are His, both now and forever, solely because of our faith in Jesus.  You are that special to Him!

 Do you remember the Disney Pixar movie Toy Story?  It centers on a group of toys that belong to a young boy named Andy.  And of all his toys, Andy’s favorite is a cowboy named Woody.  How do we know this?  Because Andy has written his own name on the bottom of Woody’s foot.  It was a mark of ownership.  But we also see that it is a sign of Andy’s love too.  His love for Woody.  Later in the movie, the new toy, Buzz Lightyear, is also marked on his foot by Andy, showing that he, too, is loved.  That he, too, belongs.

In the same way, we have been marked by God in our Baptism, having been claimed by Him as His own possession.  But more than just a possession, for God’s mark also clearly shows His love for us in Jesus.  Yes, at our Baptism, as we were marked with the sign of the cross on our forehead and over our heart, and then as water was applied with the name of the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, it shows us that we belong to God, just as St. Paul wrote, “You were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance” (Eph 1:13–14).

Some of you may have noticed that at certain times in the worship service—during the Invocation, the Creed, or while receiving Communion—some of the people follow the ancient custom of making the sign of the cross.  The sign of the cross is a reminder of our Baptism.  For as one remembers his or her Baptism, they are reminded that they’ve been sealed with the Holy Spirit, and therefore they belong to God.

One last time, dear saints, I invite you to close your eyes just for a moment so that you can visualize a scene.  This one’s in the future.  You are on your deathbed, and you know it’s almost time for this life to come to an end.  As you lay there, you think back on where you’ve been and what you’ve done.  But mostly you think about where you are going.  And a smile comes to your face… because you know.  There’s no “I hope I was good enough,” but “I know that I will be with Jesus, because He died for me and He chose me to be His forever.”

Are we good enough to be chosen?  No.  But because of Jesus, who gives us His perfection, we are chosen.  Let us therefore praise “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (v 3).  Why?  Because we belong . . . we belong to Him!

+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen+

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Sermon written by: Rev. Dale O. Snyder, pastor, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Wichita Falls, Texas, for Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol 28, Part 3, Year B, 2018; modified by Deacon Rex Watt.

Pastor Don Mossman

Text: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Ephesians 2:8-9   Theme: Saved by grace, beautiful grace

Introduction

While a student at Concordia College in Edmonton, we had a delightful classmate named Grace Huber.  We kidded her that, because we were saved “by grace”, we should always hang out together.  Silly when you think back to those days, and rather immature on our part.  But ironically, I’ve never forgotten her name, certainly because of the major theme of Lutheranism, of Christianity really, that we are indeed saved by grace, beautiful grace, without the deeds of the law.

The word “grace” comes from the Greek “xaris” which essentially means undeserved kindness or divine favor.  It’s a word that is used in different ways today, as in Grace Lutheran Church / Blaine, or in a sentence as “how kind of you to grace us with your presence” or something you say at meal time, a person’s name, and of course, the spiritual perspective – being saved by grace.  The word is used 155 times in the NT, and rightly so.  It is that which God’s grace lives in us, below us, ahead of us, behind us.  Anything we have is because of his grace.  We are justified by grace, we are made holy by grace, and we will be glorified unto all eternity because of his grace.

  1. Thorns in our lives
  2. Man is born into trouble.
  3. Job declared, “Man is born into trouble as sparks surely fly upward.” (Job 5:7) And the apostle John (16:13) has reminded us, “In this world you will have tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” Physical suffering is tough. As someone said, growing old isn’t for sissies.  There is pain out there, and/or in our lives at this point in time. EG: My brother-in-law loves hot chili peppers.  So much so he grows his own, believing store-bought chili peppers won’t have the hotness he loves.  He says he loves a little pain in the chili con carne he makes.  He doesn’t, however, grow or use the Carolina Reaper (world’s hottest) pepper, which is said to be 500 times hotter than tobacco sauce and will melt the skin of your face.  Even the name itself scars me.
  4. The challenges of life come upon us regardless of age. Illnesses, surgeries, loneliness, depression – Christians are subject to these even as we confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior. I’ve never said, “Come on Lord, send me another trial.”  They come without invitation.  Personally, I don’t like trials, but God doesn’t excuse me.  We know that whom the Lord loves he chastens.  Perhaps we’ve all had different reactions to that truth.  “Why do you love me so much Lord”?
  5. The thorn of sin. Destroys the soul…
  6. Paul’s challenge
  7. Paul had a broken heart when he wrote this second letter to the Corinthian Christians. He had received a severe blow to his ministry.  You see, he had spent two years among them preaching and teaching, establishing them in the true faith.  But when he left for other mission fields, false teachers swooped in among them and discredited the Paul.  His teaching was despised by those who were seeking to crush the gospel and not a few of his former church members.  Some slipped back into the religion of the Corinthians, which included temple worship with prostitutes, false gods, cheap grace that they could easily live with.
  8. So he defends himself, reminding them that, if need be, he could tell them of all the hardships he had endured for the sake of the gospel. And he shares that to keep him from being filled with pride, God sent a “thorn” (“skolops” – not a rose bush throne, but a stake used to impale the flesh, an “angelos”/messenger from Satan, a demon.  Conceit, arrogance, self-importance, all possible distractions from humility and reliance upon God.  Paul asked for this thorn to be taken away a number of times, but God’s gracious response was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”  You see, this thorn, this suffering, kept him humble, kept him dependent on God, and gave occasion for the showering of His grace upon Paul.  Temptation of every age: if God doesn’t show his power over my affliction, then he is not good enough to be my god.
  9. Costly grace
  10. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Discipleship: cheap and costly grace
  11. He believed there was a natural tendency for people take grace for granted, and can entertain themselves with “cheap grace”. He writes (see quote…).
  12. A friend whom I had invited to worship said” “Why this heavy confession in your services? I can’t acknowledge that.  I’m not a poor, miserable sinner.”  But our sin is as deep as the roots of sin can go.
  13. And so we have our confession and the absolution, the announcement of full and total forgiveness as if Jesus himself were speaking. I’ve often said with humor and joy in my heart that we ought to have a trumpeter announce the absolution by the pastor as if by Jesus himself.
  14. The lavishness of grace, the excess, never-ending outpouring of grace
  15. Lamentations 3: 19, 22-23: “Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love (grace) of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
  16. John 1:16 – “And from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.”

 

Conclusion

Look at LSB #809: Great is thy faithfulness

 

sdg

“Faithful From Beginning to End”

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost / Deacon Rex Watt

Lamentations 3:22-33 / 2 Corinthians 8:1-9,13-15 / Mark 5:21-43

“Faithful from beginning to end”

 

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit +  Amen.

 

Dear Saints of Redeemer,

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Have you ever been at your wits end?  Have you ever been at the place where you have lost all hope?  You know, the place where you have tried everything you know how to do, or what to do, but to no avail?  If so, then I have a word from the Lord for you today.  The Lord is faithful.  His steadfast love never ceases, and “His mercies never come to an end.”

Maybe today you are struggling with health concerns like the woman in our gospel lesson.  She had had “a discharge of blood” for twelve years.  Now that’s a chronic condition!  She had gone to physician after physician after physician, all to no avail.  She not only sought a second opinion, she got a third, and a fourth, and so on.  Nobody could help her.  She had spent her entire life savings looking for a solution, and our text says she was no better off, “but rather grew worse.”

Maybe you are like Jeremiah in our Old Testament text today.  In the wider context of our Old Testament lesson, Jeremiah was lamenting the “state of the union” so to speak.  His people had been taken captive by a foreign nation, the Babylonians.  The glory of Israel was gone.  Things were not like they used to be.  God’s people were suffering.

Or maybe you are like Jairus this morning.  You have a child, maybe a grandchild, or some other family member who is suffering a life threatening illness.  Maybe it’s not an actual physical illness, maybe it’s a spiritual illness.  They have wandered from the faith.  You see them slowly slipping away and you are afraid that they will eventually deny the faith altogether and spiritually die.

The Lord’s word for you today, dear Saints of Redeemer, is just what Jesus told Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.”  Why?  Because, the Lord is faithful.  His steadfast love never ceases, and His mercies never come to an end.”

The Lord is faithful.  Not man.  The woman in our gospel lesson had put her faith and trust in the wrong place.  She had for years placed her faith and trust in the physicians.  How do we know that?  She had gone to one after another.  If one couldn’t help her, she sought out another, then another and another.  It’s where she spent all her money.  Oh, I know, and am sure that physicians in her day had fees, just like they do today.  But she spent everything she had seeking their help.  Scripture tells us, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  She had put all her money, and her hope in the wrong place.  The physicians had become her idol…her god.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am not slamming the medical profession.  Lord knows that Dee and I have had plenty of experience with them recently.  As have many of you.  We thank God for the many gifted people who serve their neighbors in the complex field of modern medicine.  But our faith and trust, your faith and trust, should not be in the physicians of this world; faith and trust should be in the Great Physician.

Jesus is the Great Physician.  He is the faithful physician who never mis-diagnoses the illness.  He is the faithful physician who never prescribes the wrong medicine.  He is the faithful physician whose treatment plan is always a success.

Unlike the physicians of this world who practice an art learned, and diagnose illnesses of the body and mind, Jesus is the physician who gets at the root of the problem, Sin.  Please do not misunderstand me.  I am not saying that you are struggling with illnesses of mind or body because you committed some sort of sin.  While in some cases that may be true; the reason we struggle with diseases of mind and body is because of Sin with a capital “S”.  We live in a fallen world.  Original Sin, the result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden infects each and every one of us.  It infects all creation according to the Apostle Paul.  It is the reason there is sickness and death.  The only true cure for all sickness and death, is to be free from Original Sin.

Jesus as the Great Physician not only diagnoses the problem, He cures the problem by shedding His own blood on your behalf.  He takes the medicine of immortality, His own life blood, and pours it out on the cross, for you.  You and I, not only because of our actual sins, but because of Original Sin deserve to die.  But God shows His great love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Jesus the great physician came into this sin sick diseased world and took on our human flesh, your flesh, to become sin on your behalf.  He took that sin, your sin, my sin, the sin of the whole world and nailed it to the Cross.  And in exchange for that sin, Jesus the great physician gives you that medicine of immortality, his life blood.

Every other Sunday, as you gather at the foot of this altar, Jesus gives you his body and blood, the medicine of immortality.  As pastor recites the Words of Institution, we focus our attention on the phrase: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  These words show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words.  For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.  How, you may ask, can simple eating and drinking do such great things?  Our catechism teaches us: “Certainly not just eating and drinking do these things, but the words written here: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’  These words, along with the bodily eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament.  Whoever believes these words has exactly what they say: ‘forgiveness of sins.’”  Yes, dear Saints, the Lord is faithful.  Do not fear, only believe.

The Lord is not only faithful; His steadfast love never ceases.  This is hard for us to wrap our brains around.  Our love is so conditional.  God’s love is unconditional.  Our love is always tied up with how we are thinking or feeling about that person or thing, the object of our love.  God loves.

There are so many verses that talk about God’s steadfast love, and so many examples of Him demonstrating that love that it seems superfluous to recall them.  Suffice it to say that none of us, neither you, nor me, deserve God’s love.  There is nothing lovely about us at all.  And that’s just the point!  God loves.  Neither the woman with the flow of blood, nor Jairus deserved God’s love.  He, out of His mercy chose to demonstrate it to them.  Our text says that a great crowd had gathered around him, and “thronged” him.  Jairus and the woman were not the only persons what wanted Jesus to do a miracle in their lives.  But those two, out of the large crowd of maybe hundreds, were the ones Jesus demonstrated his love toward.  In a similar way, out of the multitudes, Jesus through the Holy Spirit, has extended His love toward you and called you by the Gospel to be His own.  Paul says that he whom the Lord calls, He justifies.  And he whom the Lord justifies, the Lord will glorify.  He also writes that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  Yes, dear Saints, the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.  Do not fear, only believe.

Since the Lord is faithful, and we are not.  And since the Lord’s love is unconditional, and ours is not…all we can do is cry out, “Lord, have mercy!”  And merciful He is.  In fact, His mercies  “are new every morning.”  Every morning is a new day, sort of like a resurrection from the sleep of death.  Every morning you wake up you can thank God that He has kept you through the night without harm or danger.  You can thank Him for your rest, the food on your breakfast table, the roof over your head, clothes on your back and the air you get to breath.  If it wasn’t for His mercy, you wouldn’t have any of these things.

There was nothing about Jairus, or the woman in our text to commend them to God.  They both were at their wits end.  The Lord in His mercy chose to demonstrate His love toward them.  As we read in our Old Testament lesson today, “The Lord will not cast off forever, but, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.”

And you, dear Saints of Redeemer, have also been chosen by our Lord to receive His mercy.  You have been called by the Gospel.  You have been enlightened with the gift of the Holy Spirit which you received in your Baptism.  You are being sanctified and kept in the one true faith each and every time you receive the medicine of immortality at the foot of this altar.  Your sins are forgiven.  And by His stripes, you have been healed.  One day, your Lord Jesus will come to you and take you by the hand and say, “Child, arise!”  Do not fear, only believe.

He who began this good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ.  He is faithful, from beginning to end.  He will do it.  Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.