Friday, September 13, 2013

The Sunday of The Birds and Lilies

 Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, 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” (Matthew 6, Trinity 15).

In short, this Gospel text is about the evil sin of greed and incessant worry – a sin which clings deeply to all of us.  The whole world is engulfed by a hunger for more, nearly everyone is discontent is some way with what he has received from God and everyone wants more.  No one is truly content. 

Our closets are bursting with clothes, but our souls are empty.  And our anxiety is just as great as our greed.  As soon as the apple crunched in paradise we have been scared stiff at the sound of a rustling leaf.  We worry about everything.  We doubt whether God is capable of caring for our own children.  We worry about our aging parents and how we can possibly care for them.  We worry about the future of our church even though He has said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Yet more than anything else we worry about money.  We don’t think we have enough of it.  Our retirement didn’t go exactly like we might have hoped.  We think God is holding out on us.  The dirty little secret is that we don’t trust in God to take care of us.  That’s why worry occupies our thoughts.  And we are worrying ourselves to death!  Our wrinkles and stomach problems bear witness to that.  And so do our medicine cabinets.     

In Greek mythology the most famous king was named King Midas.  Everything he touched would turn to gold.  This king was so greedy that he wished everything would turn to gold.  So he touched his coat, his table, his bed, doors, and pillars of his house.  Everything immediately turned to gold.  The knife which he ate, the bread, the wine, and the cheese turned to gold.  As a result the king, in his addiction to wealth had no bread or drink and starved himself to death.  Even if you stock pile your riches.  We cannot eat our gold, our IRA’s or mutual funds. 

And as God himself tells us Man does not even live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  A God who in loving kindness gives us everything we need.       

This morning Jesus gives us a wakeup call.  He wants us to put the brakes on our incessant worry and misplaced trust.  He wants us to learn to stockpile up riches in heaven rather than stockpile treasures on earth.  He wants to restore our weary souls and find comfort in our Father’s loving arms.  He wants our hearts to find rest in him.   

So he tells us about birds and flowers.  Jesus says “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”

Our dear Lord holds before us the example of birds, that we might model our lives after them.  Birds don’t have a care in the world.  They don’t worry.  They don’t stockpile any seed.  They trust that God will take care of them.  They consider their kitchen table as long as the earth is wide.  Their barns are always full as they look from sea to shining sea.  They believe they have a heavenly Father, who will provide – the same heavenly Father who wants nothing more than to feed you.  Birds don’t worry like us.  When a storm comes their way in the dark of the night and shakes their nest to the ground.  They still sing the next morning when the sun rises.   

The birds of the air ought to shame us.  We should learn to be like them.  We should learn to believe like them.  We should sing like them.  Like the birds we should let God be God.  We should allow our heavenly Father, actually to take care of us.  And only then can we truly be as happy and joyful as the birds of the air.

And then our dear Lord starts talking about flowers.  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they neither toil nor spin.  The flowers that bloom on the side of the road as we come to church are preaching a magnificent sermon to us.  These flowers that bloom are endowed with beautiful colors, reds, and violet, blue, and pink.  Their loveliness should put us to shame!  If God so adorns flowers with such beauty, which barely lasts a couple days in the field, how can you doubt whether he will clothe you and feed you!

But dear Christian, you are more valuable to God than birds.  And to Him you are more radiant than the brightest flower.  And how can this be?

Because He himself has already worried about your salvation so that you wouldn’t have to.  In the garden of gethsemane he was so anxious for what was coming his sweat became drops of blood.  He has already toiled on the dusty and blood soaked path toward the holy cross.  He has toiled and spun on the cross in agony that you would be spared the darkest night and fiercest storm of God’s wrath.  This Son of God was clothed with your shame that you would be dressed to the nines in His righteousness!  His mouth was dry on the cross and he thirsted for vinegar – so that you would be able to whistle and sing like a bird of the heavens.  And the morning has now come.  The eternal Son has risen.         

The demons have been cast down, and death has been destroyed.  St. Paul writes in Romans chapter 8:  “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

Jesus says do not be anxious, saying, “what shall we eat or what shall you wear?  Your Heavenly father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”  

Dear Christian, in Christ your retirement is more than secure and your future is a good one.  In the Kingdom of God you are richer than Kings and Queens.  And for you there is no need for worry, for you have a God who has already done that for you. 

Your parents will be comforted.  Your children will live and be restored to you.  Your church will be blessed by God.  Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow for tomorrow will be anxious for itself, sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Sunday of the Good Samaritan Trinity 13

This morning a lawyer stands before Jesus and calls out “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus says to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The lawyer answers, “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 neighbor as yourself.” Jesus looks at the lawyer approvingly and simply says, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

The funny part is that the lawyer actually thought he was on the right track here.  He thought he was on the way to eternal life.  He thought he was a good person.  He made a good living.  He came to the synagogue.  He tithed the 10 percent commanded by God.  He was a member of the Lions club and town board.  He’s a good guy everyone said of him.  He kept his nose out of public scandal and shame.  His reputation was impeccable.  And he knew it. 

But this successful, well thought of man, lacked one thing.  He did not have a proper faith in God.  He did not fear, love, and trust in God above all things.  He trusted in himself.  And this man, seeking to justify himself, said to Jesus, “well, then who is my neighbor?” 

Jesus then tells the parable of the Good Samaritan.  A man came down from Jerusalem and he fell among robbers, who stripped him, beat him to a pulp and left him half dead on the side of the road.  First the priest passed by – he didn’t want to get his hands dirty and he passed by on the other side.  Then the levite passed by as well – he was much too above the business of getting involved with something as unsightly as this bloody beaten mess of a man on the side of the road.  The priest and levite were members of the religious establishment.  In the Old Testament it was ritually unclean to touch the dead.  So they passed by – they didn’t want to dirty themselves in the ghastly scene. 

But then comes along the Good Samaritan.  And unlike the priest and levite, the Good Samaritan took notice.  Our text says that the Samaritan felt compassion.  And this is a decent translation but the original greek text is more interesting.  It says that the Samaritan was so moved in his compassion – that his bowels became contorted or twisted.  The greek word is spagna which is actually the origin of the english word for our spleen.  That is to say, this Samaritan – this outsider – was so deeply moved in compassion that the innermost part of his very being was troubled to the very core. 

This Samaritan man was so profoundly troubled at this man’s injury that his spleen – his intestines became upset.  Indeed the Scriptures elsewhere says when one member suffers all suffer with him.  In a very real way the Samaritan was suffering with the beaten and half dead man.

So that Samaritan did not pass by.  But ran to the man in need.  And using an ancient yet very effective first aid kit – he began to help him.  He used oil which not only cleans – but also a skin moisturizer and soothing lotion.  Wine, of course is a disinfectant – it cleans wounds and helps heal. 

The Samaritan hoists the man on an animal – a beast of burden and carries the man to an inn – and didn’t just drop him off but stayed the whole night with the wounded man.  Probably continued to nurse him back to health through the night.  Then he paid the innkeeper, saying “Take care of him, I will repay you when I come back.”    

Jesus concludes the parable by asking the lawyer the following question: “Which of these three, do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers.”  The lawyer said “Well, the Samaritan - the One who showed mercy.”  Our Lord then says “You go, and do likewise.”

Over the last couple hundred years it has been a common practice to just assume that Jesus is telling us a story about how to be caring and compassionate.  The Good Samaritan is compassionate and therefore be like the Good Samaritan.  But this is not really the point of the parable.  As with all other parables, we need to get over the idea of thinking the parables are about us when they are really about Jesus.  With the early church fathers and with Martin Luther they understood that in this parable – Jesus is actually speaking about himself. 

The man who has been robbed, stripped, beaten and left half dead on the road is Adam (sinful humanity) – that is you and I!  When God warned us from turning away from him.  He said that in that day you shall surely die.  Through one man’s sin death entered in.  Saint Paul writes in Ephesians chapter 2 that you were dead in your trespasses and sins.  Not sick or injured but dead.  Dead just like the man in this parable.  Who are the robbers who beat the man? 

The robbers are sin, death, and the devil – the same robbers that beat you up.  Adam(sinful humanity!) then leaves Jerusalem (Jerusalem is paradise) he is beaten up by the robbers of sin, death, and the devil.  The priest who passes by represents the law of the Old Testament which cannot save.  The Levite who passes by represents the prophets of the Old Testament.  But then comes the Samaritan, the outsider whom is Christ Himself.  He heals our wounds, which is our disobedience. 

We are placed on the beast of burden, which is the body of Christ.  Jesus himself says “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Jesus carries our sorrows and bears our sins – fulfilling the sacrificial system of the Old Testament.  He is the Passover Lamb. He is the beast of burden.  He carries the sins of the world upon his back. 

And when this Good Samaritan gets on his knees and pours out oil and wine – what should we think of?  Since the earliest days of the church oil has been associated with Holy Baptism, where we are washed and cleansed and anointed in the baptism of Christ.  And what is the wine that this Good Samaritan offers but the sacrificial blood of Christ!  A sweet wine  which is poured unto sin-parched lips – to refresh and bring back to life dying sinners like us.  Here in this parable you have Baptism and the Lord’s Supper! – The very means by which dying sinners are resuscitated from death and raised to new life! 

 And where does the Good Samaritan carry the beaten and robbed man – that he might be taken care of – and nourished – and healed?  He takes him to an inn.  And what is the inn but the one holy Christian and apostolic church.  Our church – here at St. Paul - our hospital of grace – our heavenly Jerusalem to keep us safe – the church!   The Good Samaritan hands over the man to the Innkeeper, simply saying take care of him, until I come back.  The innkeeper is the pastor charged with dispensing the means of healing, baptism, Lord’s Supper, and the preaching of the Gospel.

The Good Samaritan tells the innkeeper that he is coming back.  He is speaking of the Second Coming and the day of judgment.  When Christ will come again. 

Who is the Good Samaritan?  There is only one who is truly good.  It is the Good Shepherd – Jesus – who heals you.  Annoints you with the healing water and oil of baptism.  Gives you food for hungry souls and drink for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  He puts you on his divine shoulders and carries you, with all the children of God to the heavenly inn of eternal life.  In Jesus name.    

Trinity 14 The Sunday of the Ten Lepers

This morning Ten Lepers come to Jesus.  Together they cry out saying the same words that we said together this morning.  Lord, have mercy upon us.  Christ have mercy upon us.  All ten were healed but out of the Ten only one came back to thank the Lord and worship him. 

It’s somewhat difficult for us to fully appreciate how awful leprosy is.  We don’t have many folks with it around here.  But leper colonies continue to exist in many parts of the world.  In the ancient world lepers had to live separately.  They were outcasts and they could not be seen.  Folks were frightened of them.  Nobody wanted to be near them.  It was thought that God has forsaken them – forgotten them and left them behind. 

But for the Ten Lepers this morning, they had a problem that was more than skin deep.  The 10 lepers this morning ought to call to mind the Ten Commandments.  And these commandments reveal a problem in all of us which is much more than skin deep.  A deformity much worse than a bad complexion. 

The most deformed part of us is not our skin, but our sinful hearts. These Ten Lepers call to mind that 10 Commandments which have separated us from God’s love.  These commandments clearly show us our spiritual leprosy and the diagnosis – that in that day you turn away from my Word you shall surely die. 

The ugly truth is that we do not pray as we ought to.  We do not care and love our wives as we ought to.  We do not honor our parents the way we should. We do not fear, love, and trust in God – we may look like a Christian on Sundays but may act like an atheist the rest of the week.  We have broken the fifth commandment by refusing to help our neighbor in every physical need, we have slandered the reputations of others, and lacerated our own friends with our sharp tongues.

Our epistle text this morning warns us of our spiritual leprosy.  Saint Paul writes that the works of the flesh, which damn us are evident; sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, fights and bickering, anger, envy, and drunkenness.  Saint Paul writes that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.     

Repent.  But be joyful.  Christ has died for your sins.  He who knew no sin has become sin.  The Son of God became the leper so that in baptism you would be born a child of God – with skin softer than an infant child, fresh from the womb.  You see Jesus Himself has become what we are that we might become what he is.  He became ugly on the cross that you would be beautiful now and in eternity.  Your sins are forgiven. 

We ourselves have been healed by God.  This morning he has poured down the sunlight upon our town.  He has given us family who wait upon us – friends who lift us up – rain to water the crops for a good harvest.  We have food in the fridge, clothes on our back, and the eternal promises of God’s love and mercy to spiritual lepers like us.  By the cross we have all been healed.  We should rejoice, we should open our hymnals and sing as loud as we can. 

After all, just imagine that you had found out you had a terminal disease and would die within a few months.  But now a doctor has burst into the waiting room.  He cannot hold back his smile and giddiness as tells you that your illness is gone, not a trace of it remains.  You have been miraculously cured.  And not just that but when you die angles will carry you to heaven – to sing eternally with God in paradise – to bask in His love forever. 

We who had a terminal disease which brought eternal death by God’s law have now been redeemed by the Gospel.  His grace covers us.  His blood washes us clean from all the sins that stood against us. 

But the sad truth is that we live our lives like the 9 lepers who refuse to thank God for what he has done.  We expect great things to always happen to us as if we deserve nothing but good and then we are shocked and angry when things don’t go our way.  We blame everyone else for our problems and we refuse to recognize that we are the ones who have made a mess of our lives. 

But with Jesus, He did not just die for our sins of adultery, anger, rivalries, and our unbelief.  He has died for our ingratitude. 

So this morning we have a clean heart and a good conscience.  Jesus died and rose for sinners and spiritual lepers.  You are back from the dead.  By Jesus glorious resurrection he gives you a new life.      

St. Paul tells us this morning that the fruit of the spirit is love not hatred.  Joy, not unhappiness.  Peace, not division.  Patience, not a quick temper.  God calls us to be patient and kind.  Goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Remember you belong to Christ Jesus.  And those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  It is no longer you who live but Christ who lives in you. 

You belong to Jesus.  You are His and he is yours.  Nothing separates you from God anymore.  His blood washes over you.  You are cleansed you are healed.   

In closing there is something important about the Christian life that should not be ignored.  Not only should we learn to be grateful, but we should learn to develop the virtue of putting up with ingratitude from others.  If we want to be Christians, be faithful to God and serve others we should learn from Jesus and not be bothered that for every 9 people who criticize, only one will return any thanks.  

Jesus does not let the ingratitude of 9 lepers stop him from continuing doing good to others.  And neither should you in your life.  Children are rarely truly thankful for the sacrifice and love they receive from their parents.  Students rarely thank their teachers for the life-long work of study and passion devoted to the very task of educating and helping them. 

Congregations are rarely all together thankful for faithful pastors who preach God’s Word, and pastors are perhaps never as thankful as they ought to be for their own congregations.  We should all repent! 

God makes the sun shine not just on people that thank him, but upon all, even the wicked and those with no gratitude at all. Like Jesus, you should never become bitter when you do not receive any thanks.  After all, you have one in heaven above who will thank you in their stead.  But this morning, let us all be like the healed leper.  Let us draw near to God with a thankful heart and thank him for what he has done.