Lord, Teach Us to Pray – A sermon on Luke 11:1-13

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text tonight is the Gospel lesson, where Jesus teaches his disciples to pray.

Prayer is pretty universal thing. Christians pray. As do Muslims, Hindus, Animists, Wiccans, and even Atheists, though the latter are loathe to call it that. Prayer is a meditative, contemplative conversation with God, or Allah, or Vishnu, or the ancestors, or the goddess, or even just yourself. But through that prayer, we believe we can accomplish some pretty great things. Actual results, however, tend to vary. What we ask for doesn’t always happen. And if it does, it’s not always when we want it. Prayer does work sometimes, though. So we keep trying. After all, as Jesus Himself says in our text today to keep asking. “…though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.” If you badger God enough, then He’ll eventually relent and give it to you.

Which, you know, we would take, if it worked. But time after time, when God doesn’t answer our prayer, we begin to wonder, does God even care about my prayer? Does God really have my best interests at heart in what He does? Because there are things we need Him to do. And they don’t happen. Even when we ask. Even when we ask with all our heart. Even when we have everyone praying together. And yet, nothing. The cancer remains. The relationship dies. The drought continues. Or worse. And despite the front we put on for everyone else, that question still lingers in our hearts. Does prayer matter? Does God care? Jesus says He does. That God will not fail to give you the good things you ask for. But action speaks louder than words, right? And based on that action, or lack of action, we do wonder, does prayer really matter?

But to answer that, we must first answer the question, “what is prayer?” Is what we do in prayer the same thing as those who believe in different gods? Is it the same kind of meditation and contemplation, only done with the correct God in mind? If that is what we do, maybe we should step back and look at that. After all, Jesus does talk about how they pray. Matthew’s account of the Lord’s prayer is more familiar to us than Luke’s. And in that account, Jesus says, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.”

For everyone else, prayer is a one-way street. From you to your god. Your mouth to his ear. And the only way to get that god to listen is to ask. Maybe even ask with all your heart. Or ask together in one big group. And if you use the right words, have the right attitude, be in the right faith, get enough support, be behind the right cause, then maybe, maybe your god will listen to you. But that’s precisely how you heap up empty phrases. That’s precisely how you have many words.

Do not pray as the Genitles do. Because prayer is not a one-way street. Prayer is conversation that God starts in His Word. Prayer starts in the very pages of Scripture. With God speaking to you through that Word. You see, the Bible spends very little time on the power of your prayer. But dripping off of every page is the proclamation of the power of God’s Word. Because it’s in that Word where the asked for is given. It’s in that Word where the sought for is revealed. It’s in that Word where the door is opened. And that Word is where every one of our prayers start.

And so it’s no surprise at all that the greatest prayer ever is found right here in this Word. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. That might not sound exactly like asking for a fish, or an egg, or help with your problems in this life, or mercy on a city for the sake of ten righteous people. But it is asking God for something that’s even more important than any of those.

But what does that mean? It means that: “God’s name is certainly kept holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be kept holy among us also.” “How is God’s name kept holy? God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in it’s truth and purity, and we, as children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!”

Prayer is a conversation God starts in His Word. To ask something in Jesus’s name is not to just tag an extra phrase at the end of heartfelt words. But rather, it is to ask for the very things Jesus has promised to give. And those promises are throughout the prayer our Lord taught us. So when we pray for peace, we pray for the kind of peace God gives. When we pray for help, we pray for the help God gives. When we pray for healing, we pray for the kind of healing God gives.

And that’s hard. Because Satan’s goal is not that you necessarily disbelieve in God. But rather that you don’t trust that God has your best interests at heart. And because of that doubt, because of whatever other sin gets in the way, prayer is hard. After all, at Gethsemane, the disciples weren’t even able to pray with Jesus for one hour. Even with it being the most important hour ever to be in prayer.

What we do know is that God has promised to hear our prayer. That’s why we pray, “Our Father who art in heaven.” “With these words, God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.”

We do not have to worry that He has not heard. We do not have to worry that He does not care. Because we hear in this conversation, which God started in His Word, that Christ Jesus has indeed given everything in order to answer the prayers given in His name. Given it all at the cross. All for you.

Though, that does mean that God doesn’t necessarily answer prayers in the way we had in mind. God doesn’t necessarily answer prayers on our timetable. After all, even in the Psalms, the prayerbook of the Bible, many of them ask, “O Lord, how long?” And the answer is as long as it takes. After all, For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

And since Jesus cared enough to give everything for us, we know he hears us when we cry for help. And we trust that the answers that Jesus gives to those cries for help are the very best things, whatever they happen to be. Even if they’re the last things in the world I would have ever wanted for myself. After all, if Jesus can take His death on a cross and turn it into the best thing that has ever happened, period, then he can take the worst things in our lives and work them for our good. A good far better than anything we ever could have imagined for ourselves.

Because the Lord indeed has your best interests at heart. For prayer is a conversation God starts in His Word. And when we go to Him, as children do to their father, He also continues that conversation in the same place. Which means the power of prayer is precisely the power of God’s Word. Precisely the power of Christ’s death and resurrection for you. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon

The Good Host – A Sermon on Genesis 18:1-10 and Luke 10:38-42

July 16, 2016 Comments off

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In both our Old Testament text and our Gospel text today, we see Hebrews 12:3 playing out before our eyes. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Be a good host, because someday, you might be playing host to God Himself.

And today’s texts show what a good host does. Abraham sees three strangers arrive. And the first thing he does is invite them to stay. “…[D]o not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves….” “And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick! Three seahs of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes.” And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate.” Abraham was quick to make his guests feel at home. And that is good hospitality.

Martha and Mary each had a different idea on how to be a good host. Martha was more like Abraham. Running back and forth in order to make sure her guest had everything he could ever want, before He even knew He wanted it. Mary, on the other hand, actually did what Jesus wanted, and sat down at His feet to listen. Both are hospitality done well. But in Jesus’ eyes, Mary’s method of being a host was even better than Martha’s. “Mary has chosen the good portion,” said Jesus, “which will not be taken away from her.”

How might we be good hosts. Not just of the people who stop by our homes, but of those who stop by our church? Shouldn’t we ask what it is our guest needs? What might our guest like? Should we go and prepare for anything that might come up? Or should we see what it is our guest would like us to do for them? Shouldn’t we follow the examples of Abraham and Mary? Bending over backwards in the name of hospitality? If we do, maybe they’ll see how seriously we take our faith. If we do, maybe they’ll wonder what it is that drives us to be so helpful. If we do, maybe they’ll see just how much Jesus has done for us.

But the problem with walking away with that conclusion is that we got both stories completely wrong. You see, none of our hosts in either text were all that good at being hosts. Because being a host is all about giving. Hospitality is all about getting your guest whatever they need. And what does the One who created all things out of nothing actually need? Abraham and Sarah ran around like crazy. Getting bread cakes, and cheese, and milk, and meat ready to feed to the Lord. We don’t know what Martha was preparing, but I bet it was needed just about as much. Mary gives Jesus her presence. And that’s nice. But hardly necessary. So much hosting, so little actual need being met.

And when we play host in the Church, guess what? The same thing happens. We run about, and work like crazy. And we accomplish nothing. Seeing how seriously we take our faith doesn’t tell anyone what our faith actually is. Having them wonder what drives us does not actually proclaim Christ crucified. They will never see how much Jesus does for us, if they have no idea who Jesus actually is. We try to host. We work at hospitality. And in the end, we end up failing at being a goos host. Because that’s not our job.

Abraham and Sarah tried to host and failed. Because the Host was sitting under the oaks at Mamre. Giving them the one thing they needed more than anything. Giving them a son. And not just any son. But a son through whom their Savior would finally be born. Martha and Mary tried to host and failed. Because the Host was sitting in their living room. Giving them the one thing necessary. Giving them the one thing they needed more than anything. Giving them the Word of eternal life. Giving them Himself. And it will not be taken away from them.

No matter where Jesus is, He is the host. The wedding at Cana? He becomes the host, supplying the very best of wine. The upper guest room on the Passover when He was betrayed? He becomes the host, feeding His disciples His very own body and blood. In fact our Lord is never mentioned as a guest in the entirety of Scripture, except once by His enemies. And even in that instance, He became the host of the sinners He eats with. Christ Jesus is the good host. And you know what that means? It means we’re not the hosts. Even here. He is the host. And we are His guests.

And just like He gave to Abraham and Sarah. Just like He gave to Martha and Mary. Jesus gives us the one thing necessary. Jesus gives us what we need more than anything else. Jesus gives us Himself. He is the Word made flesh, so Jesus makes sure we get that Word. Jesus makes sure that we hear the good news of His death and resurrection, which He did for you. And He isn’t going to waste His time giving you anything less than that. And that’s why everything done here this morning here is filled with Christ Himself. The Liturgy is packed with Christ. From Invocation to Benediction. The hymns are loaded with His Word of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Even the parts where we respond, our responses are all the Word of God giving again His gifts to us.

And what kind of host would Jesus be if He didn’t feed His guests? If He didn’t feed you? And so Jesus sets the table for you. He prepares the feast for you. He serves you His own body. The same one born of the virgin Mary. The same one that walked around First Century Palestine. The same one that was beaten for you. The same one that was nailed to a cross for you. The same one that was killed for you. Buried for you. Risen from the dead for you. Taken into heaven for you. That body is placed on your lips. That body is served for you to eat. Our host sacrificed everything to give you the one thing needful. To give you Himself.

And what kind of feast could it possibly be without wine? God Himself says that “wine… gladden[s] the heart of man.” Jesus provides over 120 gallons of it at that Cana Wedding. And wine is here at this feast as well. Only it’s even more than that. This wine is Jesus’ own blood, shed for your forgiveness. The same blood that flowed from his hands and feet and side. The same blood that poured out all over the ground for you. But this blood is part of our feast for joy. This blood never runs out. This blood gladdens our hearts with the joy of our salvation. This blood marks the marriage feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom, which will never end. Our host has only the best for you. Our host has sacrificed everything to give you the one thing needful. To give you Himself.

Everything done today proclaims Christ loud and clear. Our host wouldn’t have it any other way. He doesn’t ask what we want, or what we need. Jesus already knows what we need more than anything else. And it’s His life, death, and resurrection. Given to you by His Word. Given to you by His sacraments. He’s the one thing necessary. He’s the good portion. And He’s who we proclaim to the world. Christ will never be taken away from you. And nothing else is as important as that. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon

Gifts in a Ditch – A Good Samaritan Sermon on Luke 10:25-37

July 10, 2016 Comments off

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When asked what was written in the Law, the lawyer answered Jesus with, basically, love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. And Jesus tells him, “You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live.” Jesus tells the lawyer the parable of the Good Samaritan. And at the end tacks on these words, “Go and do likewise.” And we all nod our heads, and marvel at Jesus’ wisdom.

Except, when we hear go and do likewise, nobody thinks it means that you should quite go THAT far. I mean, the Samaritan put his own journey on hold. The Samaritan tended to an enemy who would just as likely spit on him than thank him for helping. The Samaritan had to get down in the dirty ditch with that guy. The Samaritan had to get stained with this man’s blood to bandage him up. The Samaritan had to use his own oil and his own wine, which he was probably bringing for someone else. The Samaritan had to walk for miles while his ride carried this man. The Samaritan gave up his own time, staying the night with this man. The Samaritan took a ton of money out of his own pocket and paid for the man to be lodged. And the Samaritan promised to come back with more money when needed. That’s an insane amount to sacrifice for even a friend. Much less an enemy and a stranger. Jesus can’t possibly mean for us to do quite so much as that.

You go, and do likewise. Do this, and you will live. No, that can’t be right. There are limits. I can’t be expected to give up that much. I don’t have that kind of time. I don’t have those kind of resources. They’d just use it on booze, or pot, or worse. I’d simply be enabling people in lifestyles they shouldn’t be in. I’d only make things worse in the long run. They’re lazy, no good, addicted, criminals. They just need to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps like the rest of us do. If they had only made better choices, they wouldn’t be down there in that ditch. It’s not my problem. Not my circus. Not my monkeys.

Besides, there are laws to help them. It’s illegal here in Grants Pass to pass anything from your car to pedestrians. Keeps them out of the intersection. Keeps them out of danger. That’s good. Laws likewise made the government agencies. Agencies that are there to help them. That is, if they can stay clean. If they can stay sober. If they can just put in the work. My taxes help them out all they need. Yet they can’t manage even that? So, what good would my help even do anyways? They’re beyond help.

Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man… You go, and do likewise. Do this, and you will live.

There is no parable that condemns the whole world quite like the Good Samaritan. There is no parable that condemns you and me quite like the Good Samaritan. Because Jesus doesn’t say, “Go and do something vaguely related to this.” Jesus doesn’t say, “Go and do one of the least demanding things which this proverbial Samaritan did.” Jesus didn’t say, “Go and justify yourself as to why you don’t actually have to do any of this.” No. Go and do likewise. Do this and you will live.

Oh, but Pastor, we’re Lutherans. We know the difference between Law and Gospel. Nobody’s perfect. We all need Jesus. And this text shows us that. And now that the text has done it’s job, we should just put it away and just focus on the Gospel. We can ignore it now, and just get on with the gifts God gives. We can keep on living the exact same way, without changing a thing. Just keep on sinning, so that the grace of God would abound even more through the forgiveness of sins. But that’s not what Jesus says in this text, is it? Go and do likewise. 

Therefore repent. Put away your excuses. Quit justifying yourself like this lawyer in our text. Go and help your neighbor with your own two hands. And look to Christ for mercy for the times you haven’t. Because your sin, while promising to protect you, has robbed you instead. Your selfishness, dressing you in the guise of doing the right thing, has actually stripped you naked. Your lack of compassion for those who are in need didn’t guard you against harm, but has beaten you to a pulp. Your fear and disdain for the desperate hasn’t kept you alive, it’s left you half dead. Your concern for your own well being above all else has not provided you a home, but has put you in the ditch. These are our sins. And who will save us from them?

How about the one to whom we said, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?” And He replies, “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” The very One we refused to help. The very One whom we walked by. The very One that we have made our enemy by our unending sin. The One who is the embodied hated Samaritan. This Jesus is the One who simply will not pass us by. He is the One who stops for us. He is the One who makes the sacrifice. Jesus has mercy on you.

The concern for your own well being that left you in the ditch? Jesus sees you and comes to you in compassion. Your fear and distain for others that left you half dead? Jesus bandages up those wounds. Your lack of compassion that beat you to a pulp? Jesus pour on wine, saying take, drink, this is my blood, shed for the forgiveness of your sins. Your selfishness that left you naked? Jesus gives you His own clothes. Dressing you in the white robe of His baptism. Your sin, that robbed you rather than protected you? Jesus takes that sin away.

Now think about that. If Jesus takes your sin away, what happens when you don’t want to give to those who need? That’s when Jesus says to you, “I have taken that away from you. You no longer get to use it to justify yourself. You don’t have the option of being chained up and held prisoner by that sin anymore. I took that sin and nailed it to my cross. I bled and died to put that sin in the grave forever. And the new creation in you doesn’t want it back. You are freed from that sin. Free to help you neighbor laying in the ditch. All without having to worry about what you risk. Without having to worry about what it costs. Without having to worry about whether or not it’s the right thing to do. Granted, the Old Adam in you is going to fight against it tooth and nail. But that’s not who you are anymore. That’s not your identity.”

Jesus can say that to us, because the Gospel is that powerful. Jesus’ death and resurrection changes our lives that much. It’s the good news of what Christ has done for us that creates a new person inside us that’s actually new. A new person who trusts what Jesus says to be true. Who has faith that Jesus will take care of us despite our worries. Who believes that Christ took away the very sin our Old Adam wants to hang on to so badly. Jesus brings His greatest gifts with Him to the ditch. Now we’re free to do these things and live. Free to go and do likewise.

Now, that doesn’t mean we earn our life with Christ. We’re not talking works righteousness here. It also doesn’t mean that the sin in us will just stop. It wont in this life. What it does mean is that Christ is the One in us who goes and does likewise. Christ is the One who does this in us so that we can live. Christ is the One in you now. He has given you His Word to create in you a new heart. He has clothed you with His baptism. He has literally put His body and His blood inside you. And now He’s going to work through you, whether your sinful self is ready or not. He does this, and you live. He does likewise by using your very hands.

And if Christ is doing all that through you, then what do you gain by justifying yourself? What do you gain by being concerned only for your own safety? What do you gain by fearing what could be lost? What do you gain by blaming others for their bad decisions? What do you gain by holding back? What could you possibly gain, when you have already been given the Gospel? When you have already been given Jesus? Given the fruits of His cross? Given the forgiveness of sin? Given a place in the kingdom? Given resurrection? Given a new heavens and a new earth? Given everything that Christ Jesus has? There is nothing better to be gained than this.

Might this change the whole way you do things? I think that’s the goal Jesus has in mind. That’s why Jesus tells this parable. That’s why Jesus says, go and do likewise. So that when Jesus does the work that He’s going to do through you, you won’t give up before He starts. Who knows what’ll happen. Maybe you’ll end up in a ditch somewhere. And maybe, maybe, that’s not so bad after all. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon

Nothing Shall Hurt You? – A Sermon on Luke 10:1-20

July 2, 2016 Comments off

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text this morning is the Gospel lesson, where Jesus sends out the seventy-two, just like he sent out the twelve in the beginning Chapter 9. He sends them out with nothing but the good news of Christ and the shirts on their back. And Jesus gives them the promise that, “The one who hears you, hears me. The one who rejects you rejects me. And the one who rejects me, rejects the one who sent me.

I remember this text well, because it was just six months ago today, that Pastor Lange came in here for my installation and preached this very text to us. To let you know that the Lord has put His authority on His pastors. And to let me know, that it’s not my job to proclaim anything except Christ, and Him crucified. Like it or not, that’s the way Christ Himself set things up. It’s His office of the Holy Ministry. And we’re not free to ignore it or abuse it.

That said, this text today applies to you as well, when you proclaim Christ to the people He has put in front of you. When you speak about the death and resurrection of Christ as your strength, as your hope, as your peace, Christ gives Himself to your neighbor. And if they hear, they hear Christ. And if they don’t, it’s not you they’re rejecting, it’s God Himself. And just like the seventy-two sent by Jesus, you don’t need anything more than the Word of God to do this. You don’t need a moneybag to pay for programs. You don’t need a knapsack to carry the latest books about evangelism. You don’t need the sandals to walk up to some expert who will tell you how to do ministry in the most effective way. To paraphrase Paul, the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. That’s all they needed. That’s all we need as well.

The seventy-two came back surprised. “Lord, even the demons are subject to Your name!” Because whether the places they went heard, or refused to hear, the Gospel is still the power of God. And Jesus gave that power to them. Jesus gives that power to us too. That’s why Jesus can say, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over the power of the enemy. And nothing shall hurt you.” Nothing shall hurt you….

You know, I’m willing to believe Jesus on a lot of things. But that last promise is just a little tough to swallow. The Greek puts it even stronger. “No one will ever hurt you.” Really? Never mind my own experiences with that. Just look at the some of the people who have been thought to be among those very seventy-two whom Jesus sent. Stephen was stoned to death in Acts. Barnabas, who travelled with Paul a while, was tortured to death. Matthias, who replaced Judas, was beheaded. Joseph, called Barsabbas, or Justus, the one who was not chosen, was executed during Roman persecution. Not only did these seventy-two hurt, they ended up hurting more than we think we could ever bear. The power of the enemy walked all over them instead of the other way around. So why in the world would Jesus make a promise like that?

I mean, it would be great if it were true. I don’t want to hurt. I’d like to avoid hurting as much as possible. But if we really are to proclaim the Word of God like Jesus says, then hurting is pretty much unavoidable. The pain is going to be there one way or the other. And when I look out there in that world, the number of things that could hurt me for proclaiming the Gospel seems to be growing by the day. The number of people who are hurt for standing up for Jesus is also growing. And so this promise of Jesus sounds very empty. I wish it were true. But it’s pretty obvious it’s not.

Why? What are we getting wrong? If the Word of God is true, and we believe it is, then there’s something we’re not understanding. Something in us that’s getting in the way. And that something is how we understand being hurt in itself. Which is weird. Being hurt is so universal, that we expect everyone else in history to experience it the same way we do. To understand it the same way we do. And that simply isn’t the case. For us, there are two parts to being hurt. The actual injury, and being made right after the injury. We think, and live, and react to hurt being the first thing that happens. And being made right, or justice, being what happens or doesn’t happen next.

We prefer to understand it theologically the same way. Sin happens first, then justification happens afterwards. Being made right with God happens afterwards. Forgiveness happens afterwards. After all, how can someone be forgiven if they haven’t needed to be forgiven? Likewise, in other matters, how can you receive justice if you haven’t been hurt? It doesn’t even make sense for us to even imagine.

Well, guess what. It would be just as impossible for someone in the Greco-Roman world to understand why we would ever think this way. It’s in their very language. There’s a Greek word, δικαιοω, which means ‘to be made right, to have justice’. This is the normal state in which everyone lives. Therefore, the Greek word for ‘to hurt’ is αδικαιοω. Just like atheist means not a theist, and asymmetric means not symmetric—because we got those words from Greek—αδικαιοω likewise means to not have your justice anymore. To not be made right anymore. You were made from right to wrong. And that is exactly what it is to be hurt.

But here’s the thing, δικαιοω is also the word used by Scripture to describe what it is Christ does for us. Christ justifies us. Christ makes us right before God. And this is the normal state. This is the state we were created in. And it’s our sin that causes all the hurt. All the harm. All the injustice. Δικαιοω describes what Jesus did on our behalf on the cross. His bleeding, His dying, was all so that everything that ever has gone wrong, everything we have ever done wrong, would finally be brought back to justice.

In light of this, Jesus promises that no one can ever αδικαιοω you. You can no longer be taken out of the state of justification. You can no longer be wronged in such a way that you no longer have what is truly right. You can never be hurt in a way that has not already received justice. Because your righteousness comes from outside of you. Your δικαιοω comes from Christ. And that promise is sure. That’s why Jesus emphasizes not the driving out demons that the seventy-two were proud of. But rather that they take joy that their names, our names, are written in the book of life.

Is that the way we want to understand this promise? No, not really. In theory, life forever with Jesus sounds better than temporary suffering. But it’s a lot harder to make that call when you’re in the middle of hurting. Because hurting is awful. Ancient people used to be afraid of death. Because they saw how much pain there was in dying. Now the world calls death the way to something better than the pain. The medieval people used to fear hell. But now the world will not believe in such a place. Because we can’t imagine pain worse than what we already have. Today, the one thing we fear the most is that none of it matters. That we don’t matter. And when we hurt, those fears cry out the loudest. How can we matter to God if He lets us hurt? Hurting always triggers our very worst fears, no matter what time we live in. We always want it end more than anything.

However, Jesus promises something different. Jesus promises that despite the hurt, we matter. In fact, we matter so much, that He gave His very life on our behalf. Jesus didn’t take away the hurt, but rather joined us in it. And Jesus promises that on the other side of the pain and loss and hurt, everything is made right again.

“As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you,” promises our Lord in today’s text from Isaiah. Even bearing the marks for following Jesus, Paul in our Epistle lesson still boasts only in the cross of Christ. Today’s Psalm ended at verse seven. But it continues, “For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.”

The hurt, as bad as it is, will never be forever for His people. It will never be forever for you. And you’ll never be alone in it. You always matter to the Lord despite it. Jesus made sure of that Himself. Paid to make that happen with His blood. Because just as Jesus’ own suffering was only for a little while, and afterwards His resurrection, so it is also for you. So no matter the bites of this world’s snakes. No matter the sting of this world’s scorpions. No matter how much Satan, the enemy, uses his power to hurt you. It is all already overcome. It is all only temporary. It has all already been made right—δικαιοω-ed—by Jesus for you. And nothing can ever take that away. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon

Call Down the Fire – A Sermon on Luke 9:51-62 (Revised from 2013)

June 25, 2016 Comments off

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text this morning is the Gospel lesson, where James and John are just a little too eager to destroy the Samaritans who sent Jesus away. I mean, seriously, who does that? Who says, “Hey, Jesus, do you want me to rain down fire from heaven on those people?” Well, apparently Elijah does. Let’s rewind back to 2 Kings, chapter one. The king of Israel got ill, and decided to ask Baal, the god of the Samaritans, whether or not he’d get better. Elijah intercepted the messengers, and sent them back to the king. This did not make the king happy. And here we pick up the text.

Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty men with his fifty. He went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him, “O man of God, the king says, ‘Come down.’” But Elijah answered the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty. Again the king sent to him another captain of fifty men with his fifty. And he answered and said to him, “O man of God, this is the king’s order, ‘Come down quickly!’” But Elijah answered them, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty. Again the king sent the captain of a third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up and came and fell on his knees before Elijah and entreated him, “O man of God, please let my life, and the life of these fifty servants of yours, be precious in your sight. Behold, fire came down from heaven and consumed the two former captains of fifty men with their fifties, but now let my life be precious in your sight.” 

Then the angel of the Lord said to Elijah, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.” So he arose and went down with him to the king and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron—is it because there is no God in Israel to inquire of his word?—therefore you shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’”So he died according to the word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken.

Okay, I think I get it. James and John wanted to be like Elijah. Because Elijah, by raining fire from heaven, showed who the true God really was. They wanted to do the same to those Samaritans who would not receive Jesus. And if they did, then people from all over would get the message that they really need to receive Jesus. Is that really so bad? Make those who worship of false gods show a little respect? I mean, you’d be sure to convert anyone who wasn’t burned up. And after all, Jesus had earlier in chapter 9 given them authority over demons and the ability to cure diseases. Along with the command to shake the dust off of their feet if they were rejected. And if being Elijah to them won them over, That couldn’t be a bad thing, would it?

Well apparently it was. Jesus rebuked them. Not just an, “okay, that’s enough guys.” Rebuked. The same thing Jesus had been doing to the Pharisees who went against Him. The same thing  Jesus had been doing to the demons he had been driving out. That’s a pretty serious reaction. It was definitely not okay for them to call down fire from heaven and destroy the Samaritans who rejected Him. But, if that’s the case, then why did it make any sense to have Elijah do that very thing to the king’s guards? Hmm.

Anyways, Jesus heads to a different town. And on the way, Jesus runs into a few people. And some questions about following Jesus are asked. One says he’ll follow, but Jesus tells them that then he’d be homeless. Another Jesus asks, but the man would rather take care of his family’s needs. Finally, one of them says, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

And it’s this last guy that really piques our interest. Because it’s exactly what Elijah and Elisha did in today’s Old Testament text. We read, So [Elijah] departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” Elisha looked back, Elijah looked back too. Second guessing what he had just done. They both knew it was very important to say goodbye. And yet, for this random guy on the road who talks to Jesus it isn’t? What is up with that?

Here’s the problem with both issues. Jesus is just doing it all wrong. Our text in Luke is blatantly pointing us to Elijah. Twice. Both times the situations are so nearly identical, that even the same words are being used. Both times, Jesus gives the opposite reaction He should. Apparently, it’s okay for Elijah to rain down fire in the Old Testament. But it’s not okay for the disciples to do it, according to Jesus. Apparently, it’s okay for Elijah and Elisha to look back in the Old Testament. But it’s not okay for this guy in our text to look back, according to Jesus. Why?

You can’t say that it’s because the Old Testament God is mean, and the New testament God is nice. Because Jesus is the mean one. Jesus is the one who says, “no.” No to the disciples. No to the guy who wanted to say goodbye to his family. And you also can’t justify it by saying he spared the Samaritan village. Because Jesus walking away from you is a fate worse than death.

So what is it? Is it that things are different because Jesus is there?  But Jesus is there in the Old Testament account as well. He is the angel of the Lord, telling Elijah to finally stop worrying and go to the king. What is it? You can’t even say the situations are different. Luke mirrors perfectly the events in the life of Elijah. Intentionally. With the one exception of Jesus saying no. Everything else is pretty much the same. And that doesn’t make any sense. Why would he say yes to Elijah when he called down fire, and no to James and John? Why affirm that Elijah and Elisha are fit for the Kingdom of God when they look back, and not this random guy on the road?

Except that God never actually gives His approval to those things Elijah did. God never says, “Hey Elijah, that was a great idea, incinerating all those people like that.” In fact, it’s the angel of the Lord that has to intervene to keep Elijah from incinerating the third envoy. God never says, “It sure was good of you to let Elisha go home and say goodbye.” There isn’t even the Word of the Lord coming to Elijah telling him to make Elisha his successor in the first place. Elijah does that all on his own. As well as let Elisha return. If we’re to take Jesus’ words to heart, that means that none of them are fit for the Kingdom of God. Not the man on the road, not James or John, not Elijah or Elisha. No not one.

But, pastor, God let Elijah call fire from heaven. God let Elisha be His next prophet. Surely that shows that they are fit for the kingdom. Surely that shows God’s approval of them, doesn’t it? I think it rather shows just the opposite. Elijah does the very thing Jesus rebukes. Elisha shows that he is not fit for the kingdom. The Samaritans show they’re not fit by refusing to receive Jesus. James and John show that they are not afraid to sin using Jesus’ name. There’s the man who wont give up his home for Jesus. The man who wont give up his family for Jesus. And the man who wants to look back before following Jesus. None of them are fit for the kingdom. And yet, look where they are.

None of us are fit for the kingdom either. Not you. Not me. There is only one who is fit for the Kingdom of God. And today, He set His face towards Jerusalem. He set His face to the place where He would die on behalf of every unfit person. Where He would die for James, and John, and Elijah, and Elisha, and the Samaritans, and the people on the road. Where He dies for me. Where He dies for you.

You see, the fire was called down on Jesus. The wrath of God over all sin was poured out on the cross. What happened in 2 Kings to the king, happens again to our King. Jesus is destroyed. For He is not only the King, but the Messenger of the King. Just like the messengers upon whom Elijah called down the fire. Jesus is the Messenger, and the Message made flesh. Word made flesh and dwelt among us. Dwelt despite having no place to lay His head. King of Kings, made lower than the foxes and the birds.

And in His dying, Jesus put His hand to the plow and never looked back. He plowed on through, opening the way to heaven for you. Jesus died, and the dead buried Him. Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus, as dead as us all, laid him in the tomb.  He is the only one fit, the only one worthy of the Kingdom of heaven. Yet He is the very one who opened it up for you. And in doing that, he gave a home to the homeless, a family to the orphan, life to the dead.

Elijah might not be fit, but Jesus has mercy anyways. Even when Elijah did not. Elisha might not be fit, but Jesus gives anyways. Even when Elisha looks back. The disciples might not be fit, but Jesus cares anyways. Even when they need corrected again and again. You might not be fit, but Jesus loves anyways. Even when you still chase after the dead things of this world.

Christ died on your behalf. Took the fire out of heaven for you on that cross. And rose again to give you new life. So that you no longer have to worry if you are fit for the kingdom of God. Christ is fit for it. And Christ is with you. No matter sin you have. Because by His death, it is forgiven.

On your own, you are not fit for the kingdom of God. But by the death and resurrection of Christ, you have already been brought in to that kingdom. You are already citizens of heaven. You are already heir of eternal life. You are already children of God. Even when you don’t do things quite right. Even when you make the biggest of mistakes. Even if you’re Elijah, Elisha, James, John, a Samaritan, or anyone else. The fire has already been called down. Christ died and rose for us all. And not even death itself can take that away. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon

Do Not Come Near Me – A Sermon on Luke 8:26-39 and Isaiah 65:1-9

June 19, 2016 Comments off

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Thus says the Lord: I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation that was not called by my name. I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and making offerings on bricks; who sit in tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat pig’s flesh, and broth of tainted meat is in their vessels; who say, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.”

If there was anyone these words from Isaiah should have been for, it was him. The one who did not ask for the Lord? The one who did not seek Him? Who else, but a man possessed by a legion of rebellious demons? Walking in a way that was so not good? Following his own devices? Check. It was so bad that they locked him up with guards and chains and shackles. But none of those things could stop him. Who provoked not only the society, but God Himself to His face with his constant nakedness? Who lived sitting in the tombs, in the places the Lord called unclean? That was indeed him. He’s the one who shouted, “Keep to yourself! Do not come near!” “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?

Can you even imagine living that life? Completely out of control while you did the worst of things? Burdened with the guilt and shame after every event? Watching helplessly as it was you who sinned over and over again? Hearing Legion enjoy every minute of your pain? Watching the whole world shoot daggers out of their eyes at you?

And you know the rest of Isaiah. The verses just after today’s text. “But you who forsake the Lord, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you to the sword, and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter, because, when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in.”

So the day Legion quakes and fear and pleads for mercy, what would you expect if that were you there? A loving God, who understands and forgives? If He were so loving, where was he when this all started? Can He possibly understand what just happened? If He can, can He be Who He says He is? What good is His forgiveness in the face of the hatred from all of Gerasenes? Can you ever really trust in a God who would willingly let all that happen to you? Do you even want a God who would allow you, or for that matter, anyone to go through that? To hurt that much? To be that used? To be that abused? And for what purpose? For the glory of God? To bring you to faith?

Well, neither did the people from Gerasenes who asked Jesus to leave. They saw who this demon-possessed man was. They saw the aftermath of the pig herds that kept their town fed when the demons were driven out. They were afraid. And rightly so. Jesus was not safe to be around. The kind of change Jesus brought was never going to be change for the better. It was too much. It was too violent. It was too dangerous. And yes, maybe these were the people Isaiah 65 was written about. But don’t pretend it’s any different for you and me. Don’t assume that it’s any easier for us. Because that same Jesus is not afraid to let the same things happen to you. That same Jesus is not afraid to turn your life upside down for His own personal goals.

Here we are, in the United States. We have had our Constitution to protect our freedoms. We’ve lived in peace. And the world around us seemed to have appreciated our churches. And suddenly, seemingly overnight, everything changed. It didn’t. But to our eyes, we sure think it did. Somehow, now the world hates us. Thinks we’re the ones responsible for all that’s wrong in the world. And us shouting that it’s not true has no effect whatsoever, no matter how loud we yell. No matter how good we think we make our case. The world hates us. But guess what, it has always hated us. It never stopped.

We’re the ones who people stare at. We’re the ones who people treat as though we were running naked through the streets. We’re the ones people treat as though we should be locked away, but somehow we keep breaking free. We’re the ones thought so dirty, that there would be no difference if we did live among the tombs. We are thought to be a legion of demons. Even though Jesus has driven our demons away. Even though we sit at His feet. Even though we’re clothed in His baptism. It does not matter. Because they still know who we are.

But this isn’t about them out there. It’s about whether or not we can live with Jesus putting us through such a world. Because Jesus says to you today, “Here I am, here I am.” He spreads out His hands and welcomes you to His table. Dare we seek Him here? Dare we find our Lord? It will cost you. Not just an hour a week. Not just a few bucks in the plate. Not an occasional meeting. Christ Jesus is willing to sacrifice everything. And I’m not kidding about that. The demon-possessed man suffered more than we think we could ever bear. And that might just be the beginning. Your dignity. Your standing. Your assets. Your autonomy. Your freedom. Your family. Everything in this world you hold dear. Jesus might just sacrifice all of it out from under you.

Can you bear that kind of God? Can you believe that kind of Savior? He’s done it before. Joseph sold by His brothers in slavery to Egypt. Job, whose children all died. An entire generation of the people of Israel dead on the desert floor. The man born blind. The apostles, each one executed in the most painful ways, like skinned alive, burned alive, tortured to death, or crucified upside down. For what? In order to proclaim the Gospel to the world.

He’s done it before. He’s doing it still. Christians are still being beheaded for their faith. Forced to watch their children burned alive. Tortured in ways that aren’t even human. Even in our land, the persecution isn’t just coming, it’s already here. Jobs lost, imprisonments, confiscation of property, public humiliation. No wonder some people want to believe the completely unbiblical fantasy that God will magically pull them out of all this before it gets bad. But that’s not the way Jesus works. If it were, Jesus would have said yes to the demon-free man when he asked to follow Jesus away from Gerasenes. But no, Jesus tells the man to stay and tell them. Tell those people who hate him. Tell those people who shoot daggers out of their eyes at him. Tell those people who will never trust him again. Tell them what God had done for him.

Can you trust a Savior like that? Can you trust a God like that? That’s the weird thing. You don’t get a choice. “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts. Sanctified me, and kept me in the one true faith.” If it were by my own reason and strength, I think I would join the people of Gerasenes in sending Him away. The cost is too high. The sacrifice too much. I could not choose Him, knowing all that was at stake. I’d say, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me.”

But no, despite my objections. Despite my fear. Despite my demons, Jesus gives faith. Jesus gives us freedom from our demons. Jesus gives us the right mind of belief. Jesus gives us the white robes of baptism to clothe us. Jesus gives us His feet to sit at and hear His Word. All because no matter how much we must sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel, Jesus has already sacrificed more.

Jesus, the unblemished Lamb of God, became an unclean swine for us. Jesus, the sinless Son of God, became sin for us. Jesus, the Holy One of God, took possession of our every demon. Even as they drove Him off the cliff unto His death on the cross. They took His dignity. And He received our nakedness. They took His standing. And we received His place as children of God. They took His assets. And we gained a new heavens and a new earth. They took His autonomy. And our slavery unto death was taken away. They took His freedom. And we were given freedom from our sin. They took His family. And He has paid the ransom for each and every one of us. And now, no matter what sacrifices must now be made, there is nothing that the world can take away that cannot be returned. Because after Jesus died on that cross, on the third day, He rose from the dead. And that resurrection is ours as well.

Can I trust a God who will put me through more pain and suffering than I could ever imagine? Yes. Because He is by my side, enduring it with me. My pain is His pain. My loss is His loss. My tears are His tears. And it works the other way around as well. His strength is my strength. His joy is my joy. His peace is my peace. And it’s the same for you. What’s yours is His, and what’s His is yours. And you know what that means? Since we both share with Jesus in the same way, we also now share with each other. Your grief is my grief. My rejoicing is your rejoicing. It’s ours. We’re together. Family.

We’re still in the world. But we’ve been sent here by Christ. And yes, it will be bad. But it’s not our job to get outraged at how bad they are out there. It’s our job to tell that world that hates us just what Christ has done for us. And we’re supposed to get specific about it. We speak the same thing we receive. The driving out of our demons. The end of our captivity to sin. The forgiveness that covers our every sin. The justification that declares us righteous in light of that forgiveness. The blood of Christ that pays for it all. The cross that reverses the worst of losses into the greatest of gains. Reverses death into life. Jesus Christ gives all of that to us. And He gives it richly and abundantly. In His Word proclaimed. In His Baptism given. In His supper, where we eat and drink His body and blood. It’s all given here.

This hour each Sunday isn’t just a bit of time we dedicate to God to show Him how much we like Him. This hour is where we are equipped to go out into that horrific world and do battle. This is the hour where we’re made ready to go out and sacrifice everything for our neighbors, even the ones who hate us. This hour is where we’re given what we need to survive by faith. This is the hour where you are given the armor of God. This is the hour where you are fed and nourished spiritually. This is the hour where we join with the man in our text at Jesus’ feet. This is the hour where Jesus serves you. After all, it’s called Divine Service for a reason. The Divine One has come to serve you directly. And He is serving you even now. Spreading out His hands, and saying, “Here I am. Here I am.” May Christ continue to equip us for this life, and for the life to come through His Word and His sacraments. Because it’s in these very things where His promises rest. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon

Hey, Dogmeat, Christ Died for You – A Sermon on Luke 7:36-8:3

June 11, 2016 Comments off

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Across the four Gospels, there aren’t actually that many events which are in each one. Other than the events of Holy Week, the only things that do happen in each one are the baptism of Jesus by John, the feeding of the five thousand, and the anointing of Jesus’ feet, which we see in today’s text.

And there’s a couple of way to look at having all four accounts. We can either piece them all together to get a fuller picture. Or we can see what makes each one different, and why that’s important. I usually like to do the latter. Especially with things we see all the time. And each of the other events always come up at least once a year in our readings. This one, however, if it does come up, is almost always overshadowed by the events of Holy Week. Or Easter, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday don’t happen so early, like this year, and we miss it from Luke.

So, for a change, let’s see what each text brings to the table. Here in Luke, we’re at the house of Simon the Pharisee, who has a feast. And Jesus is invited. At this feast, an unnamed woman arrives, and anoints Jesus’ feet with ointment. Then she wipes them with her hair and tears. Simon, who apparently had a high enough view of Jesus to invite him as an honored guest, now wonders at his conclusion, because now, Jesus couldn’t be the prophet. If He were, he’d know what shame this woman before him had. Jesus responds by telling Simon a parable about forgiveness. And telling the woman that her sins are forgiven.

In Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospel, we find out some other details. Like that this all happened in the city of Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem. They were indeed at Simon’s house. But he was called Simon the Leper, rather than Simon the Pharisee. The woman came, and anointed Jesus’ feet with ointment, as before. But the outcry was not from Simon, but from the disciples. They were sure the ointment, and the alabaster container it came in, could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor. Jesus responds by saying that this was the preparation for His burial. And that the whole world will remember her and her actions that night. Immediately after these events, Judas goes and sells Jesus out for thirty pieces of silver.

In John’s Gospel, we hear even more details. John tells us what is coming up later in chapter twelve when he starts the account of Lazarus in chapter eleven. “Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill.”

Then, after Lazarus was raised, just before the passover, right before the events of Holy Week, Jesus finally does go to dinner in Bethany. Martha helped serve, of course. And Lazarus reclined at the table with everyone else. It is Mary, Martha’s sister who takes the ointment and anoints Jesus, wiping his feet with her hair. And the one who objects isn’t all the disciples, but just one: Judas. And even though he says the proceeds should have gone to the poor, the real reason is because Judas was used to using the money in the moneybag for himself. Jesus responds by saying, “The poor you will always have with you, but you do not always have me.

Now, when we take those four accounts and put them all together, we have a picture of what all happened there. And Mary isn’t quite the person we thought she was from what we heard in Sunday School growing up. Apparently, Mary wasn’t always the good little girl sitting at Jesus’ feet. Mary wasn’t always the plucky young lady, who by her tears, moved Jesus to raise her brother. Mary was a sinner. And not only a sinner, but a sinner with a reputation. One so bad, that Simon was willing to believe that Jesus wasn’t who He said He was when she anointed his feet. While we’re not told exactly what she did, it is assumed that she was selling her body. And probably more. She was no good. And everyone knew it. Even her.

Now, in Luke’s Gospel, after Jesus forgives this unnamed woman, who is actually Mary, sister of Martha, we hear a partial list of who is following Jesus. It’s part of our reading today along with the account at dinner. And the first name on the list of women? Mary, called Magdalene. Now I can’t say it for sure. And there are many today who disagree. But I think some of the Church Fathers were right. I think Mary, Martha’s sister, and Mary Magdalene are the same person.

Because while Magdalene could in fact mean From Magdalia, a city that did indeed exist along the sea of Galilee, Magdalia is also apparently the ancient slang Greek word for the inside crust of bread that you wiped your hands on after dinner and fed to the dogs. [μαγδαλια is the later form of απομαγδαλια] And the text never says Mary from Magdalia, but Mary the one called The Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out. In fact every reference in the Bible calls her Mary, The Magdalene. Never Mary “from Magdalia.”

Whether or not these were two women or one, they’re in our text today. They are both named Mary. And Mary was a sinner of the highest degree. Mary was considered worthy of being discarded, thrown to the dogs. Mary was not one whom you should ever let even touch you. Because that’s what Mary deserved. And more. That’s what the name Mary meant to those who saw her. Because her sin was of body, mind, and soul. Her sin was her whole identity. And the guilt of that sin. The shame of that sin, she bore it everywhere she went. And everywhere the name of Mary was spoken.

But shouldn’t that be the same as us? What did Mary do that isn’t lurking hidden away inside each of our hearts? Sure, she was shamed more than us. But why? Just because she got caught? Just because others knew? That changes nothing about who we are. We know what others don’t. God knows what others don’t. And our names should likewise be names that turn people away. Maybe they already are. Because that’s my name on the list of sinners. That’s my name on the roster of the undesirables. That’s my name which identifies me as one who sins in body, and mind, and soul. I deserve to be called The Magdalene. I should be right there with Mary. And whenever I think about that fact seriously, it brings me to tears as well.

But here’s where I hope I’m right, and both Marys are one and the same. But it works whether or not it’s true. Because Jesus keeps her name. We still know Mary as The Magdalene in Scripture. Why? Because God changes names all the time. Abram to Abraham. Jacob to Israel. Simon to Peter. All to signal something special. But Mary is still the Magdalene. But maybe Jesus didn’t have to change her name. Maybe it means exactly what it’s supposed to.

Jesus kept her name. Jesus keeps my name. Jesus keeps your name. Even though we are all known to be sinners by those names. And Jesus keeps those names in more ways than one. Because our names are the ones Jesus bears at the cross. And the sins attached to those names are now on His shoulders alone. Each and every sin. Even the most horrific ones. Even the ones that leave the brightest scars. Even the ones that cause others to look away in shame. Even the ones we’re afraid someone might one day discover. Even the ones hidden so deep, that we wont even let ourselves see. Even the ones we don’t know how to let go.

Jesus goes to the cross with our sin. Because He bears our name. Jesus is the Leper. Jesus is the Pharisee. Jesus is the Magdalene. Jesus is there in our place. He’s thrown us out of the way. He’s stood in on our behalf. So now, Mary’s cross, my cross, your cross, Jesus has called out, and said to the world, “That cross is mine.” And on that cross, on our cross, Jesus shed His blood. On our cross, Jesus gave His life. On our cross, Jesus paid in full for every sin.

Jesus changed the meaning of His own name for us. Changed it from meaning holy, perfect, gracious, right, and good to meaning sin. Our sin. And the meaning of our name He changed out for His. So now, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, you are holy. Because of His blood shed, you are perfect. Because of His love, you are given grace. Because of His sacrifice, you are made right. Because of Jesus, you are now good. No matter what came before. No matter if your worst sin is still ahead of you in this life. Jesus has already done it all on your behalf. That is what your name means now. No matter what it is.

In this world, someone is still likely to call you Dogmeat. And they might be right to call you that. Because, yes, we are in this life, saint and sinner at the same time. We have plenty of sin. But we also have Christ who bears it all. We have Christ, who is not afraid to say the truth pointblank. Whether or not it’s what we want to hear. The same Christ who said to Mary, “Hey Dogmeat, I died for you. Your many sins are forgiven.” Wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, her story will be told. Because it’s the story of the rest of us Magdalenes as well. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon
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