So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
Dear Friends in Christ,
Saturday evening supper on the farm
There are at least two kinds of households- those with set routines and those where routines are the exception rather than the rule. I grew up in a family where three meals a day were common and each of the seven days included certain rituals. Sunday was go to church, go to Sunday School and Bible class, buy a Fargo Forum newspaper, get together with aunts and uncles and cousins for roast beef dinner or chicken dinner day. Monday was wash the clothes day, Tuesday was iron the clothes day, Wednesday was Ladies Aid day once a month, I don’t remember so much about Thursdays, Friday was go to town and get groceries day, and Saturday’s agenda was firm. Vacuuming and dusting in the morning, mowing lawns in the afternoon, pitching manure in the spring time, and all year round, Saturdays were for the baking of cookies and all kinds of bread. Not bread that would be broken, but bread that would melt away in your mouth at the Saturday evening meal. A meal where everyone had their assigned places, a meal that would include all four of the food groups, a meal where plates would be cleaned, a meal where there would be no singing, and a meal that would end as all supper meals would end –with Mom reading a devotion out of Little Visits with God. Growing up, I had no idea what the Spirit of God was doing on the inside of me. Looking back, I realize that this time of breaking bread and listening to Bible stories and praying the Our Father together as a family has been burned into my heart never to be extinguished. Three parts to our sermon today, as we examine our own family meal rituals, as we take a look at that first Easter Sunday supper meal in a little town of Emmaus, and the theme, “Bread Broken.”
Jesus started out the day as the student, but ended as the (teacher). Two Sundays ago, we listened in as Jesus sauntered up alongside of two disciples journeying, asked them what sorts of things they were talking about, and played the part of a student. Last Sunday, we listened in as our Risen Savior perfectly and carefully opened up prophecy and fulfillment to them. Today we make the case that table fellowship was an integral part of Jesus’ ministry. Professor Art Just from the Ft. Wayne Seminary writes, “Jesus frequently used the occasion of a meal to create fellowship with people. Jesus’ table fellowship may be defined as the gracious presence of Jesus at table, where he teaches about the kingdom of God and shares a meal in an atmosphere of acceptance, friendship, and peace. His usual table fellowship practice combined those three ingredients: his presence, his teaching, and his eating.”
To go back into the history of Israel is to see that it was often at the table where bread would be broken and God communicated salvation to His people. Already in the Garden of Eden, God provided fruit trees, but Adam and Eve violated the boundaries of fellship set by God by eating the forbidden fruit. In our Old Testament lesson for today, God appears to Abraham via three men, one of whom turns out to be the Lord. Abraham and Sarah show hospitality to their guests by preparing a meal, and in the context of that setting God promises a Son who would eventually crush the serpent’s head.
The covenants the Lord God Almighty made with his people often were celebrated with bread that would be broken. The Passover meal was the context in which the head of the household would teach his children the fundamental doctrines of God. On Mt. Sinai, after the Exodus, Moses and Aaron and Nadab and Abihu and seventy elsers “saw God and ate and drank.” Throughout their wilderness wanderings, God would provide the meals, including manna and quail. Even when the people of God were in exile, they would celebrate the Passover every week at their Sabbath evening Seder meal.
It is within this context of weekly Jewish Sabbath meals and synagogue worship that Luke records the table fellowship of Jesus. We find Jesus present and breaking bread and teaching at the feast with Levi the tax collector, at the meal where Jesus forgives a sinful woman who anointed his feet, at the feeding of the 5000, at meals with sinners, at the meal in the story of the prodigal Son, at the meal where Jesus lodges with Zacchaus, at the Last Supper, and post resurrection at the Emmaus Supper and later that very night when Jesus appeared in the upper room, startled them with his presence, comforted them with his peace, asked them why they were troubled, showed them his hands and feet, invited them to touch and see, and while they were still disbelieving and marveling, Jesus asked, “Hey, have you anything to eat?” They gave him a piece of fish, he at it in their presence, and proceeded to start teaching again! Lesson #1 today is to be impressed by how great is the desire of our the Holy Spirit to teach eternal and life-saving truths in the context of His people breaking bread together.
Second truth we want to receive today: Jesus began the meal as a guest, but finished as the (host). When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. It’s easy at this point to think of what we call the Common Table Prayer, which begins, Come Lord Jesus, be our guest….let these gifts to us be blessed. Wikopedia suggests that this is the best known mealtime prayer among North American Lutherans, that it was first published in 1753 in a Moravian hymnal, that the author is unknown, that a second verse was spoken by the Germans, “Blessed be God who is our bread; may all the world be clothed and fed.”
On the one hand we pray that God would give us our daily bread, and on the other hand, we believe Him to be the very bread of life. On the one hand, we ask Christ to be the unseen guest at every one of our meals, and on the other hand, we honor Him as the provider of all good gifts for body and soul. On the one hand, we ask Jesus to be the silent listener to every one of our conversations, and on the other hand, we recognize Him as the Teacher of our hearts and the lover of our souls. As often as we step forward to Supper of all suppers, we do so as invited guests. As guests with broken hearts, messed up lives, and failed records, we receive the very body of Christ which has been broken for us. The very blood of Christ which has been poured out on our behalf. Christ is the host, we the guests. He is the Giver, we are the recipients. He is the Forgiver, we are the forgiven. He is the lover, we are the beloved. He serves, and we are served. Lesson #2 today is eat and drink at our Lord’s Supper together, to do so often, to do so with broken and contrite hearts, and to know that every time we do so the Holy Spirit will be fanning into flame the fire in our hearts, the fire that was started so long ago in the waters of Baptism and at our mother’s knees.
As often as Christ reveals Himself, that often faith (grows) 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
I would like to think that Jesus was really looking forward to this moment. The when Jesus had taken the bread in his hands and looked up and blessed the bread, and then just as he handed it to them, they realized who Jesus was and poof! He was gone! Now you see him, now you don’t. I’d like to think that there was a smile on Jesus’ lips and a twinkle in His eye and a joy in His heart as He vanished and then listened in, “whoa, where did He go? That was Jesus. That was Jesus with us all the while! That was Jesus listening to us and talking to us and messing with us! Hey was there something going on in your heart earlier on today? Me too!”
As long as I can remember, Holy Communion has been something special in my heart. Like many of you, I can remember getting instructed in the faith, getting ready to be confirmed, memorizing all those Scriptures and hymns and Psalms, answering all those questions, learning what a privilege it would be to be a guest at the Table. For us at Peace Lutheran in little Barney, ND. Communion was the second Sunday of every month. My cousin Merlyn and I were ushers, we took turns being the gate, letting 6 or 7 people up for the Supper and then back into place. In recent months, more often than not, it’s Pastor Muther who holds the bread in front of my eyes, He looks me in the eyes, and assures me in his Pastor Muther kind of a way that the body of Christ has been broken for me, that my sins are forgiven, that I may go in peace. Lesson #3 today is to never forget and to look forward to with all of our hearts for Christ Jesus to reveal Himself to us, and that as often as He does – whether it be in the Supper or in the preaching of His Word, He is doing so with a smile on His lips, with a twinkle in His eyes, and with joy in His heart.
Boundary waters’ fire vs. Wahpeton fire Two stories to close off our message today. A story of two fires. The first is of the one and perhaps last time I chaperoned a youth group into the beautiful but primitive boundary waters. There were no Boy Scouts in my group, nor was I a Boy Scout leader kind of a camp fire builder. Our fires were weak and they were wet and they often went out altogether. Every evening, it misted or it drizzled or it poured down rain. Several evenings, I came to the point of hyperventilating in an effort to blow on those pathetic little fires. At least half the nights, I said to the cold and damp teenagers, hey let’s have a snack and a devotion and call it a night!
The fire in Wahpeton, where my folks lived for many years, was much better than that. It was in the lower level of my parent’s house, and it came from their electric fireplace. All one had to do is flip a switch, sit back in a comfortable chair, cozy up with a good book or deal out the cards, and the fire appeared. Thank God, somebody else had already done the work. Someone had designed that electric fire place, my folks had purchased that fire place, and when my sisters and I were divvying up our folks’ stuff, I said, “I’ll take the fire place.” To this very day, that fire place blesses my family, as often as we turn on the switch.
Dear friends, in every one of your days, no matter what how cool or hot or maybe lukewarm is the fire in your heart, remember these two truths.
• As often as bread is broken in your family circle, that often the Holy Spirit will show up as Teacher, as Counselor, as Comforter.
• As often as bread is broken in this place, that often Jesus Christ will show up as Lover of your soul, as Forgiver of your, as the Giver of the peace only He can give.
First in Series of Four on Annual Theme, “With Burning Hearts, We Believe”
Luke 24: 10-17
Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.
13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.
Dear Christian Friends,
The kingdom of God is like a Christian couple who worked hard all their lives, and God blessed their labors in incredible fashion. They lived to ripe old ages, they died, and were buried. When their last will and testament was read aloud, it came to be that they were able to give away no less than ten million dollars. One million dollars each for each of their three sons, and one million dollars each for 7 other institutions and charities, including a couple of churches, a Christian camp, the Salvation Army, and the local dog shelter.
The reading of their will brought three distinct reactions from their three sons.
• Son #1 received his inheritance with absolute gratitude from Day #1. He was overjoyed with his parent’s generosity and proceeded to spend the rest of his days sharing his good fortune.
• Son #2 wasn’t quite sure what to think. He was grateful and yet he wondered why a dog shelter should get a million dollars. He had more questions than answers. Should he save his money for a rainy day? Should he pay his bills and buy a bigger house? Should he spread it around and leave a portion for his own kids? As time went on, his eyes were opened, and he came to the same conclusion as son #1.
• Son #3 had the opposite reaction. He resented the idea that he had not received a third of the money. He spent every last dollar on himself and lived out his life with a stingy heart.
Three lessons we want to learn today, in this first of four sermons focused on Luke 24 and our annual theme, “With Burning Hearts.”
The first lesson is that really good news always brings (mixed) reactions. As evidence of that theory of mine, I give three examples. 1) When the Vikings win the Super Bowl this year, there will be a mixed reaction. Vikings fans will be ecstatic, a lifelong dream has come true. Bear fans won’t really care one way or another. Packer fans will be absolutely dismayed that they will no longer be able to ask their favorite question, “How many super bowl rings do the Vikings have?” 2) A more serious and likely example is at the gravesite of a loved one who has suffered long and hard and then breathed her last.” In the same family, there will be mixed reactions. One brother will be mostly grateful that the suffering is over and will be fixed on the promises of heavenly mansions, another brother will walk away mainly resenting that there had to be so much suffering and believing that his sister deserved way better than that from God.
A third example is in our text for today, as the news began to spread that the grave was empty and that in fact Jesus was alive. Reactions were mixed, to say the least. Scribes and Pharisees were angry that someone had stolen the body, and Roman soldiers were no doubt embarrassed that it had happened on their watch. The women couldn’t stop talking and reporting the good news, and the apostles just wanted them to shut up and quit being so silly. Peter went away by himself muttering and marveling and wondering what had happened.
In one corner there was a heart where faith was duking it out with unbelief. Not too far away was a mind where Sunday joy was wrestling in the mud with Friday’s sadness. Nearby there was a believer taking one step forward in confident manner, then two steps back into doubt despair. That seemed to be the case with Clopas and his friend as they made the seven mile journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Wanting to believe that Jesus was alive but not wanting to have their hopes dashed yet one more time. On the road talking a mile a minute, remembering in one moment and forgetting in the next what Jesus had predicted. Hoping what the women said was true and yet suspecting it was just a false rumor. Before the day ended, they would see clearly, but for the time being, Luke records, their eyes were kept from recognizing Jesus, even as He walked alongside of them and began to engage in conversation with them. I’d like to think Jesus had a twinkle in his eye and a bit of playfulness in his voice as he drew near and asked, “Hey, what are you guys talking about?” Knowing full well what they were talking about! Lesson #1 – The Good News of Jesus Christ will always bring mixed reactions and responses.
Which brings us to our second lesson learned in this text, Conversations with Jesus often include all kinds of (confusion) on the way to clarity. An honest survey of the ministry of Jesus will show that Jesus often spoke in such a way as to puzzle the hearer for a time, but with the hope that eventually they would understand and accept the truth of the obscurity. Jesus wanted people to know the truth, but to go through a bit of chaos in their heart on the way to that truth. Instead of teaching people what to think, it seems as though He wanted to teach them how to think correctly and in accordance with God’s Word.
A couple of examples. One of my favorites is “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.” His point? Your sin problem isn’t your hand, it’s your heart. Another example could be that to one audience He says, “Peace I leave with you,” and to another audience, He quips, “I have not come to bring peace, but division.”
We may be sure that Jesus never spoke with hidden meanings just to be cute or for obscurity’s sake. There is always a purpose to His apparent madness. Sometimes Jesus was trying to startle the smug, and at other times He was rebuking the scoffer. At times He was simply expressing heavenly truth, as when He told Nicodemus that he had to be born again. And on other occasions, He would plant a time-delay charge, such as His prediction that He could destroy the temple and in three days raise it up again. Virtually all of our Lord’s predictions concerning the cross and resurrection fall into this latter category. The disciples heard these predictions but were slow to understand. They believed that the Messiah would deliver their nation from Roman oppression, but could not understand how death by crucifixion fit into that picture.
Lesson #2 is that there will be hours and days and even seasons of our life where God seems far away or even absent. As children hide so that other children come looking for them, so does God hide in the circumstances of life so that we will come looking. Seek and ye shall find. Ask and ye shall receive. Knock and the doors of the kingdom will be opened unto you.
Lesson #3 today as we focus on two disciples journeying on their way to Emmaus is that darkness doesn’t have a (prayer) in the presence of Jesus. Jesus knew that He would be revealing Himself to them in the breaking of the bread in the evening, and so He could hide himself for a time during the day. He knew that they would be believing once they could see clearly, and so He took the time to walk alongside. He took the time to listen to and care about their story. He took the time to let them babble their way through with all kinds of ifs, ands, or buts – knowing all along there would be a happy ending. Not only would there be a happy ending to their day as they recognized their Risen Savior, there would be a happy ending for time and eternity for all who would discern that this very body had been broken and this blood had been shed on their behalf.
The Bible says that it was for the joy set before Him that Jesus endured the cross, scorned its shame, and was crucified until He was dead and buried. Jesus knew that Easter Sunday was coming and that’s why He took the time to come from heaven down to earth, that’s why He took the time to fulfill the law in every way, that’s why He took the time to teach His disciples slowly but surely, that’s why Jesus took the time to be beaten bloody and that’s why He took the time to be slapped silly and that’s why He took the time to be tortured in total fashion on your behalf and mine. He knew that once the price was paid, debt would be cancelled. He knew that once the sacrifice was offered, sins would be forgiven. That once death had been swallowed, it would be swallowed forever. That once eyes were opened, then hearts would begin to burn, and that once hearts began to burn with resurrection truths, the lies of Satan would have to slither away into the dust from which they came.
The kingdom of God is like a large congregation of believers in a small town whose hearts are burning, some days flickering and other days going strong. They are learning again and again that darkness doesn’t have a prayer in the presence of Jesus. That although there may be weeping in the night time, the mercies of God will be cause for laughter in the morning. That as often as they draw near to their God in Divine Service or in private conversations, their God has a heart with a burning desire to give them a second chance and yet another new beginning.
The kingdom of God is like a den of Boy Scouts who know exactly how to build a fire. In the early stages, the fire is unimpressive and small. There are moments when it seems as though the drizzle and the darkness will win the day, but their teachers have taught them well. Their fire ends up ruling the night, and day by day they keep on having happy endings. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
A Feast of Rich Food
Isaiah 25:6-9, John 10:11-15
Focus: Our Savior leads us through death to everlasting life.
Function: that the hearers find comfort in the hope of the Gospel, even in their grief.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Our sermon meditates on two texts for today: Isaiah 25 and John 10, and as we reflect upon our texts and upon the life of this departed saint, there are two lessons we would cling to today. First, that God will make a feast for the ages. Second, that He is the Good Shepherd.
First, He will make a feast for the ages. That is the hope held out to us in Isaiah 25. There’s a man, named Jon Reiner, who lived in New York and because of a certain disease, was not able to eat for years (for years!). He had to have his food digested by an artificial stomach that he carried on his back and pumped into his body again. For years, this is how he got nutrition, until his doctors told him to start eating again. And when he was able to eat, he said, first thing, he went to a little greasy New York diner that had been his place many years before. He ordered a fried egg and cheese sandwich with bacon. He sat down, put his elbows on the table, and dug in. He made one of these faces, the kind of face you can imagine someone would make if they hadn’t been able to eat in far, far too long, and he turns to the man sitting next to him and says, “This is the best darn sandwich I’ve ever had.” To which the man says, in true New Yorker fashion, without missing a beat, “You think that’s good, you should try the meatloaf.”
Now, I’m not sure what Karen’s favorite food was, but I do know that it had been far too long since she could enjoy it. Now, listen again to what God says to the people of Israel. On this mountain – mountains are the symbol for the places where God shows up - on this mountain I make a feast of the finest of meats and the strongest of wines. On this mountain there will be a feast for the ages. He’s talking, filet mignon. He’s talking bacon-wrapped T-bones. He’s talking the best of wines, aged and strong. He’s promising a place where there isn’t discomfort, where there isn’t pain, where the only tears are tears of joy, where the food never runs out, and where the party is just getting started, because as we see in the next verse, God goes one step further: not only does he set a feast before his people, he finally swallows up death itself. Death gone, never to come back. For the Lord has spoken.
Karen, she desired the food that could be had in this life. She watched Food Network, like Nikki said, about 20 hours a day, and when I went to Rochester to visit her, I found that same thing to be true. And yet, when I asked if she wanted the Lord’s Supper, she turned the TV off, looked me in the eye, and said with tears in her eyes, even as she had sores in her mouth, “Yes, I do.” And the hope that we held out for her is that in her days, she ate and drank the Lord’s Supper for the strength that God gave her in it. In the end of her life, Karen was first and best hungry for the Supper that her Lord would give her. And now, in these days, know this: we take the Lord’s Supper with her and all the company of heaven, until at the end of all time, God opens up the banquet tables, we get to sit ourselves down, we put our elbows on the table, and dig in.
Lesson number one is that I would invite you to spend your days desiring the food that really matters. Let these things of eternal significance that marked Karen’s life at the end of her life also mark yours. Spend your days eager to come to the Lord’s Supper, receiving strength from the foretaste of the feast to come. Keep on being fed by the Word of God, because it will sustain you like none other especially when times get lean. Feast on the riches of God’s promises, because, at the end of all time, you’ll find this to be true: nobody throws a party like God throws a party.
Second, Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” John 10 goes on, “I know my own and my own know me. My sheep know my voice.” Jesse told me that through his impressive wrestling career, he went to a lot of gyms and wrestled a lot of matches with a lot of people watching, and a lot more people yelling. And when you play, you get in the zone, until it feels like only you and the other guy are there. But, he found that there was always one person that he could hear from the stands – his mom. No matter which match it was, he could hear her voice telling him, Come on, Jesse. Get it done, Jesse. Don’t let up, Jesse.
And I tell you that to tell you this: Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd. My sheep know my voice.” In her moments of fear, Jesus said to Karen, “I am your Good Shepherd.” In her moments of confidence, Jesus said to her, “I am your Good Shepherd.” In every one of her days, Jesus followed her around, and he followed her around with goodness and mercy, eager, absolutely eager to comfort her, to lead her before still waters, to restore her soul, until he took the lamb that he loves in the arms of his mercy and brought her home.
This is the foretaste that calmed her fears when they tried to overtake her, that led her to her shepherd’s arms that made her strong, even when her body failed her. This is the hope held out by our Savior, Jesus Christ, who went to the cross where his body failed him, who was crucified until he suffered the sting of sin, but who rose up as the first fruits of resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
Lesson number two is that here and now I would invite you to hear the voice of your Shepherd calling. If you could hear the voice of your mother so clearly amidst all the noise of those gyms, then now listen to the voice of your Good Shepherd speak in your busy times and in your quiet times. If you could find encouragement in the strength of her love, then now find encouragement in the proclamation of your Savior Jesus Christ, when he says, “I have won my wrestling match with death. Death submits. Sin subsides. Pain will fade, because Christ has mastered it, and he mastered it for you.” Let the clear, calm voice of your father in heaven speak into your ear today. Let him tell you what you learned from your mother’s knee. That death is not the end. That you are bought with the blood of another. That your shepherd has been guiding you, and he will not rest until he guides you all the days of your life and more – to the feast of the age to come.
Focus: God has claimed the victory
Function: that the hearers would struggle well in the fight.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
+ God has no (grandchildren) – Billy Graham was supposed to have said this on more than one occasion. The church has no grandchildren because it’s never a given that each generation will be raised in the Christian faith, and, even if they are, there’s no guarantee that they will continue on with it through all their days. Billy Graham echoes what our Deuteronomy text tells us: each generation must be won, must be taught, and must be confident to share with the next. Faith and instruction are handed down from generation to generation but each generation must grasp it for their own. You aren’t saved through your parents’ faith; you’re saved when you have faith. You see, this thing we call life, that we call the walk of discipleship, it’s a fight – it’s us versus them - and it’s a fight in every generation.
That’s why Paul uses battle metaphors in our text for today. Among the many metaphors for the Christian life – producing fruit like a well-cared plant, walking with your Savior, being filled by your God, maturing into adulthood… here he uses military language – a battle metaphor – because it brings out some particular truths of the spiritual life that coincide with the truth we find about war. And sure, the battle metaphor does leave some things hidden – like how we are to love the world and be kind to our enemies and all that, but it highlights at least three points we would make for today.
Three points and three lessons from these points. First that it’s a battle to the death. Second, evil comes from within. Third, that the battle’s been won.
First, it’s a battle to the (death). That is something our parish members know well these days. After six months without any funerals here at Trinity, it seems as though many who have battled well over these months are facing mortality. At the bedside of Karen Westphal, her family holds her hand as they wonder when the Lord will let her rest. At the bedside of Deb Brandmire, of Beatrice Gekeler, of Larry Hogetvedt, of Jeff Ewert, of Dale Keyes, of Russell Miller, families wrestle with the twin truths that they are glad their loved one has finished their struggle, and yet they are sad, overwhelmingly sad, that they are gone.
There are seasons of life where life and vitality abound, where the very concept that life will end in death you only grasp as an intellectual idea somewhere out there. It’s hard even to conceive of your own end. And then there are seasons when it seems as though death is around every corner, when you feel like everyone you’ve ever loved is battling a battle they know they will lose. This life is a battle and it’s a battle to the death.
One young man, writing a letter after years of wrestling an inoperable brain tumor reflected on the battle he had fought. He said, there are many times that I wanted to give up, many times I wanted to step back, but I saw how this terrible tragedy in my life had in fact unlocked a love in the hearts of my family that they wouldn’t have known otherwise.
But there’s another truth to that phrase. You see, it isn’t just a battle from the point of conception until the sleep of physical death. Paul here also tells us that it is a battle of life and death, a battle with eternal significance. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood alone – he’s saying flesh and blood aren’t our most powerful opponents – but we are against the rulers, authorities, cosmic powers and spiritual forces of evil. These are all in Paul’s vocabulary for the fallen angels. We battle against an intelligent and willful evil that would knock down every good brick we’d build up.
So, I’ll leave you with a few questions. Have you thought of the Christian life this way recently? Have you looked at your neighbors and thought about them as if they are eternal beings that have one of two stories and your words could have significance to change that? That they, as CS Lewis would remind us, are turning into the glory of heaven or into the horrors that inhabit hell? When you think of your neighbors, do you think of their eternal destiny and how your words that day would affect them?
Second, evil comes from (within). Jesus says as much in our Gospel reading. Jesus declares all foods clean by saying “It isn’t what comes from outside into a man that defiles him. No, evil comes from within.” As Luther says, the enemies of the Gospel are the Devil, the World, and our Sinful Nature, and by the inheritance of Adam each and every soul born is first claimed by the devil as his rightful and broken property.
And, I’ll tell you, as Lutherans, we regularly acknowledge the same. This weekend, five times in fact, we will baptize Bentely, Coltyn Jr., Sara, Zachary, and Elliot. And every time, we will renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways. Renounce - That’s the same language that a Christian pastor would use in an exorcism. That’s the word that means, in the name of Jesus, I kick you out. Christ claims you as his own, he cleanses you to your core, and he kicks the devil out.
But even after baptism, wickedness still comes. John Calvin recognizes this – he calls man’s heart a perpetual factory of idols. And I quote: “We may gather that man's nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols. . . . So it goes. Man's mind, full as it is of pride and boldness, dares to imagine a god according to its own capacity; … it conceives an unreality and an empty appearance as God.” Man’s mind almost automatically raises up good things to be ultimate things. Man’s mind almost automatically will continue to produce idols that need to be constantly dashed down.
So to that Paul says, “Stand firm. Take up the sword of the Spirit, and let that double-edged blade of law and Gospel first kill and then make alive your own heart.” “Stand firm and keep giving over with feverish prayer and supplication, every single new idol in your heart to your God who will dash it down.” “Stand firm because we don’t have to be strong with the strength of our puny legs or our chicken wing arms. We are strong in the strength of his might.”
So, from this, Lesson number two is, put on the whole armor of God. Don’t leave any piece off. That is to say, take every opportunity to hear the words of God and let the law cut you to the bone, so that the Gospel can heal you deeply. Fit your feet with the Gospel of peace, so that you are good to go whenever God would call you away from this world, because you know who holds your hand and where your journey ends. Keep up the shield of faith because faith finds its power not on what you’ve done but on the one who is faithful to you. Be truthful and honest in your prayers and in your life. Pour out your supplications, because he is eager, cupping his ear to hear your shouts and whispers.
Third, The battle's already been (won). Some days it feels like you’ve lost. Perhaps in these days, you feel like Christianity has lost in the public sphere. Perhaps you feel your faith diminishes because of the loss you feel today. Perhaps you feel lost because things are falling apart. But remember this: These words in
Ephesians were penned by a man in chains for the Gospel, going to where he was certain he would die and yet he would use every opportunity to preach the Gospel boldly
As Christians, we know that the battle is already won. Christ has won by dying on the cross. The devil is defeated. Death has lost its sting. Sin is on its way out. It means that the pain of marital problems and divorce will one day be covered with the calm of new life. That the blinding and bewildering loneliness of grief will one day be cloaked with the fellowship of the church of God. That the idol factory of sin in your heart going out of business.
In lesson number three I’ll first tell you what that doesn’t mean by sharing a story about Laura and her family, and it’s probably one of the more controversial stories I’ll tell. It’s about cribbage. One of the first times I came to her parents’ house, they suggested, among the twelve people there, that we would split off into teams of two to play a best-of-three game series. So I’m with Laura and in the first game, we skunk the other team. That means, we beat them by over 30 points, which traditionally scored as a two-game victory, and that means we’ve already taken the series. Now, since we had done that so quickly, we had time enough to play two more games, both of which we lost, because we had figured to have fun – I mean we were already advancing – so I could just (as my Uncle Tim says) took’re easy and fool around. It turns out that that rule was not an accepted house rule where I was playing and Laura and I in fact lost that round. And I tell you that to tell you this. Our Lord has won the victory for us, but that doesn’t mean we’re supposed to took’re easy.
I’ve said this twice this weekend at weddings, and I’ll say it again now. Just like a wife’s constant love doesn’t mean that the husband can slack off in his husbanding. No! It means that husbands, you should work all the harder for your wife. In the same way, the victory of Christ doesn’t mean that you can lollygag through this world; it instead means that you should look to act all the more like the one who won the victory for you.
In conclusion, we are (Freed) from curse, because God has chained himself to (promise). We are freed from the curse because God is chained to promise. The delightfully Lutheran take on the Gospel sets us free because God does what God says he’s going to do. It is God’s effort that frees these baptized babies to be children of God. It is God’s work to strengthen you in the Lord’s Supper. It is God’s work when others find encouragement from words you had long forgotten to have spoken.
In our little baptismal class, we get to the end of our Theology of baptism and there’s a little summary section: Is baptism for infants or for adults. We remember that we believe that baptism is a miracle that imparts faith, forgiveness, and salvation. We remember that baptism is not something we do but something God does. And then the question at the end of life or in the middle of doubt is not “Do we believe enough? It is instead, Does God do what God says he’s going to do? Well, yeah, he’s God."
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther