Mission Dei: Building the Kingdom
Our Public Relationships
Isaiah 55:6-11 / Romans 13:5-10 / Matthew 22:15-22
September 23 and 24, 2017
Dear Christian Friends,
We are in the final of a four week journey through our annual theme, Missio Dei: Building God’s Kingdom. We have defined a mission as a purpose that orders and directs us toward a certain goal, as opposed to just sort of aimlessly wandering through life taking up time and space with no particular destination in mind. That our God has always been on a mission, is on a mission in this very hour, and will be on a mission until His Second Coming is indisputable. The Father sent the Son, on the Day of Pentecost both the Father and the Son sent forth the Holy Spirit, and from that day forward, the Spirit of God dwells in us and sends us to do God’s will in each and every relationship we have. Three weeks ago we focused on our mission to our intimate circle, two weeks ago our mission to our personal circle, last week to our social circle, and today to our public circle.
Who are in my public circle? Your public circle includes people with whom you play bingo, folks you don’t know worshipping alongside of you at Divine Service, and youth attending a national youth gathering. Green Bay Packer fans who are high fiving perfect strangers in the airport, Donald Trump supporters who are engaging on Facebook, and Donald Trump non-supporters engaging on social media or perhaps even protesting on the streets – these folks are connecting in the public circle.
We engage in the public circle whenever we take our private beliefs, our private opinions, and our private ideas into the public arena. Now in what some like to call the good old days, at least where I grew up, there was a fair amount of pressure to keep your private opinions to yourself. My great uncle Arnie Kressin (the New York Yankee fan) pulled me aside at a family gathering once and wanted me to know that we could talk about the Twins and Yankees all we wanted, but three topics we should never speak about out loud, religion, politics, and sex. Years later I was making small talk with my Aunt Linny and I asked her who she voted for, and I thought she was going to bite off my head. She made it crystal clear that her vote was secret and none of my business!
This morning we want to think about what it means to be about our Father’s business, even as we try to honor that older generation who warned us very clearly not to be sticking our noses into places where they don’t belong. One question we want to ask this morning. What does God’s love look like when we take our private convictions into the (public circle?)
That’s another way of asking the question – what does it mean to let our Gospel lights shine all over the neighborhood so that others may see our good works and give glory to God? How can we know when God is wanting us to be quiet and when He is wanting us to speak up? What does it mean to render unto God that which is God’s and unto Caesar that which is Caesars? Is it possible to respect the office while at the same time despising the person who is holding that office? Three answers to one question this morning, What does God’s love look like when we take our private convictions into the public circle? Three answers, one each from our three lessons already read.
Lesson #1 comes from the prophet Isaiah who reminding the nation of Israel that even though they were currently languishing as captives in Babylonia, God was still planning to use them to build His kingdom. Out of their nation the Messiah would come. This Servant would not only be the salvation of the Jews but also a light for the Gentiles. Although it didn’t feel like God was with them and loving them every step of the way, He was.
Answer #1 to the question of what God’s love looks like when we take our private convictions into the public circle is that it looks like rain and snow accomplishing the purposes for which they were (sent). According to the Hartford Institute of Religion Research, more than 40 percent of Americans “say” they go to church weekly. As it turns out, however, less than 20 percent are actually in church.
Research like that makes us wonder how it can be true that God’s Word isn’t returning to Him empty. How can it be true that God’s Word is achieving what He pleases and is successful in the thing for which He commissioned it? The answer to those questions is that God’s ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts are deeper than our thoughts. That’s another way of saying that our assignment is to work hard at planting the seeds of God’s Word, to work hard at watering and fertilizing and cultivating the tender plants, and to trust God to do the growing and providing of harvest.
A more encouraging survey comes to us from the Billy Graham Center, which surveyed 2000 unchurched Americans. Five insights from that research may surprise you. 1) Most have some church background. 2. Most quit church because they got out of the habit of going. 3. One third have plans to go to church in the future. 4. The unchurched are very open to a gospel conversation- 47% would definitely interact freely in such a conversation and another 31 % say they would listen carefully without participating. 5. If you invite them, they will come. 55% said they would come if invited by a family member, 51% if invited by a friend.
The kingdom of God looks like a Christian responding to a profanity laced tirade posted on FB of a friend who is as angry as she can be with her own families’ conflict and drama. Her response is simply, “I’m praying for you today, if you need somebody to listen, let me know.”
Same question, What does God’s love look like when we take our private convictions into the (public circle?)
Answer #2 comes from Romans 10, It looks like conversations and actions seasoned with (grace). In this chapter Paul was trying to help Christians understand what it meant to be loyal and obedient both to spiritual and secular authority. On the one hand, they were to pay whatever taxes were due, and on the other hand they were to owe nobody anything except to love one another. On the one hand they were to obey the laws of the land, and on the other hand, they were to spend their days looking for opportunities to help and befriend their neighbors in every bodily need, looking for opportunities to honor the institution of marriage, looking for opportunities to help their neighbors improve and protect their property and business, looking for opportunities to speak well of others, defend them, and put the best construction on everything.
Paul said it this way to the Colossians, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
The kingdom of God is like a family torn apart by the presidential election of 2016. Much of the damage done when folks on both sides of the election spoke their minds without filtering their speech through the cross of Christ crucified. These days, family members are tippy toeing their way back into controversy. These days, they are choosing their words more carefully than they used to choose, they are praying for wisdom more often than they used to pray, they are leading with repentance more than they used to lead with repentance. They are more interested in understanding other people’s opinions than they were in days gone by.
Which leads us right into the third answer to the question of what God’s love looks like when we take our private convictions out into the public circle.
It looks like citizens disagreeing without being (disagreeable) The Pharisees were about as disagreeable as you could be in the day of Jesus. The opening verse of our Gospel lesson reads, “Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle Jesus in his words.” In these verses, the Pharisees join forces with their opponents the Herodians to try to destroy Jesus. They imagine they will throw Jesus off guard by flattering him with words of praise. Should God’s chosen people the Jews pay taxes to an evil government or not?
When Jesus answers that we should give to Caesar whatever belongs to Caesar and to God whatever belongs to Him, He is focused on the big picture instead of the various pieces of the puzzle. We are to be loyal and obedient both to the secular and the spiritual authorities. As we take our private convictions out into the public arena, we do well to remember how broad and how deep and how high and how everlasting is the love of our God for us. He loved us by creating us wonderfully and marvelously and with purpose in the first place. He loved us by redeeming us with his very own body and blood. He loved us by placing His Spirit inside of us in the waters of Holy Baptism. He loved us by instituting government, church, and marriage all with distinct purposes. And in our texts for today, he invites us to think about what it means to be citizens in both earthly and heavenly kingdoms.
Bernard Meltzer was a radio talk show host who offered advice to callers on a show called, “What’s Your Problem?” He had this to say about working through our disagreements with others, “If you have learned how to disagree without being disagreeable, then you have discovered the secret of getting along - whether it be business, family relations, or life itself.
Two thoughts in closing about what it means take our private beliefs out into the public arena in a way that gives glory to God. The first has to do with our religious persuasions, and the second has to do with our political persuasions.
First, the very fact that many of us are members of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod means that we will be associated with certain and traditional teachings. You can go to our LCMS website and see dozens and dozens of our positions including the authority and inerrancy of Holy Scripture and the belief that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation. Over the years, we have taken public positions on controversial topics like slavery,the atom bomb, anti-semitism, and racism. Social issues like abortion, homosexual behavior, the definition of marriage, andt the list goes on.
How do Lutherans, Roman Catholics, and Methodists disagree without being disagreeable? (Story of my mom and dad disagreeing about which church to attend, at one point Mom called off the engagement / eventually Dad agreed to go to church with her if she would marry him/ 13 years later Dad went through instruction and declined to join / then he went through instruction a second time and said ok / this weekend they would have been married for 70 years / they figured out how to disagree without being disagreeable.
Secondly, we think of working through our political differences. This used to happen over the back fence, in break rooms at work, and in coffee shops. These days 76% of all females use Facebook and 66% of all males. In terms of engaging on controversial topics of the day, it seems to me there are three kinds of FB users – those who stay entirely away from controversy, those who engage with the first thoughts that come to their mind, and those who season their conversations with God’s grace.
What does it look like when we season our conversations with God’s grace? This is what it looked like after Jesus gave the big picture kind of an answer in our text, “When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.
The kingdom of God is like a woman who engages frequently and passionately on social media. She’s well read, highly opinionated, and famous for not backing down. At the same time, if you were to read through her history of commenting on FB, you would walk away with the very distinct impression that she loves her country, she loves her Savior, and she loves people. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Missio Dei: Building the Kingdom in Our Social Relationships
September 16 and 17, 2017
Deuteronomy 10: 15-19 / Isaiah 2:2-5 / Matthew 28:16-20
Dear Christian Friends,
We are on the third of a four week journey through our annual theme, Missio Dei: Building the kingdom. The first week we began with understanding what a mission is- it is a purpose that orders and directs us toward a certain goal- and we acknowledged that the Missio Dei, or the mission of God, is essential to the very nature of our God. The Father sends the Son, the Son sends the Spirit, and the Spirit dwells in us and sends us to do God’s will in each and every relationship that we have. In our closest of relationships, we focused on the virtues of patience and sincerity. Last week, we focused on our personal relationships, which includes the people with whom we live and work and share life – the virtue of listening to each other’s stories with an attentive ears.
This morning we explore the mission of God in our social relationships. Remember that in all four circles- intimate, personal, social, and public – we connect. Some connections take place spontaneously. Other connections fulfill a need at a specific time in our lives. In this sermon series, the Spirit of God would teach us to be committed to and to participate in all four circles, to see all four circles as arenas in which our God is active and working.
Our social circle includes the people with whom we share (snapshots) of life, but not the whole (album). Who are they? They are the folks with whom you share coffee and a cookie at the Welcome Center, they are your neighbors with whom you have an occasional conversation, they are the folks you talk to on an elevator, standing in line next to at the grocery store, seated next to you in an airplane. They are the bank tellers, the Dairy Queen workers, and the folks you sit next to at the local high school sporting even. Who are they in your life? Write them down. As Pastor Muther said it these past two Sundays, “hold their faces in your mind as we move through this sermon, as we explore all three lessons.”
To the text! Lesson #1 is that God builds His Kingdom as redeemed (sojourners) care for one another.
In Deuteronomy Moses is giving his farewell sermon, he is explaining the Ten Commandments for a second and final time to the obstinate and disobedient, but chosen and much loved people of God. In these verses, he is urging them to circumcise their hearts, which is another way of telling them to quit being so stubborn, so set in their ways. He gives them first of all a few snapshots of their God. A snapshot of the one true God who has rescued them from the slavery of Egypt and is about to hand them victory in Canaan. A snapshot of a God who makes sure there is justice for the orphans and the widows, a God who makes sure the sojourners have food and clothing.
So how is it that God makes sure there is justice for the orphans and widows? How is it that Jesus Christ cares for the homeless and those in prison? How is it that God gives shelter and supplies and money to those whose lives get disrupted by hurricanes and flooding? The answer is simple. He sends His Church near and far not only to be baptizing and teaching, but also to be loving our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. As often as God’s people make sure they are feeding the hungry, giving a drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and in prison, as often as Christians band together to operate thrift stores and food shelves and hospitals and nursing homes, that often the teachings of Christianity actually make sense to people, that often folks start to listen to what we are preaching, that often God is able to bring life out of death, that often God is able to work through the worst of times to bring repentance and a growing faith, or to say it another way, that often God is able to build his kingdom.
Now we should make it clear that Christians don’t have a corner on the market of showing mercy. Christians don’t have a monopoly on reaching out with actions of kindness and justice. But we do have a monopoly on the highest motivation there is for loving others, which is the love of Jesus Christ compelling us to get out there and to love people until they ask why are you so full of love? At which time we have the opportunity to explain that God loved us first and therefore we love. Christ showed mercy first, and therefore we show mercy. Moses said it this way, “Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”
Lesson #2 is closely related. God builds His kingdom as people are (attracted) to the Church. The prophet Isaiah describes the new Testament Church as the mountain of the house of the Lord, which shall be established as the highest of mountains. Higher even than Mt. Sinai would be Mt. Zion, which refers to the New Testament Church which is commissioned by our risen Savior to form our communities of faith around this one mission to make disciples of all nations. To make disciples by baptizing them and by teaching them all things commanded.
Isaiah predicts there will be a time when not only the Jews but also Gentiles will be attracted to the teachings and to the lifestyle of Christians. Jesus invited us to let our Gospel lights shine so that others would see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven.
Just a couple of days ago, I was communing a group of folks at the Janesville Nursing Home. As I handed a little glass of wine to one dear lady, she held it in her hand and just looked at it. She wasn’t so sure she wanted to drink it, and so I persuaded her to just taste a little bit of it. She tasted a little, and then I asked her if she wanted to drink more of it. She looked at me as if she were weighing the pros and the cons, and then she said, “give me some more of that!”
Imagine having a conversation with a stranger on the elevator or on the airplane and that person walking away saying, “I wish I could talk to that person again.” Imagine giving a snapshot of your life to an acquaintance at the Welcome Center and that person looking forward to a few more snapshots. Imagine first time visitors in our church walking away saying, “I’d like to have some more of that.” Imagine folks being served at our Thrift Store or our Food Shelf walking away wondering why those folks are so generous. Imagine children attending our day school or our Sunday School or our confirmation classes and telling their parents that night they really look forward to some more of that. Lesson #2 as we think about being on a mission in our social circles is that God builds His kingdom as people are (attracted) to the Church.
Two Christian virtues come to mind, as we think about every one of our days as a short term mission trip. Humility with respect to our own little part in God’s grand tapestry of salvation. And confidence with respect to Jesus Christ who is sitting at the right hand of his father, ruling all of heaven and earth with authority for the benefit of His Church. Humility and confidence.
Humility- You know it as well as I do. If there’s one thing that turns people away from Christianity, it’s when we Christians are full of ourselves. It’s when we come off as self righteous or self serving or hypocrital or arrogant or know it alls or all of the above. From beginning to end in Scripture, the Holy Spirit would teach us to humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God, that he might exalt us in due time.
The Griffin family has been humbled in the last few weeks in two ways: 1) Our daughter Michelle / Brandon’ unborn infant with a beating heart, but no amniotic fluid, no kidneys, no bladder, and medically speaking no chance of surviving outside of the womb. 2)Story of Hurricane Irma bearing down on the state of Florida where our two sons and family live, where Debi and I were vacationing. Story of Nate and me climbing ladders down in Bradenton, Florida, putting up shutters 20 feet high on a couple of houses down there. Realizing how terrible we both are on ladders. Realizing how unhandy we are. Realizing what cowards we are and how puny we are in the scheme of the bigger picture, which on those days, was preparing for an end of the world as we know it kind of a hurricane. Realizing that we were two little people getting ready for a disaster along with millions of others, and in those moments on the ladder, not being at all full of myself!) Humility, with respect to our own little part in God’s grand tapestry of salvation. Humility, with respect to God working everything out for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes.
God works humility inside of us as we learn by trial and error, humility as we try hard and fall short on a regular basis. Humility, as we walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ who had this mindset willing to give up the riches of heaven for the poverty of this earth. A mindset willing to dwell in the flesh with mere mortals for a time. A mindset willing to suffer all that needed to be suffered, to be crucified until dead and buried. Knowing full well that His Father in heaven had everything under control. Which brings us to a second virtue.
Confidence. Confidence not so much in our own ability to survive the troubles of life, but confidence in God’s ability to use those troubles to grow inside of us a spirit of perseverance. Confidence not so much that our acts of helpfulness will solve difficult problems, but confidence that God’s ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts are deeper than our thoughts, His plan of salvation is already accomplished, His Word will be accomplishing all of that which He has sent it to accomplish.
(Story of Deanna and Nate and Ali and children hunkering down in their shuttered houses and riding out the storm in safety. Story of Noah and Jenna plywooding their house, evacuating to Minnesota and riding out the storm in safety. Story of them returning and beginning the cleanup, along with millions. Story of nursing home in Hollywood, Florida with five found dead and many others suffering from heat. A story that includes loss of life, loss of possessions, people getting stripped of so much they held dear, and in the midst of all of that cleanup, all of that loss, what do we have left?
In answer to that question, let me quote Dr. Dale Meyer, “I once visited a little church in the Hartz Mountains of Germany. The railing leading up to the high pulpit was decorated with the wood-carving of a naked man. “What’s that about?” I asked. Answer: “We brought nothing into this world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” (1 Timothy 6:7). From the pulpit comes the Word of God that the Good News of Jesus is all we finally have. The things you and I hold dear are gifts of God, not to be despised, but in the progress of life, aging, He takes them away so that more and more we come to see that Jesus is all we have.
The mission of God for those in our social circle. The kingdom of God is a large congregation in a small town full of folks who see every day as a short term mission trip. Week by week, they are gathered into God’s house and enlightened with his gifts. More and more they go looking for the opportunity to give others just a few snapshots of how God has been blessing and guiding. Not the whole album, mind you, just a few snapshots. God has worked in them a desire to season their conversations with grace – not just with their family members, not just with the people with whom they work and share life, but also with acquaintances they may never see again. Less and less do they see people in need and say “I’ll pray for you” and then leave it at that. More and more they think about what it means to be the hands, the feet, the ears, and the voice of Jesus Christ. Less and less do they view small talk as meaningless and superficial. More and more they see every encounter as an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to be drawing folks of all stripes and sizes into the fellowship of the Church.
Missio Dei: Building the Kingdom
Our Closest Relationships
First in a series of four
September 3, 2017
Genesis 12:1-3 // 1 John 5 // John 15:12-17
Dear Christian friends,
In the next four weeks, we explore the Missio Dei – the mission of God – and all that means for our lives and the lives of those whom we love. And that all starts with this acknowledgement from the whole counsel of the Scriptures: God is on a mission. More than that, the Missio Dei – the mission of God – is a mission stamped with the very essence of who God is. The Father sends the Son into the world. The Father and the Son send the Spirit into our hearts. The Spirit sends the Church to the ends of the earth.
So, we need to start our four-week journey by asking a fundamental question, “What is a mission?” Too often we relegate Christian missions to the deep dark jungles of Africa, or to the 2-week service projects – and mission does happen there – but to recall what Christian mission is, we first have to start out with what a mission is. It is the (purpose) that sends us in the (direction) of God's (goal).
Mission is the will, the intent in one’s heart, that drives a person to a point in the distance, and to make a path to get there.
Mission is everywhere, and every Christian is a missionary, on the Missio Dei. We are called to witness to everyone, in every action. We are sent into every interaction that we have. There is a purpose, an overriding purpose, that sends us in a direction, so that we can give glory to the God that sends us in that direction in the raising up of whoever happens to be around us.
To that end, in the next four weeks, we explore the Missio Dei, the mission of God, in the circles of our relationships. We look at our closest relationships, at our coworkers and friends, at our acquaintances, and at our public square, and we ask the question, “How am I sent to this place?” “How does love and truth look and act differently in these different circles?” “What aspects of God’s mission come forward here?”
Today, we look at the mission of God in the realm of our closest relationships.
The people around whom your life revolves. Who are they? It might be your spouse, or your children, or your parents. It might be your best friend. It might be your roommate. These are the relationships that exhibit the depth of God’s love. There are relationships that exhibit the width of God’s love – how we get to be an earthly picture of how far open our God’s arms are to embrace all those baptized into the Christian faith, how he holds out salvation to the whole world, so that we can call all Christians brothers and sisters in Christ, we can call all people fellow image-bearers, and we can feel kinship with all creation under the creator. We get to be a picture of the width of God’s love. But here, today, we talk on the relationships in which we are a picture of the depth of God’s love. We pour time and energy into these folks in a way that prevents us from doing so with anyone else. Who are they in your life? Write them down. Hold their faces in your mind as we move through this sermon.
Let’s go to the text! He called them (friends). The context of our text for today helps us to remember that John chapter 15 is on the night when Jesus was betrayed. These are part of his last words to His disciples as he is preparing in the upper room or in the Garden, to be betrayed, abandoned, set on trial, and crucified.
He says, I’ve poured time and love and care into you like I have for no others. I call you friends. Not disciples, not slaves, not servants, but friends. And with his friend before him, in his last hour, with only a few words left to say, we turn to what Jesus says, the command that he gives to his disciples… and we see that it’s no special piece of knowledge; it’s the same one that he shared with the rich young ruler who went away sad… it’s the same one that he shared publicly… it’s this: Love one another as I have loved you.
Today, meditate on how this command – to love – can be particularly hard to carry out among those that you love the most. Because, not too far away from here is a wife that’s wondering what she’s going to do about her husband. He’s let her down time and time again. He’s put her down more often than not. She doesn’t know how to help him. Not too far away from her is a middle-aged man whose needs to have “the talk” with his father: no more car keys, no more house. He cringes as he thinks about having to speak these hard to the man who raised him. Not too far away from him is a young woman can’t for the life of her convince her mom that she’s an adult. Every time she comes home, she feels like she’s 10 again.
I submit to you today that two Christian virtues that come to light, as we think on what love looks like in our closest relationships: patience and sincerity.
First, Patience – the Greek word is macrothymia, translated literally as (long-suffering). Love is to suffer long for those whom you love, to be patient with them. I was talking to a premarital counseling couple the other day when we started on the subject of patience, mainly in this point: When you’re tired, you will do what you’re good at and not do what you’re bad at. When you’re tired, when you’re at the end of your rope, you will do what you’re good at and not do what you’re bad at. That means, for me, that I will do a good job giving Laura compliments and washing the dishes and writing my sermons, but I And, as much as I want to change that – and it’s my task to work hard at it,-- as much as it is my task to do that, it’s the calling of Laura’s love to be patient with my flaws for the years, decades, and lifetime.
Second, Sincerity – the Greek word is Haplotatis, translated literally (single-hearted). Love is to be single-hearted, to be of one motive, to be clear with them. Love is to, as Laura and I have worked hard to do, to tell each other when you’re having a bad day, when you’re mad at the other. Love is to slow down when unclear communication happens, to recognize that there’s a time and a conversation when sarcasm need to be left behind.
Love one another as I have loved you. It’s only when we need to be patient with those who truly try our patience that we find how impatient we are. It’s only when we seek to be sincere that we discover how insincere our conversations can become. It’s only when we seek to love as Christ has loved that we understand anew how much he has done, how far he has gone, how patient he has been, how single-hearted he is in his pursuit of us. His love called us friends while we were still enemies of him. It is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. It is wide and deep and long, it is ours in his word, in baptism, and in his supper, and he calls us to love as he has loved us.
How does the Missio Dei, the mission of God, look in relation to our closest few? It looks like patience and long-suffering. It looks like single-hearted sincerity. That is the mission of God for those we hold closest. It’s our vocation to those whom we are bound closest. It is the calling of our God for us to witness to those with whom we are closest in patience and sincerity.
Amen and Amen.
Sacrament of Altar Part II
August 30, 2017
· Last week, we considered the nature and the benefits of our Lord’s Supper, tonight we consider the power of our Lord’s Supper and who is worthy to receive it.
· Here at Trinity 1/3 of our 1200 plus communicant members receive the Supper regularly, 1/3 occasionally, and 1/3 not at all.
· The first half of the catechism, Luther said, was to be brought to mind again and again, that you could never truly master it, but you repeated and remembered and inwardly digested it because – and I quote – “without it, our souls become rusty, as it were, and we lose ourselves.” Here, as we finish our catechism, we reflect on another Luther quote… If a person stays away from the sacrament, day by day he will become more and more callous and cold, and eventually spurn it altogether. To avoid this, we must examine our heart and conscience and act like a person who really desire to be right with God. The more we do this, the more will our heart be warmed and kindled, and it will not grow entirely cold.
The longer I stay alive – and I’ve made a good go at thirty years running now – the longer I stay alive, the more I realize that experience can do one of two things: sometimes it makes us numb, and other times, it deepens our understanding. Sometimes, if you are a social worker, you see sad, sad lives of people day in and day out and the sheer amount of terrible makes you numb to the real and human plight before you. Other times, the experience helps our words and our actions mean more, in the way that the phrase “I love you” cannot help but mean more when said after 50 years of marriage, when faced with surgery and brain tumors and a painful end, it cannot help but mean more than it did on your wedding day.
I don’t know precisely why it works out this way, but I do have one thought as we turn to our catechism today. But I’ll share that at the end.
· First question tonight – How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things? Read together. This is basically the same answer that Luther gives in the section on baptism. Certainly not just the water, but the water combined with the word does these great things. Certainly not just eating and drinking but these words
· Second question: Who receives this sacrament worthily? Read together.
Notice Luther’s first thought – it’s good to fast. It’s good to have bodily discipline, but it’s not everything. (Fasting).
Here we hear the same words that St. Paul writes in Romans 8, the same words that the Psalmist uses in Psalm 27… If God is for us, then who can be against us? If he has placed inestimable worth upon us, then what could man do to us? If he has taken away the sting of death, then, as Luther penned in A Mighty Fortress, “And take they (he’s talking about the devils) our life // goods, fame, child or wife // he can harm us none // he’s judged the deed is done // one little word can fell him.”
The one who receives the sacrament worthily is the one that believes those two little words: for you. This is done for you. It is strength for you. It is life for you. It is love for you. It is forgiveness for you. For you, because God promised to deliver those things through these things, for you.
· Apply- Three thoughts in conclusion.
First, it seems as though the difference between mindless repetition and meaningful reflection is one’s intention. Are we being intentional when we come to the Lord’s Supper? Do we look at our watches to see how quick Pastor Muther can get through that proper preface, or do we take care to listen to it? Do we take the bread and the wine remembering that they are body and blood and that eating and drinking them grant forgiveness of all our failures and faults?
Second, A story… Cindy… having a life threatening kind of a surgery… asked for communion… said, “Pastor, don’t get me wrong, I like your preaching ok. But when I take communion, there is something special there that I can’t explain.”
Third, a quote from a man named John Chrysostom, called John Golden Tongue, a wonderful preacher from the 400’s A.D. "Let us then return from [the Communion] table like lions breathing fire, having become terrible to the devil; thinking on our head [Christ] and on the love that He has shown for us..."
Amen and amen.
August 26 and 27, 2017
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
Matthew 16: 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[b] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[c] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[d] in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
Dear Friends in Christ,
This summer, we have fixed our eyes for four weeks on Jesus the Missionary, for three weeks on Jesus the Story Teller, and now for four weeks on Jesus the Miracle Worker. Three weeks ago, we heard the miracle of feeding thousands of people with just a little bit of food, two weeks ago we heard the miracle of Jesus walking on water, and last week, we heard the miracle of Jesus driving out a demon just by the power of his word. This morning our focus is on the miracle of the forgiveness of sins, and how Jesus would be building His kingdom on that very miracle.
You may remember the story where friends of a paralyzed man went to great effort to get that man into the presence of Jesus so that He could heal his paralyzed body. Jesus did tell the man to get up and walk, but not before he told the man to take heart, his sins were forgiven. When criticized for claiming to have the authority to forgive sins, Jesus asked, which is easier to say, to say your sins are forgiven or to say, “rise and walk”. The point Jesus was making, “That you may know the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”
This morning, we find Jesus handing over that authority on earth to work this same miracle of forgiveness. We find him handing over the keys of the kingdom to all who would confess with Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
The context of this promise to hand over the keys was that Jesus seems to have taken His disciples to a retreat location in order to prep them for what was coming next. What was coming next was an intense time of ministry in Jerusalem followed by Jesus suffering, dying, and rising again on the third day. In today’s sermon, part one is to think about how Jesus builds his church, part two is to think about what it means to possess the keys of the kingdom, and part three is a true story that illustrates the miracle of forgiveness.
Part one is to think about how Jesus builds his church. And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[b] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[c] shall not prevail against it.
Four truths Jesus makes in his response to Peter’s confession of faith.
Part two is to think about what it means to possess the keys of the kingdom. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[d] in heaven.”
Three truths we learn again about what it means to possess a key. First, keys means that you have rights to a house, either because you built the house and earned the rights to it or because the owner decided to trust you with his house and gave you the rights to it. Second, keys mean that you live in the house, you can let yourself in with the keys and lock the door behind you. Third, keys mean that you control who comes in and out of the house. You let in your friends and guests, you keep the robbers out, that’s what it means to have the authority of a house key.
Now we apply these three principles of house keys to possessing the keys of the kingdom. First, we have all the rights and privileges of being in the family of God. What a privilege it is to wake up in the morning, to make the sign of the cross, to remember that the soiled records of yesterday are washed clean, and set out one more time to try and get life right. What a privilege to look ourselves in the mirror night after night with clean consciences. Our consciences are clean not because we have lived such dandy and decent lives, but because the miracle of forgiveness has swept our souls clean one more time.
Secondly, possessing the keys of the kingdom means that Christ and His Spirit have taken up residence inside of us. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in us. Paul declares that by faith we have access to this grace in which we now stand. As often as we cry out for mercy, that often the whole company of heaven rejoices. As often as we admit that we have messed up and offended our God, that often what Christ earned at the cross is delivered into our inner beings. As often as we go looking for our God, we find that He has been looking for us all the time!
Third, possessing the keys of the kingdom means that we have the authority to forgive the sins of those who are repenting and to not forgive those who are not repenting. One key unlocks and the other locks the very gates of heaven. One key is comes with great privilege and the other with serious responsibility. We use the Gospel key when we assure fellow sinners again and again that God loves them, their sins have been paid for, the promises of their God are certain. We use the tough love key when we speak hard truths to friends and family caught up in sinful habits that are threatening to shipwreck their faith. We use the Gospel key as often as we forgive as we have been forgiven. We use the tough love key when we deal with each other according to their outward actions – realizing that only God can see into their hearts. We use the Gospel key best when we see ourselves as beggars telling other beggars where to find some bread. We use the tough love key best when we make sure we have gotten the logs out of our own eyes before we go looking for specks in our brother’s eyes. Both keys serve the mission of God, which is for sinners near and far to receive the forgiveness of sins into their souls and then to give it away as fast as they can, as best they can, as completely as they can.
Part three is a true story that illustrates the miracle of forgiveness. Outreach Magazine tells of Linda who has lived with a nightmare for over 30 years now. Back in 1986,her daughter Cathy, was a twenty six year old mother pregnant with her second child. Cathy stopped to offer help to two fifteen year old boys whose car had quit on them. The boys accepted her offer of a ride. They raped her, shot her dead, and left in in a field near a dirt road.
It took a long time for Linda to even think about forgiving her daughter’s murderers. She joined victim support groups, but found little comfort there. Everyone there seemed to be stuck in their bitterness. She finally asked for and received permission to meet with one of her daughter’s murderers named Gary Brown. In their meeting, Linda learned that Gary had been abused and neglected early in life. He expressed total remorse, he offered no excuses. He was released from prison after serving 23 years of a fifty four year sentence and is trying to make atonement by living a better life.
Linda has become an advocate of what is called restorative justice, which helps victims to find peace and gives offenders a chance to try to make things right. The outward appearance is that the miracle of forgiveness is changing the hearts of both perpetrator and victim.
The kingdom of God is like a large church in a small town full of folks who are possessing the keys of the kingdom these days. On the one hand, they spend their days doing privately what their pastors do publicly, they turn the Gospel key they have been given, they assure fellow travelers their sins are forgiven, their debts have been cancelled, in the courtroom of their God, the verdict is not guilty. On the other hand, they wonder what they can do and what they could possibly say to so many folks in their lives who are going their own ways, doing their own things, creating their own messes in life. This very day, they take a few deep breaths, they pray like they haven’t prayed in a long time, and they set out to turn the tough love key, they set out to speak truth in love, they think about what it means to be stewards of the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God. In Jesus’ Name.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther