Easter in October – Sermon on Luke 7:11-17 for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

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Luke 7:11-17

11 Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

The Resurrection of the Widow's Son at NainIf Menards can have Christmas decorations out already and if the Hallmark Channel can do nonstop Christmas movies in July, then the Church can certainly have Easter in October. In fact, we have to celebrate Easter because this text screams Easter – loud and clear. But always before Easter, there is Good Friday. Before resurrection, there must be death. Good Friday sadness is a prerequisite to Easter joy. We have to see that first.

Yes, Easter joy is the climax of this text, but Good Friday sadness gets more words. Yes, the young son of this woman is raised, but Luke spends much more time telling us about the sad estate of his mother. She was a widow, but now she is really alone. This son of hers that has died is her only-begotten (μονογενής same word used in Jn. 3:16) son. A great crowd follows her sharing in her grief. Jesus sees her and speaks to her first. This woman is drowning in Good Friday grief. But Jesus He won’t allow it.

Jesus isn’t very good at funerals. He always ruins them. Remember when Jairus’ little girl died (Mt. 9:18-26; Mk. 5:22-43; Lk. 8:41-56), Jesus sees all the mourners weeping and wailing and tells them, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping,” and everyone laughs at Him. But then Jesus goes into the house, takes the girl by the hand, and says, “Little girl, get up” (Mk. 541:). And she does. Or, remember when Lazarus died. Jesus came when Lazarus’ corpse would have been ripe and stinky. Then, Christ tells them to roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb and says, “Lazarus, come out” (Jn. 11:43). And out He comes. Finally, remember Jesus’ own funeral. Our Lord didn’t behave properly then either. Jesus leaves before His funeral is finished. He didn’t stick around in the grave long enough to have a proper burial.

Well, here in this text, Jesus ruins another funeral. Jesus is leading a great crowd. And as they reach the city of Nain, they meet another crowd who were going out of the city to bury the boy. These two throngs of people meet at the gate. Imagine this. One crowd is leaving the city and following death, and another crowd is entering the city lead by the Life of the world (Jn. 11:25, 14:6). And these two crowds get mixed up together in this bottle neck.

Proper etiquette and manners would dictate that Jesus and His crowd would step aside and allow the funeral procession to pass by. But, remember, Jesus is no good at funerals. Instead, Jesus marches right up to the front of the funeral procession. He does this, Luke tells us, because when He saw the mother He had compassion on her. Literally, Jesus’ guts were being wrenched and all twisted up inside.

He walks up to the woman and says, “Do not weep.” This sounds absolutely callous. Weeping is the right thing for this woman to be doing – her son has died. When you are saddened by the death of someone and find yourself weeping, you are doing what is right. Your actions line up with how God feels about death. Jesus, who never sinned, Himself cried when He was at the tomb of Lazarus (Jn. 11:35). Now, the text doesn’t tell us this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus had tears in His eyes as He approached the widow. Remember His guts are wrenched. But He tells her to stop crying because He is about to intervene. Jesus could have reversed the order. He could have raised the young man first, then told the mother to stop crying. But He doesn’t. He tells her to stop crying because it isn’t going to be necessary in a moment. This command to stop crying is a call for her to trust in Him.

H-70 Trinity 16 (Lu 7.11-17)Then, Jesus walks past the pallbearers, straight up to the bier, touches it, and says, “Young man, I say to you, arise,” as though He was waking up a sleepy teenager late on a Saturday morning. The boy gets up and begins to speak. I wonder what he said.

Jesus gives the boy back to his mother and everyone glorifies God saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” And, “God has visited His people!” They were right. God had visited His people. God had taken on flesh to deliver His people from death and sin, the sting of death (1 Cor. 15:54-56).

Dear saints, today is October 6th, but today we celebrate Easter; we celebrate the resurrection. Yes, we await the resurrection on the final day when Christ returns and raises up the dead and grants eternal life to all who believe in Him. But the resurrection has already begun. Jesus, your Savior died, but He lives. He is the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Cor. 15:20). Whenever Jesus contends with death, death looses.

And that is what you need because this morning, you were part of a funeral procession. Because you are a sinner, the stink of death hangs around you. Young and old – man, woman, and child – we all dragged some dead thing here with us today.

Is it your relationship with your spouse that is slowly dying? Is it the skeleton of disobedience to parents? What dead thing have you brought with you?

Is it the rotting remains of your finances that cause you to worry and doubt, or simply discontentment with what God has given you? Is it the cadaver of lust that flames within you? Is it the carcass of pride that is so inwardly focused that you do not notice the needs of others? What dead thing have you brought here with you?

Maybe it isn’t even your fault. Maybe it is just the fear of what might happen in the future. Maybe it is anger for how you have been wronged in the past. Maybe your dead thing is your own sick, crumbling body. What dead thing have you brought here with you?

Body of Christ CommunionJesus marches toward your funeral procession, and He does not stop or yield. Jesus does not give way or defer to death. Instead, Jesus defeats death with His death and resurrection, each and every time He meets it. Jesus meets you here today as you plod along in your personal funeral procession and gives you life. Jesus meets you at this altar to give you His living Body and His life-giving Blood.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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Expelled – Sermon on Luke 10:17-20 and Revelation 12:7-12 for the feast of St. Michael & All angels

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Luke 10:17-20

Michael from Revelation 12-7-917 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the service, our texts today would have us consider the work of God’s holy angels. Now, there are some who, when they talk about angels, say all sorts of things that are not biblical. And I have to admit that because there is so much false teaching and beliefs about angels that I have had a tendency to not preach or teach about them very much. So, let’s fix that by first considering what the Scriptures do teach about the angels.

The word “angel” means “messenger” in both Hebrew and Greek (מַלְאָךְ, ἄγγελος). Angels are spiritual beings who were created during the first six days of creation. We know this because before the six days of creation there was only God (Jn. 1:1-3) and after the sixth day, God rested from all His work. There is good evidence that the angels were created in the first three days because of what God says in Job 38:4-7. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? … Who determined its measurements? … On what were its bases sunk or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” God seems to be talking about the third day of creation when He created the land and sea, and the singing of the morning stars and shouting of the sons of God was the angels (see also Job 1:6).

We know that God created a huge number of angels; Heb. 12:22 says they are innumerable. The angels were all created good by God (Gen. 1:31), but at some point before the devil tempted Adam and Eve, Satan led a significant number of angels in rebellion against God and they fell. Those fallen angels, we now call demons. More on that later, but from here on, know that if I use the term ‘demons’ I am simply referring to those fallen angels.

There are orders and classes of angels – Cherubim (Gen. 3:24; Ps. 80:1), Seraphim (Is. 6:2), archangels (1 Th. 4:16). There are also greater and lesser demons (Lk. 11:15, 18-19).

Even though angels are spirits, they can move and manipulate material things. They are able to take Lot and his family by the hand to get them out of Sodom before God destroyed it (Gen. 19:16). So, when you or someone you love has a close call, it very well may be that God’s angels have protected you.

Scripture teaches that angels have power and strength (Ps. 103:20; 2 Th. 1:7) which is greater than ours, and they use their strength to guard and protect us from things that would overpower us (Ps. 91:11-13). Demons are also strong. Scripture says that the devil holds unbelievers securely captive in his kingdom (Lk. 11:21-22), and believers can only withstand the attacks of Satan in the power of God (Eph. 6:10-17).

The angels’ work is to sing praises to God (Is. 6:3; Lk. 2:13) and to fight on our behalf (Ps. 104:4; Heb. 1:14); in other words, their tools are the song and the sword. A fantastic text about angels fighting on behalf of God’s people is found in 2 Kgs. 6[:8-23] where Elisha and his servant get surrounded by the army of Syria during the night. Elisha’s servant gets up early in the morning (maybe to get the newspaper or the milk or something) and sees this army surrounding the entire city. He runs inside to tell Elisha and says, “Alas, my master! What are we going to do?” But Elisha calmly says, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Elisha asks God to open the eyes of his servant so that he can see what is going on. 2 Kings 6_15-17 Angels ElishaAnd the young servant sees a huge host of angels with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. The Syrian army rushes in toward them. Elisha simply prays that the entire army would be struck with blindness, and they are. Then Elisha leads this blinded army straight into the capitol of Israel where they are all captured. In this account, we see the unfolding of what is said in Ps. 34:7, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.”

Scripture teaches that angels are sent in particular to serve children (Mt. 18:10), believers in their vocations (Ps. 91:11-12), and those who are dying (Lk. 16:22). It is very possible that each believer has an angel or squad of angels for protection. In Mt. 18:10, Jesus says, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (see also Act. 12:15). And Heb. 1:14 says that the angels are “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.”

Scripture teaches that angels were present at the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai (Dt. 33:2; Gal. 3:19). Angels are sent to proclaim the conception (Lk. 1:26), birth (Lk. 2:11), and resurrection of Christ (Lk. 24:5-7). In fact, angels remain at the empty tomb even after Jesus left.

We should not pray to angels as though they are the ones responding to our prayers. Every time in Scripture that someone begins to worship an angel, the angel protests and directs worship to God (esp. Rev. 22:8-9). Also, we shouldn’t listen to angels unless they are pointing us to Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Paul plainly says in Gal. 1:8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”

Many Christians have stories about being helped in a particular situation by someone who suddenly appeared and wasn’t seen again. It may indeed be that God sent an angel to help and defend. Also, there are times when Christians have helped someone who was in trouble, and they have a sense that something was different about that encounter. It may be than an angel appeared to give an opportunity to the Christian to serve in a particular way. Heb. 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

Finally, and maybe most importantly, we should realize that angels are present with us right here and now as we are gathered in worship.Wedding Feast of the Lamb Hebrews 12:22-24 says that in church we have “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering…” Jesus says that the angels in heaven are joyful over one sinner who repents (Lk. 15:7, 10). As we confessed our sins earlier, a whole host of angels whom we cannot see or hear rejoiced as they heard Christ absolve and free us from our sins. In fact, Heb. 1:14 calls angles ‘liturgizing’ spirits (the ESV translates λειτουργικός as ‘ministering’). Using the liturgy is a way that we connect our worship with the worship of the angels in heaven, which is why we draw the words and order of our liturgy from the words of Scripture.

So, there is a quick overview of the Scriptural teaching of angels. Now, to our texts. First this Gospel lesson:

Jesus had sent these seventy-two ahead of Him to preach and heal in every town He was about to go Himself (see Lk. 10:1-12). And Jesus didn’t beat around the bush; He plainly tells them, “Behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” Their mission was already dangerous, but to top it all off, Jesus tells these lambs to march out in the midst of wolves with no resources – no moneybag, knapsack, or sandals. They would be housed and nurtured by the people who welcomed them. Jesus told them to heal the sick and say to the people, “The reign (βασιλεία) of God has come near to you.”

We hear them joyfully report that the demons – the evil, fallen angels – were subject to them in Jesus’ name. They saw victories in their various spiritual battles. But then Jesus says that something even greater was going on that they couldn’t see. While those seventy-two were proclaiming the reign of Jesus, Christ says, “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven.” More was going on than these seventy-two could see. It was more than just isolated, individual battles.

And in our Epistle text (Rev. 12:7-12), we heard how the archangel Michael was given the privilege of throwing Satan (‘Satan,’ by the way, means ‘accuser’), the deceiver of the whole world, Michael casts down Satandown and out of heaven. How was Satan cast down? The text is clear. Satan was cast out by the blood of the Lamb.

Now, there are Christians who would disagree with what I am about to say here, but I think we should see Jesus’ proclamation to the seventy-two of seeing Satan falling from heaven and the text in Rev. 12:7-12 as confirmation that the shedding of Christ’s blood and the preaching of the Gospel of the reign of Christ was what cast Satan down from heaven.

This means that Satan is no longer able to accuse you before God which is what he was constantly doing day and night before God in heaven (Rev. 12:10). Remember the book of Job? Satan was there in heaven accusing Job of Job’s sins before God by saying that the only reason Job loved God was because God was nice to Job (Job 1:8-11, 2:1-5). But now, Satan has been expelled from heaven, and that is good news.

However, there is also a warning at the end of that Epistle text. Satan is no longer able to accuse you before God because he has been expelled from God’s presence. But that doesn’t mean he is done accusing. The devil can’t accuse you before God anymore, but he can and does try to accuse you in your conscience, and he is very good at that. He will say that your sins are too many or too great to be forgiven. The accuser now roams about like a roaring lion seeking to devour you (1 Pet. 5:8), constantly whispering in your ear, “Did God really say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’?”

Dear saints, when the devil does this, he needs to be expelled from your conscience. How is this done? It is done with the same weapons that Michael and the angels used – the blood of the Lamb, and the word of your testimony (Rev. 12:11).

Dear saints, when you confess your faith that Christ has been crucified and shed His blood for you, you expel Satan from your conscience. When the devil whispers his accusations, confess that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (Jn. 1:29). Tell Satan, “Christ has taken my sins. So, if you want to talk to someone about my sins, you can’t talk to me about them anymore. Jesus has taken them as His own. Christ owns them now. He has died and shed His blood for them.” And the devil has no reply to that testimony.

Church Militant and TriumphantSo today, dear saints, come to Jesus’ table and receive His body given for you. Receive His blood which was shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins knowing that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus your Lord (Ro. 8:38-39).

Satan has been expelled from heaven, and he is expelled from your conscience by the blood of your Savior. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

On the Road Again – Sermon on Luke 17:11-19 for the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

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Luke 17:11-19

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to H-68 Trinity 14 (Lu 17.11-19)them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

This text is so full of movement, it’s like a carousel. Jesus is traveling on His way to Jerusalem between Samaria and Galilee. Jesus tells the ten lepers to hit the road and travel to the priests and the Temple. The Samaritan leper turns back interrupting his trip to the priest to make his way back to Jesus. And Jesus tells the thankful Samaritan to go his way in health and salvation (more on that later). This is a moving text in more than one way.

Now, the first verse of our text is what the commentators will call a “travel notice.” We tend to skip over these travel notices when we read because we aren’t that familiar with the geography of Israel in Jesus’ day, but they are important. However, describing where places are on a map doesn’t work well in a sermon. The important thing is this: Back at the end of Luke 9, Jesus foretells His death and resurrection (9:44-45) then Luke gives us an important turning point in his Gospel. Luke says, “When the days drew near for Him to be taken up, [Jesus] set His face to go to Jerusalem” (9:51). In other words, this miracle takes place while Jesus is on His way to the cross.

The interesting thing is that Jesus isn’t taking the direct route. Instead, Luke mentions is that Jesus is traveling between the regions of Samaria and Galilee which mainly east-west instead of from Galilee in the north directly south toward Jerusalem. Instead, He is taking His time to preach, heal, and minister to the needs of as many people as possible with His mercy and grace.

As Jesus enters a village, He is met by ten lepers. Now, leprosy still exists today, though it is commonly called ‘Hansen’s disease.’ There are actually cases of it in the US today, but it is treatable by modern medicine and not easily transferred anymore. But in Jesus day, leprosy was a terrible problem. The disease makes your skin rot away while you are still alive. Leprosy would make the nerve endings of the effected areas grow numb. A leper could have oozing blisters all over their feet, cut their arm, or burn their hand and they wouldn’t even now it. This is why, so often throughout the history of the church, sin is described as leprosy. Our sin makes us so sick, we don’t even realize how wounded we are.

Now, in Jesus’ day, leprosy was highly contagious. So, lepers had to live apart from everyone else. If you had leprosy and somebody got near you, you would have to yell out, “Unclean! Unclean!” so they wouldn’t get near you. Because of this, lepers would form their own communities to help take care of each other, and that is what we see in this text. These ten lepers have formed a little community and, because of their common disease, it was a very inclusive community. Most of these lepers are Jews, but at least one of them is a Samaritan. Normally, the Jews and Samaritans didn’t deal with each other at all (Jn. 4:9). For a Jew to eat with a Samaritan made the Jew unclean. But these ten lepers formed a little community of the desperate.

They cry out to Jesus, but instead of yelling, “Unclean! Unclean!” they cry out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” They pray the Kyrie just like do each week. But Jesus’ response to their cry for mercy isn’t to wave His hand over their bodies and speak them clean. He doesn’t make mud with His spit and put it on their diseased skin to heal them. Jesus simply tells them to go show themselves to the priest.

Now, as lepers, this is something they would have done when they first contracted their leprosy. Through Moses (Lev. 13:2ff), God commanded that people who had a problem with their skin to go to the priest. The priest would examine the effected area, and, if it was indeed leprosy, the priest would declare them to be unclean. Then, if the area would clear up, the person was to go back for a second appointment with the priest and be declared clean (Lev. 14:1-32) so they could go back and live with their family and return to work. But here, Jesus simply tells them to go show themselves to the priest.

Think of that for a minute. Before anything has changed, while their skin is still rotting, Jesus tells them to go to the priest. Now, they wouldn’t be let into the streets of Jerusalem let alone be allowed into the Temple. But in this command of Jesus, there is an implicit promise. And by leaving Jesus, they act in faith.

There is a little lesson here for us about prayer. Probably most of our lives as Christians, we are waiting for an answer to a prayer. How often do we pray for something and are left to wait? But, Christian, take heart, God will answer. As these lepers journey to the Temple, they are cleansed.

Now, presumably, the nine lepers do continue to Jerusalem. They make their way through the streets to the Temple. They find the priest and are declared to be cleansed of their disease and allowed back into their families and community once gain. But only one of them actually obeys Jesus.

ten-lepersThis Samaritan who returns to the true Temple and true High Priest. He returns to Jesus to give thanks. Did you catch what Jesus said there, “Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” In other words, the nine went onto the Temple and God’s house, but God wasn’t there. He was walking in the flesh between Samaria and Galilee where the Samaritan falls at His human feet giving Him thanks. Some people will read the Gospels and say that Jesus never claimed to be God. Well, sorry, they are wrong. He does right here.

And this Samaritan receives from God, from Jesus, not just a declaration of cleanliness from his flesh-eating disease, but from his leprosy of sin. Jesus’ final recorded words to this man are, “Rise and go your way, your faith has saved (σῴζω) you,” (not just ‘made you well’), “your faith has saved you.”

The Samaritan is more than just a cleansed man, he is now our Christian brother. In fact, he shows the fruits of the Spirit that we heard about in our Epistle lesson (Gal. 5:16-24). He has love for God, joy in his healing, and peace that only comes through faith in Christ. He exhibited patience as he walked away from Jesus with the promise of healing. We can imagine his kindness toward the other nine who might have thought he was silly to go back to Jesus instead of going to the Temple in Jerusalem. His goodness is visible. Jesus encourages his faith. His has gentleness and self-control can be seen in his thankfulness to God; let me quickly explain that.

The word that gets translated ‘gentleness’ is a noun and has the idea of being humble or meek. Jesus uses the same word as an adjective in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Mt. 5:5). The Samaritan humbles himself in meekness before Jesus falling at His feet. And instead of running off to his restored life, the man exercises self-control to turn back and first give thanks to God, to Jesus.

As we, like this Samaritan, rise from here and go on our way, let us turn back to give thanks to Jesus. Thankfulness requires a turning back. If we are thinking of what is going to happen next, we can’t give thanks. If we are always thinking about the future, we cannot give thanks because there is nothing there to give thanks for – at least not yet. We don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. Jesus could return before we get to our cars to leave. As long as we’re thinking about tomorrow, we can’t give thanks.Blessings from the Cross

Instead, turn back. Turn back to what Jesus has done for you. Most importantly, He has died and risen for you. Because of His blood shed for you, He has declared you free and forgiven of all your sins here and now. Dear saints, rise and go your way. Get on the road again in thankfulness for what Christ has done, your faith has saved you. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

No Conflict – Sermon on Luke 10:23-37 for the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

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Today, at Christ the King, we had our first Stewardship Sunday. This sermon is slightly shorter for that reason. The presentation/catechesis on Biblical Stewardship will be available later.

Luke 10:23-37

23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Jesus Good Samaritan Icon

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Too often, when we hear the summary of the Law, “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself,” we see it as setting up an order of operations. First, love God; then second, love neighbor so long as it doesn’t conflict with loving God. That is the attitude the priest and the Levite had in the parable.

According the laws of Moses, they needed to protect themselves from becoming unclean. If they helped the man in the ditch, they might defile themselves by touching a dead person and not be able to do their priestly functions. They are essentially saying to themselves, “I feel bad for this poor guy. I will pray for him. But if I go over there and help him, I won’t be able to do the sacrifices or declare people clean and free from sin. And I have been called by God to be faithful in those works. So, if I go help this guy, I might become unable to do those things, I will be unfaithful to God.”

The priest and Levite were convinced that they couldn’t help their neighbor because they had a higher obligation to love God. Too often, we think the same way.

We avoid people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol because Scripture tells us to avoid the appearance of evil (1 Thess. 5:22), and we don’t want to tarnish our reputation as a good Christian by being around people who have vices. When people are cruel and angry because they have been absolutely broken, we avoid them because they bring out the worst in ourselves. However, we should be going out of our way to love and befriend them and earn their trust. But we don’t do that because we think we have a higher duty to God to keep ourselves righteous so we try to maintain a safe distance from people who might make us to become unrighteous and jaded.

But one of the things Jesus shows us in the parable of the Good Samaritan is this misunderstanding between loving God and loving our neighbor. This parable is a nice explanation of what we are told in 1 John 4:20 which says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” Love of God and love of neighbor are never in conflict with each other. God wants us to show our love for Him by loving our neighbor.

We have called today “Stewardship Sunday,” and we have had a lot of focus on what God’s Word has to say about our tithes and offerings. And this text has something to say about our giving to the church as well. Just as loving our neighbor does not conflict with loving God, loving God does not conflict with loving our neighbor either.

I might be wrong on this, but I would venture to guess that the prevailing attitude about giving to the church is seen as fulfilling the first of the two great commandments – to love God. And very often, we think giving to the church is not seen as fulfilling the second – to love our neighbor. At least, this is a common accusation of the world against the church, and I don’t think we are immune to those accusations.

Maybe, you have seen different threads on social media that pop up from time to time which basically say, “If money is the root of all evil, why do they keep asking for it in church?” Never mind the fact that they aren’t quoting Scripture correctly. The verse (1 Tim. 6:10), says, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evils…”

But also, the world will say that Christians are hypocrites because giving to the church means they don’t care about the hungry and poor. They’ll say that Christians are so busy loving God by giving money to the church that they are refusing to love their neighbor. But there is no conflict between the two.

Scripture says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Every neighbor you come into contact with is a sinner. And what do sinners need most? Even if they are naked and starving, sinners’ greatest need to hear the Gospel. They need to hear the Word preached. They need the Sacraments. They need to be pointed to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. In other words, they need the Church.

So, Christian, see what you are doing when you give to the church. You are doing exactly what the Good Samaritan did in the parable. You are providing for the continual care of those whom Christ has redeemed. Remember, the Good Samaritan gave the innkeeper money to care for the robbed man and promised to return and pay off any expenses that weren’t covered by his initial two denarii.

After the parable concluded, Jesus asked the lawyer, “Who proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”And the lawyer rightly responded, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said, “You go, and do likewise.”

Have mercy and compassion on your neighbor by making sure that they have the blessing of seeing what you see and hearing what you hear. Make sure they have a place where they can go to hear of Jesus. Where they can have their wounds bound up by Christ’s absolution. Where they can have the oil and wine of the Sacraments poured on their sinful scars. Where they can recover in the inn of the church.

Christian, you go, and do likewise. Do this, but don’t ever draw strength and assurance by how well you have loved your neighbor. Instead, draw strength to love your neighbor by how God Himself has loved and cared for you.

Good Samaritan Jesus IconBecause, first and foremost, the parable of the Good Samaritan is a picture of what Jesus has done for you. Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the Good Samaritan who has compassion. He left His throne in the glory of heaven to become your neighbor. He risks His own safety while scoundrels and robbers are roaming about. He stops to give you aid. He pours on you oil and wine. He gives up His own comfort and convenience to bring you to the inn of the holy Christian Church. And Jesus sets up an all-expenses-paid stay there promising to return. Jesus is the one who has and continues to show you mercy. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

Additional thoughts on the text that were removed from the sermon:

You can’t do something to gain an inheritance. All Scripture shows that God’s people do not inherit eternal life by doing something. As our Epistle Text (Gal. 3:15-22) said, the inheritance of eternal life has always and will always come through the promise of God. The lawyer knew this. He knew exactly what he must do to have eternal life. Love God perfectly and love his neighbor perfectly which is exactly how Jesus Himself sums up the Law (Mt. 22:34-40). Jesus tells the lawyer, “Bingo! Do this, and you will live.”But Jesus might just as well have said, “Yup. Go to hell.”

And the lawyer gets it. He sees how he is stuck in his sin. The Law has exposed him for the wretched sinner that he is. The Law has left him scared and confused because he doesn’t know the Gospel. He wants an out and clamors for a loophole. He asks, “Well, who is my neighbor? Whom should I love?”

But every Sunday school student knows the answer. “Who is my neighbor?” Everyone. “Whom should I love?” Everyone and without fail. But Jesus doesn’t tell the parable to answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus tells the parable to change the question to get the answer He wants. The point of the parable is not to teach us to love everyone. Scripture teaches that all over the place but here, not in this parable.

Instead, Jesus tells the parable because He wants to show the lawyer and you hope. Jesus wants to show you what God mercifully does for you. He wants your eyes to see and your ears to hear the Gospel.

Shut, Spit, Open, Shut – Sermon on Mark 7:31-37 for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

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Mark 7:31-37

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. H-66 Trinity 12 (Mk 7.31-37).jpeg32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,”that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

If this healing sounds strange, you are reading it right. In fact, this miracle sounds even stranger in Greek. The strangeness starts with the location. Jesus is in the region of the Decapolis; in other words, He is outside of Israel and among Greek-speaking Gentiles. That is important later; keep that in mind.

While Jesus is there, a man is brought to our Lord who is deaf and has a speech impediment. I’ll probably just say ‘mute’ through the rest of the sermon since it fits with the crowd’s reaction (v. 37), and it’s one syllable instead of five. Jesus takes this man with shut ears and a shut mouth off to the side privately. He throws His fingers into the man’s ears. (It’s the same word Thomas uses after the resurrection when Thomas refuses to believe until he throws his fingers and hand into Jesus’ hands and side. It doesn’t just mean to carefully and politely poke around.) Jesus throws his fingers into the man’s ears. Jesus spits. He touches the guy’s tongue. Our text says Jesus sighs (more on that in a minute) and says one word. The man’s ears and mouth are opened. Then, Jesus immediately tells them to not say anything.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on why Jesus tells them to not say anything. Jesus repeatedly does this in the Gospel of Mark. It isn’t reverse psychology. When people disobeyed Jesus’ commands to not publicize their miraculous healings, Jesus’ ministry is hindered (see Mk. 1:38-45).

The whole thing is strange, odd, and weird. Shut, spit, open, shut. But two other components make this whole thing strange.

First, our text says that Jesus ‘sighs.’ The Greek word that gets translated as ‘sigh’ is stronger. This is the only place where the ESV translates the word as ‘sigh.’ Elsewhere it is translated ‘groan.’ And, yes, it’s an important difference. Sighing is a usually an intentional thing. We sigh when we are weary or frustrated. Groan.jpgGroaning, however, is an involuntary response to being hurt or wounded. Every time the New Testament uses this word ‘groan’ it is from sorrow or suffering because of sin. And, in the New Testament, only four things groan – creation groans, believers groan, the Holy Spirit groans, and Jesus groans twice.

When the deaf man is brought to Jesus, our Lord does this odd ceremony of shoving His fingers into the man’s ears, spitting, touching the man’s tongue, and then He groans in pain.

What this teaches us is that these miraculous healings were not simple tricks for Jesus. They cost Him and caused Him pain. Remember Isaiah (53:4-5) says that Jesus bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. Yes, Jesus’ main work – His main miracle – His death and resurrection cost Him and caused Him pain, but so do these other miracles. When Jesus does any miracle, He is committing Himself to the cross. These miracles are not a raw display of divine power, they are all redemptive. Jesus changes places with the cripple, the lame, the blind, the dead, and here the mute and the deaf.

The second thing that is strange is the one word Jesus says, “Ephphatha.”And there are two strange things about this word. Mark translates it for us into Greek – it means ‘be opened.’ But Jesus says, “Ephphatha,”in Aramaic. Consider that. Not only do these ears not hear, but they also wouldn’t understand Aramaic. If they worked, they would have understood Greek words, not Aramaic.

The second strange thing about this word from Jesus has to do with grammar. Jesus doesn’t speak words of prayer to His Father asking Him to open the man’s ears. Jesus speaks to ears that don’t to ‘ear-y’ [sic.] things. They don’t hear. And (for you other grammar nuts) Jesus speaks a passive imperative.

We can’t hardly do this in English. After our dishwasher has run and cleaned our dishes, I can’t command it, “Be emptied.” No. I have to command my kids, “Empty the dishwasher.” Think about the last time you were stressed and worried about something and someone told you, “Calm down.” It’s a command, and it is helpful. But you need to do something. You need to take a breath, collect your thoughts, and relax. Imagine, instead of someone telling you to calm down, they just said, “Be calmed,” and you were. That’s what’s going on here.

Jesus speaks to deaf ears in a language they wouldn’t understand to be passively opened. And they are. What had been broken because of sin is put back into place by Jesus. Some rough touches, saliva, a groan, and one word is all it takes from Jesus to restore this man’s hearing and speech.

Jesus still does this. He’s doing it now. Just like in the creation, God acts by speaking. God’s words are His actions. Now, Jesus isn’t here among us in His body fixing all our physical problems. No, but we’ve got something better. Jesus is among us loosening our tongues to sing His praises. He is here opening our sin-stuffed, deaf ears to hear His absolution. easte-jesus-brings-us-out-of-deathAnd He no longer groans in pain when He does it. The price has been paid. Your forgiveness has been purchased and won on the cross.

“Be forgiven,” says Jesus to you here. And in His speaking, it is done. So, dear saints, go out in confidence not trusting in your own sufficiency, but in the sufficiency of God’s declaration, God’s proclamation, and Christ’s absolution. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds inChrist Jesus. Amen.

Labor Day – Sermon on Luke 18:9-14 for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

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Luke 18:9-14

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: H-65 Trinity 11 (Lu 18.9-14)10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Happy Labor Day weekend. Labor Day became an official national holiday when President Grover Cleveland signed the bill into law on June 28, 1894. I came across an article from 2017 titled, “Have we forgotten the true meaning of Labor Day?” The article claimed (and, from what I have read, it is true) that the original establishment of Labor Day was to help unify union workers and reduce the typical workday from twelve hours. It was to be a recognition of the contributions that workers have made for our country.

But, like many holidays (especially Christian/church holidays), the intention behind the celebration gets lost. Traditions grow while reasons fade. Today, most citizens look at Labor Day as just another day off. It’s commonly considered the end of summer, the weekend to close up the lake cabin, and the date after which you should no longer wear white clothing.

I’d better get to the point of all this and how it relates to Jesus’ parable before us. The Pharisee in the parable is celebrating his own personal version of Labor Day. He is there in the Temple to recognize how much his own work has contributed to… well, himself. He is there to celebrate his works and labors and how great his holiness is. Literally, Jesus says that the Pharisee prayed to himself, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” Talk about recognition of work.

The Pharisee is there in the Temple praying to himself. You have to understand that the Temple is the very place where God said that He would dwell with His people in order to forgive their sins. When Solomon prayed at the dedication of the Temple, he said six times that when God’s people prayed toward the Temple that God would hear their pleas and, in His mercy, would forgive (2 Chron. 6:12-42). But there, in the place of forgiveness, this Pharisee doesn’t want forgiveness because, in his mind, he doesn’t need forgiveness. Instead, he wants recognition, he wants accolades, he wants God’s applause. His prayer is nothing less than, “Hey, God. Look at how great I am.” Not even, “Hey, God. Look at how great You have made me.” God gets none of the credit. The Pharisee’s prayer is one of the most self-centered, self-interested, self-idolizing statements in the Scriptures.

The tax collector, on the other hand, when he looks at himself sees nothing good, nothing worthy, nothing laudable. So, there is nothing for this tax collector to pray for except mercy. And that is precisely what he receives. He goes home justified. You have to imagine what is going on behind the scenes. In heaven’s courtroom, this tax collector’s case is heard. All charges are dropped and every accusation against him is dismissed.

Isaiah 53_6 - Sin BearerThe parable does teach that the worst of sinners can go to heaven. We know this, but unfortunately, we can grow a little numb to this. But the main reason Jesus tells this parable is to destroy any self-righteousness and contempt we would have against other sinners.

We, I mean us here at Christ the King, need to take this to heart. There are people who have been raised in the church and appear to live good, decent lives who will not go to heaven. Some of our friends who regularly attend church and appear to be upstanding citizens will not go to heaven because they do not have faith in Christ. Not all pastors go to heaven. Flip this around. Some who have political views that appear, at least in our minds, to be incongruous and inconsistent with the Scriptures (either left or right) will be in heaven. Don’t be surprised if you even meet a repentant drug dealer, illegal immigrant, or abortionist in glory.

We are not better than other people, but, because of our sinful nature, we are always tempted to think the worst of others and impose our conceived motivations behind others’ actions. Stop it. Repent.

Dear saints, don’t fall into the trap that this Pharisee did. We are not better than other people – no matter how good we are. We are all equally deserving of God’s wrath and condemnation. We all need the grace and mercy of Christ which covers a multitude of sins.

Maybe that waitress who seems to be annoyed with you was in court fighting to keep custody of her children and away from her abusive boyfriend. Maybe that driver who appears completely incompetent behind the wheel is on his way home after watching his mother die. Maybe that rude, intrusive, foul-mouthed kid on the playground hasn’t gotten any attention from her parents in months. Don’t look down on them and treat them with contempt.

Sinners who come to Christ for the forgiveness they need tend to be more patient with others.

We can make a mistake and think that, because the Pharisee’s pride condemns him to hell, that it is the tax collector’s humility is what sends him home justified. A person’s humility is not what merits justification. None of us, including this tax collector, are humble enough to get to heaven. Too easily we switch out the good works that the Pharisee mentions – his upright living, his fasting, his tithing – with the tax collector’s humility. But when we do that humility becomes just another good work, and we will begin boasting about our humility. We easily swap the Pharisees’ prayer with our own version, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men, self-righteous, pretentious, holier-than-thou types, or even like this Pharisee. I’ve given You my heart, dedicated my life to You, and made You my Lord.” You might as well be praying to yourself.

The point Jesus is making in this parable is to not look inside or to yourself at all. Don’t try to find some super spirituality inside of yourself. The thing, the only thing, that the tax collector looks to is the mercy of Christ. The tax collector is there in the Temple looking to the mercy seat, to the place where God says that He would forgive and dwell with His people.

Cross and CommunionDear saint, you look there too. Look to the cross. Look to the blood of Jesus shed for you on Calvary. Look to His death. Look to His resurrection. Look to His ascension. And know that Jesus promises that all of that is for you.

In our Epistle text (1 Cor. 15:1-10), that is where you are pointed. Look to and remember the Gospel. Christ died for your sins according to the Scriptures. He was buried and rose again. Jesus appeared to the first believers. They have seen and have born witness so that you would also believe (Jn. 20:30-3121:24-25).

Don’t be like the Pharisee. Don’t look to yourself, your good works, your piety, your heart, your decisions. Don’t even seek to be like the tax collector. Instead, look to Christ and to Christ alone.

We’d better get to Communion where Christ delivers this mercy. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Various Vocations – Sermon on 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity

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1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

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

How many of you would say that we are a “charismatic” church? Some of you might be thinking, “No! And thank goodness. I don’t want to part of a church where people are rolling around on the floor and babbling in tongues.” But some of you might be thinking, “We should shake things up! We could use more manifestations of the Spirit in this stuffy place.” Maybe, some of you are somewhere in the middle. Well, wherever you fall in the charismatic opinion spectrum, this sermon is for you. Technically, of course, all the sermons I preach are for you which is why they are preached from this pulpit. (That isn’t a throw-away line. Remember that for later in the sermon).

James 1 17 Gift.jpgThree times the English word ‘gifts’ came up in this text, but in Greek, Paul uses two different words that get translated as ‘gifts.’ Twice the Greek word is χάρισμα (which is singular and the plural is χαρίσματα – I’m going to try to be grammatically correct through the sermon). Χάρισμα is where we get our word ‘charismatic.’ Inv. 4, “there are varieties of gifts/χαρίσματα,” and in v. 9, he mentions the “gifts/χαρίσματα of healing…” But in v. 1, Paul uses a different word that gets translated as ‘spiritual gifts’ or ‘spiritual things.’

The New Testament uses six different words or phrases to talk bout spiritual gifts. For the sake of time, I’m not going to give you all six, but χάρισμα is the most common and means ‘gift of grace.’ And if you look through all the texts about gifts, you see that the Holy Spirit doesn’t make Christians clones of each other but there is an enormous variety of ways the Holy Spirit’s work is manifested in people.

Now, Scripture has two different lists of the gifts/χαρίσματα (1 Cor. 12:7-11, 27-30 and Ro. 12:6-8). The two lists aren’t the same, but they include: prophets and prophecy; service (διακονία where we get our word ‘deacon’); teaching; encouragement; generous giving; leadership (yes, that’s a gift of the Holy Spirit); the gift of being merciful; a word of wisdom/guidance; a word of knowledge; faith, not what we would call ‘saving faith’ but an abundant trust and confidence in God’s provision; gifts of healing – which would include physical, mental, spiritual, and psychological healing; mighty works (probably referring to exorcisms); discernment of spirits; the gift of tongues and interpretation of tongues; being an apostle is a χαρίσμα; so are helpful acts; even chastity (within marriage and outside of marriage) is a χαρίσμα. All these are the gifts/χαρίσματα that Scripture talks about. Notice that most of these aren’t the wowie-zowie things that you think about as being charismatic gifts, but this is the list that Scripture gives.

For a long time in our country, Christians have been talking about spiritual gifts. You can take inventories to try to discover what your spiritual gift is so that you use it in service to the Lord. Some people get all tied up in knots trying to figure out what their gift is so they can figure out where they should be and what they should be doing to serve the Lord. But Scripture actually teaches that wherever you are as a Christian, you are serving God. Instead of seeking to try to find out what our spiritual gift is, we should be asking ourselves, “Where has God put me?” and, “Who is the neighbor that God has given me to serve?” Or to combine the two and make it a shorter question, “What is my vocation?”

I know I’ve used the term ‘vocation’ quite a bit in the past, but it is good to be clear. When we talk about ‘vocation’ in the Scriptural sense, it means your office or your relationship to the person or people God has placed in your life at any given moment. Every moment of every day God puts you into a relationship with another person where you have different responsibilities. That is your vocation.

As a silly example, if you are in a moving car, you have one of two possible vocations. Either your vocation is to be a driver and your responsibilities are to drive safely, follow the traffic laws, don’t cause danger to others, and get to your destination safely. Or, if you aren’t the driver, your vocation is to be a passenger and your responsibilities are to not put your hands over the driver’s eyes or make the driver’s vocation more difficult than it needs to be.

Here is the good news, God gives you gifts to fulfill your vocation in every moment of every day. So, rather than filling out inventories and reading books to try to discover your spiritual gift, or your χάρισμα, simply ask yourself, “What is my vocation?” and Scripture promises that everything will fall into place.

Thinking back on that list of χαρίσματα, Scripture teaches that there is a great diversity of gifts that are given by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives these gifts equally, but, again, He doesn’t clone people. Instead, He individualizes believers and brings out their distinctive character. Each believer represents and reflects a different aspect of the image of God which is why there is a diversity of gifts.

Trinity and Vocation.jpgAccording to our text (v. 4-7), these various gifts are given through the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit doesn’t ever work alone; instead, the entire Trinity is involved. These various gifts are given by the Spirit; the varieties of service are given by the same Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son; and the varieties of activities are empowered by the same God (think Father) who empowers them all in everyone. We don’t determine what gift we receive, it’s up to our Triune God. And God will provide whatever we need to fulfill our Christian duty to our neighbor.

Paul will go on after our text to say that each member of the entire church and each congregation is part of the body of Christ. And each member is dependent upon the other members. Eyes need ears and toes and noses and hearts and livers and bladders. No part of the body can say that they don’t need the other parts. All the parts work together to do one common thing, and the most important thing is that the forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Gospel, is proclaimed.

Back to that line that wasn’t a “throw away”: I have been called by God to be your pastor and to preach this sermon today. And God has called you here today to hear this sermon, use your Holy Spirit-given gift to listen because Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it” (Lk. 11:28, Rev. 1:3).

So, you might be wondering, “What are my gifts? What are my χαρίσματα?” Well, rather than focusing on what gifts we have, we should be focusing on the people that God has placed in our lives to serve. Doing this helps to shape our prayers so that we ask God for the gifts we need in any particular moment. It also helps to protect us from getting puffed up and arrogant so that we decrease and Christ increases (Jn. 3:30). First, get your priorities right. Holy Spirit open eyes new heartsDo you believe in Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of your sins? Do you trust that His blood has covered all your iniquities and transgressions? If so, praise God! Then ask, “What is my vocation/station in life? What am I called to do right now?” “What do I need now as a mother?” “What do I need now as a husband?” “As a child?” “A student?” “A customer?” “A citizen?” God has called you to those vocations and He won’t leave you in a lurch. He will give you the gifts you need. In every moment of every day, you have a particular relationship to someone else, so you are called to be God’s representative in that moment. So, ask God to give you what you need to fulfill that vocation.

God doesn’t equip us with gifts/χαρίσματα in advance, but He gives us what we need when we need it to minister to others as we serve in our vocations.

When you need to do something, you can confidently expect to receive exactly what you need to serve in the way that God has called you. Wherever God calls you He will give you whatever you need to minister to that person in that situation (Mt. 10:19-20).

Now, there is a lot here, and I need to wrap things up. So, two concluding thoughts. You, Christian, have been given unique gifts by the Holy Spirit to serve those whom God has put in your life through your various vocations. The Holy Spirit has uniquely equipped you to serve in every vocation where He has placed you. So, what are you waiting for? Don’t wait to figure out how God has gifted you because He has already called and equipped you to serve your neighbor in your vocation. Which brings me to the second conclusion.

In the opening verse of our text, Paul says that he does not want us to be ignorant about spiritual gifts. Our translation says ‘uninformed’ but the word there isn’t about a lack of information rather a lack of knowledge, so ‘ignorant’ is probably better. So, understand this, and don’t be ignorant. Paul speaks about many different gifts/χαρίσματα in our text. But Paul will go on to boil everything down to the three greatest gifts by the end of ch. 13 – faith, hope, and love. These three gifts are the most important χαρίσματα given by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has given you faith. No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. And because of that God-given faith, you have the gift/χάρισμα of hope.

Dear saints, the Holy Spirit has called you by the Gospel, enlightened you with His gifts, and will continue sanctify and preserve you in the true faith. But also remember that the greatest χάρισμα that you are given is love. Any use of your gifts without the gift, without the χάρισμα, of love is detrimental to the body of Christ. So, may you be faithful, may you be hopeful, and may you be loving as you use the other gifts He gives you as well.In Jesus’ name. Amen.[1]

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1]I am thankful for a lecture by Rev. Dr. John Kleinig titled “Heavenly Power for Earthly Service” for much of the information in this sermon.