Yes, Lord – Sermon on Matthew 15:21-28 for the Second Sunday in Lent

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Matthew 15:21-28

21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table. 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

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

I told you at the beginning of the service, but do you remember what this Sunday is called? Yes, Remember Sunday (in Latin it is called ‘Reminiscere’). In the Call to Worship (Introit) we asked God to remember His mercy and His steadfast love (Ps. 25:6), and we asked God to not remember our past sins (Ps. 25:7). This is the form and shape of prayer. We ask God to remember His good and gracious promises to us, and we ask God to not remember our sins so that He will not be angry with us and reject our prayers. As an example of prayer, we have before us this Canaanite woman.

The woman is not part of the people of God. She was a Canaanite, a pagan who was involved in occult worship, and this is likely why her daughter was severely demonized. James 4[:7], says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” It isn’t stretching the text at all to connect this woman’s Canaanite identity to her daughter’s terrible, horrific situation. Canaanites weren’t resisting the devil; they were dabbling in demonic stuff.

This woman knows that the demon oppressing her daughter is evil and that Jesus can help her. So, she prays. Jesus and the Syrophoenician WomanShe prays because she remembers that the God of Israel promised to deliver His people from the devil, which is why she addresses Jesus as the Son of David – to remind Him of His promises. And she remembers that she doesn’t deserve Jesus’ help because of her sins, so her prayer is, “Have mercy on me.”

She comes to Jesus in prayer, and what does your Savior do? He ignores her. He doesn’t answer her a word. But does she go away? Does she stop praying? No! She persists because she knows her trouble. She walks by faith and not by sight. She keeps praying because she knows that Jesus is the one who answers prayer. She prays so fervently that the disciples pray against her, “Send her away.”

So, Jesus answers the disciples, not this woman, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” Now, at least this woman knows two things: First, she knows that Jesus has heard her prayer. And second, she knows that Jesus knows who she is – a Canaanite and not an Israelite, not part of God’s people. She continues to persist in prayer. She kneels down before Jesus and says, “Lord, help me.” And finally, she gets her own word from Jesus, “It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”Yes, Jesus called her a dog.

This looks to us like a terrible insult. It looks horrible, racist, and sexist. If you did this today, it would go ‘viral,’ and your reputation would likely be ruined. But in faith, this woman takes the insult. She says, “Yes, Lord.” In other words, “If You, Jesus, Son of David and Messiah, if You call me a dog, I’ll take it. I’ll be a dog. Go ahead and treat me like a dog. Just give me what the dogs get. I’m a dog, but dogs get crumbs. And a crumb is enough. Yes, Lord.”

Now, Jesus praises her faith. “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Here’s the thing. God insults you as well. The Bible calls you worse than a dog. God in His Word calls you a sinner. He says that you deserve His wrath and anger. God says that you don’t deserve anything good from Him because you have rebelled against Him and hate Him. But here is what faith does. Faith believes that word from God. Faith clings to God’s declaration that says you are a sinner.

Faith says, “Yes. Yes, Lord. I am a sinner.” But faith doesn’t stop there either. Faith says, “Yes, Lord. I am a sinner. But, Jesus, You have said, ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners’” (Mt. 9:13). Faith says, “Lord, treat me like you treat sinners.” In other words, “Remember Your mercy and steadfast love. Don’t remember my sin.”

Boone, today you are Baptized. Boone, though you were a sinner, Christ has died for you and risen for you. Today in your Baptism, Jesus has clothed you with Himself (Gal. 3:27). Christ connected His Word to water and washed you clean making you His child and heir (Gal. 3:7, 9). So, Boone, Jesus has given you a word to remember, a word to cling to. Always cling to that Word. Remember His love and mercy for you. When you sin, have the boldness to ask Jesus to be what He says He is, the Savior of sinners.

The Table of GodBoone, and all of you, be bold in your prayers. Even when it seems that God is distant and ignoring you, He hears you. He loves you. Jesus has died and risen for you and is even now interceding for you before His Father in heaven (1 Jn. 2:1).

Know also that Jesus doesn’t only let you have the crumbs that fall from His table. He has given you a seat at His table. He invites you now to come to His table to receive the Bread of Life from heaven – His very Body. Come and receive His Blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sins. Amen.

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

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Caught – Sermon on Genesis 3:1-21 for the First Sunday in Lent

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Genesis 3:1-21

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LordGod among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this, Updated Crushing the Serpent's Head Cross
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;

on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.

15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;

he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

16 To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.

Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
but he shall rule over you.”

17 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree

of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’

cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.

19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,

till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;

for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

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

And, in this way, sin entered the world. Now, instead of running from the devil, Adam and Eve run from God. To really get at this text we need to see how faith is attacked, lost, and restored.

Scripture is clear, “the righteous shall live by faith” (Hab. 2:4), and, “whatever is not of faith is sin” (Ro. 14:23). Adam and the woman had faith in God before the Fall. The faith that they had was created by the promise of God. This is may be a little bit difficult for us to grasp, but, when God created the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and commanded Adam and the woman to not eat of it, He was giving them a promise to believe. God didn’t put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden so Adam and the woman could choose God or reject God. God put that tree in the garden as a promise. Basically, that tree was God acknowledging that there was evil, and by commanding them to not eat of it was God saying, “There is evil, but I don’t want you to experience or even know what evil is. If you know evil, it’s not going to go well for you. In fact, you are going to die.”

Temptation in the Garden of EdenBut Satan comes along and puts a question into the mind of the woman. “Did God actually say?” This is the one attack of the devil. He always is trying to get us to doubt the Word and promise of God. “Did God actually say, you should not eat of any tree in the garden?” And notice that the woman adds to God’s promise. She says, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, neither shall you touch it, less you die.’” God had never said anything about not touching the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (at least, it isn’t recorded for us). Satan is attacking God’s Word, but Adam and the woman have not fallen yet. The serpent sees his opening and tells an outright lie, “You will not surely die! For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Now, remember that God had created Adam and the woman in His image – they were already like God, and God declared that they were good. But Satan put before the woman the possibility of becoming more like God and better than they had already been created. It was an outright lie. So, when the woman sees that the tree is good for food, a delight to the eyes, and to be desired to make one wise, she is seeing something that is not true. The devil’s lie has already taken root. In this way Adam and the woman’s faith is attacked.

Now, that faith is lost. The woman looked at the tree and saw that it was to be desired to make one wise. That phrase, right there, is so important as you go about your daily life. To tempt us into sin, the devil gets us to think that God is somehow holding out on us, that He hasn’t given or won’t give us everything we need to live and be happy. It’s a downright, blatant, brazen, barefaced lie. The devil wants us to ignore God’s Word and think that God is holding out on us and limiting our fun by giving us commands. Whenever we fall into sin, it is because we don’t trust that God is good and will give us all good things at the right time. Don’t listen to the devil’s lies.

Unfortunately, the woman does. She takes the fruit, eats it, gives some to her husband who is with her, and he eats. The eyes of both are opened. They had become something more. Now, they knew evil, but it was not better. What had been good, their nakedness, was no longer good. They sew fig leaves together to make themselves loincloths. Their faith is lost.

But now, we will see how beautifully God restores faith. Adam and the woman hear the sound of God walking in the garden, but they hide. They figured that God was coming in order to punish them. But the God who had created the heavens and the earth, the God who had created all the birds of the air, all the fish of the sea, and all the animals of the land didn’t need to come and find them in order to punish them. If God was going to punish them, there is no need to drag this whole thing out. God is not showing up in this text now to punish Adam and the woman. He’s coming to restore what was lost. He is coming to restore faith.

Adam and Eve hide from God.jpgBut even as God does this, we will see the horrific consequences that sin and evil has brought into God’s good creation. God calls to Adam, “Where are you?” God still wants to have fellowship with Adam and the woman even though they have sinned, broken His commandment, and lost their faith. But rather than confessing and repenting of his sin, Adam dodges the opportunity saying, “I hid from You because I was naked and afraid.” So, God gives Adam a second chance to repent, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

But sin has so marred Adam that he dodges this second opportunity. He blames the woman, but ultimately, notice that he blames God, “The woman, whom You gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.“ God gives the woman a chance to repent and asks her, “What is this you have done?“ But the woman doesn’t do much better than Adam, she says “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”

The terrible, horrific consequences of sin are already evident. Adam and the woman pass blame, they don’t protect or care for each other, the whole thing is an absolute mess. They are caught and they don’t return to God in faith asking for His mercy.

Adam and the woman will hear God tell them about the mess they have brought to creation – pain in childbirth, pain in eating, and death. But first things first. God’s first response isn’t to lay into Adam and the woman. The first thing God does is deal with Satan. God doesn’t have a conversation with the devil like He did with Adam and the woman. There, in the Garden, God told Satan that He was coming for him. God would send the Seed of the woman to crush the serpent’s head. And Adam and the woman believe this because, notice, at the end of this text, she is no longer called ‘woman.’ Adam 1 Corinthians 13 7 - Love Bears All Thingsgives her the name Eve. She wasn’t called this at any point before in Scripture. Adam gives her the name ‘Eve’ which means ‘life-giver.’ Here’s how we know faith is restored. Eve was already going to be the mother of everyone who would be born. But Adam, the father of faith, changes her name to Eve because she is the mother of all who would believe in the promised Seed who would crush the serpent’s head.

God promised that He would free Adam, the woman, you, and me from the clutches of sin and death. And, today, we have seen Jesus doing this very thing. Opposed to Adam and the woman, who had no lack – they weren’t hungry – Jesus defeats the devil’s temptations in the wilderness when He was starving after fasting for forty days. Jesus will leave the wilderness and cast out the demons. He will heal, restore, forgive, and resurrect those who sit under the curse. But most importantly, He will suffer God’s wrath against all sin – your sin, my sin, the sin of the whole world – on the cross. He does this because though you are caught in sin, your God is merciful and gracious. He wants you to be caught in His loving arms for all eternity, safe and secure from all evil.

Repent. Believe. Live. Amen.

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

Rebuking the Storm – Sermon on Matthew 8:23-27 for the Fourth Sunday of Epiphany

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Matthew 8:23-27

23 And when [Jesus] got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

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

After hearing this Gospel lesson, I want you to consider again these words from our call to worship because I think it sheds a beautiful light on this text:

“Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! They saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. For He commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed” (Ps. 107:24-25, 28-29).

Jesus Calms the Storm Asleep in SternImagine Matthew in this storm. Remember, Matthew – unlike Andrew and Peter and James and John – Matthew wasn’t a fisherman. He was a tax collector when Jesus called him to be a disciple (Mk. 2:14). Typically, he had hands stained from handling coins all day not clammy, saltwater-drenched hands. Matthew was used to sitting in a tax booth not on the rail of a boat bailing water so that it doesn’t sink. Matthew had seen Jesus rebuke demons, rebuke sickness, and rebuke the Pharisees and religious elite. But now, in the middle of a storm that threatened Matthew’s life, the Man who had called him saying, “Follow Me,”lay peacefully sleeping and undisturbed in the back of the boat on a cushion (Mk. 4:38).

In this text from Matthew, the disciples cry out to Jesus, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” But in the Gospel of Mark, the disciples collectively ask Jesus, “Don’t You care that we are perishing?” (Mk 4:38). The folk singer Gordon Lightfoot wrote a song about the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. One of the lines from that song is, “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?” Those are the types of thoughts going through Matthew’s mind and the minds of the other disciples.

Now, hold on to that thought while I change scenes.

Remember the story of Job? Job was a man who was blameless and upright. Job feared God and turned away from evil. This was what God said about Job (Job. 1:1,8). There was a day when God asked Satan what he thought about Job. And the devil replied, “Does Job fear You for no reason? Haven’t You put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has on every side? Just stretch out Your hand against Job, and he will curse You to Your face.” And God basically says to the devil, “Go for it,” (Job. 1:9-12). Then, one day Job’s servants came one after another to tell him that all his sheep, oxen, donkeys, and camels were all destroyed. Finally, another servant comes and says, “Your seven sons and three daughters were feasting together, and a great wind,” catch that, “a great wind came and struck the corners of the house and killed your children” (Job 1:18-19).

Now, who sent that wind? The devil did. Satan took control of the wind and used it to bring down the house where Job’s children were. But, and you have to remember this, Satan could only do that because God had given the devil permission to do so.

One more scene change. Bear with me.

Think back to our Old Testament lesson (Jon. 1:1-17). Jonah was told to go and preach to Nineveh and call them to repent of their sins. But Jonah turned tail and went the opposite direction. He boards a boat in order to flee from God’s presence. Verse 4 says, “But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.” God sent that wind. God sent the storm. God sent those waves.

So, God can send a wind to come after Jonah, and God can allow the devil to send a wind to do harm. Now, the question is this: who sent the storm in this Gospel text? Was Satan sending this storm to try to drown Jesus or to cause the disciples to doubt Christ? Was God sending this storm to cause the disciples to trust in Jesus more than they had before?

Well, honestly, we don’t know. But that, dear saints, is the point. Either way, whether the devil was behind this storm or God was, God was in control of the whole situation even though it seemed like He didn’t care and was sleeping. At a simple word from Jesus, the winds and waves stopped, and there was a great calm. And this miracle causes the disciples to marvel, “What sort of Man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?”

In the midst oFranticf that storm, in the middle of the wind and the saves and terror, Jesus asked the disciples, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” This question from our Lord’s lips confronts us today. What are you afraid of? The devil may be behind the things you fear. Satan may want you to enter “emergency mode,” “crisis mode,” “God doesn’t care and is sleeping mode.” The devil wants nothing more than to rob you of the peace and security that comes from being a child of God. So repent. The devil is very cunning and dangerous, but he is also totally and completely predictable.

But what is God doing in allowing you to experience those things that you fear? Why is God permitting Satan to do these things to you? That is an unanswered question in the Bible. If there was an answer in Scripture, I’d be more than happy to tell you, but the Bible seems to be more interested in keeping that answer from us. We know why the devil knocked the house onto Job’s children, but we aren’t told in the whole book of Job why God allowed the devil to do it. We might think that God sent the storm upon Jonah in order to get Jonah to Nineveh to preach and call those people to repent, but there may have been even more reasons that we are completely unaware of as well.

We aren’t told what God is doing when we are in the midst of trials and tribulations. But we can know with confidence, that whenever God sends storms and trials our way or when He allows Satan to send us trouble and tribulation, we know that God has nothing but our best interest in mind. We know because Scripture tells us that God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Ro. 8:28). Scripture says, “Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (Ja. 1:2-3 see also Heb. 12:6-12, 1 Pet. 1:7, Rev. 3:19).

Here’s the main point. When you are faced with trials, temptations, and crosses you are tempted to think that God is sleeping. You are tempted to think that He doesn’t care and is totally apathetic toward you and your plight. Don’t look at your troubles and try to gauge what God thinks about you.

Jesus Cross Heaven & EarthIf you want to know what God thinks about you, you need look no further than the cross. While you were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for you (Ro. 5:6,8). If you are going through a storm of sickness, a storm of family strife, or whatever it might be, look at it through the lens of Christ crucified and risen for you. And know that God is in control and He will never leave you nor forsake you.

The sailors that Jonah was using to flee from God’s presence had to wake Jonah up and throw him overboard to still the storm. Jesus only has to speak, and the waves are stilled and the storm is hushed. And even though Jesus wasn’t thrown out of the boat in this Gospel text, He was thrown overboard in a much more important way.

On the cross, Jesus was thrown into the place of God’s judgement against your sin and the sins of the whole world. Jesus wasn’t swallowed by a great fish, He was swallowed by death in order that He might defeat death for you. As Jonah was in the belly of that fish for three days, Jesus was in the grave for three days. And He is risen again.

Today, you have different storms, different winds, and different waves tempting you to fear. But you have the same Jesus who slept in the boat, who woke up, who rebuked the wind and the waves and they listened to Him.

Whatever storms you face in this life, bring them to your God. Let those trials teach you to pray. And marvel at the wonderful answer of your God and Savior. Cry to Him in your trouble, and he will deliver you from your distress (Ps. 107:28). Amen.

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

Miracle Sandwich – Sermon on Matthew 9:18-26 for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Trinity

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Matthew 9:18-26

18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples.

Woman with the Issue of Blood20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.

23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.

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

One text; two miracles. One story begins, but before it finishes, another story takes place. Why would Matthew (along with Mark [5:22-43] and Luke [8:41-56], who also tell us about this event) lump these two miracles of Jesus together? Why make this miracle sandwich? Why take these two slices of bread – the healing of the woman who had a discharge of blood and the raising of a girl – and mash them together? The most obvious answer is that this is how it actually happened. But there are also important lessons for us to learn in this ‘holy hoagie.’ Those lessons are what makes this ‘supernatural sub-sandwich’ so delicious. So, let’s take a bite!

For the top slice of bread, we see Jesus is approached by a ruler. We learn from Mark and Luke that he is a ruler of the synagogue and named Jairus, and he is there to get Jesus to come and heal his daughter who is at the point of death. Matthew, inspired by the Holy Spirit, tells the story as quickly as possible. So, Matthew introduces Jairus as a father asking Jesus to raise and restore life to his dead daughter. But Mark and Luke let us know that Jairus had left his dying daughter to come to Jesus.

Notice Jairus’ faith. Jairus doesn’t offer any compelling reasons that Jesus should come to his house. He doesn’t mention his life of service in the synagogue. He doesn’t say how well-behaved his daughter is. He doesn’t make promises of how he will change his behavior if Jesus does this for him. Jairus simply believes that Jesus’ touch has life, so he says, “Come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus confirms Jairus’ faith by going with him.

But as Jairus leads Jesus through the streets to his house, there is a problem. The crowd is getting in the way. People are all coming to get a glimpse of Jesus and pressing in on Him (Mk. 5:24). Jairus keeps his eyes forward, darts through the people, and pushes his way through the throngs merging to get close. Every moment is precious. Every second matters. But suddenly, Jairus notices that Jesus is no longer with him.

Jesus has stopped. Jairus makes his way back to find Jesus, and there He is chit-chatting with a woman which is the bottom slice of bread in our sandwich.

This woman had been suffering with a discharge of blood for twelve years. She had gone to every doctor and specialist she could find, but her every effort failed. Every bill she paid didn’t bring the relief she needed. Her last penny had been spent (Lk. 8:43), and yet her life was still slowly draining away. But this woman had an idea.

She thought to herself, “If I only touch the fringe of Jesus’ cloak, I will be,” (not, “healed,” or, “made well,” as our translation puts it), “I will be saved.”

Now, to any rational person, this is silly and even boarders on superstition. But notice her faith. Yes, it is uneducated; her doctrine is severely lacking. She doesn’t believe all the right things. Apparently, she doesn’t believe Jesus is God because she’s going to sneak up on Him, and you can’t sneak up on God; He knows everything. Also, all the other times Jesus healed people, He spoke to them or, at least, knew about them and their need. And this woman thinks, what? That she can steal what she needs from Jesus. Yes, her faith is silly and even infantile. There wasn’t anything special about Jesus’ clothing. Jesus wore the same types of clothing that everybody else wore. The type of stuff you would get at Eddie Bauer or Kohl’s today. But this woman has it in her mind that Jesus is so mighty, so powerful, and so gracious that just a brush of His cloak will save her.

So, she gets close enough, reaches through the crowd, touches Jesus’ garment, and is instantly healed (Mk. 5:29). And Jesus stops to confirm her faith. Jesus looks her in the eye and tells her, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has saved,”(again not, “made well,” as our translation says), “your faith has saved you.”

Now, back to Jairus. Don’t forget about him. While Jesus is speaking to the woman, someone from Jairus’ house arrives to tell him, “Your daughter is dead; don’t trouble Jesus any more” (Lk. 8:49). Imagine what the devil must have been doing in that moment to Jairus’ faith. But Jesus hears this and confirms and strengthens Jairus’ faith by saying, “Do not fear; only believe” (Lk. 8:50).

Arriving at the house, Jesus sees all the people gathered there to weep and mourn. And Jesus talks to them, and what He says is something that, to our ears, sounds as silly as the belief that Jesus’ clothes can heal. Raising of Jairus DaughterHe says to the mourners, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And the mourners laugh, mocking Jesus and His words.

But Jesus isn’t concerned with their mockery. He marches straight into the house, takes the girl by the hand, and lifts her out of death just as easily as you would help your kid up after you have tied her shoe.

One text; two miracles. The healing of the woman and the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead. Two slices of good wholesome bread. But what makes this miracle sandwich so tasty; what is the Miracle Whip? Pun intended. What can we learn from this text?

Several things:

Go ahead and pray for things that seem silly or even impossible. Your prayers – whether they are big, small, or impossible – are not a bother to our Lord. Don’t be shy with your prayers. If you hold back on your prayers, you are showing that you don’t trust God. If you want your team to win the game, if you want a good parking spot, if you want your spouse to rise from the dead, ask God. He won’t laugh at your prayers any more than a mother would laugh at her four-year-old for saying he wants to be a dragon. Trust God with your desires – all your desires. He loves you. Don’t be afraid to ask. He already knows your desires anyway.

Also, don’t look at how things are going on in your life when you should be listening to Jesus. When your money is tight and you don’t know how you are going to make it. When you are arguing with your spouse and begin to wonder if they really love you or if your relationship will ever be the same. When your children fall into sin and make you doubt every parenting decision you ever made. When your health is so deep in the toilet and the pain is more than you can handle. In all those times, don’t let sin creep in and make you doubt God’s goodness, power, or love for you. Let Jesus’ words remind you that even if He doesn’t heal you like He healed the woman with the issue of blood, Resurrection Pulled out of DeathHe will raise you from the dead when He returns in glory. Even if you don’t get the things you want now, Christ will give you everything on the Last Day.

Finally, realize that, “True Christian worship is faith fighting against despair.”[1] When life seems hopeless or impossible, when the winds of despair blow, recognize that these are the temptations and assaults of the devil. In all those moments, Christ says to you what He said to Jairus, “Do not fear; only believe.”The greatest worship you can offer is to trust Christ’s words over everything you see, feel, and experience.

Listen to the words of Jesus. He is there to comfort you. He has delivered you from the domain of darkness and transferred you to His kingdom. He has redeemed you. He has forgiven you. And nothing in this life can ever take that away from you. Amen.

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

[1]Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, 44 (Kolb-Wengert, 338).

The Race – Sermon on Hebrews 11:39-12:2 for Observation of All Saints’ Day

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Hebrews 11:39-12:2

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

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

Let these words of Scripture paint a picture in your mind. The picture is of a huge stadium, and it has to be massive. We’re not talking thousands or tens of thousands of seats. Imagine millions, billions, even trillions of seats. And every single seat is filled – a capacity crowd. You, believer, are there in that stadium, but you are not in the stands. You are running a race on the track.

All the people in the stadium are Christians. They are the believers who have come before us. Hopefully, the rest of Hebrews 11, which you didn’t hear, is familiar to you. It is sometimes called “the hall of faith” and is a list Old Testament believers who finished the same race. The chapter gives sixteen names including Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, David, etc., but it also includes multitudes more who aren’t named. All of them had faith in Jesus (v. 13, 39) even though they faced persecution, difficulty, trials, and temptations. They were all sinners who clung to faith in Jesus. But these saints have finished their race, are now in heaven, and are part of that great cloud of witnesses that surround us.

Wedding Feast of the LambSo, the picture is this: These Christians have crossed the finish line. But instead of going to the locker room and getting into an ice bath, they go into the stands to cheer us on as we run our race. And again, this is multitudes of people – more than you could count – people from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Rev. 7:9). Imagine the cheers, chants, clapping, and whooping encouraging you as you run.

Here you are on the track. Running your race of faith. The race has been long. It has been hard and difficult. Parts of the course of your race have been filled with sorrow, with disappointment, with discouragement. Parts of your course have brought you through the valley of the shadow of death. And you have gotten tired. Your lungs are burning. You can hardly feel your legs, and with each stride your feet hit the ground harder and harder. You are weary and might be tempted to stop pushing, to take it easy and walk, or even stop the race altogether.

But everyone in the stands is cheering you on, “Don’t stop! Run! Keep going! Dig deep! Keep pressing on! Go!”

I remember when I was in cross-country (I was never a great runner, but I still did cross-country to get ready for swimming, and I was good at swimming). But when I was in cross-country, everyone running the race would start in a huge pack. Scores of runners would all get on the starting line, and all the parents and classmates would be there to cheer everybody on at the start. As the runners would make their way through the course, fans would find different spots to cheer people on, and when their runner went by, they would move to another spot to cheer. Anyway, people would all try to be at the finish line to encourage runners to finish strong. But as the leaders and the main pack of runners finished, the crowd at the finish line would thin out. Usually, by the time I would finish, there would hardly be anyone left to watch. I think even once, the official timer wasn’t paying attention when I crossed the finish line which was discouraging to say the least.

But that is not the picture Scripture gives us about the race we are running. This great cloud of witnesses is there encouraging us at every last bit of the race.

These Christians who have gone before us and are cheering us on are called ‘witnesses.’ They aren’t called an ‘audience’; they are ‘witnesses.’ That means, as we run our race, they are cheering us on with their witness, their testimony, encouraging us to press on.

Exhausted Runner.jpgSo, maybe you are tired and struggling with quarrels in your family, and you want to quit running. But there is Abel cheering you on, “Keep going. I know it’s hard. My brother hated me for my faith in Jesus and killed me. But Christ was faithful to me and brought me to the end of my race. Keep going.”

Maybe, you are tired of all the evil in the world and it’s pressing down on you. But there is Noah, “Don’t stop. The evil in the world is nothing new. I was one of only eight people in the whole world who believed in Jesus. But Jesus protected us. He delivered us from the evil. He brought us to the finish line. He’ll get you there too.”

Maybe, you discouraged because you want to have kids but can’t. There is Sarah, “I know your pain and heartache. Keep running. God is faithful. Jesus will see you through.”

You are afraid of your enemies, there are the people who crossed the Red Sea on dry land and the people who walked around Jericho and shouted telling you to look to Jesus.

You are filled with regret and guilt or how you gave your body away to people who were not your spouse, and there is Rahab telling you to look to Jesus.

You committed one little sin which tossed you headlong into more sin, shame, guilt, and regret. There is David telling you that Jesus is faithful to you.

This is one reason – not the main reason, but one reason – that it is important to know your Bible. No matter what you are struggling with, no matter what problems and guilt and shame you have, you can see how Jesus was faithful to your brothers and sisters in Christ who went through the same things you are going through.

All those saints are bearing witness. They are telling you, “Those sins and burdens you have, let them go. Get rid of them. You don’t need them. Lay them aside. Let them go, and don’t look back. Cross and CommunionLook to Jesus. Fix your eyes on Him. Look to Christ, the author, the founder, and the perfecter of your faith. For the joy what was set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Yes, dear saints, the race is long and hard. But here is Jesus. He is here to lift your drooping head. He is here to draw your wandering eyes back to Himself. He is here to nourish and sustain you for the race. He is here to give you His Body and Blood in His holy Sacrament. Amen.

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

Messiah Complex – Sermon for the 11th Sunday of Trinity on Genesis 4:1-15

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Genesis 4:1-15

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man [with the help of] the Lord.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.

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

As long as there have been siblings, there have been sibling rivalries because sin came into the world before siblings did. After Adam and Eve fell and brought the curse of sin and death upon all of humanity, God made several promises. To the serpent, God promised that He would send an offspring of the woman to crush his head. To Eve, God promised that He would greatly multiply her pain in childbirth. And to Adam, God promised that He would have to get his food by the sweat of his brow. There were several other important promises, but keep those specific promises in your mind as we consider this text today.

As life went on after the Fall, Adam and Eve experienced the reality of God’s promises. Adam had to labor, toil, and sweat among thorns and thistles to provide food for himself and his wife. Time passed, and Eve conceived. Nine months and a lot of pain later, she gave birth to her first offspring, a son whom she named Cain. Because those two promises of God were so evident and in their faces every day, Adam and Eve also believed God’s deliverance from the serpent was just as imminent. Adam, Eve, and CainThey thought, wrongly, that Cain was the promised offspring who would crush the serpent’s head.

What Eve says after Cain’s birth is not translated well in any English version. All the popular translations add words to it because the translators don’t think Eve is actually saying what she is saying. So, I added brackets around the extra words on your bulletin. Eve literally said, “I have gotten a man, the Lord” (no “with the help of”). Eve was certain that Cain was the God-promised Messiah. Adam and Eve raised Cain teaching him about the promises God had made, and over time, Cain grew to believe as his parents did that he would crush Satan’s head and deliver his family from the curse of sin. Cain had a messiah complex.

Now, somewhere in there, Adam and Eve had another son Abel. I’m sure Adam and Eve loved Abel, but they didn’t treat him the same as they treated Cain. This is seen even in Abel’s name which means ‘breath’ or ‘vapor.’ But, beyond that, Adam and Eve gave Cain the important job of working the field, but Abel was tasked with being a shepherd. This is significant because God had not yet allowed people to eat meat. So, Cain was the provider of their daily sustenance. Abel was sent into the fields to keep his eye on sheep.

Now, here is where it gets interesting. Both brothers bring offerings to God. Abel brings offerings from the firstborn of the flocks, and Cain brings offerings from his crops. God has regard for Abel’s offering but not Cain’s. Why is that? Some might say it was because Cain didn’t bring best portions of his crops. That could be, but there is probably something else going on here.

Who made the first sacrifice in the Bible? It wasn’t Adam and Eve or Cain and Abel. It was God. Remember, the first thing Adam and Eve realized after they ate the forbidden fruit was that they were naked. So, they tried to cover themselves with plants – fig leaves. It didn’t work so well. But God came and covered their nakedness and shame by slaughtering an animal and covering them with skins. Plants weren’t enough to cover Adam and Eve’s sin. Blood was needed. In fact, Scripture says, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22).

Long story short, Abel followed God’s order of offering animals for a sacrifice. But Cain, who has been raised with a Messiah complex, is doing something different. He figures he can offer God the works of his hands. But then Cain recognizes God’s rejection of his offering, gets jealous, gets warned, gets mad, gets violent, and gets punished.

You probably don’t feel too sorry for Cain. He killed his brother without remorse. Cain refused to keep Abel, the keeper of sheep. When God announces Cain’s punishment that the ground Cain works will be cursed and that Cain will be a fugitive and a homeless wanderer, you think that it is just and right. I would guess that you are not sympathetic to Cain’s statement, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” If that is you, repent.

In every sinful heart is the same Messiah complex that Cain had. We heard another example of it in the Gospel lesson (Lk. 18:9-14). The Pharisee comes to the Temple thanking God that he isn’t like other men. The essence of his prayer is, “God, thanks for making me someone whose sins are little and whose good works are big.” This Pharisee wants God to take a good look at him and give him a high-five because he is a full bottle of Awesome Sauce. Like Cain, the Pharisee offers God a sacrifice, but God had no regard for it.

pharisee-tax-collectorYou see, the only way to approach God is through an offering, a sacrifice. Examine your life and ask yourself why you believe God will hear your prayers, why God will notice you, why God will have regard for you. But remember, you don’t get to pick which sacrifices are pleasing to God. Your good works are not enough, and your perceived lack of sin is nothing but an illusion of your own fallen mind. If you think and believe otherwise, sin isn’t just crouching at your door. Sin is your master. Repent.

Psalm 51:17says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Abel’s blood cried out from the ground for vengeance upon Cain’s sin. But there is a better blood that cries out to God. The blood of Jesus was shed for you upon the cross. Jesus’ nail-pierced heel has crushed the head of the devil. Jesus, the promised Messiah, offered His own body for the condemnation of your sin in place of your body. Christ’s shed blood flowed down the ground, and His blood even now cries out not for vengeance but for your forgiveness. The earth has opened its mouth to receive Jesus’ blood, and because it has, the earth now cries out to God for your forgiveness.

When you sin, when your spirit is broken, when you are crushed under the weight of your transgression, you can plead, “God be merciful to me, the sinner” (more accurate translation of Lk. 18:13). And He is. Amen.

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