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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Mercy Over Anger – Sermon on Matthew 8:1-13 for the Third Sunday of Epiphany

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Matthew 8:1-13

When [Jesus] came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.”And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”

centurion with a sick servantWhen he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.”And the servant was healed at that very moment.

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

All the Scripture lessons today (2 Kgs. 5:1-15; Ro. 12:16-21; and Mt. 8:1-13) speak of both mercy and anger. Naaman, the commander of Syria’s army has leprosy and is mercifully healed by God through the prophet Elisha when he washes seven times in the Jordan. But, when Naaman first heard about how this healing would come, he was angry and wasn’t even going to do as God directed him through Elisha.

In our Epistle lesson (Ro. 12:16-21), we Christians are told to be merciful instead of getting angry and vengeful. We are told to not be haughty, but to associate with the lowly. We are told to not repay evil for evil and never avenge ourselves, but leave vengeance to the Lord. We are commanded to overcome evil not with anger but with good.

But the theme of mercy and anger is a little harder to notice in this Gospel text. Mercy is easy to see. Jesus is merciful to two men. First, to a leper who was physically and spiritually unclean but then receives better than he asks. And second, to a Gentile centurion who had a sick servant. This centurion, a commander of at least one hundred men, believes that even though he was unworthy to have Christ come under his roof our Lord has both the ability and mercy to speak a word from far away and heal his servant. So, you might be wondering, where is the anger in this Gospel text?

After Jesus praises the centurion’s faith, Jesus talks about the anger of those who spend eternity in hell. In the outer darkness, Jesus says people will experience only weeping and gnashing of teeth for eternity. That phrase “gnashing of teeth” is not some sort of torture, like an eternal dental procedure. “Gnashing of teeth” is a Hebrew expression of anger and rage. A person who is angry gnashes his teeth at the one who has made him angry. (You see this in Ps. 112:10and other places in the Old Testament.) You can watch this happen when children are angry with their siblings or peers. They clench their jaw, show their teeth, and growl. Hell is where anger and rage never go away and is never satisfied. And we need to consider this for a bit to see the horror of hell.

Those who are in hell insisted on going their own way in this life. They want to be their own lords rather than let God be their Lord. They insist that they be judged according to their own righteousness and merits (which is only a big, smoldering pile of scat anyway), and so they will be. They will be judged and condemned because their trust is in their own righteousness rather than in Christ’s righteousness won for them on the cross and given to them by God’s grace and mercy. And they will be angry with God because they think God has been unfair. In hell, people are given over to their own anger for eternity.

Jesus gives this picture in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Mt. 25:31-46). The goats are justly condemned to hell for their sins, but they are angry with God for not seeing what they thought were their plethora of good works. In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Lk. 16:19-31) Jesus also shows how unbelievers grumble and angrily insist on their own way even when they are suffering. The rich man is in anguish and sorrow in hell begging Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his brothers. Abraham says, “They already have Moses and the prophets.” In other words, they have the Scriptures, so they don’t need any further warning. But the rich man says, “That won’t work. My idea is better. Send Lazarus.” Even in there in hell, the rich man rejects the power and truth of God’s Word and angrily insists on his own way.

AngerHell is the place where people are given over to their anger. It is full of people whose pride has lead them to think that God owes them something because they are so good and righteous or because they belonged to the right club or had the right lineage. But they are wrong and so they are in torment stewing in their anger against God and there is no relief or release. All of that is the gnashing of teeth. So, when Jesus speaks of what hell will be, He gives a picture of darkness, sorrow, and anger.

Now, we need to consider this picture of hell as a place of eternal anger a bit because anger is so prevalent in our society. Anger is probably the most acceptable sin in our culture. We give in to it all too easily and quickly, but our expressions of anger reveal only our pride.

Someone cuts us off while we are driving, and we get angry. We sinfully think, “How dare that guy think he is so important that he cut me off like that?” Well, maybe he actually is more important. Maybe he is going to say goodbye to his dying relative.

Someone jumps into an empty line at the grocery store with a full cart while we have to wait holding only a gallon of milk. Or a coworker fumbles through a task leaving us to pick up the slack. Or our child forgets to do the chore we expected them to do and because of their absent-mindedness we end up behind schedule. We get angry because we see every inconvenience as an injustice against us. Our pride has been hurt, and we try to get even with that person or we take our frustration out on the first vulnerable target in our sights. In doing so, we act as though any hinderance to us is of cosmic significance. And our anger leads us to respond wrath and vengeance.

But by becoming angry – listen to this now – by becoming angry, we are stealing from God. “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says God. To give in to anger is to bring a little piece of hell upon yourself. In doing so, you hurt yourself and those you love. Your anger reveals your pride, and it is weakness. It is unhealthy and dangerous.

Repent. Let it go. Turn the other cheek. The Holy Spirit does not ever move you to anger. None of the fruits of the Spirit – neither love, nor joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, nor self-control – none of those have anything to do with anger. Instead, the Holy Spirit moves you to pity, compassion, patience, forgiveness, and mercy.

Now, pay careful attention here because this is the most important thing about this sermon. Mercy triumphs over anger. Consider Naaman in our Old Testament text. He went off in a rage when he thought Elisha’s prescribed ceremony was foolish. Naaman was a strong man, but we see that his strength was not in his military might rather in his humility and submission to the Word of God.

Same with the centurion in this Gospel text. While he had authority over many men and could order them around, he lacked the authority to make his servant better. He could not say to his servant’s sickness, “Go away.” And he lacked the authority to say to his servant, “Get better.” jesus-lamb-slain-silver-goldHe couldn’t do it because he didn’t have the strength or authority. The centurion’s truest strength was his submission and faith that Christ’s authority far surpassed his own. So, the centurion in faith and hope asks Jesus to merely speak the word, and his servant is healed at that very moment.

Dear saints, your Savior’s mercy is more than His anger toward you. Trust in that mercy. And when you are tempted to be angry with others, remember that God is just. He is just and merciful. May we, as His children, be like Him. Amen.

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

Gifts and Mercy – Sermon on John 2:1-11 for the Second Sunday of Epiphany

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John 2:1-11

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” wedding at cana water into wineNow there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.”And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.”So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have become drunk, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

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

Notice first that John doesn’t call this miracle of Jesus a ‘miracle.’ It is, of course, a miracle to take somewhere between 120-180 gallons of water and turn it into wine in an instant. But John doesn’t call it a miracle, he calls it a ‘sign.’ And importantly, this is the first of Jesus’ signs and manifests His glory. This sign becomes the standard by which all other signs of Jesus are known. This sign shows how Jesus loves to give good gifts even when they aren’t known, recognized, or appreciated. And, therefore, this sign shows us how beautiful is Christ’s love and mercy.

Jesus attends a wedding at Cana in Galilee. Galilee is a region that isn’t all that important. The kings, rulers, religious leaders are mainly in Judah to the south. And Cana is a town that was so small and insignificant we still aren’t sure where it is – archeologists haven’t discovered it yet.

At that wedding feast, the wine had run out. Either those planning the wedding didn’t plan properly, or (and probably more likely) the guests had been too busy refilling their glasses. The master of the feast (and we’re going to come back to his statement) will say that the good wine that Jesus provides is a mistake because the guests have become drunk using the same word that the Scriptures will repeatedly warn against.

So, this first sign, this first miracle of Jesus isn’t like His other miracles in the Gospels where Jesus gives sight to the blind, makes the lame walk, gives hearing to the deaf, cleansing to the lepers, freedom to those possessed by demons, and resurrection to the dead. But this turning water into wine is not simply a parlor trick that Jesus does to impress people. It is an act of pure mercy. Jesus turns water into good wine for a bunch of people who already had wine.

Mary lets Jesus know the party has run out of wine. And Jesus doesn’t seem to want to get involved. But Mary has faith that Jesus will do what is good, so she tells the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Jesus could have told everyone the feast is over, pack up, and go home. But He doesn’t. His mercy extends far beyond our imagination.

Jesus tells the servants to fill six stone water jars that are there for the Jewish rites of purification. These rites of purification were an addition to God’s commands for His people to be clean. The Pharisees had a bunch of rules about washing before eating (see Mk. 7:1-5where the Pharisees will accuse Jesus’ disciples of not following these man-made rules). So, these jars aren’t there to hold drinking water. In fact, you probably wouldn’t want to drink water from these jars as much as you wouldn’t want to drink from a bowl of water that people had used to wash their hands.

Water into Wine at the Wedding in Cana.jpgJesus tells the servants to fill the jars with water, and they fill them up to the brim. And, at Jesus’ command, they take some of it to the master of the feast. The master tastes it, and it isn’t water anymore. It is wine. The master didn’t know. The guests didn’t know. Only Jesus, Mary, the servants, and the disciples know that this had been water miraculously turned into wine.

Now, we have to slow down for a minute and consider the words of the master of the feast: “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have become drunk, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

Practically speaking, the master is absolutely right. You don’t waste the good stuff on people whose taste buds are numbed and who are probably going to throw it up anyway. You serve the good tasting wine first and serve the crummy wine when they don’t really care what it tastes like any more.

But in doing this, the master of the feast takes on a satanic role. And, I think (you can disagree) that is why John quotes the master of the feast. He is saying that there is a huge waste in giving good wine to people who cannot appreciate it, people who are going to abuse it, and to people who have been abusing it. You could almost say that the master goes to the groom and says, “You are some fool for giving people good wine when they can not appreciate it.”

This is what the devil says about God as God continually gives us His gifts of grace and mercy. Satan is enraged that God would love and forgive us who do not appreciate His gifts and mercy.

Cross and CommunionBut, dear saint, that is precisely the point. God is willing to give His gifts and mercy anyway. This isn’t a license to go on and sin because God will forgive you anyway. In fact, you are to abhor what is evil and hold to fast to what is good. Love one another. Outdo one another in showing honor (Ro. 12:9-11). And do all of that as you remember that God gives better than you deserve or appreciate.

Finally, remember that this sign occurs, as John says, ‘on the third day.’ This third day is the last in a series of days that John tells us about. The first day was back in Jn. 1:29where John the Baptizer says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Then, John says ‘the next day’ Jesus called His first few disciples. Then, this miracle occurs ‘on the third day.’ John could have kept his reckoning of time any way he wished. He could have said Jesus is proclaimed to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world on Tuesday; on Wednesday, Jesus gets His first disciples; and on Thursday, Jesus was at a wedding in Cana. Or, John could have just kept saying, ‘the next day, the next day, the next day…’ But John doesn’t. John is pointing us to the fact that this is ‘the third day’ which is a foreshadow of the resurrection. ‘On the third day,’ the day of the Resurrection, Jesus gives wine is not earned, deserved, or even appreciated to sinners who at best deserved to be told to go home.

Dear saints, you live in the time of ‘the third day.’ Jesus lives. The shadow is past. Your sins are died for and forgiven. The resurrection is now. The marriage feast has begun. The Holy Spirit is given. You receive the best wine and all of Jesus’ gifts. But it is still not what it will be.

Jesus will return. The trumpet will sound, and then the wedding of the Lamb of God will begin in earnest. And never forget that you are His bride, His beloved. Come and receive now what you have not earned, deserved, or can even fully appreciate. Receive it knowing that your Lord is not afraid to give it to you. His love reaches to the heavens; His faithfulness stretches to the sky (Ps. 108:4). Come and receive His gifts and mercy. Amen.

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

The One Who Shows You Mercy – Sermon on Luke 10:23-37 for the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

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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. Jesus Good Samaritan Icon32 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.”

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

This parable is arguably the most well-known parable Jesus ever told. That being said, it is also one of the most misinterpreted and misused parables. Today, may your eyes and ears be blessed as Jesus tells you what many prophets and kings desired to see and hear but did not. Holy Spirit, open our eyes and unplug our ears to Christ’s mercy.

This lawyer, this guy who knows the Old Testament forwards and backwards, asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” This is a stupid question. You don’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 exactly what he must do to have eternal life. He must do the Law, and his understanding of the Law is correct. Love God perfectly; love your neighbor perfectly. It’s exactly how Jesus sums up the Law elsewhere (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 is stuck in his own death. 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; it’s completely foreign to him. 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 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.

With all that in mind, consider the parable: The road from Jerusalem to Jericho is downhill the whole way. The man in the parable is constantly going down. And as he goes down, he falls among thieves who rob, strip, beat, and leave him for dead.

A priest happens to come across him, but when he sees the poor sap, he moves to the other side of the road. A Levite spots him as well and does the same. They don’t bind up his wounds. They don’t offer to find someone else to help. They don’t even stand a safe distance and speak comforting words to him as he dies. Instead, the two most respected religious people in Jesus’ day are unwilling to give a second look to the wretch in the ditch.

They know God’s Word, but they are able to justify leaving the guy in the mud and blood. “If God allowed this to happen to him, it must have been for a reason.” Or, “He must have been hanging out with the wrong crowd.” Or, “If I help this guy, I’ll be unclean and won’t be able to perform my duties in the Temple and people won’t have their spiritual needs met.” They won’t let this looser distract them from their calling.

This beaten, bloodied man is despised and rejected by his own people who turn their faces from him (Is. 52:14; 53:2-4).

But then comes the hero – the man of the hour. But he is a Samaritan. He’s a looser and outcast just like the man in the ditch. And this looser ministers to his fellow looser.

He goes down into the ditch. He binds up the wounds. He puts ointment, oil, and wine on the lacerations. He hefts the guy onto his own animal, giving up his own comfort. He is delayed and intruded upon. Whatever appointment or meeting he was journeying to doesn’t matter anymore. The only thing that matters is the stripped, bleeding man.

The Samaritan brings the guy to a hotel and watches over him through the night. In the morning, he makes his way to the front desk and books the room indefinitely.

He tells the staff, “Bill everything to my room. That bloodied guy I brought in here last night, whatever he needs Is on my tab. If he needs doctors or nurses, I’ll cover it. If he needs a ride, get an Uber on me. If he consumes the mini bar fifteen times, I’m good for it. I’ll be back to pay for it all.”

The parable completed, Jesus looks at the lawyer and asks, “Who proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

Again, if this parable is teaching us to love everyone, then Jesus is a bad teacher and is asking the wrong question. “Who proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

Jesus is setting the lawyer up. Christ is not calling the lawyer to be like the Samaritan. Jesus wants the lawyer to see that he is the man in the ditch. Jesus wants the lawyer to desire the care, compassion, reckless love, and mercy that the Samaritan shows in the parable because that is exactly what Jesus has come to do for him and for you. Jesus is the one who shows mercy.

Good Samaritan Jesus IconChrist has come to find you. He has bound up your wounds. Jesus has poured out His healing, life-giving blood for you. Jesus nurses you in your brokenness. He has ascended into heaven and has promised to come back and pay for everything you need.

In order to be saved, you don’t need to be merciful; you need mercy. You don’t need to love your neighbor; you need to be loved. You need to receive the Jesus who has come to give you every last bit of His mercy.

That is what the parable means. Our text ends with Jesus saying, “You, go and do likewise.”And Jesus means that too. What Jesus has poured into you, let it spill out and bless others. Amen.

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

Sigh – Sermon for the 12th Sunday of Trinity on Mark 7:31-37

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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. 32 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 the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Most of Jesus’ miracles recorded in the Gospels are fairly sterile (if you will allow me to use that term). Christ tells a bunch of servants to fill jars with water, take some to the master of the feast, and the master wonders why the best wine was served so late. Jesus tells a paralyzed man, “Rise, pick up your bed, and go home,”and the man does. And Jesus takes bread and fish, gives thanks, hands it to His disciples, and thousands are fed. Clean, neat, tidy miracles.

Little Girl Meme GrossThis miracle, on the other hand, is odd. It’s dirty. Maybe, you even find it disgusting. Jesus takes a deaf man who has a speech impediment off to the side. He sticks His fingers into wax-filled ears. God in the flesh spits (apparently, Jesus wasn’t taught how to give a proper wet-Willy). Christ literally seizes, not just ‘touches,’ the man’s tongue. And then, Jesus looks up to heaven. Sighs. And says, “Ephphatha,” which means,“Be opened.”

Scripture says that Jesus did more miracles than are recorded for us in the Gospels (Jn. 20:30; 21:25). It could be – maybe it isn’t, but it could be – that most of Jesus’ miracles were crazy and odd like this one rather than the ‘normal’ ones God has recorded for us in the Scriptures. That might explain why in Mt. 8[:5-13]the centurion who had a paralyzed servant tells Jesus to not bother about coming into his home, but to just speak the word.

Now, imagine how it was for this man. He had lived his life in a world of silence. He wasn’t able to communicate with others. Imagine his friends and family who have brought him to Jesus. They have wanted so desperately for him to hear and rejoice in God’s Word. They wanted him to be able to hear them say that they loved him. They have wanted to sing God’s praise with his voice added to their chorus. And now, here is Jesus. A man who can do the miraculous. So, they bring him to Jesus and beg and plead Jesus to heal him. And Jesus does this?

As unconventional as it is, the man is healed. His ears are opened. He is able to speak clearly. Though the man has a new-found voice, Jesus commands this man and his family and friends to tell no one what has happened. But they don’t listen. They disobey.

The Jesus who opens deaf ears has one simple command for to their ears to hear. The command comes from the Jesus who loosened the man’s tongue, “Don’t use your tongues to tell others about this.”But they shut their ears to His command, and they open their tongues in disobedience.

They were telling people that Jesus was a miracle worker who makes the deaf hear and the mute speak. They weren’t spreading lies about Jesus, but what they were proclaiming was misleading. It seemed like a victimless crime. But here is the problem – the people who heard their message got the wrong impression of who Jesus is and what He had come to do.

Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the wolrdJesus had come to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, not to be the audiologist who takes away the deafness of the world. Jesus had come to give eternal life through His death and resurrection, not to give a voice to the voiceless.

Jesus had a reason for telling them to keep silent about the miracle even if we don’t know exactly what that reason was. And their disobedience had consequences.

When Jesus was on trial before His crucifixion, Pilate sent Him to Herod, and Herod wanted Jesus to do some sign for him (Lk 23:6-11). When Jesus didn’t answer any of Herod’s questions or do a miracle, Herod had his soldiers treated Jesus with contempt and mocked Him. It might be that the report of these people fueled Herod’s curiosity to see Jesus the miracle worker and not Jesus the Savior.

You too, refuse to listen to God’s words and commands. Whenever you sin, you are refusing to hear God’s Word. You are choosing your own wisdom over God’s. Even when God’s command seems contrary to what is good, we must repent of our lunacy thinking that we know better than God.

But see Jesus’ grace despite their sin. Jesus knew that they would disobey Him. He knew that they would sinfully use His gifts as tools for their transgressions. Jesus looks to heaven and sighs.

Why does Jesus sigh? Well, Jesus sighs in sorrow over our sins against Him. He sighs when we act in self-righteousness. Jesus sighs grieving over our self-inflicted pain. He sighs in anger over what has been done to us by the devil, our neighbors, and even those who should love us. Jesus sighs, and yet, He acts in love and mercy.

Jesus is the friend of sinners, and He has compassion on all who suffer – no matter what that suffering is. He knows you are a transgressor and worker of iniquity, but He also knows that you are a victim.

Jesus takes and becomes sinYes, Jesus sighs and acts. He gets involved with us even though it hurts Him. He cannot help Himself. In His love and mercy, He gets bound up in the mess we make and that others have made for us. He gets entangled in our sin. In fact, He becomes sin so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).

What Jesus did for this man, He has done for you as well. Jesus has miraculously opened your ears to hear His word of Law and Gospel. Listen to them intently. Believe what Jesus tells you in His Word because Jesus has borne your griefs. He has carried your sorrows. And even by the stripes you inflict upon Him, He heals you (Is. 53:3-5). Amen.

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

Table for 4,000, Please? – Sermon for the Seventh Sunday of Trinity on Mark 8:1-9

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Mark 8:1-9

In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”They said, “Seven.” And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away.

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

The last food you ate came from God even though it didn’t come directly from God. An exception will be made if you gathered up manna in your yard this morning. If you did, let me know. I’d like to come over this afternoon, so I can have a taste before it goes bad tomorrow. Talk to me after the service.

Your food comes from God, but God in His infinite wisdom has seen fit to give you that food through a long food-pipeline. Through farmers and ranchers who grow and raise the food. Through factories and workers that process, grind, and package. Through truckers and train engineers who haul. Through construction workers who build and maintain the roads and buildings. Through plumbers, electricians, engineers, and mechanics who design, make, and keep the roads, railways, machines, and buildings working. And even through insurance agents, accountants, and computer programmers who make all the work efficient and organized.

In fact, I bet if you and I sat down and put our minds together, we could figure out how every wholesome task performed in the world ends up putting food in our mouth. (Maybe we can do that while we enjoy that manna of yours.)

Now, God doesn’t have to use this massive, intricate food-pipeline. He could feed us directly as Jesus does in this text. God is the author of all good work and a master at it all.

This crowd has been with Jesus in a desolate place for three days hearing Him teach. They were so excited to follow Him that these silly people didn’t bring any food with them. Jesus tells the disciples that He has compassion on the people because if He sends them away, they won’t make it home. Some of them will faint and die of hunger. The disciples ask, “How can one feed these people (4,000 men plus women and children [see Mt. 15:32-39]) with bread here in this desolate place?” Their question is legitimate. Even if you had the means to pay for it, I bet you’d have a hard time buying enough bread for a crowd that size if you went to Hugo’s right after the service.

But watch what Jesus does in slow motion. He becomes the master of many trades all at once. He plows, plants, harvests, threshes, grinds, and bakes bread in a moment. Then, He sails, fishes, processes, cleans, and cooks fish to give the crowd a second course.

Yes, Jesus does this with what the disciples have among themselves. So, in a small way, He works within His creation and preserves the food-pipeline. But He certainly didn’t need to use what the disciples had because when it is all said and done, there are seven baskets of leftovers. The disciples end up with more than they had at the beginning.

This is a miracle. No one can feed such a large crowd, but Jesus can and does. But this miracle of feeding the 4,000 pales in comparison to the miracle of food that will be on your plate at lunch. The same Jesus is working through hundreds if not millions of people to make sure you have a bite later when He could simply make the food appear on your plate without any of them.

You are constantly surrounded by miracles. But you have gotten so used to seeing them that you don’t see the splendor and glory of God’s provision for you.

Do you realize how miraculous farming and gardening is? You take a seed – a tiny part of something, put it in the ground, and you get more of that same thing. How many thousands and even millions of tomatoes are in a single tomato seed when God uses His creation to nurture and grow that seed? We hardly give tomato seeds a second thought. But in each of those seeds is a lifetime supply of tomatoes for you and your family. But it is a lot less work for you to simply go to the store and purchase more tomatoes.

We are too easily bored with God’s miracles. And worse, we even grow to despise God’s work among us.

We get excited when a child takes her first steps. Her body has miraculously formed and developed the muscles, bones, and tendons needed to support her frame. Her mind has learned to control all those parts of her body so she can keep her balance. But how many weeks pass before her parents are tired of keeping her from walking to the garbage can, tipping it over, and rummaging through the contents? They wish she were still stationary.

Think for a moment of the miracle of life. Your body is made up of somewhere around 35 trillion individual cells that serve various functions. If the DNA in those cells were laid out end to end, it would travel from here to the sun and back 100 times. From the moment you were conceived, the information in your DNA would fill 600,000 pages. And right now, in each of the 35 trillion cells of your body, biological “machines” are copying volumes of information into amino acids which are taken by other machines and folded in very specific ways into proteins. So, don’t let anyone tell you that you are lazy.

These miracles are going on all around you and inside of you. And as we are able to learn even more about how this all works, it will simply get more intricate and amazing. You are fearfully, wonderfully, and miraculously made. And the fact that all of this is done because of your Creator should cause you to fall on your knees in reverence and praise.

From a seed producing a plant that produces more fruit and more seeds to a child learning to walk to your cells writing and rewriting the information that keeps you alive, God keeps this creation working. But because all of this happens every day, it doesn’t capture our wonder and amazement as much as if it only happened once.[1]

The feeding of this crowd does show us that Jesus is God in the flesh. But that is not Jesus’ purpose in feeding the crowd. Jesus did not do this miracle to show the crowd that He is divine. Rather Jesus’ purpose in feeding and providing for them is His own compassion.

If Jesus provides so richly and abundantly for a crowd who got themselves into trouble by something so simply as forgetting to bring their lunch, how much more compassion will He have for you, sinner? You who are rightful recipients of death – the wages of sin – will Jesus not have compassion on you?

He does have that compassion and He has given that compassion. He has come in your flesh after your likeness. He died on the cross and shed His blood for you to give you His forgiveness and righteousness. And this same Jesus will provide for your needs in this body and life as well.

To this hungry and dying crowd of 4,000 in a desolate place, Jesus brings life on the third day. Just as He fed the people on the third day, He has risen on the third day for your justification.

So, rejoice and trust your Savior. When Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things…,”your food, drink, clothing, shelter, and everything you need for life, “all these things will be added to you,”He meant it. Amen.

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

[1]Revised from a quote by John Donne, “There is nothing that God has established in the constant course of nature, and which therefore is done everyday, but would seem a miracle, and exercise of our admiration, if it were done but once.”

Measured – Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Trinity on Luke 6:36-42

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Luke 6:36-42

36 “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”

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

Before we really get into this text, we have to understand that the way the world interprets these verses is wrong and sinful. Do Not JudgeJesus says, “Judge not,”and our fallen, twisted, evil, amoral society latches on to these words like stink on poo. If an unbeliever loves any words of Jesus, it is probably, “Judge not.”

The godless sinners of our society (and of all times) think this means Christians are not allowed to say that anything is sinful or wrong. How many times have you spoken against some sin and had these words, “Judge not,”thrown in your face? Even worse, how many times have you kept your mouth shut when you see sin because these words had been thrown at you?

Sin is evil and should and must be spoken against. When Jesus says, “Judge not,”He does not mean that you should be silent when it comes to others’ sin – even though the world will call you a hypocrite for doing so.

If someone steals your car, it is not helpful to you, to your faith, or to society to simply say, “Well, I guess it was his car.” That is simply adding sin to sin. The seventh commandment was broken when they stole the car. The thief probably also broke the eighth commandment saying the car was theirs. Don’t join them in breaking the eighth commandment by lying yourself.

When Joseph forgave his brothers (in our OT text [Gen. 50:15-21]), he didn’t say, “When you seized me, threw me in a pit, planned to kill me, and sold me as a slave instead of treating me like your brother, God was really doing a good thing through you.” No! Joseph says that what they did was evil. Yet, he forgave them and extended them mercy.

When we don’t call sin, “Sin,” we are judging God.

The parable about a blind man leading a blind man and Jesus’ statement about specks and logs in eyes shows that we as Christians are called to speak against sin. If you were blind, you wouldn’t offer to be a hiking guide for the blind at the Grand Canyon. You’ll all fall in. But if you see, you can and should lead the blind man safely. And Jesus isn’t saying that you should never remove specks from others’ eyes. No, Jesus says to receive His free forgiveness which removes the log in your eye. Then reprove, rebuke, and correct the one who has a speck in his.

Judge Hypocrite Adam4dKnow this: No one will thank you from hell for remaining silent about their sin on earth. And God forbid that they curse you from hell for remaining silent about their earthly sin.

The Apostle Paul sums up Jesus’ words for us in Galatians 6:1. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore (this is a command) him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself (also a command), lest you too be tempted.”

So, do you see that this text isn’t a prohibition against you calling sin, “Sin”? Good. Now, the text can wallop you, you hypocrite.

Your fallen mind is selfish, always measuring your motives and actions against others’. You speak against the sins of others while ignoring the fact that you are committing the same sin.

Take the Fifth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” for example. You decry the plague of abortion in our country. You know that it is the heinous murder of the most vulnerable in our society and is the cousin of the Holocaust. But then, you don’t think twice about encouraging a young married couple to get settled in their careers before having kids. Or, you look at your own kids as a burden. You place your sinful actions on a scale and measure them to be less offensive and sinful. You hypocrite!

Take the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” for example. You speak against the sin of homosexuality and say that it is against God’s order. You are right that it is. But then, you turn around and do not love and honor your spouse as you should. Instead, wives, you undermine your husband and speak ill of him to anyone who will listen. Husbands, you do not treat your wives with the love and care they deserve, and you don’t avert your eyes from the lustful images that come your way. With your faulty scale, your sin doesn’t even register in your conscience. You hypocrite!

Take the Eighth Commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” You get enraged when others spread false, malicious gossip about you. But then you talk about others behind their back in ways you never would if they were standing next to you. By doing so, you measure your sin against theirs with your thumb pressing down on their sin.You hypocrite!

You are not what you should be. “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”You, as a child of God, should and must resemble your Heavenly Father. But you don’t.

Repent. As Scripture says, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim. 1:15). Because these words are Scripture, they are true and inerrant. But they are also wrong. Paul was not the foremost of sinners; I am. And I hope you can honestly and vehemently say the same.

We sinners keep measuring. We want what is our due. We demand our rights. We forgive only when we think our enemy deserves it – which isn’t forgiveness at all. Pretending that it is is harmful to our faith. Mercy, by definition, is never deserved.

Repent and hear again Jesus’ words, “Your Father is merciful.”

Jesus takes and becomes sinGod loves you from His very heart. God gives you real mercy. He loves the good and bad, the greatest and the least. He loves the sinner who strives to be merciful but fails, the hardened drug lord who doesn’t care about his sin, and He even loves you. In His mercy, God doesn’t simply get frustrated with your hypocrisy and ignore it.

No. God, in His infinite mercy, sends Jesus – His beloved, hypocrisy-free, perfect Son – to shed His innocent blood and die for that sin. God doesn’t simply love you with words but also with His actions.

God’s love for you in Christ is that He sees no log or speck of sin in your eye. His measure of mercy isn’t changed by the standard of your mercy toward others. His mercy is poured into your lap – good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing. So, let that mercy change you. And let that mercy pour out to others. Amen.

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