Love Bears All Things – Sermon on 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 for Quinquagesima.

Listen here.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

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

If you’re like me, you’re looking for ways to do things more efficiently and make life easier. You’re searching for ways to lessen your burdens. A better system for your workflow. A quicker route from here to there. Ways to make dinner faster. Every mom I know is ready to get out from the burden of folding laundry. Well, a machine called the FoldiMate is for you; it doesn’t come out until late this year, and it’ll cost you about $1,000. We’re always looking for ways to make life easier, be more productive, and most of all to lessen our burdens. While a lot of good has come from technology and machines and processes that lessen our burdens, there are some things that we just have to deal with because some burdens cannot be lessened.

This chapter of Scripture tells us about one area of our lives that will always be hard – loving others. Love isn’t easy. Love is, in fact, work. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not envy or boast. Love is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way. Love is not irritable or resentful. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love never ends. These clear words of Scripture obliterate much of what our society calls ‘love’ today.

1 Corinthians 13 7 - Love Bears All ThingsBut today, I want to focus on one phrase from this text about love; it is the first phrase from v. 7, “Love bears all things.” Remember, that the second great commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:39). Paul writes in Gal. 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” One aspect of love is to bear another’s burdens. And there is no way to make bearing others’ burdens less burdensome.

I remember when I was in seminary things were pretty hectic during my second year. I had four hours of class every morning, and to keep our finances in order, I worked each afternoon. Sarah and I had been married for about a year and a half, so I was still adjusting to being a husband who wanted to provide for his wife (even though she was the main bread-winner). I would come home tired, have dinner, study my Greek and Hebrew, and write papers. Sarah was pregnant with Elijah, and I knew that, after he was born, I would have to cut back on my hours at work in order to take care of him and keep up with my studies. But I didn’t know how we would make everything work. The stress of it all was weighing down on me. So, one day, I went to one of my professors and I spent the better part of an hour unloading all my worries on him. And do you know what he did? He listened.

He didn’t say much. When he did speak, it was to let me know that he was hearing what I said as I continued to spew about my situation. When I was done, he didn’t give me extra time to turn in homework for his classes. He didn’t tell me about how he went through a similar time in his life. And he didn’t give me advice about how to manage my time better. He didn’t really do anything but hear me out.

So, when I left his office, nothing had changed. In fact, things should have probably been worse because I had taken a precious hour that I could have used for studying. But I left his office feeling better. You know why? Because, in a real sense, he was now carrying some of my burden. He loved me and allowed me to transfer my stress to him.

Maybe, you have had a similar experience – either unloading your own or listening to someone else’s burdens. Maybe you have come away from a conversation with someone who is facing all sorts of difficulties in their life, you come away from that conversation and you feel tired – not physically, but emotionally or spiritually. You feel tired because you are sharing that person’s burdens. This is an act of love that has cost you something, but it has truly helped the other person.

Stress.jpgWhich brings me back to where we started about looking for ways to make life easier. Too often, we try to make our own lives easier by avoiding the Scriptural command to bear one another’s burdens. But this is unloving, and it is, in fact, sinful. I can think of three tricks we commonly use to avoid bearing the burdens of others, but I am sure there are more (if you know more, let me know after the service).

The first trick is to simply avoid being around people. We don’t let people have access to us. And I’m not only talking about avoiding certain people who seem to always be unloading on us. We often go farther and avoid meaningful interactions with others as much as possible. We have schedules that are so full that we are running from one thing to the next. Even though you may be around people every waking moment, there is not really time or occasion for others to have a real conversation with you. So, the first trick is avoidance.

The second trick is, when other people start to tell us their troubles, we may listen for a bit, but then we start telling them our troubles. We interrupt and tell them how bad things are for us. It can almost become a contest about who has the most stress. And this trick is simply building a wall between us and their problems. I’ll talk about myself and my problems so I don’t have to deal with you and your problems. So, the second trick is putting a barrier between us and others’ burdens.

The third trick is the most dangerous because we think it is pious or virtuous. We give advice. We listen for a bit, and then we say, “Have you considered doing this?” Or even worse, we tell them what to think. “You should look at this as an opportunity for God to teach you something.” That may be right and correct and our advice might be really good – which is why we think it is so pious. But don’t miss the point, it deflects their burden from us back on to them. It can leave the person more deflated and more burdened, and we leave the conversation thinking we’ve done something good and loving. But we aren’t bearing their burden. And remember, if they wanted your advice… they would’ve asked for it.

Avoidance, barriers, and advice – all tricks we use to avoid bearing another’s burdens.

Jesus Heals BartimeausWe heard about love in action in our Gospel lesson (Lk. 18:31-43). Jesus encountered blind Bartimeaus (Mk. 10:46). Bartimaeus cries out to Jesus, “Have mercy on me!” Jesus pauses on His important trek up to Jerusalem, where He is going to save the whole world. He stops to listen to Bartimeaus asking him, “What do you want me to do for you?”Bartimeaus says that he wants to receive his sight. And Jesus doesn’t start talking about Himself and the problems He is about to face even though Jesus’ burden is going to be much more than blindness. And Jesus doesn’t give advice – and if anyone is in a position to give advice it’s Jesus. Jesus simply says, “Receive your sight, your faith has made you well.”By doing this, please note, Jesus recognizes that Bartimaeus’ blindness is bad.

Now, at this point, insert whatever problem you have, or the problems of people who are unloading their burdens on you – high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, fatigue, depression, being bullied – these things are not natural and are a product of the devil. Unlike Jesus, we can’t simply say the word and make things better. But we can, like Jesus recognize and acknowledge the brokenness in people’s lives and say, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry you’re going through this.” Another way to show love to those who share their burdens with us is to simply listen. Listen, and ask, “How can I pray for you?” Then, pray for them then and there. Pray for them and say, “May Jesus bless you.”

hebrews-12_1-2.jpg
Jesus not only healed Bartimaeus’ blindness, Jesus bears his burden completely. Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem where He would bear all mankind’s burdens, all your sins and iniquities. He would suffer all the consequences of sin in this world as He hung in darkness on the cross. And He carried all those burdens, every last one, to the grave. But He wouldn’t stay there. Because of that, because we await the Resurrection, we know that whatever we suffer in this world is temporary. So whatever burdens you bear – whether they are yours or others’ – they will disappear when our Lord returns.

You see, the love of Jesus has already and continues to bear all things – all your sins, all your iniquities, all your transgressions, all your griefs, all your cares, all your sorrows. And this becomes our focus for the next six weeks. Amen.

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

 

Advertisements

From Commandment to Creed – Sermon on Matthew 22:34-46 for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

Listen here.

Matthew 22:34-46

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying,“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,

Psalm 110_1 Footstool44 “The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet’?

45 “If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

In the name Jesus. Amen.

This Gospel text drops us right into the middle of a conversation that Jesus had in the Temple on the Tuesday of Holy Week with the very people who want to destroy Him. The Pharisees and Sadducees are all trying to trap Jesus and entangle Him in His words. Their purpose is to make either the crowds or the authorities (they don’t care which) turn against Him so they can kill Him and be rid of Him and His preaching.

The first two questions they put to Jesus are about paying taxes and about the resurrection. Both of these questions are designed to take one part of God’s Word and make it contradict another part. And both questions appear to have no good answer. The leaders think that no matter how Jesus answers their question, they will have Him. But they are wrong. Jesus answers both questions leaving them dumbfounded.

Our text begins with the third question. One of the Pharisees, a lawyer, asked Jesus a question, again to test and to trap Jesus in His words.“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” The purpose of this question is to figure out which Commandment Jesus thinks is most important so that they can find a commandment set against it.

But again, this is absolutely foolish because Jesus knows there is no contradiction in the Law. He is the one who wrote the Law.

Jesus answers, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and prophets.”

Now, it is interesting in Mark’s account of this same event, the same questioning, that Jesus says there’s no other commandment (singular) greater than these (plural). Perfect love of God and perfect love of your neighbor go together. It is one commandment. The two are inseparably tied together. Love for God is demonstrated by love for the neighbor.

1 John 4_20-21 Love God and Neighbor


1 John 4:20 
says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”And Jesus says in Matthew 25(:40) that the acts of love that you do toward your neighbor you do toward God. “As you did to the least of these, you did also to Me.”In other words, when you love your neighbor, you are loving God.

So, think about that for a moment. When you are helping, supporting, encouraging your spouse, you are serving both God and your spouse. You are loving both God and neighbor. When you feed your kids, when you obey your parents, when you do your homework, you are serving your neighbor and thereby serving God. Telling the truth, living a caste life, returning a lost wallet or purse instead of stealing, being content with what you have instead of coveting – all of these actions are service to God and your neighbor. Whoever is your neighbor, whoever God puts in your life at any given moment, that is the one whom God wants you to love. And when you love that neighbor, whoever it may be, you are loving God.

While that is so very beautiful, if we stop to think about it, this command to love God and neighbor demands everything of us. And we realize how fallen and sinful we are. This command shows us our desperate need for God to come and rescue us.

With His answer, with His preaching of the Law to love both God and neighbor, Jesus cuts down these people who are trying to trap Him, and He cuts you and I down as well because our sin is exposed. We do not love enough. We never have, and we never will.

But notice Jesus doesn’t take the conversation in that direction. He doesn’t ask them, “How are you doing with loving God and your neighbor?” Jesus doesn’t continue to have a conversation about the Law.

Instead, Jesus moves away from questions about the Law to the Creed. The Law is good and important. It shows us the nature and will of God, but the Law always shows us our sin. The Law tells us what we must do, but it always tells us what we have failed to do.

But the Creed shows us how God is toward us. The Creed isn’t about what we must do, it is the Gospel. It is what God has done for us. In the Creed, we confess that God is the Father who created us sent His Son who redeemed us and gives us the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us and makes us holy.

So, Jesus moves away from the Law to the Creed. He asks them, “The Messiah, whose son is he?”And they were right when they say, “David’s son.”God had promised to send David a son who would sit on David’s throne forever (1 Sam. 7). But David also wrote in Psalm 110:1, which is the verse that Jesus quotes, that this Son is also David’s Lord. So, Jesus’ question is, “How can the Messiah, David’s son, also be David’s Lord?”because a father would never call his descendent, “Lord.”

Now stay with me here: The reason Jesus asks this is that He is teaching the Pharisees, the crowds, and you that the Messiah is both God and man.

Because the Messiah is both God and man, He has kept the Law for you. Jesus perfectly loved God and your neighbor for you. And through faith, Jesus declares that what He has done perfectly, you have done as well (2 Cor. 5:21).

The Law says, “Honor thy father and mother. Love them as yourself.” And you are left saying, “God, I haven’t done that. I need Your help.” If it weren’t for the Creed, if the Messiah weren’t man, God would have to say, “Well, I’m God. I don’t have a father or mother, so I can’t help you. You have to do that yourself.” But God did become a man. Jesus had a mom and a dad. He did love and honor them perfectly. So, He can and does help you. And you can apply this to each and every one of the Commandments.

But most importantly, when you hear the law and know that you have sinned, you know that you deserve death. You deserve the eternal wrath and judgment of God. So, you pray, “God I’m lost. I deserve only death, could You die for me?” Because God has taken up your nature, God says, “Sure. I already have.”

Communion Cross with JesusStop playing games with the Law, there is no contradiction in it. Instead, believe. Believe that Christ has come for you. He has given His life for you. God has purchased you with His own blood (Act. 20:28). He has removed the curse of the Law from you because He has perfectly kept the Law for you. And He gives you His perfection, His righteousness, His holiness.

And, now, He invites you to have your faith strengthened. He invites you to receive His perfect Body and His holy Blood in Bread and Wine. He invites you to come and taste that He is good. 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

Listen here.

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.