Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sermon for 10/24/10--Twenty-First Sunday After Trinity (LSB 1-year)

The Word Speaks

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

It took faith for the man in our text to make the journey from Capernaum to Cana to seek healing for his son from Jesus. Though it was not a terribly long journey, he left behind a son that was deathly ill. But as much faith as it took for him to make that journey, it took even more faith for the man to walk away from Jesus. After all, the man didn’t get exactly what he asked for from the Lord. He asked Jesus to come with him and heal his son who was at the point of death. Jesus spoke truth to the man, saying, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” And when the man again implored Him, saying, “Sir, come down before my child dies,” Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” The man asked Jesus twice to “come down” with him so that Jesus could heal his son. Jesus did not send him away empty-handed, yet it seems that all Jesus gave this man was words. How much faith did it take to walk away from Jesus at that point and believe that he would find his son alive and healed? This is faith in the crucible, faith under pressure. His faith was rewarded the next day, when he was met on his way back by his slaves who told him, “Your child lives!” They even told him that the boy was healed at the moment when Jesus said that his son was alive.

On the Sunday after the resurrection, Jesus told Thomas the disciple, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” The man in our text exhibited the faith of those whom Jesus calls “blessed”. How does a man get that kind of faith, anyway? It’s an important question for us, because we are living in an age where we do not see Christ in the flesh performing signs and wonders—not the way the disciples were privileged to witness Him. For now, we are meant to live by faith, not by sight. As St. Paul tells us in his First Letter to the Corinthains, “Now we see in a mirror, dimly.”

But it’s so hard to live that way, isn’t it? Even Adam and Eve, who were created in the image of God, who would have seen the Almighty face to face, who would have spoken with Him as we speak to each other, did not have that kind of faith; rather, at the first opportunity, they questioned the command of God. They turned away from Him—not in faith, but in sin, choosing to believe Satan and flee from God. As for us, we know that Jesus is ascended on high, and we know He does not show Himself to us the way He showed Himself to the world during His earthly life and ministry. Still, we expect Him to show Himself to us, especially in our hour of need. “Jesus, my child is sick. Why aren’t you here?” “Jesus, he wants a divorce. Why did you let this happen?” “Jesus, the ground is dry, and the crops are dying. You’re the one in control of the winds and the waves; do something!” We’re under the impression that we know better than God what is good for us and how He should take care of things. Like the man in our text, we want Jesus to come down to where we are, to where the trouble is, and to take care of it. We want it done our way.

And the odd thing is, He does take care of these things; yet we’re not satisfied with the way He handles them. Twice the man in our text asked Jesus to “come down” with him. Don’t doubt for a moment that it took faith for the man to keep asking Jesus to heal his son after the first time. After all, Jesus told a parable of a widow who kept badgering a judge so much that he finally gave into her, with the point that we should be persistent in our prayers to the Lord. But at the same time, with the man in our text, we want to see the proof, the evidence, the goods. If God can fulfill our request in our way, in a way that we can see and touch and experience, then we can know that He is God. But that’s not the way God works. Jesus speaks, and His powerful Word accomplishes what He wills—not necessarily in a flashy way, but it is effective.

Just how powerful is the Word of God? How trustworthy is it? It does exactly what He says it will do. The Word gives life. The Word gave life in creation, where God spoke, and what He willed came to be. The Word gave life to the son of this man in our text, bringing healing from the moment the Word was spoken. And the Word gives life to the people of God still today. It begins in Holy Baptism, where the Word works in the water to drown the old sinful man within you, bringing to life a new and cleansed man, a new creation. A new life begins, a new life which has been given the gift of faith, faith which clings to the forgiveness and life you receive. It continues in the Holy Absolution, where the Word brings you back to that baptismal cleansing. When your pastor speaks this Word in the stead of Christ, your sins are forgiven, removed from you, never to be looked upon again by our Lord. In Holy Absolution, the new life you have received in Baptism is restored. And then that new life is fed in the Holy Supper, where, like the son of the man from Capernaum, Jesus heals you and restores life to you, even though you don’t see Him. Jesus takes ordinary means, bread and wine, and He says to you, “This is my body. This is my blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” The Word of God does exactly what He says it will do. The bread of the Holy Supper is His body. The wine of the Holy Supper is His blood. And these gifts give you the forgiveness of sins and eternal life, exactly as He said they would. You can’t see the evidence, and there are no signs or wonders to prove these things empirically; but the faith which you have received in Holy Baptism clings to these words and trusts them. As the Lord says to you through the prophet Isaiah: “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

Jesus is the Word of God, and the Word of God is powerful and trustworthy to do exactly what He says it will do. What the Word promises, the Word delivers—whether it be light and the other blessings of creation and daily living, or healing of the body, or the healing of the soul which you will receive today in Christ’s body and blood. Do not seek signs and wonders; but cling to the Word of God. Go your way; for you will live, now and forever. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed; for the Word speaks, and He does exactly what He says He will do. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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