Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Sermon for 9/1/13--Trinity 14


Where Jesus Is

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

The leper who came back knew one thing: Jesus could save Him. There was no other place he ought to be in the whole world than where Jesus was. In the same way, Jesus doesn't want us to come back because it's good manners. He wants us to come back because He's the only one who can care for us. He doesn't want you to be in church to show your good piety and religiousness. He wants you here so He can pour out His gifts on you, so He can refresh you with the remembrance of your baptism, absolve you of your sins, and feed you with His Word and body and blood.

The only place to look for our good is Jesus. We know this to be true, but we act as if we don't believe it. We ought to cry out to Christ in every hardship and trial and sickness and difficulty; we ought to flood our Lord's ears with our prayers, fully expecting that He will hear us and save us. But rather than clinging to Jesus in faith, we worry. We complain. We don't pray. In fact, we figure prayer won't do anything. God's not going to pay attention, so it's easier not to bother Him with it. It’s easier to get worked up over it. Of course the Lord answers our prayers for mercy every day. Often He answers a prayer the way we desire: healing us, restoring us, protecting and preserving us. At those times we say, “Great! Jesus did what I asked. I can go back to my life now.” It's as if Jesus is only good to have around when there's something wrong. But when everything is going OK, then we don't really need Him. That's the theology of the other nine lepers. They sure needed Jesus to heal them of their leprosy. But as soon as He did, they were done with Him. They didn't need Him anymore. Many in the church are like that. They get what they want from God and then stop coming back to Jesus until they need something again. We're no different. How seriously do we take church? We come—or we don’t—as we have time or until something more important comes up. We grab what we need from Jesus on Sunday and then disappear until the following Sunday.

What if our Lord did things the way we do them? What if He didn't heal the ten lepers because He knew most of them wouldn't come back? What if He didn't die on the cross because the world wouldn't be grateful? If He were to do what He does based on our gratitude, we'd be doomed. But our Lord doesn't operate that way. He does what He does—saving lepers and sinners—whether they thank Him or not. He gives His life for people who will never care that He did so. He saves sinners who will never bother to rejoice to be saved. When you are tempted to stop doing good to others because they just don't seem to care, repent! Cry out to Jesus for His mercy. His mercy is to forgive you and live in you for His glory and the good of others. Do good not worrying about whether you will be thanked or repaid! You already have all you need in Christ.

This Gospel shows us three nasty bits of sin: unbelief, ingratitude toward God and anger at the ingratitude of others. These sins harm us like leprosy: they grow and fester and eat away at us. That is why our only defense against them is to cry out for the Lord to have mercy upon us. Confessing and being absolved of your sins, hearing God's Word taught and preached, receiving the body and blood of Jesus: these are the ways that the Spirit lives in us. These are the ways the Spirit produces those fruits of which Paul writes. More Jesus means more Spirit; more Spirit means more fruits of the Spirit. The Spirit uses Baptism, Absolution, and the Holy Supper to battle against your sin-diseased flesh, crucifying all your sins and keeping you in Christ.

St. Paul is very clear in the epistle that those who want to persist in the works of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God. The fact is, sin, the denial of Christ, the rejection of God's good gifts will lead to everlasting judgment. But the Lord has given His life into death on Calvary. He has risen from the dead. He has conquered sin and death. He has sent His Spirit through the Word and Sacrament to rescue you from that sinful nature and its works of death. Your old sinful nature has been crucified, and you have new life in Christ. In the waters of Holy Baptism, the leprosy of your sin has been washed and made clean. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.               

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

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