Sunday, June 13, 2021

Sermon for 6/13/21: Second Sunday After Trinity


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Invited

Luke 14:15-24

 

 

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

 

 “None of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.” This Parable of the Great Supper, as it usually called, might well be renamed “the Parable of the Contemptuous Guests.” Inevitably, it leads to a question addressed to each of us: “What kind of guest are you?” You think that God’s Kingdom is a future prospect. The truth is, the Kingdom of God is a present and pressing reality, and it calls for your response now! Long ago God called Israel to be His people. And now, at the accepted time, He has renewed His invitation to share in His kingdom, only to see it deliberately neglected and rejected by His own people. So now God opens the doors of His kingdom to all the despised and lost children of God.

Jesus spoke this parable to the churchmen in Israel, men who professed the faith of the people of God. But this same story has not lost any of its punch, any of its relevance for the Church, the people of God now. Through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and by the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Kingdom of God was thrown open to all who will receive it in faith. But just like in the parable, the invited guests, finding more important things to do, were quick to make excuses for their absence. Basically, the excuses are the same.

The first man was purchasing an estate, and had to go and inspect it and, thus, could not come. How many now are so preoccupied with increasing their material possessions that they have no time to hear the voice of the Lord, calling them to come into His kingdom, which is man’s highest and richest blessing? Elsewhere Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The voice of God is there; it is found in His divine Word. But we prefer the noise of our coins jingling in our pockets, the clamor of the noise coming from our technological marvels.

The second man was buying some oxen to work his fields, and he needed to try them out before closing the deal. How often are our churches half empty on Sunday morning because we think we need to put in an extra day of labor, as if the six God gave us are not enough? What are people doing today, whose fathers and grandfathers would have been found in the Lord’s house on the Lord’s day? Are they polishing their tractors? Are they getting the boat ready for a day on the lake? How easy it is for a new brazen image, an idol made by human hands, to so control our thoughts and actions that we can find no space for God in our lives.

The third man had just gotten married and thought it inadvisable to leave his wife to attend the banquet. Of course, the word “wife” stands for all the joys of married life and a home of one’s own, and those joys are many. And it is beyond dispute that these are among the finest earthly blessings which our good God gives us. But it is also one of the great tragedies of life when good things like these are allowed to shut out the claims of God. It is sad, but all too often true that husbands and wives become the biggest stumbling blocks for their spouses, and either by their demands or their own lack of attention to God and the Church, pull them away from the Lord they have loved and served in the past.

Worldly possessions, business preoccupations, domestic ties; as good as these things may be in their proper sphere, they are still the things that can render us deaf to the claims of God’s Kingdom. How easy it is for us to become so absorbed in the things of time that we forget the things of eternity. We can be so busy making a livelihood that we have no time to make a life.

One point that is made in this parable is that no one is excluded from the kingdom of God except by his own doing. We totally misunderstand this parable if we do not hear it telling us urgently, “Now is the accepted time!” So there the invitation stands. “Come, for all things are now ready.” Our Lord Jesus Christ pleads with us to accept the invitation extended by the Father in heaven. It was in His hanging on the cross that He said He would draw all men to Himself, and the blood that flowed from His wounds paid the price of our admission. And we are now preparing our answers. You can refuse and say, “Please make my apologies for me, for I have other matters right now that need my attention.” Or you can answer, “I know the need of my heart and soul. I am weary of my sins and need the forgiveness that only my Savior can give me. O God, You have offered this treasure to me in Jesus Christ, Your dear Son. Now, by Your Holy Spirit, let me receive it, that it may be mine, now and forever.” As Jesus Himself said in the first of those Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit”—that is, blessed are those who know their need for God—“for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” 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.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Sermon for 6/6/21: First Sunday After Trinity


CLICK HERE for the audio file.

CLICK HERE for the video file. One of these days I'll figure out the blurriness thing.

 

Beggars and Gates

Luke 16:19-31

 

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

 

This text is not about money. Yes, Jesus tells the story of two men whose lifestyles were extremely different. However, both were beggars: the one at the gate of the rich man, the other at the gate of heaven. And Jesus draws the contrast between these two men rather sharply. It was not only that the one was rich and the other poor. The rich man lived in a luxury that was evident to all. He dressed in the finest clothing money could buy, and his table was a feast at every meal. Then there was Lazarus, the poor man, who barely had the means even for the bare minimum of daily life. But that’s just the background; this text is not about money.

Then both men died, and the contrast between them, as Jesus described it, was just as sharp. If it seemed to be about money before, it definitely was not about money now. Lazarus went to the bosom of Abraham, a way of describing heaven. The rich man was consigned to hell and its endless torment. And there was no way to cross from one to the other. The rich man’s life was an utter failure—not by typical societal standards, of course, but by God’s standards. Even though he was rich, it was not having money that condemned him. After all, Lazarus rested in Abraham’s bosom, and Abraham was wealthy beyond reckoning. Merely being wealthy neither saves nor condemns anyone. The rich man’s failure lay in his not meeting the responsibilities his wealth had given him. It’s not that he was cruel to Lazarus; he just didn’t see him. It was the kind of blindness that grows out of an absence of the awareness of God which also leaves one unaware of his neighbor. He failed not because he was wealthy, but because he had shut both God and man out of his life.

This story paints a vivid picture of the consequences of such failure. After both men had died, a great gulf showed up between them: so great that it was impossible to cross from one side to the other. That gulf did not appear suddenly after death; it had been in the making for a long time. Every time the rich man went out of his gate and ignored Lazarus lying there, the gulf grew wider and deeper. In this life there was still time to change that situation. But with an awful finality, death sealed the judgments of God. “Send Lazarus.” It was a pathetic cry of isolation. He had no one to help him. Now he was the beggar at the gate of heaven.

If you have been given wealth, God has given you a privilege to use responsibly. If you will only look, there is a Lazarus at your gate. The world is full of people whose lives cry out for help, whether it’s a mere crust of bread or a drink of water, a home to live in, or just a place where life can take on some meaning. Above all, there is a Lazarus at your gate who needs the Gospel, so that he may no longer live in darkness but in the light of saving grace.

There is a responsibility that goes with possession. As Scripture teaches, “no man lives unto himself.” And this is especially true when we have received the greatest of all gifts, Jesus Christ. We have His Word; we have His forgiveness. What is more, as Christians, we are members of a community that has the right to expect something from us. In his “Treatise on the Blessed Sacrament,” Luther points this up so clearly. He sees the fellowship of Christians coming into focus especially in the Lord’s Supper. It is two-fold, he says: “On the one hand, we partake of Christ and all the saints. On the other hand we permit all Christians to be partakers of us, in whatever way they and we are able, so that through this Sacrament all self-seeking love is uprooted and gives place to love that seeks the good of all, and through this mutual love there is one bread, one drink, one body, one community; the true union of Christian brothers.”

But such concern for others never just happens. It grows out of knowing and having the forgiving love of God in Christ. Having that love makes today, and every day, a day of opportunity. God speaks; we hear His voice. The rich man had ignored that voice. The same was true for his brothers. If only something dramatic could happen, something like Lazarus returning from the dead to warn them! But God said, “No. They have My Word, and that is enough.” We, too, have His Word, and it is enough for us.

Two beggars, for whom eternity brought the justice of God, stand as reminders to us, not only of the obligations that come with blessing, but also the joy that accompanies that life and salvation in Jesus Christ, which we have the privilege to offer to others. God grant us joy in sharing the fruits He has given us—and especially the fruits of faith and forgiveness. 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.

Thursday, June 03, 2021

HYMN: Shine, O Christ, Our Light in Darkness


Last year, while everything was shut down, I wrote a text asking the Lord to sustain us during our pandemic diaspora. Well, now that things are starting to open up again, I was asked to write a text about our return to normalcy after the tragedy of the pandemic. This is my attempt to answer the request. As I wrote, I had Matthew 10:28 in mind: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” It seems as though there are many who are so afraid of dying of the virus that they neglect their spiritual nourishment. 

As always, feedback is love.


Shine, O Christ, Our Light in Darkness


1. Shine, O Christ, our Light in darkness.

Shine with Your unearthly light.

Overwhelmed, Your people call You,

Wearied by our daily fight.

Going forth from tribulation,

We cry out to You, O Lord, 

Praying You bring joy from sadness,

Praying for Your peace restored.


2. Lord, we fear what ails our bodies,

Terrified of earthly death.

Help us trust Your mighty mercy

To sustain our ev’ry breath.

Grant us courage! Grant us wisdom,

Lord of life, to praise Your name,

Fearless in the face the peril,

Free from sorrow, free from shame.


3. We, Your saints, seek blest communion,

Fellowship, we two or three:

Gathered in Your name, O Jesus, 

Where You condescend to be.

Bring Your children back together.

Grace us with Your gifts divine:

Purified in holy water,

Fed on You with bread and wine.


4. Shine, O Christ, our Light in darkness.

Send the night of dread away.

Calm our doubt and anxious trembling.

Hold the fear of death at bay.

Send to us Your Holy Spirit:

Helper, Comforter, and Friend,

Till that Day we rise, perfected,

To the joy which knows no end.



87 87D (Pick a tune)