Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pentecost 11

Matthew 14:13-21- Pentecost 11- August 28, 2011 
  The Love of God is Always Found in Christ

Frequently in the four Gospels, we hear of Jesus withdrawing someplace by Himself alone.  He did this often in order to pray, or to instruct His disciples, or sometimes even just to rest.  The Gospel reading for this morning begins by saying, “When Jesus heard this, He withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by Himself.”  What Jesus had just heard is explained right before our text begins.  Jesus had just heard that John the Baptist had been beheaded by King Herod.  Herod had married his own brother’s wife, which was a sin. Leviticus 20:21 reads: If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing.”  John was a prophet.  So he told Herod what no one else wanted to tell him.  And he suffered for doing the right thing.  John probably knew that his rebuke would likely do no good.  He probably knew furthermore that it would bring him into great danger to confront such a powerful and crooked man.  But he did it anyway.  

He took this great risk because he was convinced of three things.  First, of course, John was convinced that Herod was a sinner who needed to be called out on his sin.  Second, John was convinced that Jesus was his Savior.  He knew that the message of all the prophets before him, and the subject of his own preaching, was fulfilled in the object of his own faith.  He pointed to Jesus with his own finger calling Him the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  That’s what faith does it points to Jesus and says behold the Lamb of God who takes my sin away too.  And whatever doubts John might have had while he was languishing in prison were answered by Jesus Himself through messengers, saying, “Go tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.”  And this brings us to the third thing that John the Baptist was convinced of: that nothing, not even death, could separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus his Lord.  THE LOVE OF GOD IS ALWAYS FOUND IN CHRIST.  

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pentecost 10

Matthew 13:44-52 - Pentecost 10 - August 21, 2011 
  We Value What God Calls Valuable
Have you ever expressed a deeply held conviction to someone only to hear that person say in response, “I value your opinion,” and then immediately proceed to disagree with what you just said?  It’s really kind of silly, isn’t it?  If this person valued your opinion, he must not have valued it very highly.  Oh it’s worth something, I suppose; it’s just not worth agreeing with.  Such reassurance that someone values what you have to say is essentially meaningless if that person will not also admit that what you have said is true.  We value what is true.  For example, I value my wife telling me that she loves me.  I love to hear it.  I regard such assurance of my wife’s love as precious and valuable, not because I believe that perhaps she doesn’t really love me.  No, it’s precisely the opposite; it’s because I believe she does.  It’s the same for all of you have someone that you care about.  We value what is good and true.  We don’t value what is insincere or false.  

But in this world where the concept of truth and goodness is as subjective and temporary as teenage clothing styles, people like to talk about what they value instead of speaking clearly about what is true and false, or about what is right and wrong.  Everyone, we are told, is entitled to, his or her own values.  And what you value might be a little less valuable to someone else.  It is all subjective.  We have American values, Iowa values, rural, urban, and suburban values, Christian values, Islamic values, conservative, liberal and secular values, and the list goes on.  Somehow all of these “values” are supposed to coexist side by side without any contradiction.  But the moment you claim to have the truth is the moment that you are accused of imposing your values on others.  Value is regarded as solely in the eye of the beholder.  Rarely is something regarded as in and of itself worth believing.  It’s all subjective.  

We see an example of this today in discussions regarding the value of human life.  The fifth commandment plainly tells us not to murder.  There is an intrinsic value to human life that God requires of us to recognize and respect and defend.  All human life is valuable.  This includes the helpless little baby inside his mother’s womb just as much as one who is newly born.  It includes the elderly woman who requires constant assistance to stay alive just as much as a healthy young man full of promise.  It does not matter if someone’s life does not appear very useful or full of potential.  The value of human life does not depend on our evaluation.  It depends on God’s evaluation.  He is the Lord and giver of life.  Our duty, therefore, to help, and defend our neighbor does not stem from how we feel about our neighbor.  It is a duty given to us by God who made each one of us.  God endows mankind with dignity not because of some virtue that can be found in man, but by virtue of the fact that God created man in His own image.  When God calls something precious, that settles it.  WE VALUE WHAT GOD CALLS VALUABLE.  

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pentecost 9

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43- Pentecost 9 - August 14, 2011 
  God's Word Is Fruitful

The 13th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew contains a section of Jesus’ words known as the “Kingdom of Heaven Parables.”  Last week we heard Jesus compare good seeds to the kingdom of heaven.  This week, He compares these same good seeds to the sons of the kingdom of heaven.  You can see the connection.  Last week, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to the word of the Gospel.  This week, He compares the sons of the kingdom of heaven to Christians who hear and believe the Gospel.  We see here the relationship between the word of God and Christians.  The one produces the other.  The other depends on the one.  GOD’S WORD IS FRUITFUL in that it creates Christian faith.  

Christians rely on the Gospel.  Just as the word of God comes from God, so also Christians come from God.  St. Peter tells us that we have “been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.”  This is why we hold the word of God sacred.  This why we gladly hear and learn it – because we become children of God through it.  Our faith is the fruit of the Gospel.  St. James writes, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”  GOD’S WORD IS FRUITFUL in that it creates faithful Christians.  

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pentecost 8

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 - Pentecost 8 - August 7, 2011 
 Christians Listen to the Word of God

Why do you go to church?  Perhaps you have been asked this question before.  Maybe you have even asked yourself this question.  It’s a good question to learn how to answer.  Do you go to church because you are a Christian?  Or do you go to church in order to be a Christian?  The answer is, of course, yes.  It is both.  

We go to church, first, in order to be Christians – in order to hear the word of God that teaches us both our need for God’s mercy as well as how God has had mercy on us through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.  God’s gracious word of pardon and peace creates Christian faith in our hearts to trust in God and to rely upon everything that He tells us.  We go to church in order to become Christians, because the Gospel makes us Christians.  

We also go to church because we are Christians.  As adopted children of God through Holy Baptism, we love to hear every word that proceeds from the mouth of Him who saved us.  Upon His words our souls find nourishment and eternal life.  And we know that part from His word, our faith will starve and die.  We go to churches where we hear the word of God preached in its truth and purity and receive the Sacraments according to Christ’s institution; and we mark and avoid churches that do not.  We do this because we are Christians.  That’s what we do.  CHRISTIANS LISTEN TO THE WORD OF GOD.