Sunday, September 25, 2011

Trinity 14

Luke 17:11-19- Trinity 14- September 25, 2011 
  Worship: God's Gift to His Church

Is worship our gift to God?  When we gather together here at Trinity Lutheran Church, are we somehow reciprocating some favor to God – like He gives us something, and we give Him something in return?   Of course not!   We are saved by grace alone through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  That means that what we do as Christians – whether here in church or anywhere else – whether serving our neighbor or singing a hymn or teaching our children the Catechism – it is never a compensation for what God gives us.  Rather it is a faithful response to what we receive.  We are not able to give to God anything worthy to be compared to the salvation we have in Christ.  And God neither asks for nor needs any such reimbursement.  He simply bids us to believe His promise that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus.  For such mercy, we worship our God. 

The word worship is an old word that comes from worth and ship – like friendship or fellowship.  Worth-ship, or worship, is when we ascribe worth or value to someone.  God commands us to worship Him.  In fact, it is the very first commandment that says that we should have no other gods before Him.  This means we should worship Him alone and none other.  When God requires us to worship Him, He is simply requiring us to have faith.  In this sense worship is not our gift to God at all.  No. WORSHIP IS GOD’S GIFT TO US. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Trinity 13

 Luke 10:23-37- Trinity 13- September 18, 2011
Blessed Are the Eyes that See
the law Fulfilled in Christ

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is probably the best known parable that Jesus ever told.  But I would first like to re-read that portion of this morning’s Gospel lesson that we do not ordinarily associate in our minds with it:  “Then turning to the disciples [Jesus] said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 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.’”  So begins the text which we now consider. 

What exactly was it that they saw?  Well, obviously they saw Jesus.  They saw the eternal Son of God who had taken on flesh and blood and who performed countless miracles and acts of mercy before their eyes.  And they heard Him too.  Jesus taught them by opening up Scripture to them.  In the things that they had the privilege of witnessing Jesus do and say, the disciples learned about the kingdom of heaven, and of the Father’s love for all sinners.  They were taught that the purpose and fulfillment of God’s countless promises in the Old Testament were found in Jesus Christ who had come to earth to bear the sin of the world. 

Certainly this is what so many prophets and kings longed to see and hear.  But they couldn’t.  They weren’t born yet.  Just as Moses only got a glimpse of the Promised Land, but was not permitted to enter it, just as King David received instructions on how to build the Temple, but was not permitted to construct it, so also all the prophets and kings had to wait until long after they had died to see the day when God became man.  St. Paul says in Galatians 4 that it was not until the fullness of time had come, that God sent forth His Son to be born of a woman.  The fullness of time… It was a specific point in history that God chose for Jesus to earn our salvation from sin, death and the devil.   It was this specific point in history that the disciples were privileged to witness.  No doubt many of you have considered how awesome it would have been to be able to walk and talk with Jesus.  And it was!  Blessed are the eyes that saw what they saw and the ears that heard what they heard. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pentecost 14

Matthew 15:21-28- Pentecost 14- September 11, 2011 
  Great Faith Holds onto Jesus Words

Jesus met a Gentile woman while traveling with His disciples in non-Jewish land.  Well, at least it was inhabited by non-Jews.  It was actually part of the land of Canaan that God had long ago promised to Abraham – to give to him and to his children as an inheritance forever (Gen. 12ff.).  Now, if the children of Israel had simply done what God had told them to do, there would not have been any Gentiles left in this land by the time Jesus walked through it.  They would have been completely driven out.  That’s what God commanded them to do.  But rather than faithfully establishing the true worship of God in all the land, instead the children of Israel disobeyed God, and inter-married with the Canaanites, and even worshipped their false gods.  Most of the Old Testament was written to respond in one way or another to this particular disobedience on the part of God’s chosen people.  Therefore, even up to the days of Jesus, the very presence of someone living in the land of Canaan who was not Jewish served as a constant reminder not only that their fathers had greatly sinned against God, but also that God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants had yet to be fully realized.  Many expectations of the long-awaited Messiah that God promised revolved around re-possessing and ruling this land, and purging it of all Gentile contamination.  

God chose Abraham by grace alone.  He could have chosen someone else.  He could have chosen among the Europeans or the Asians or Africans.  But He didn’t.  He chose Abraham, and He called him out of the land of Ur, by grace alone. 

There was nothing about Abraham that made him more worthy to be chosen than any other individual person or nation in the world.  He wasn’t more likable or electable than anyone else.  God elected Abraham, and, through the promise He made to him, worked faith in his heart, solely by grace.  And so it is with us.  We are saved by grace alone.  There is nothing about you that makes God like you more than the unbeliever.  The fact that you believe the Gospel does not indicate that there is something more worth saving and redeeming and dying for in you that is somehow lacking in others.  No.  It indicates that in His abundant mercy, God took pity on you, a sinner. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Pentecost 12

Matthew 14:22-33- Pentecost 12- September 4, 2011 
  The Presence, the Power, and the Promise of God

 This morning, our Gospel reading picks up where last week’s Gospel reading left off, and begins with Jesus saying goodbye.  After He had miraculously fed over 5000 people, it was finally time for everyone to go his own way.  He sent His disciples across the Sea of Galilee in a boat, and He sent the well-satisfied crowds to their own homes.   Jesus said goodbye.  We do the same thing when we go our own ways after having spent time together.  We say goodbye.  And with our goodbyes, we send off those whom we love with a certain part of ourselves along with them, even if it’s nothing more than the fond memory of when we were together.  To say goodbye for us is to say, in a certain sense, I will still be with you. 

It is interesting to look at how goodbye is spoken in other languages that have been influenced by Christianity over the centuries.  In French, for example, they say Adieu.  In Spanish, they say Adios.  In German they say Tschüss.  In English we say Goodbye.  All of these words mean, and derive from, the same thing: God be with you.  What an appropriate blessing to give someone when you have to go your separate ways.  God be with you.  This is even better than saying to someone, I will be with you,” because God is much stronger than we are.  God can protect.  God can guide.  His abiding presence is much more than just a fond memory.  It is good for God to be with us, because with God’s presence, there is also God’s almighty power.  Let us consider this, because in order for us to truly benefit from the presence and power of God, WE also NEED TO know THE PROMISE OF GOD in Christ.