Sunday, September 15, 2013

Trinity 16

1 Kings 17:17-24 - Trinity XVI - September 15, 2013
Jesus’ Words Give Life
Let us pray: “In the midst of life we are in death. Of whom may we seek comfort but of Thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased?  Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful Savior, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.”  Amen. 
These words from the rite of Christian burial we pray at the gravesite of our loved ones who confessed the faith as we commit their bodily remains to the earth whence they were taken in the certain hope of the resurrection to life.  In this prayer, we speak of three different deaths that are of course each related to the other.  The most obvious death is the bodily death.  It’s what we see, and it saddens all people alike.  We are in the midst of it.  The second is the actually cause of the first.  It is spiritual death.  It is the sin that justly displeases God.  We are in the midst of it.  The third is eternal death.  It is God’s final judgment.  It is damnation.  It is hell.  We are not in the midst of this.  We pray to be delivered from it on the last day.  Right now is the time of grace when God does just that.  He does so through his word. 
Christ Jesus our Lord, who is himself the Word of God made flesh, delivers us from eternal death by delivering us from our spiritual death.  He does this by forgiving us our sins on account of the fact that he took them away on the cross.  Through this forgiveness, we have the certain hope that he will deliver us from our physical death as well when he raises our bodies to eternal glory.   God delivers us from all three deaths by one and the same word, because all three deaths are really the same. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Trinity 14

Luke 17:11-19 - Trinity XIV - September 1, 2013 
Saving Faith is Thanking Faith

It is often unsettling for folks to witness in Lutheran church services our persistent focus on crying out to God for mercy.  Now, rarely will a self-avowed Christian deny his need for divine mercy – oh no – at least he won’t intend to deny it.  It’s not that we don’t need mercy, the argument goes, but don’t we already have mercy?  Why can’t we move beyond this constant plea for what we already have and begin to focus instead on the life of thanking and praising God?  Don’t we have a lot to be thankful for?  
So it goes.  And some of us might feel a bit of sympathy toward this concern.  After all, we do cry out for mercy an awful lot in our liturgy.  But if we are serious about wanting to give thanks to God, we’ve got to go at it a little differently.  The reason we can’t move beyond our cry for mercy is twofold: 1) we are unable to move beyond our sin; we keep needing mercy, and 2), it is precisely when our dear Lord answers this constant cry of ours that we learn again and again what it means to be thankful.