Be Thoughtful (The Last Sunday)

Alpha and Omega

Be Thoughtful


Think it through ahead of time. The toll booth taught me to plan ahead. When I was in PA there were many bridges. And with the bridges came the toll booths. And one one of the interesting traits about toll booths is that they either let you go through if you have an EZ pass or you need to have coins. But, in our modern age it’s almost as if you never need coins for anything anymore. I certainly thought that was true—at least until I rented a car. I didn’t have my EZ pass. And I didn’t have any coins. So there I was at the toll booth with no way to pay. So I had to just break the law and drive through. Sometimes it pays to think it through ahead of time. It’s true in our every day life. But it’s also true in the context that Jesus is speaking about in God’s word this morning. In Matthew 25, we read: 1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they didn’t take oil with them; 4 but the wise ones took oil in their flasks with their lamps. 5” (Matthew 25:1–4 CSB17)


In these words Jesus introduces us to ten virgins. And these ten women are waiting for the bridegroom to appear so they can go into the wedding banquet. Fiver were stupid.1 And five were thoughtful.2 And already in these words we see a huge hint as to how thoughtful they were. Each of the five thoughtful virgins brought extra oil. And in the words that follow we see them show their thoughtfulness: 5 When the groom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6 “In the middle of the night there was a shout: ‘Here’s the groom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 “Then all the virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ 9 “The wise ones answered, ‘No, there won’t be enough for us and for you. Go instead to those who sell oil, and buy some for yourselves.’” (Matthew 25:5–9 CSB17)


The bridegroom delays in coming. This should not surprise us. Even today, one of the occasions which is most difficult to keep on time is the beginning of a wedding. The bridegroom delays in coming. And all of them become tired and fall asleep. And all of them then run out of oil in their lamps. The stupid women ask the thoughtful ones if they can share their extra oil. And here is where it gets interesting. The thoughtful women say, “no!” They say “no” because they are afraid that if they share with others they will not have enough fuel for themselves.3 This might sound somewhat strange and even rude to us. After all, we are taught to share and help those in need. But remember, these are the thoughtful women who say these words. They have thought it through ahead of time. The bridegroom could come at any time and they needed to be ready. How then do the words end? 10 “When they had gone to buy some, the groom arrived, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. 11 Later the rest of the virgins also came and said, ‘Master, master, open up for us!’ 12 “He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you!’ 13 “Therefore be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.” (Matthew 25:10–13 CSB17)


The story concludes. The stupid women go away and come back with their oil and lamps. But the door is shut. And the bridegroom says, “no.” This too seems harsh. But remember that we have far more access to light today than in those days. If you were going to be in the procession that ushers the bridegroom in, you needed to be there at the right place at the right time. You needed to be ready. The people who show up later, after the doors are shut, are the party crashers. And so Jesus concludes with these words: “Therefore be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.” (Matthew 25:13 CSB17)


So what’s the point of the parable? Is Jesus’ point that we should all go out and invest heavily in commodities—especially olive oil? No, he’s speaking about Judgment Day, isn’t he? Jesus is admonishing and encouraging us to be thoughtful because he could come at any time to judge the living and the dead. The problem though is that there are many temptations to not be thoughtful. There are many temptations to conclude that there are second chances when Judgment Day comes. Sadly, we find even Christian churches teaching this. Some teach that when you die, if you haven’t been good enough, you can get a second chance where your sins are slowly burned away over many years. Others believe that Jesus will not come openly and publicly, but instead, secretly. They say that he will secretly snatch his own and take them up to heaven. But the rest who are left behind will have a second chance to become Christians. The problem though is that passages like this and throughout the bible consistently say that there will be one Judgment Day. And they also say that we do not know when that day will be.


We probably know enough about the bible to steer clear of those misleading teachings. But sadly, we can end up in the same place just by living in the world we live in. You can live as if there are second chances by living for yourself in this world. What is it that brings you joy? Is it sitting down in front of the Vikings gave with that helmet with horns coming out of each side of it with a beer in one hand and a sandwich in another? Is it the perfect shot for the perfect deer on the perfect day? Is it in the summer time in the boat or on the beach? In each of these there is the temptation to forget and behave foolishly. For in each of these examples we can conclude that this is the good life here and have the worldly pleasures slowly drive out our spiritual pursuits. Time on the beach pushes out time in the bible. Time in the woods pushes out time in worship. We can say that we don’t believe in second chances after Judgment Day. But we can show sometimes in our actions that our words and actions aren’t lining up together.


And the same can be true when we live for others instead of living for ourselves. I’ve bumped into many parents over the years who wanted to spend quality time with their children. And so, for their children they sacrificed such mass amounts of time and money so that their child would be good at sports or music. And then, when Sundays came along, for years at a time, they were away from worship.


Now, here is usually where, when I’ve preached on these words in the past it is easy to fall into the ditch on either side of the road. One extreme is to find no pleasure in this life either for yourself or others. The other extreme is to only be absorbed in earthly pursuits, never looking to heaven and what is there. The thoughtful course is what we see here with the five thoughtful virgins. How many women fell asleep and even ran out of oil in their lamps? All of them did. There are going to be those times in our lives when our focus is on ourselves or on others. But then the focus has to keep coming back to this simple, thoughtful fact: We do not know the day or hour. The five virgins were thoughtful. And we know this because even though they fell asleep, they also thought ahead and brought oil with them.


So be thoughtful. Be thoughtful because you do not know the day or hour. And there are no second chances on Judgment Day. But also be thoughtful for another reason. The thoughtful life is the good life. There will be those times when you can enjoy a moment and say to yourself, “this is the good life”—and there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is when that’s the only thought. We bought our house a year ago. And it has this thing called a “gas fireplace.” Somewhere, somebody came up with the idea of having a fireplace that you don’t have to chop wood to make a fire. And I remember a year ago, about this time, firing up that Heat-n-glo staring at those flames in a comfy couch thinking, “this is the good life.” But my dear friends, whatever good times you have here should only be reminders of heaven to come. A warm fire place is a reminder of the place where there is no scorching sun by day nor cold by night. And if we settle on a fireplace in the winter instead of continually focusing on our life in heaven, it’s like sitting in the nose-bleeds when instead, you could be sitting on the grass on the fifty yard line. And only when we are able to appreciate this fact are we able to put our lives in this world in their proper place and perspective.


So be thoughtful. Live your life everyday knowing that at any time Jesus could come and judge the living and the dead. Be thoughtful because there are no second chances on Judgment Day. And be thoughtful because the thoughtful life is the good life. Amen.



1 “ⲙⲱⲣⲁⲓ” (Matthew 25:3 GNT-WAS)

2 “ⲫⲣⲟⲛⲓⲙⲟⲓ” (Matthew 25:2 GNT-WAS)

3 “ⲙⲏⲡⲟⲧⲉⲟⲩⲕⲁⲣⲕⲉⲥⲏⲏⲙⲉⲓⲛ” (Matthew 25:9 GNT-ALEX)

Who Gets To Sit With Jesus? (2nd to Last Sunday)

Sheep

Who Gets To Sit With Jesus?


Iwanna sit at the big table. When I grew up, at big holidays like Thanksgiving, there were two tables. There was the big people table and there was the kiddy-table. And it was the goal of little child at the kiddy-table to get to the big, grown-up table. But there was always a test involved. First, there had to be space. And second, you had to act like a grown up. This morning we do not have an invitation to move up to the big table for Thanksgiving. Instead, we have the invitation to sit with Jesus in heaven. But that makes us ask a very important question: Who gets to sit with Jesus? In Matthew 25 we find the answer to that question: 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’” (Matthew 25:31–36 NIV11-GKE)


It’s the end of the world. It’s Judgment Day. And Jesus takes his seat on his throne. And where we would expect a long, drawn-out trial, instead, there’s a separation. And he says to the people on his right, “come!” And again, we hear this and we ask, who—what kind of people get to sit with Jesus? And Jesus heavily hints at an answer in the words that follow. First, he speaks of an inheritance. An inheritance is not a gift you grasp for an earn. It is undeserved. Second, he says that this inheritance was prepared before God built the world.1 Before they had done anything—whether good or bad, God chose them. All of this heavily hints that this inheritance is not a gift they deserved.


But the story continues. Jesus gives a reason why they go automatically into his kingdom. He was in some bad situations here on this earth: stranger, naked, hungry, thirsty, in prison. And they were there. The sheep then react to this statement by asking Jesus a question: 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’” (Matthew 25:37–39 NIV11-GKE)


The ones who are welcomed into heaven wonder when they ever helped Jesus out in his time of need. Jesus then tells them: ““The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:40 NIV11-GKE)


In his own way, Jesus has already answered our question. Who are the ones who get to sit with Jesus? The Righteous. And notice from these words both what righteousness is and who fit that description. Righteous means to be holy and perfect. These sheep are righteous—they are holy, perfect, and blameless. But it’s not a righteousness that they earned or deserved. It was a righteousness that was prepared for them from eternity, bought for them by Jesus, and given to them by his holy word. From the beginning to the end, they had no part in this righteousness. They simply had the joy of receiving this righteousness. And the righteousness that they wear in these words is the same righteousness that you wear. It’s the righteousness that Jesus won for you on the cross and gave to you in your baptisms. And so, because of this, heaven is a place to look forward to, not a place to live in fear of. But these words continue: 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” (Matthew 25:41–45 NIV11-GKE)


The righteous sheep enter straight into heaven. But there’s another group: the goats. Jesus sends away the goats. He sends them away because they did not help him in his time of need. And here is where we need to read these words closely and listen closely. For the goats ask the question, “when?” And that, right there, tells us pretty much everything we need to know about them. One of my professors used to say that All false teaching is a confusion of cause and effect. And here we see what that looks like. The righteous are perfect, blameless, and holy as an undeserved gift. And, since they appreciate this undeserved gift, they spontaneously and naturally show their thanks for helping those around them.


Not so with the goats. The goats ask the question, “when” because heaven was a task to earn, not a gift to receive. And here, in them we see what happens when we confuse where righteousness comes from. When we conclude that we will pass the trial of getting into heaven with our own righteousness what happens? There are two tragic consequences when we go down this road: First, our neighbor becomes a tool instead of a person. Your friend, your co-worker, your family member—you look at that person not as a real human who needs your care and love. Instead you look at them as a tool, that if you are good to them, you can build up a list of good works and climb your way into heaven. And people aren’t stupid. When they see you treating them like they are a tool instead of person, your relationship with them will be short-lived. But the second consequence is even worse: If your neighbor becomes a tool, then Jesus himself becomes a fool. Jesus says, “Here, take my righteousness. I won it for you on the cross. I gave it to you in your baptism. Wear it.” And in response, we say, “I’d like to wear my own righteousness instead.’” We’re like the two year old who stubbornly refuses to let anyone help tie his shoes. And then when he realizes that he can’t tie his own shoes, he gets angry at everyone else. All throughout our lives we will continually find this tragic attitude in our hearts. And all throughout our lives we will need to recognize it and repent of it. For the warnings that Jesus speaks here are real. But notice where these words end: ““Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”” (Matthew 25:46 NIV11-GKE)


We repent of our sins. And in joy then we receive the promise of eternal life that Jesus speaks to us here. Let us then rejoice that, when it comes to this trial that we will face when we die or when Judgment Day comes, in a very real way, it’s over before it really begins. And that’s true because there is only one group of people who will sit with Jesus. The righteous will sit with Jesus. And we are clothed with Jesus’ righteousness. Let us then thank him. This morning we have songs from our handbell and voice choirs that urge us to thank our Lord. In these words we hear why. Who gets to sit with Jesus? Only the righteous do. And purely by God’s grace, we are in that group. Amen.



1 “ⲁⲡⲟⲕⲁⲧⲁⲃⲟⲗⲏⲥⲕⲟⲥⲙⲟⲩ” (Matthew 25:34 GNT-ALEX)

I Told You Ahead of Time (Third to Last Sunday)

Sanctification

I Told You Ahead of Time


It is good to know ahead of time. You could avoid many problems if you knew about them ahead of time, couldn’t you? This fact is so true and so important that there are dozens of proverbs we use in our every day life that echo this fact: First:An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. Second:  Forewarned is forearmed. Third: And now you know; and knowing if half the battle. This morning that is what our Savior does for us. He tells us important details ahead of time. In Matthew 24, we read: 15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.” (Matthew 24:15–21 NIV11-GKE)


In these words Jesus is telling the people of his own time about the persecution that would happen to the people of Jerusalem in the decades after his death. But then, as quickly as he brings these details up about his own time, he then looks ahead. He lets us know that in the last days—the days we are in, there will be persecutions too. And here, today, we see that these words are true. Across the world there is immense pressure put on the Christian church to give up the truth and conform to what the world wants. In China, Africa, and in Indonesia, there are real consequences for holding to your Christian faith. And here in our own land there is persecution too. It is not as ‘in your face’ as it is overseas. But it’s here. If you hold to what the bible says about gender or marriage you will stand out in our society. And our society will let you know that you are out of step with what they preach. So Jesus tells us ahead of time. There will be big persecutions. But what also will there be? 22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.” (Matthew 24:22–23 NIV11-GKE)


Notice how bold Jesus is. In his own way, he is telling us to not be naïve. We teach our children that not everyone who wants to give us candy at Halloween is a friend. Jesus is telling us that not everyone who claims to be a Christian prophet or pastor should be trusted. And then he even adds some more details to this: 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time.” (Matthew 24:24–25 NIV11-GKE)


Notice what Jesus says here. For these words are easy to overlook. In these last days there will even be false preachers who will even be able to perform miracles. Now here is where it’s important to think about these details. I used to think that if God were in favor of a prophet and his teaching he would allow that man to perform miracles to confirm what he is preaching. But notice the pattern that Jesus lays down for us here in these last days. In these last days the ones who are held up as being false teachers are the ones who perform signs and wonders. Years ago I asked myself the question, ‘why would the Lord allow this?’ And in our first reading God gives us the answer: to test us.1 We know who the true teachers of God’s word are not because of signs, wonders, and miracles in these last days. Instead, we look to their teaching. If what they teach and preach is in line with the bible, then we listen to them.


So notice what Jesus tells us: First, there will be big persecutions in these last days. Second, there will be big signs from false prophets. And Jesus says, “I told you ahead of time.” But, sadly, our temptation is that when Jesus says “I told you ahead of time,” we can get bored and uncaring. Persecutions—that’s what happens to other people in other countries. I can tell you that there are many Christian Parents who brought their children to church Sunday after Sunday, but then when those children went to high school and universities, they were, month after month pressured to give up their faith. And they did. And those parents would tell you that the persecutions are subtle, but they are real and sustained.


And the same is true when it comes to false prophets. Jesus speaks very often about false prophets. But when a faithful Christian pastor goes into detail, showing areas where there are churches that preach the truth and, on the other hand, there are areas where there are churches are not in line with God’s word—when a Christian pastor does this, it is ever-so-easy to become uncomfortable that he’s correcting the false teaching or false teacher. Or just as bad, we can conclude that false teaching in Christian churches isn’t really that bad at all.


Those are our temptations to sin: to not care when it comes to pressure from the outside the Christian Church or from false preaching from within the church. We repent of those sins. And look what Jesus does. He gives us good news. And here the good news is to tell us ahead of time.


First, he gives us details of what it will look like in these last days ahead of time. It’s as if he’s giving us this big check-list for our comfort. Wars and rumors of wars: check. Persecutions: Check. False prophets: Check. How comforting this is that when it seems as if the world around us is falling apart and our churches are crumbling from within, Jesus tells us ahead of time. He lets us know this is how it’s going to be. But he preserve his church for us—for the sake of the elect.


Second, Jesus promised a payment for our sin. It’s not just the persecutions and false prophets he told us about ahead of time. It’s also what will happen on Judgment Day. When the last day comes or when we die, we will stand before Jesus and all the times that Jesus was sober, alert, zealous, and diligent will cover over all the times we were careless. Jesus promises us this ahead of time.


Third, Jesus tells us ahead of time a massive detail that we need to know: 26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.” (Matthew 24:26–28 NIV11-GKE)


Jesus tells us ahead of time with such words of comfort that we are not going to miss his arrival at the end. He gives us two pictures. First, the lightning. When there’s a massive thunderstorm, it’s hard to miss. The ground shakes and the light flashes from one side of the sky to the other. You can’t miss it. That’s what Jesus return will be like. Second, You can’t miss where the carcasses are. In PA I used to visit a shut-in in Altoona. And, on many occasions I’d travel down a mountain valley. And there at the other end of the valley there would be all these birds circling around. And when I got close I found what they were circling over. There was a dead deer there. When I saw this, what could I be sure of? Whenever I saw the birds circling overhead, I knew there was a dead deer below. You can’t miss it. Jesus tells us ahead of time that we will not miss his return.


In three ways Jesus says to us good news. He does this so that we would know our sins are forgiven and look ahead to heaven. But he also does this so that we would repent, wake ourselves up and recognize that there will be big persecutions from the outside of the church. And there will be false prophets with big miracles from within the church. Jesus tells us all this ahead of time. And now you know…and knowing is half the battle. Amen.



1 Deuteronomy 13

What Could Anger Jesus? (All Saints)

Sheep

What Could Anger Jesus?


Some people are very humble. Years ago, when I was studying to be a pastor, we had a classmate who was very humble. He grew up in South Dakota. And all his classmates—especially those from Wisconsin made fun of him for growing up in South Dakota. And it was interesting, as an outsider, to see the progression. They made fun of him. And the guy was so humble that often he made fun of himself. And that had this strange reaction that it was no longer fun to make fun of the guy that makes fun of himself. And so, would seem them saying how South Dakota “wasn’t that bad.’” And at the end of all of this, you ended up asking the question, “What could get that guy angry?” This morning we meet a man far more humble than anyone who grew up in South Dakota. Jesus was very humble. What then is it that could make him angry? In John 11 we find an answer: 32 As soon as Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and told him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!” 33 When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, he was deeply moved in his spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked. “Lord,” they told him, “come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”” (John 11:32–36 CSB17)


In order for us to understand what is going on here, we need to ask the question, “who was Lazarus?” Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha. And evidently, as Jesus got to know Mary and Martha well, he also got to know Lazarus well. And they shared a strong friendship. And when Jesus sees Mary and Martha he breaks down and weeps. And even the people gathered there take note of how strong of a friendship he had with Lazarus.1


That’s who Lazarus was. But when Jesus sees Mary and Martha and confronts the fact that his friend is dead, what is Jesus’ reaction. He becomes angry.2 Very, very rarely will you find me criticizing or correcting our english versions. But here is one place where they should have worked harder. Jesus is deeply moved. But he is also angry. And the important question to ask is the one we started with: What could make Jesus angry? And the answer is here, staring at us. Death is what makes Jesus angry. One of the fact about living in a fallen world is that death is all around us. We see it when we see raccoons dead at the side of the road. And even more so, we see it when our loved ones die and are no longer part of our lives. And our great temptation to sin is to hear the sermon that the world around us preaches and conclude that it’s true. When the world tells us that, whether we’re talking about a raccoon on the side of the road or a human in a casket, it’s natural; it’s normal, we have this real temptation to conclude that they’re right. When we lay our loved one to rest in the ground, we have sorrow. But there should also be some anger there. Look how broken our world is: Take our relationship with our parents and grandparents as an example. We spend years growing up and so very often not appreciating them as best we should. Then we grow up and we appreciate them but then we’re busy—with kids and with work. And then they are taken from us. And death is what does that horrible and terrible work. Doesn’t that make you even a little bit angry? Here Jesus is angry. He is angry at death for the times we should have been but was not. What is it that could make this humble man and Savior so angry? Death. But there’s more: 37 But some of them said, “Couldn’t he who opened the blind man’s eyes also have kept this man from dying?” 38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 “Remove the stone,” Jesus said. Martha, the dead man’s sister, told him, “Lord, there is already a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”” (John 11:37–40 CSB17)


Again Jesus is angry. But look at what Jesus is angry at. Look at the clear doubt they show. They say, “He healed a blind guy. Couldn’t he have also healed Lazarus?’” Their doubt, as raw and resisting as it was, was what drove Jesus to anger. And here is where we have to understand where Jesus was in his earthly ministry. This was not just beginning his earthly ministry. He was at the end. In just a few days he would be hanging from the cross slowly dying for them. But instead of listening to his sermons, they listened to their own doubts. How many miracles had he already performed? How many months of sermons had they already heard?


And so, Jesus is angry at their doubt. But he is also angry at ours. Death and doubt go hand in hand. Does an afterlife and eternal life really exist? Are these words that we read so often really true? Will I die in agony or peacefully in my sleep? What will happen to my children and grandchildren after I die? All these great and many doubts we have because we are driven to them by death. And just as he was angry at their doubts amidst so many promises from him, he in angry at ours too. And here is where these words take a beautiful turn: 41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you heard me. 42 I know that you always hear me, but because of the crowd standing here I said this, so that they may believe you sent me.”” (John 11:41–42 CSB17)


Their doubt and death itself drives Jesus to anger. But here is where these words are so precious to us. For Jesus uses his anger in a way that we would not expect. Jesus uses his anger to pray. And notices who it is he is praying for. Jesus is not subtle or sneaky. He bluntly says “I am saying this for you”. He wants them to know that he is praying for them. What is it that dispels their doubts? Jesus’ prayers. And the same is true for you. When you doubt that eternity in heaven exists, or that these words are true, or that your sins are really forgiven, Jesus still today prays for you and for me. He prays for our faith and against our doubt. And still today our Father in heaven still answers his prayers. That’s how he uses his anger: to pray for us. But he uses his anger in yet one more way: 43 After he said this, he shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unwrap him and let him go.”” (John 11:43–44 CSB17)


Jesus uses his anger to give life. These are words you have to use your imagination and picture. In his anger Jesus shouts at Lazarus and commands him to come out. And Lazarus obeys. With the strips of linen still on his hands and face, he comes out. Jesus does this for the benefit of all those gathered there thinking that death is normal and natural and that there’s nothing we could do but slowly accept it. No, in his anger, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead to let us know that life, not death, is normal and natural. Death destroys our earthly life. That is true. But in his loving anger for us, Jesus destroys death’s power over us both by paying for it on Good Friday and by rising on Easter Sunday, promising that we too will rise.


And because of that this Sunday is a special Sunday. This is All Saints Day. This is the Sunday where we get to lift our eyes to heaven. For there in heaven are all those who have died in Christ, believing in him. And there in heaven we will be too. And there is this great comfort and promise from Jesus in knowing that if time, or age, or distance kept us from getting to know our loved ones as we would have liked, there in heaven it will be normal and natural to spend all eternity getting to spend time with them. There in heaven it will be normal and natural to never have death affect us again. That, my dear friends in Christ, is why Jesus got angry. That is why he got angry for you—so that he could pray for you and so that he would give you what is normal and natural: eternal life. Amen.



1 “ⲓ̈ⲇⲉⲡⲱⲥⲉⲫⲓⲗⲉⲓⲁⲩⲧⲟⲛ” (John 11:36 GNT-ALEX)

2 “ⲉⲃⲣⲓⲙⲏⲥⲁⲧⲟ” (John 11:33 GNT-ALEX)

What Is Better Than Wonders? (Pentecost 22)

Faith

What Is Better Than Wonders?


Wonders don’t work. When I was a child the time of the year when we got our toys was Christmas. And part of the excitement of Christmas wasn’t just seeing what presents we got, but also seeing what presents our friends got. And I remember visiting a neighbor up the road. He got the Millenium Falcon. That was the sort of gift that very few children got both because it costed lots of money and because they were usually sold out before you got to the store. But my friend had that sort of gift that would inspire the thought, “wow!” inside me. But weeks later I went over to visit him. And the Millenium Falcon was in pieces in his room. Here, he had this wondrous toy that so many only dreamed of having. But it was wasted on him. Why? Wonders don’t work. The problem is not with the wonders that wow us. The problem is us. That’s the thought that Jesus brings to our brains as we begin to read these words in John 4: 46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. 48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”” (John 4:46–48 NIV11-GKE)


There’s a man who comes to Jesus expecting and pleading for a wonder. And in response Jesus says, “unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never ever believe!”1 Jesus brings up here a fact of every day life in a fallen world. We look to wows and wonders in our lives. But what happens when we receive them? We become bored with the wonders and even worse: we are tempted to trust in the wonder rather than the one who gave them. Look at our lives. Our good and gracious Lord gives us peace from wars and disasters so that we are able to use our brains to develop technologies that would be truly wonders to every other generation before us. But the wonders we see around us become boring. And we are tempted to trust in them instead of the one who gave them to us. And yet, what does this man do? He is persistent and tells Jesus: “The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”” (John 4:49 NIV11-GKE)


It’s good for us to have a look at this man for a moment. He is a royal person.2 When you are rich or royal or both you have people to travel for you. But notice what happens here. The royal official leaves his boy on his death bed and walks out to find Jesus. And he begs Jesus to come with him. But what does Jesus do? We read: ““Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed.” (John 4:50 NIV11-GKE)


Jesus gives him a better gift than wonders. Jesus does not go with him. Instead, he sents him away with the bare-bones skeleton of a promise. In our english versions Jesus says, “Your son will live.”3 And that sort of gets at the point. But a little more precise is that Jesus is saying, “your son continues to live.” Jesus tells him that his son is still alive and hints that the situation will work out.


Jesus gives him a better gift than wonders. He gives him the ability to wait. Now, here is where both this royal man and we today might ask the question, “Why is waiting better than wonders?” The problem with wows and wonders is that they don’t work. We receive something that truly “wows” us and then aren’t content with it. We receive a wonder and then we are tempted to trust in the wonder rather than the one who gave it.


But look at this man. Look at what Jesus did with the waiting. This royal man walked more than a day to get to Jesus. He has a short conversation with Jesus and then he has to take a two day trip back home. If a man were unburdened, had food and water, and were in really good shape, he could make the trip in a day. But this man isn’t an olympic runner. And the road is steep and there’s a mountain pass. So he walks back home throughout the day and sleeps overnight—or at least tries to. And the entire time he is asking himself, “Is my boy still alive?” He, not doubt, is saying to himself, “If he dies before I get there I will not have had the chance to say ‘goodbye.’” He wonders whether this man who he had never met before would keep his word. This man has to wait. And the waiting yields results: As every hour goes on, the wonder he was looking for became more needed. And as every hour dragged on he realized that Jesus was the only one who could provide this wonder. And finally he arrives at home. And then what happens? 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.” 53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.”” (John 4:51–53 NIV11-GKE)


The royal man arrives at home. His servants run out to meet him. And they tell him that the fever left his son and his son was well and healthy. But that isn’t enough for the man. He has to ask that next important question: what time? What time was he healed? And he learns that it was the precise time when Jesus was speaking to him. And in this we see why the waiting was worth it. His infant, fragile faith grew up. His faith drove home the fact that Jesus was the only one who could work this wonder. And Jesus worked this wonder not from ten feet away, but instead from miles away. And we see then the result of all that waiting: 53 So he and his whole household believed. 54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.” (John 4:53–54 NIV11-GKE)


What Jesus did for this royal man he does for us. Waiting is so much better than the wonder. Because in the waiting Jesus so graciously gives us one gift after another. First, Jesus gives us contentment in our waiting. How often is it that we receive a wonder in our lives and the joy and contentment is washed away by by the next problem and stress? But, as we see one promise fulfilled after another by Jesus, that teaches us to be content even while we wait. Second, Jesus gives us trust in our waiting. We learn not to confuse the gift with the giver and the wonder with the wonder-worker. The waiting, just like this man walking on the road, causes us to see and appreciate that our Triune God is the one who works all wonders and gives all gifts. And finally, in this waiting we remember the one who waited perfectly in our place. When I think of waiting I think of a different boy than this boy in Capernaum. I think of the boy Jesus in the temple. There he is, with more knowledge than all his teachers. They are wowed by him and surround him to talk about God’s word with him. But then his parents come back and what does he have to do? He has to go home with them, submit to them, and most of all wait. He waits for a decade and a half before he can officially and publicly be who he is. But my dear friends, he did all of this waiting willingly and perfectly in our place.


And so, my dear friends when those times of waiting come, remember this royal man. Remember that so very often what is even better than the wonder is the waiting. When you have to wait till you grow up; when you have to wait for your children to come home at night, when you have to wait for results of the doctor’s test; when you have to wait for Judgment Day itself—when you have to wait for all these and more, remember that it is precisely in the waiting that God gives us contentment, trust, and the powerful reminder of his great forgiveness won for you in your place. Amen.



1 “ⲉⲁⲛⲙⲏ … ⲓ̈ⲇⲏⲧⲉⲟⲩⲙⲏⲡⲓⲥⲧⲉⲩⲥⲏⲧⲉ” (John 4:48 GNT-ALEX)

2 “ⲃⲁⲥⲓⲗⲉⲓⲕⲟⲥ” (John 4:49 GNT-ALEX)

3 “ⲟⲩ̈ⲓ̈ⲟⲥⲥⲟⲩⲍⲏ·” (John 4:50 GNT-ALEX)

Come To A Royal Wedding (Pentecost 21)

Jesus

Come To A Royal Wedding


Some invitations you cannot turn down. Months ago there was a royal wedding in England. And part of the challenge for us over here in the USA is to recognize how huge of an event this was for them. To us, getting a seat at that wedding would be like getting season tickets to every Superbowl for the next 50 years. But all of these examples and illustrations are pretty wimpy compared to the invitation we read about here in God’s word. For the people that Jesus speaks about here in this story are people who are invited to a wedding for a king with power. In Matthew 22, we read: 1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. 4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business.” (Matthew 22:1–5 NIV11-GKE)


What does God working in this world and through his word look like? It looks like a wedding. But not just a normal wedding. No, it’s the wedding a king puts on for his son. When a king sends invitations to that sort of wedding, who in the world could say no? And yet, in these words, that’s exactly what we see. The first group of people are personally invited through these messengers. And what was their response? They didn’t care.1 Again, they had a once in a lifetime opportunity. And they didn’t care. But there was another reaction from another group: 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7” (Matthew 22:6 NIV11-GKE) The second group cared—they cared enough to kill the messengers.


What happens next is not too surprising then, I suppose. We read: “The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” (Matthew 22:7 NIV11-GKE) The king is angered and offended. So he brings justice to them and ends them.


The picture then shifts back to the wedding banquet. As the army is marching away to kill the murderers the meal is getting cold. So what does the king do? 8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10” (Matthew 22:8–9 NIV11-GKE) Here we find an odd pattern. Would invite “anyone you could find” to your wedding? That would bring up so much room for someone to wreck your wedding. But that’s what the king does. But he does this with a context in mind. He says that the first group of guests were not worthy.2 In that context he sends his servants out inviting anyone they could find. And so we read: 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. 13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (Matthew 22:10–13 NIV11-GKE)


The servants went out and found both good and bad people. And it showed. For the king went into his banquet hall to look at his quests. And he found one who was not wearing clothes appropriate for a wedding. Now whether the expectation was a fancy and expensive clothing or just that the man would take a shower and put on his best clothing, we don’t know. The context is clear though that what everyone expected, he didn’t wear. The king throws him outside where there is darkness and weeping and gnashing of teeth. And what was the reason for this? Jesus concludes with these words: ““For many are invited, but few are chosen.”” (Matthew 22:14 NIV11-GKE) Many, many people were invited to the wedding. But few would end up at the wedding with the right attitude and right understanding.


So, my dear friends in Christ, how do we make sense of this parable and apply it to our every day lives? With these words Jesus exposes our sin. Each of us has a standing invitation to the wedding banquet in heaven and a foretaste of that every Sunday. And Jesus exposes sin in these words. But he does so from the outside in. When Jesus invites people to be at his wedding supper in heaven, he invites everyone. Some will receive that invitation and will not care. Others will receive that invitation and will care enough to try and kill Jesus and those who follow him. But Jesus quickly narrows down to the one who sins in a far more subtle way. He narrows in on the man who should have known about the wedding clothes, but was speechless. And we can see ourselves in his very own example. Like the man without the wedding clothes, our temptation is to conclude that God should be content with our stinky sins like the king should have been content with the unshaved, un-showered man who sat there eating his food. We face the temptation to conclude that our sins really aren’t that bad. And God above and those around us should have to be content with them. In short, our sin is not wrestling against sin and instead being quite at home with sin.


But the other temptation is just as bad. We face this real sin to not rejoice at the wedding we have an invitation to. Each of us has an invitation to the wedding supper there with Jesus and all the saints in Christ who have gone before us. That should fill us with enough joy that we willingly get up, get showered, get to church, stay awake with joyful eyes as we sing our hymns and hear those sermons. But so often the cares of our every day life crowd out our joy of being there at the wedding in heaven.


This parable is a challenging one because it is one that exposes our sin, again and again. This is not the sort of parable where you can read it, close your bible and then say to yourself, “Well isn’t that a nice part of God’s word.” No, these words stab us and shock us. For each of us wants to not wrestle against our sin and have everyone in the world be content with our sins. And each of us should find joy in this picture and promise of a wedding in heaven. But we don’t have that joy.


If you are looking for good news in this parable, it’s there. You just need to look a little farther. In this parable the murderers are the ones who are killed. In reality, Jesus is the one who is killed to pay for sinners. In the parable we see that we, just like the man without wedding clothes, expect those around us to be content and sometimes even approve of our sin. But Jesus wrestled against sin and temptation. And instead of finding room in his heart for that sin, he said “no” to it. And he did this for each and every one of us. In this parable we see so many people who fail to rejoice at the prospect of going to a wedding, and through them we see the same in ourselves too. But what does Jesus do? A little later on in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says: “I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”” (Matthew 26:29 NIV) Jesus doesn’t just tell us that there will be a wedding banquet in heaven, what does he do? He gives us a foretaste of that wedding banquet right here and now in the Lord’s Supper. He does this both to forgive our sins and to whet our appetite for the perfect wedding supper in heaven. And finally, in the final verse, what does Jesus do? He chooses us, unworthy as we are, he chooses us and gives us a place there in heaven with him. And all of this is his work, not ours.


With all of this in mind then, Jesus gives to you an invitation: Come to the royal wedding. You are ready for the royal wedding on the last day. But until that day comes, continue to wrestle against your sins and repent of them. And cling to Jesus who hasn’t just invited you. He has also chosen you. Amen.



1 “ⲁⲙⲉⲗⲏⲥⲁⲛⲧⲉⲥ” (Matthew 22:5 GNT-WAS)

2 “ⲟⲩⲕⲏⲥⲁⲛⲁⲝⲓⲟⲓ” (Matthew 22:8 GNT-WAS)

What Will You Wear? (Pentecost 20)

Christian

What Will I Wear?


What am I going to wear today? This is the time of the year that we ask that question. On any given day here in Minnesota it can go from 40 degrees to 80. And so, what are you going to wear? Layers: that’s the answer. But my dear friends in Christ, just as you get up in the morning and ask yourself that question when it comes to what you wear on the outside, God’s word also invites us to ask the same question to what we wear on the inside. In the book of Ephesians, Paul tells us: “to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires,” (Ephesians 4:22 CSB17)


Before we can put on a new and good piece of clothing, we have to take off the old clothing. Paul uses a number of words that we may not be familiar with. So it’s good for us to have a closer look at them. Paul uses the phrase, “old self.” Way back at the beginning, Adam and Eve sinned. And through that sin, their sin is now handed down to us. There is an old self, and old person that does not know who God is—and what that old self does know about God, it hates. And no amount of pretty words or persuasion will win it over to Christ. And Paul here in these words gives us a reason why: our old self loves lies and is continually being corrupted by those lies. And that too is a powerful picture. Have you ever had rotting food thrown at you? If you had rotting food thrown at you, you’d take your clothes off. But the picture Paul has here is even worse. You don’t just have rotten food on your clothes. Instead, your clothes are rotting continually. And Paul could use many examples of how this is true. But the one he lifts up here to look at is our lies. Each of us lies, and sad to say, loves our lies. And we know this because we keep doing what brings us harm: we keep lying. This is a huge dilemma. What then is the solution? 23 to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.” (Ephesians 4:23–24 CSB17)


So you have an old self. That’s bad news. But what’s the good news? Alongside the old self, God has created in you through the power of his word and through the gift of baptism a new self. Well, what is this new self? It’s a new heart, a new attitude. It’s flows from God’s likeness and God’s image. Now here is where we need to set aside time to talk about this very important phrase in the bible, “the image/likeness of God.” The phrase, “the image/likeness of God” is used in two ways in the bile. First, it is speaking about the fact that even after the fall into sin, we are able to use our brains in areas subject to reason. I can choose which shoes or pants to wear each morning. But there is a second way in which this phrase is used. And that’s the way Paul is speaking about it here. The image or likeness of God is being on the same page with God. It’s having and enjoying God’s righteousness and holiness. It’s not earthly reason; it’s heavenly purity. If you like pictures, think of the likeness of God like a car on the side of the road. When I grew up in MT, you could see on the side of the road old rusted out cars. And if you asked the question, “is that a car or not,” you could end up with two different answers. It has the outer shell and frame of a car. If you knew about old cars you could even say what make and model it is. But if you asked a different question, “what use is it,” you would have a different answer. All it can do is sit there and rust. After the fall into sin, humans have the ability to use their brains. But that’s like the frame on a rusting old car. It cannot do anything good in spiritual matters. In the really important ways we have lost the likeness of God. When we come into this world we cannot approach God. In fact, we do not want to approach God. We, on our own, in our old selves, run away from God and his goodness because we love our lies. But what happened to us then? We ran away from God. But God ran after us. And he created faith in our hearts and gave us a new person alongside the old. And since we have this new self, what should we do with it? God’s word tells us: 25 Therefore, putting away lying, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. 26 Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and don’t give the devil an opportunity. 28 Let the thief no longer steal. Instead, he is to do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.” (Ephesians 4:25–28 CSB17)


God has clothed you in his likeness. What should we do then? Wear it. Wear his likeness in your new self. God was the one who chose to give us his likeness in our new selves. But now we are the ones who get up every day and choose to wear it or not. These words are piercing and powerful if you think them through. Every day and many times in a day we have the choice to put on our new self, clothed in God’s likeness, or put on the old self, rotting away in lies—every day. What this shows us is that our repentance isn’t just an idea, it’s also a fact. It’s not just an emotion; it’s also an action. Years ago I remember seeing a little child who took his brother’s piece of candy. The mommy made sure that the child knew that it was wrong to steal. And the mommy made the child say those words to his brother, “I am sorry.” And the boy said the words. But when she then told the boy to give back the candy to his brother, what did he do? He did nothing. Repentance isn’t just an idea. It’s also an action. God gives to us this new self. And this new self clothes us in Christ’s righteousness in two ways. First, when God looks at us he doesn’t see our lies that rot away our souls. Instead, he sees Christ’s perfect truth in our place. He sees our forgiveness. Second, This new self is no longer a slave to sin like the old self loved to be. No, this new self belongs to our Triune God and follows him. And so Paul can say, “if you lie, don’t lie anymore’” and “the one who stole, let him pay it back.” For this new self in us isn’t an idea. It’s a reality. And my brothers and sisters in Christ, this is wondrous, good news. For if you wrestle with temptations of lying, laziness, lusting, stubbornness, and selfishness as I do, then know where this comes from: your old self. But also know that you have a new self. And this new self is powerful. This new self is made in God’s likeness. And that means Christ’s holiness covers our sin. And that means we are no longer slaves to the sins that affect and infect us.


So my dear friends in Christ, every day, especially at this time of the year, choose what you will wear on the outside. But also choose what you will wear on the inside. Don’t put on the old self that’s like wearing rotting flesh full of lies. No, instead, wear what Christ has clothed you in. Wear you new self, created in God’s likeness. Amen.



Pentecost 18a

Sheep

What Heals Hypocrisy?


Iwould not want to be in his shoes.Right now in our nation history is happening. There is a vacancy on the Supreme Court. And our nation is holding hearings to see if a man by the name of Brett Kavanaugh is going to sit on the Supreme Court. And, out of all the places I would not want to sit, his seat would be the place. Imagine what it would be like to be in a room full of people who do not like you and, instead of listening to you, many of them want to find fault with you. But my dear friends, the same, if not even worse is happening in our gospel for this morning. Jesus is in a room. And everyone in that room is just waiting for him to slip up so that they can find a reason to put him to death. I would not want to be in his shoes. But that is exactly where the Holy Spirit places us this morning. In Luke 14, we read: 1 One Sabbath, when he went in to eat at the house of one of the leading Pharisees, they were watching him closely. 2 There in front of him was a man whose body was swollen with fluid. 3 In response, Jesus asked the law experts and the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” 4 But they kept silent. He took the man, healed him, and sent him away. 5 And to them, he said, “Which of you whose son or ox falls into a well, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” 6 They could find no answer to these things.” (Luke 14:1–6 CSB17)


Jesus is invited to a banquet. And at the banquet is the most powerful people of the land. It’s the rulers of the Pharisees who are there. And there in front of Jesus is a man who has a disease that makes his body swell up with water. And all of the Pharisees are there looking at Jesus so that they can trap him.1 And Jesus does exactly what they wanted him to do. He heals the man who so desperately needed to be healed.


But then what does he do? He tells them a little story. He says that if any of them had their son or ox fall into a well, all of them, each of them would get down into that well and get him out—even if it was on the Sabbath. And when he says this, they cannot give him any sort of response. They cannot respond to him at all—this entire room full of experts in God’s word. Why? They know he is right. He exposed their hypocrisy. And their solution to their own hypocrisy is first to “fake it till you make it.” And then, when that didn’t work, the solution was to kill the one who was exposing their hypocrisy.


But before we move, on, instead of looking at the Pharisees, let us look at ourselves for a moment. All of us, each of us has the same hypocrisy inside of us that needs to be revealed and then healed. Each of us says, “I love Jesus” here at church and in our hearts at home. But what’s the problem? We are hypocrites. We say, “I love Jesus”, but I know more names of the Vikings line up than I do names of Jesus’ disciples. I love Jesus, but not enough to actually pick up a bible and read it. I love Jesus, but I’d rather spend time studying my fantasy football league than in bible study class with my pastor. I love Jesus, but I don’t speak like one who loves Jesus. In every place I’ve served as a pastor I’ve joined a gym. And in each place I’ve lived there’s always that guy who has that T-shirt that says he believes in Jesus. But then, inevitably, he is the guy who uses more four-letter words than men just getting out of the merchant marine. And I too fall into the same trap. When I go home from church with my collar on and stop at qwik trip to get gas. I go in to pay for the gas and there’s this shocking moment where I say to myself, “Oh yeah, you’re wearing a collar. Make sure that you act like a pastor.’” A Christian should never have to remind himself to act like a Christian. That should happen naturally. Jesus says these words so that we all—each of us would know that we are hypocrites. But, my dear friends in Christ, What heals our hypocrisy? Jesus answers that question in the words that follow: 7 He told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves: 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, don’t recline at the best place, because a more distinguished person than you may have been invited by your host. 9 The one who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in humiliation, you will proceed to take the lowest place. 10 “But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”” (Luke 14:7–11 CSB17)


What heals hypocrisy? Notice how Jesus approaches that question and problem. He sets aside the time carefully and compassionately teach them, who as professors and experts should know this already. And he uses what everybody could see right in front of them. There was this weird game that everyone there played. Each of them was trying to wiggle and wrangle themselves into the most important place to sit. So what does Jesus do? Jesus first lets them know that sinful logic always proves itself to be false. If you try to “fake it till you make it,” the truth will come out. When you sit in the place that belongs to someone else, someone will come along and see that and tell you to get to the back of the line. And Jesus says, that when you go to the back of the line, you will stay there.2


Sinful logic always shows itself to be wrong. But godly wisdom always shows itself to be right. He tells them that if, instead, they take the lowest seat, the master of the house who invited them will see them, go over to them, call them, “friend,” and then have them sit at a higher place.


Look at what Jesus is doing: He is letting them know that there is a solution to their hypocrisy. And that solution is humility. But my dear friends in Christ, that’s where these words leave us. But that’s not where we can leave these words. For we have a very important question to ask: If we cannot get rid of our hypocrisy, are we able to, on our own, just instantly and magically become humble? The answer is: no. Jesus is not speaking these words to these experts so that they can easily conclude that all that have to be is humble. No, instead, he’s showing that the humility that they need—the humility that would heal their hypocrisy, is what Jesus has.


And my dear friends in Christ, the same is true for us. It’s easy to say, “Just be humble.” The problem is that we are sinful. And just was we are full of hypocrisy, we have no humility in and of ourselves. Instead, we need to look to Jesus. Yes, it is true that humility heals hypocrisy. But that humility is not our own. Only Jesus’ humility can heal our hypocrisy. And isn’t that exactly what we see here in these words? Who of us would show the kind of humility that Jesus shows here? Jesus goes into a room full of people who want to put him to death. And he humbly puts up with it. And when he sees this man who is in such pain because of this disease, he reaches out, touches him and heals him in such perfect humility. And after he shows the experts their hypocrisy, instead of leaving the room, he reaches out to them to show them that the humility that they need is only found in him. And then he takes that humility with him all the way to the cross and dies like lamb lead to the slaughter.


So then, my brothers and sisters in Christ, take to heart the teaching that Jesus was trying so hard to teach to these experts. What heals your hypocrisy—all the times you tried to fake it will you made it and then tried to bury anyone who exposed your hypocrisy—what heals that hypocrisy is humility. But not your own. It’s Christ’s humility that heals you. For his is the only humility that can pay for your sin. And the Holy Spirit that he sends is the only one that can give to us real, true, genuine humility—the sort of humility that cannot be forced or faked. My dear friends in Christ, you need healing for your hypocrisy. And that healing is humility—But not your own. Christ’s humility heals your hypocrisy. Amen.



1 “ⲡⲁⲣⲁⲧⲏⲣⲟⲩⲙⲉⲛⲟⲓ” (Luke 14:1 GNT-ALEX)

2 “ⲁⲣⲝⲏ… ⲧⲟⲛⲉⲥⲭⲁⲧⲟⲛⲧⲟⲡⲟⲛⲕⲁⲧⲉⲭⲓⲛ” (Luke 14:9 GNT-ALEX)

Pentecost 17

Easter

Can I Just Get By?


I‘m in it to win it. Our family used to watch the TV show, “The biggest loser.” And that was a phrase you’d hear again and again. With that phrase they were telling everyone who would listen that they were not in that competition to just get by. No, instead, they were pouring all of their ability and all of their effort. If you asked them the question, “Is getting by an option,” they would say “no.” This morning God’s word makes us ask the same question, but not about losing weight. Instead, the Holy Spirit asks us that question when it comes to life itself. When it comes to our lives, it it possible for us to just get by? This morning we continue wehre we left off last week with Elijah and the widow. We read: 17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”” (1 Kings 17:17–18 NIV11-GKE)


In these words we see a woman who was desperately just trying to get by. Her life was a tragedy. She had lost her husband. And she had lost the family income. And she thought she and her son would starve. And then, out of nowhere this man of God showed up and her family was fed…every day. But then the Lord brought such immense pain into her life out of nowhere. Here she is, she just manages to keep her family alive by having enough food to live on day by day and then what happens? Her son gets sick and then dies. And there’s the irony: she has food. But all the food in the world couldn’t keep her son from dying.


And when her son dies, amidst all her pain, she asks the same question we would ask: why? Why did the Lord who, up to that point, had gave her son food now give her son death? And the only logical answer she can arrive at is that God is angry with her. God has changed his mind. She concludes that she had sinned in the past. And God never really forgave and never really forgot. Here she is: a woman who just wanted to get by. And the Lord would not let her. But she’s not the only one. We read: 18 have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” 19 “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”” (1 Kings 17:18–21 NIV11-GKE)


The widow isn’t the only one who is traumatized by the boy’s death. Elijah is too. Remember that this woman and this boy was Elijah’s congregation and his sort of adopted family. He looked at her like did a sister. He looked at this boy as an adopted, closely-held nephew. And in his heart too, he was just wanted their lives to go back to the way they were. So he prayed to God to make it that way.


Now my dear friends in Christ, is what Elijah did good or bad? The simple answer is that what Elijah did was both good and bad. It was bad in that he was a prophet of the Lord. This was a family that he was close to and shared God’s word with for hours every day. If this boy died believing in the Lord and it was clear that the Lord was the one who had put him to death, then Elijah should have been content with the Lord’s actions. But Elijah wanted their lives to go back to the way they were. They were just getting by. And that was ok with him.


But, also, my friends, don’t think too harshly against Elijah. For he took the same action our Savior did. In our gospel for today when Jesus comes face to faith with death—and even worse, the death of a child, he is filled with compassion. Elijah did the same. For, my dear friends in Christ, death is not normal. And death is not natural. Death is an effect of the fall into sin. Both Elijah and the widow, each in their own way, wanted to just get by. But my dear friends, what did their Lord want? 22 The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. 23 Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!” 24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”” (1 Kings 17:22–24 NIV11-GKE)


The Lord did not want them to just get by. And, my dear friends in Christ, he does not want you to just get by. The Lord answered Elijah’s prayer not so that they could just get by and that their lives would go back to the way they were. No, it was for a different reason. The apostle Paul speaks about that in our second reading this morning: 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20–21 NIV11-GKE)


Your life is not about just getting by. Your life is not about settling for survival. You do not need a God that just ignores your sin. No, instead you need a God that forgives your sin—even if you are not able to forgive yourself.. You do not need a God that just forgives your sin. You need a God that forgets your sin—even if you are not able to forget. You do not need the sort of God that this widow was willing to settle for: a god that would provide for her body. No, you need a God who will provide for your body and your soul. You do not need a God who will just keep your home safe here now. No, you need a God who will keep your home safe here and give you an eternal home hereafter. Your Savior Jesus does not let you settle for survival. If we ask the question, “Can I Just Get By,” the answer is “no.” For our Savior has told us “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV11-GKE)


But my dear friends, the full life is not what you hear from many popular preachers on TV. The full life comes with hardship and tragedy. The same Savior who says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” is the same one who says, “anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27 NIV) So my dear friends, your life is not about “just getting by.” If that is how your are living your life, you are missing what the Lord was teaching the widow through Elijah. Our Lord gives to you the full life now and forever. But he does so amidst hardship even as he overcomes hardship. Amen.



Pentecost 16

Anchor

Can I Just Get By?


I‘m in it to win it. Our family used to watch the TV show, “The biggest loser.” And that was a phrase you’d hear again and again. With that phrase they were telling everyone who would listen that they were not in that competition to just get by. No, instead, they were pouring all of their ability and all of their effort. If you asked them the question, “Is getting by an option,” they would say “no.” This morning God’s word makes us ask the same question, but not about losing weight. Instead, the Holy Spirit asks us that question when it comes to life itself. When it comes to our lives, it it possible for us to just get by? This morning we continue wehre we left off last week with Elijah and the widow. We read: 17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”” (1 Kings 17:17–18 NIV11-GKE)


In these words we see a woman who was desperately just trying to get by. Her life was a tragedy. She had lost her husband. And she had lost the family income. And she thought she and her son would starve. And then, out of nowhere this man of God showed up and her family was fed…every day. But then the Lord brought such immense pain into her life out of nowhere. Here she is, she just manages to keep her family alive by having enough food to live on day by day and then what happens? Her son gets sick and then dies. And there’s the irony: she has food. But all the food in the world couldn’t keep her son from dying.


And when her son dies, amidst all her pain, she asks the same question we would ask: why? Why did the Lord who, up to that point, had gave her son food now give her son death? And the only logical answer she can arrive at is that God is angry with her. God has changed his mind. She concludes that she had sinned in the past. And God never really forgave and never really forgot. Here she is: a woman who just wanted to get by. And the Lord would not let her. But she’s not the only one. We read: 18 have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” 19 “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”” (1 Kings 17:18–21 NIV11-GKE)


The widow isn’t the only one who is traumatized by the boy’s death. Elijah is too. Remember that this woman and this boy was Elijah’s congregation and his sort of adopted family. He looked at her like did a sister. He looked at this boy as an adopted, closely-held nephew. And in his heart too, he was just wanted their lives to go back to the way they were. So he prayed to God to make it that way.


Now my dear friends in Christ, is what Elijah did good or bad? The simple answer is that what Elijah did was both good and bad. It was bad in that he was a prophet of the Lord. This was a family that he was close to and shared God’s word with for hours every day. If this boy died believing in the Lord and it was clear that the Lord was the one who had put him to death, then Elijah should have been content with the Lord’s actions. But Elijah wanted their lives to go back to the way they were. They were just getting by. And that was ok with him.


But, also, my friends, don’t think too harshly against Elijah. For he took the same action our Savior did. In our gospel for today when Jesus comes face to faith with death—and even worse, the death of a child, he is filled with compassion. Elijah did the same. For, my dear friends in Christ, death is not normal. And death is not natural. Death is an effect of the fall into sin. Both Elijah and the widow, each in their own way, wanted to just get by. But my dear friends, what did their Lord want? 22 The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. 23 Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!” 24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”” (1 Kings 17:22–24 NIV11-GKE)


The Lord did not want them to just get by. And, my dear friends in Christ, he does not want you to just get by. The Lord answered Elijah’s prayer not so that they could just get by and that their lives would go back to the way they were. No, it was for a different reason. The apostle Paul speaks about that in our second reading this morning: 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20–21 NIV11-GKE)


Your life is not about just getting by. Your life is not about settling for survival. You do not need a God that just ignores your sin. No, instead you need a God that forgives your sin—even if you are not able to forgive yourself.. You do not need a God that just forgives your sin. You need a God that forgets your sin—even if you are not able to forget. You do not need the sort of God that this widow was willing to settle for: a god that would provide for her body. No, you need a God who will provide for your body and your soul. You do not need a God who will just keep your home safe here now. No, you need a God who will keep your home safe here and give you an eternal home hereafter. Your Savior Jesus does not let you settle for survival. If we ask the question, “Can I Just Get By,” the answer is “no.” For our Savior has told us “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV11-GKE)


But my dear friends, the full life is not what you hear from many popular preachers on TV. The full life comes with hardship and tragedy. The same Savior who says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” is the same one who says, “anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27 NIV) So my dear friends, your life is not about “just getting by.” If that is how your are living your life, you are missing what the Lord was teaching the widow through Elijah. Our Lord gives to you the full life now and forever. But he does so amidst hardship even as he overcomes hardship. Amen.