Saturday, July 13, 2013

Psalm 41:1; Eight Sunday after Pentecost; July 14, 2013;

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa;

Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him;” (Psalm 41:1, ESV)

From a Sermon by Rev. John Nunes.

Grace and Peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Repeat after me: Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! Glory to the name of Jesus! The Lord our God is King!

For some of us that’s uncomfortable isn’t it. We’ll don’t feel bad it’s that way for most Christians in NA… even awkward and embarrassing. But for more than 200 million Christians throughout the world saying something like that would be downright dangerous. The US State Dept says that there are nearly 70 countries where Christians are persecuted. Where it’s legal to imprison, torture, enslave, rape, assault, and even murder by crucifixion those who profess words just like those. In some of those places this assembly that we so much take for granted could be a death sentence to all of us. This time of year, a few days after independence day is a good time to reflect on that fact, and ponder, and praise God for the blessings that we often over look.

For some Christians, worship is a matter of life and death. But for all of us, being in Christ means even more. You see, all eternity hangs in the balance. It’s not just a mater of life and death; it’s a matter of everlasting life and everlasting death. In Word and Sacrament, God sets Jesus into our lives as the way, the truth and the life. He gives us so much more than worldly freedom. Through Word and water, bread and wine he enters our lives and we are changed, we are set free from sin and death. That’s a story that needs to be told!

It all really came about on a dark Friday outside of Jerusalem. It was there that Jesus won this life changing freedom for you and me, and all people who believe in him. When Jesus was crucified and died he changed all of human history. But even more importantly than that he changed your history and mine. His death gives us freedom that is greater than any human won freedom. His death frees us from the very grip of death itself. The proclamation of what Jesus did is our “Emancipation Proclamation” from the bondage of sin and death. Martin Luther said it like this: Human freedom might change laws without changing people, but Christian freedom changes people without changing the Law.

Jesus snatches us from the claws of the law. He gives us real freedom:

  • From living in a dead end valley of the shadow of death to living an abundant life.
  • From slavery to sin to having all the rights and privileges of the Children of God.
  • From having broken spirits to leaping with joy in the Holy Spirit.
  • From thirsting for righteousness to drinking from the cup of salvation that runs over.

Philis Weatly was an African born American slave in the 1700’s. She was set free through faith in Jesus Christ at a very early age. But she is better known for being a poet. She was the first African-American poet, and the first Woman poet to be published on this continent. It was her poetry that eventually led to her freedom. Still, she died young and penniless. She wrote this:

In every human breast,

God has implanted a

Principle with we call

Love of

Freedom; it is impatient of

Oppression, and pants for


The problem with our panting for freedom is that we go after the wrong kind of freedom. The sin that permeates us leads us to seek freedom not where it can ultimately be found. No earthly utopia will ever supply true freedom, only frustration and futility. No earthly government can promise real freedom to its citizens, only partial freedom that is fleeting.

If you doubt me just look at how throughout history the most purely motivated activists ended up surpassing the oppression of those they replaced. Look how therapeutic techniques that are suppose to make relationships right often fail to distinguish right from wrong and indulge the sinful nature instead of helping. Why do liberation movements often end up oppressing those they intended to help?

That’s what the Psalmist was complaining about when he wrote these words:

Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him;” (Psalm 41:1, ESV)

He was oppressed by marauders who streamed across the land limiting everyone’s ability to live peacefully. He was moved by the Holy Spirit to pen those words, a liturgical prayer of liberation, true liberation. He was speaking about looking for freedom that is found only in the Holy God. The freedom that he gives is freedom worth panting over and seeking out.

We worship God here today. That’s why we gather together and are blessed to be able to do so freely. In deer like fashion we come here to drink in the saving words of God. We stand and sit side by side in unity and love. It all flows from our connection with each other in Jesus Christ. There are many ways we serve one another and even others who do not know about the freedom we find here. Just because we are unified in faith doesn’t mean there’s only one way to serve. Some do so quietly through faithful prayer, some serve outwardly by washing motorcycles, (serving in a carnival) and still others by visiting friends in the hospital. Just because we are one in the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean that there is only one way to serve. God has given us all many and varied gifts, he gives us the freedom to use those gifts. St. Paul talked about all of us being “one body” arms, ears, eyes, etc. Each serves in a different way but none less valuable than any other.

Also being a member of this body doesn’t mean there is only one way to vote. If any one tells you that Christians have to agree on social issues like taxes or which candidates to vote for they’re wrong. There is room for constructive debate among us when it comes to the ways we do certain things. A good source of information on this topic is found in the CTCR document Render Unto Ceaser… and Unto God. It’s available in the church library or you can check it out of my office. It read, “also in the church, and not only in the public square, civil but principled debate on social ethics must be encouraged.” (p. 63). There is a time and place for creativity… a time to challenge long established assumptions… a time to question the way we’ve always done things… and propose changes. There is room for diversity of opinion among the people of God when it comes to structure and church government and how we bring the Gospel to the community around us. Of course there isn’t any room for change in the content of that Gospel. Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation; He has purchased and won us from sin and death by his life, death and resurrection. We are brought to faith and strengthened in faith by the work of God in Word and Sacrament. How we tell those truths is a matter of freedom.

The freedom we are looking for, well the freedom that everyone is looking for is found only in Jesus Christ. He is with us here and we are free! We gather here to eat and drink his very body and blood that is our freedom. We deeply drink in the Word of God spoken to us, which brings us the deliverance that comes from knowing the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are totally delivered from the slavery of sin. We are delivered and free, now! Not sometime in our future after our death, but right now. We struggle with sin every day, but Jesus death has freed us from it. It doesn’t control us because we have forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Whenever sin tries to bind us again we know that Jesus was bound to death instead of us. We can set sin aside and move on to a better future, a future of freedom in Jesus Christ.

Think of what it means for your life now that you are free from the slavery of sin. You don’t have to worry about punishment for your failures. When you fail you can move on, you can forgive and forget when someone hurts you. All of that pain and suffering was placed on Jesus; you can give it to him and live free from it. You don’t have to worry about your eternal destiny. That’s sealed also by the death of Jesus. What happens to you after death is assured in Christ. Doesn’t that make your life different than it would be otherwise? You are free to do all kinds of things in service to other people. All different kinds of things to help them to see Jesus and his work for them. All different kinds of things to serve your friends and neighbors too. All the while pointing toward the one who has set you free to do those things.

That’s really what life is about. Being free in Jesus lets you see and know it. We have a small taste of that because of the freedoms we enjoy here in the US. We can be very thankful for that. But most of all we can be thankful that Jesus Christ has really set us free. Amen.

The peace of God, that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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