Saturday, November 16, 2013

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; The Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost; November 17, 2013;


Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston and Mount Ayr, Iowa;

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6–13, ESV)

(from an sermon by Rev. Rick Marrs)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Our God is a working God. In fact it's what the Bible is all about. God is at work from the beginning, Genesis 1 to Revelation 21. He creates the world and everything in it by the word. Trees, flowers, birds, the stars of the heavens, the fish in the sea, the planets and the asteroids whizzing about space. And people. He created Adam and Eve, our first parents, and breathed into them the breath of life. And he placed them in the paradise of the garden of Eden which he created for them. Human beings are God's work. And after six days he took a Sabbath rest.

But the paradise of Adam and Eve may not be exactly what you're thinking of when you hear the word paradise. For you and me paradise is soaking up the sun in a Hawaiian beach cabana. The waiter walks through the sand bringing us a Blue Hawaii or one of those rum drinks with a little umbrella. In the beach hotel, the employees are scuttering around to take care of our smallest wants. Our vision of paradise is people working for us. But in Genesis the first thing God does is different:

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15, ESV)

Adam and Eve don't fall into sin until Genesis 3. In Genesis 2 God puts them to work. We think, maybe you've even been told, that work is the result of sin. So the picture in your mind of paradise is a Hawaiian vacation. But our working God has given us work to do, as a gift. He did not create human beings to the idle-ly lazing around, but tending the universe that he created for us. God gave Adam and Eve, and you and me, work to do, and it was good.

But Adam and Eve were not content to live and work in the garden. They wanted the one thing that wasn't theirs to have. They denied their relationship with God by eating the lies of Satan and the fruit that God told them to avoid. They wanted to be their own gods. They broke their perfect relationship with God and fell into rebellion. So, God ejected them from the garden. And he sent them out to work. This work was not the same as before:

“cursed is the ground because of you … thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you … By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground for out of it you were taken; for you are dust and to dust you shall return.”(Genesis 3:17ff)

Now work is difficult and dangerous. The cursed creation doesn't respond to human work the way that it should. The work remains. But work, in and of itself, is still a good gift of God. God uses it to provide for all of our needs. God gives you your daily work to do. It is a good gift from him to provide for you and your family. But not only that, your work is given to you to do good for the people that you serve. Teachers are there to serve their students and parents. Maintenance workers maintain buildings for the sake of those who live and work in them. Garbage collectors haul away the garbage so that people can live and work in clean places. Stay-at-home moms serve their children by taking care of them. Car salesmen and auto mechanics work so people can have transportation so that they can get to work. Pastors teach you God's word so that you can work freed from the guilt of your sin. People in grocery stores work so we can have food. Grown children take care of their elderly parents. Elderly and shut in folks have opportunity to pray for the work of others. These are the things we been given to do. They are our vocation. Not our vacation. Our vocation is the work that God gives us to do to serve one another in the places that he has given us to serve. And I'm not just talking about are paid jobs either. We are given to serve one another as parent, child, friend, neighbor, and good citizen. All of these things have their associated tasks and work. When God calls us to serve our neighbors in these ways we are the "masks of God, behind which He wants to remain concealed and do all things.[1]" it's all connected to exactly what St. Paul writes:

If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6–13, ESV)

We see examples of hard workers in the Bible, too. Noah built the ark to save the living creatures from the flood. Abraham had huge flocks and herds. Moses was a Shepherd before he shepherded God's people out of slavery in Egypt. Paul was a tent maker. In our text here he talks about making his own living that way. And Jesus, our Savior, was a carpenter. Hard work, difficult work, has been around and promoted by God since Adam and Eve fell into sin.

But Jesus didn't come to give us an example of how to work hard. His vocation was so much greater than that. Jesus is the word made flesh, the very same word through which God made the world. He is the very word of God that came to restore human beings and all creation to a right relationship with God. His life, death, and resurrection are the work, the vocation, he came to do. Jesus Christ serves sinners. He serves us sinners by taking the punishment we deserve for being lazy and idle. He us serves sinners by removing the need for us to earn our salvation with our good works. We are saved by the gift of faith in all the Jesus Christ has done for us. We do not have to do good works for ourselves. Jesus has done all the good works we need. Now, we are able to serve our neighbors. We don't do good works focused on God's reaction. We do good works focused on our neighbors needs.

Our God is a working God who is blessed us with work to do. In response to God's saving work for us in Jesus Christ, we are privileged to work in the world for the sake of our neighbors. Amen.

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

[1] Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 14: Selected Psalms III. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 14, p. 114). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

No comments: