Sunday, July 31, 2022

Luke 12:13-21; The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost; July 31, 2022;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”” (Luke 12:13–21, ESV)

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

“Ah, a sermon about money!” Or maybe, “Oh no, a sermon about money!” You hear it all the time, “The church only wants to talk about money!”

“Bill, I was so disappointed.” Mary said, “I worked so hard to get Sally to come back to church.” Finally, after months of trying she gave in and came. Couldn’t Pastor have preached on the Epistle lesson for today? After it was all over Sally said to me, ‘Well, that’s just what I remembered it was like. The Pastor asked for money… again.’”

It’s probably one of the greatest excuses for not coming to church. “They’re only interested in getting into my wallet.” It’s something you’ve heard, as well as I.

“Pastor,” some people say. “You stick to ‘spiritual’ stuff and leave my bank account alone.” Well, Jesus spends a lot of time preaching about money. Today’s text is one of those times. Really, here though it’s not technically money that he’s preaching about, it’s greed. It’s the love of wealth, the love of money that he’s speaking against. St. Paul echoed Jesus’ caution about the love of money.
Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:6-10, ESV)

Jesus says, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” I know we too, say things like this all the time. We say that people are more important than money. And yet there is a marked difference in the way we treat people who seem to have it and those who don’t. There is an excuse that comes up in our minds that says, people who are poor must deserve it. They must be lazy. They must have some character flaw that led them to where they are. And we make excuses for avoiding them. Like: “There’s a difference between poor clean and poor dirty. I don’t mind those who are poor, but I can’t abide those who are lazy.” The excuse has a way of putting everyone who is poor in the lazy bucket. Well, my Christian friends, Jesus doesn’t see such a difference. He doesn’t care if a person has never done a decent day’s work in their lives. He doesn’t care if they’ve squandered all their money on prostitutes. He doesn’t care if they haven’t washed their cloths or themselves for a week. Jesus loves them just the same. In fact, he loved them and shows his love by giving up his very life to save them all. Lest we forget,
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, ESV)

He loved the whole world, that means every person in it, the rich, the poor, the filthy and the clean, and the lazy. With him there is no distinction. We gather here our lowly church that is maintained by the money we give, and we forget that we are really no different than the “lazy” or “dirty” people we so much want to avoid.

A good number of you probably give regularly to charities. But we do it in a very safe and distant way. A way that assures that we can continue feel good about doing it but have no contact with the people we are helping. We can drop our small amount of money in their laps, feel good about ourselves, and still not have to look them in the eye. It’s because we measure them by what they have, by how they dress, by how clean they are. Like it or not we measure people… and ourselves, by possessions. We carefully hold on to what we have, even when what we have is much more than we need. We do it precisely because we value ourselves by the abundance of our possessions, and we completely ignore the fact that God promises to take care of us and give us everything we need. And that’s exactly why this parable of Jesus speaks to us. Jesus makes sure of it. Instead of sitting on the outside clicking our tongues at the Rich Fool, Jesus makes sure we recognize that we are the Rich Fool. Jesus is showing us our own greed and warning us to be careful of it. He is not telling us to watch out for greed in other people.

Look at how he starts it out. “The land of a rich man produced plentifully.” You see, the man was already rich. He already had more than he needed. He needed nothing else for his life and support. Already his future was secure. He was rich; he didn’t even need to save for a rainy day. In the parable this already rich man received an extra blessing. “The ground produced a good crop.” He didn’t have anything to do with it. It wasn’t because he worked hard, or even because he already had money. You know how it is. A farmer can plant, fertilize, irrigate, cultivate to his heart's content and still the crop can be awful. God provides the harvest and the abundance in the harvest is as God decides. A bad year or a good year for crops is the decision of God. This rich man didn’t earn the abundance he had been given, the “land produced.” It was a gift over and above his need.

And look what he does. “He thought to himself…” His first thoughts are about how he is going to keep this gift. He only discusses the matter with himself. No financial advisor, no family, no friends, no God. The only question he asks himself is: “Where shall I store my crops?” There’s no concern for his neighbors, no concern for people who are hungry, no concern for anyone but himself. His solution is borne out of greed. He decides that he will tear down his already full barns and build bigger ones. “This is what I will do, with my grain. I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones for myself. And I’ll store all my stuff in my new and bigger barns.” And then he goes even one step farther. He congratulates himself on his wisdom. Just like he didn’t consult with anyone on his decision he tells himself just how smart he is.

“I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you’ve made it big. You’ve got it made. You can eat, drink and be merry.’” What he says betrays his real intentions. It shows his greed. He is his own god. He doesn’t even intend to share his parties in the future. He intends to celebrate alone.

But the blessed, rich man is mistaken in his self-sufficiency. The very soul he intends to pamper is just what he loses. He isn’t even able to begin his plans. It is all taken away from him. The very thing he thinks is wisdom, God calls foolish. The things he does that he thinks are very smart, are the very things that God says makes him a fool. He plans for many years; God takes his life that very night. There were not many years of pleasure to come. In fact, after the harvest there were simply a few hours of worry. “Who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” God asks. And the answer is: other people; other people that he should have been thinking about anyway. God’s intention was fulfilled. The gift was given through the rich man, to be given to other people. And that’s exactly what happened, anyway. Jesus also said,
“For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25, ESV)

It doesn’t take the Wisdom of Solomon to see that what the rich man has done amounts to nothing. We heard some of Solomon’s Wisdom today, too.
“I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19, ESV)

This struggle is as old as Solomon and older even. If we consider the rich fool and what Solomon is complaining about, we might come to the conclusion that the easiest way to remedy the problems that come with riches is to give away what isn’t needed. And that seems, at least in part, what Jesus is saying.

Look at the last verse of the text for today.
So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

The rich fool laid up treasure for himself. His problem wasn’t that he was rich. It was that, despite the abundance of the gifts that were given to him, he showed a lack of faith in God to provide. He was rich for himself, and not rich in respect to God. In fact, you might even say that God saw him as destitute. His real problem wasn’t even really what he did with his wealth. His real problem was that he wasn’t rich toward God. Being rich toward God has nothing to do with the things we have. It doesn’t even have anything to do with how we use the material gifts we’ve been given. Being rich toward God has everything to do with our relationship with him.

It should be very clear as we look at the rich fool and see ourselves in the way he thinks and acts, that we have no hope at all being rich toward God. It is true. We are by nature sinful and unclean, selfish, and greedy. But God in his great mercy has made us rich instead of poor, anyway. He has built a relationship for us; he has made us rich toward himself. It isn’t based on our bank accounts. It isn’t based on our cleanliness. It isn’t based on our abilities, good fortune, or our lack of laziness. If it were we’d still be poor miserable sinners, lost in our sin. God has given us the greatest gift of all. Our sinful and selfish nature has been put to death.
For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:19-20, ESV)

That’s what it means to be rich toward God. To have Jesus in the life you now live in the flesh. To have faith that what God declares for you is true. To believe that everything that he has done for you means that he will take care of you no matter what. You know what he has done, you know the promises he has made. The perfect life of Jesus; the perfect suffering and death of Jesus; the resurrection to new life by Jesus; is God’s gift to you. It’s God’s promise that you are forgiven, that your sinful nature doesn’t affect your relationship with him. To live by faith in the Son of God, is to hold on to the promises of Jesus who loves you and gave himself for you. That’s what it means to be rich toward God. That was it means to be really, really rich. Few of us will ever be called multi-millionaires. Few of us can really imagine how much money that really is. The richness that God gives us in Jesus is also totally beyond our understanding.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1 John 3:1, ESV)

You remember how I said that the rich fool was rich before the story started? You remember how I said that the rich fool was really you and me? Why do you think Jesus told us a story about ourselves? I think He did it so we can see that the story really has a different ending. We are already rich; we have been made God's children in baptism. We have all the promises he gives to his children. And yet God continues every day to give us more than we need, every day. We don’t have to worry about socking it away for our future; our future is already set and sure, we live by faith in the Son of God. The gifts that God gives us he gives us to share. Amen.

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

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Luke 11:1-13; The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost; July 24, 2022;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;

Taken from Concordia Pulpit resources, Vol 11, Part 3.
Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”” (Luke 11:1–13, ESV)

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

“Gimme, gimme, gimme!” that’s the cry of children to their parents. Even when it is clearly stated before walking into the store. “We’re going shopping, but you aren’t getting anything today.” Soon the parent will hear, “Dad, can I show you something.” (I used to be a pushover and gave in). “Give me dessert, give me an allowance. I’m hungry.” Infants learn from an early age that crying is a way to get what they want. “Change my diaper… give me food… hold me…” It might be expected that when Jesus teaches his disciples to pray that he would discourage this type of behavior. But instead, he teaches that that is exactly what prayer is: God’s children asking the Father. Jesus says we are to ask God for what we need because we are in such desperate need of what he must give. We need everything. God gives everything.

We are indeed very needy. But sometimes we forget that. Whenever we pray without remembering that that we are in great need we make our prayers meaningless. Remember the Pharisee and the publican. “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”” (Luke 18:10–14, ESV)

A key to this story of Jesus is what he says about the Pharisee. He got up, Jesus says, and prayed about himself. “I’m not in need like a thief, or an adulterer, and especially that tax collector. I don’t really need your help, I do well for myself.” Notice how he doesn’t ask God for anything. He’s good enough on his own, he’s done everything. But the tax collector’s prayer is clear. “God have mercy on me! I’m a sinner.” He shows that he knows that he needs everything that God has to give. In this parable Jesus teaches us to ask for what we have need of.

We have nothing at all that we can give God. Jesus even calls us evil. Even at our best, even though we know better than to give a snake to our child (Luke 11:11-13), we are still evil at heart. We are corrupt from the inside. Out of our hearts come all sorts of evil. We have nothing that we can give to God. Just like the man in the text who has nothing to give to the traveler at midnight. We have nothing we can offer God.

But God knows exactly what we need. He knows that we don’t even know what to ask for, so in the prayer that Jesus teaches us, he tells us what to ask for. By doing this he also teaches us what we need. He begins by saying, “whenever you pray say this: Father,” By calling God, Father, he puts us in our place as his child. And what a wonderful place it is. Through Holy Baptism God is our Father and we are his dear children. He kills our own sinful nature by drowning and in the water connected to His Word in Holy Baptism. Baptism connects us to everything the Jesus Christ did for us. His death on the cross, the shedding of his blood, the punishment for our sin is all laid on Jesus on the cross. We can understand how children need things from their fathers. Just as we needed our parents to give us things and our children need us to take care of them. God is the ultimate father; he knows what is best for us and gives us only good gifts. Especially, he knows how much we need forgiveness. As Luther says in the Small Catechism:
We are not worthy of any of the things for which we pray, neither have we deserved them. But we pray that He would grant them all to us by grace. For we daily sin much and indeed deserve nothing but punishment. (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Fifth Petition; McCain, P. T., ed. (2005). Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (p. 336). Concordia Publishing House.

Just as we would never give a snake to our children, he knows even more than we do what are the good things we need. He gives us his very own name so that we can always call on him whenever we are in need.

Through this prayer that Jesus teaches us he also teaches us to want the best gifts, “Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.” What we usually want in life is for our name to be hallowed. We want people to recognize us. We want people to remember us and treat us with respect. We spend a great deal of time trying to make our own kingdom come. Trying to get money and power. Trying to make the organization we belong to work the way we want them to work, thinking that they should cater to our needs and wants over the needs and wants of everyone else. And trying to gather all the good things in life for ourselves. But God redirects our prayer to ask for what is best for us.

He directs us to ask that God’s name be kept holy. Of course, God’s name is holy of itself. What we are asking in this prayer is that people would know who God is and what God has done for us. That the world would know that Jesus Christ came and gave his life for us. And that he suffered and was buried for us, and that he rose again. That in Jesus Christ we have the most important gift that God gives the forgiveness of sins. And to know that without him we have no life at all and no one to call upon for help and no way of knowing the truth about our salvation.

God’s kingdom comes to us especially when we come to hear his word. It comes to us especially in his Sacraments, Holy Baptism and The Holy Supper. When we pray for God’s kingdom to come, we are praying for God’s church here on earth. We are praying that God would give these gifts to us and use us to spread his Gospel through the whole world.

Jesus teaches us to ask God for all our needs, both spiritual and physical. “Give us each day our daily bread.” There is nothing we can do to earn them. Even our prayer for them doesn’t earn them for us. We trust in the father to give them, and he gives us daily work and through that gives what we need every day. And he wants us to give thanks to the one who gives the gifts. Again Martin Luther:
God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving. (The Fourth Petition)

“Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” Here Jesus sets us in a community that needs forgiveness. Just as those around us who sometimes hurt us need forgiveness, he teaches us that we need it also. In fact, we need forgiveness more than anything else. Without it we are lost… condemned to eternal punishment in hell, without it we have no relationship with the Father, and have no right to ask for anything at all. Without the forgiveness that comes through Jesus Christ on the cross we have no hope at all.

Life is a serious struggle. “Lead us not into temptation,” is the battle cry of Christians against the weapons of Satan, the world, and our own rebellious will, and sinful flesh. In this prayer Jesus teaches us that the stakes are high, it is either life or death. And without the work of the Holy Spirit in us we would always fail. But he sends the Holy Spirit to comfort and strengthen us in our times of trouble and temptation. And the unholy Trinity, Satan, the world, and our sinful flesh are no match for God's Holy Spirit. We need the Father’s deliverance to be able to endure. We need what the Father has to give to survive.

God, Our Father didn’t get tired of Abraham’s endless pleas for Sodom. Will you destroy the city if there are only 50, 40, 20, 10. God listened to Abraham’s prayer and even honored it? God, Our Father is not wearied by our cries for help. In fact, he delights in them as he loves to help us. He wants us to pray to him and ask him for whatever we need. He sent Jesus, his only son, to death to set us free. He sent Jesus, his son, to teach us to ask him for everything we need. Amen.

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

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Luke.10.38-42; Sixth Sunday after Pentecost; July 17, 2022;

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, ESV)
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;

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

“Martha was distracted…” now there’s a phrase we can relate to. Finally, here’s a person in the bible that we can really understand. Martha… we might even say, this is a woman after our own hearts. Distracted… there was a lot to be distracted about. Jesus had come to her house. She had “opened her home to him.” He was an honored guest and that meant a lot of preparation… like food. We don’t know how many had come with Jesus, but if his disciples are there that’s at least 13. That’s a lot of food. That’s a lot of beds. Decisions about who was going to sleep where… “Let’s see I’ll put Jesus in my room, and I’ll sleep on the couch. Peter, James, and John can sleep in the big bedroom, and Andrew…. You get the idea there was simply a lot of things that needed to be done. Martha, the text says, was distracted. She was being pulled around the house, concerning the many things of serving her guests. Martha was busy… she was busy with things of life… she was busy with the things that needed to be done.

And that is where we can relate to Martha. Life is busy. There are a lot of things to do.
- Didn’t we say that we were going to slow down and not do so many things this summer?
- After that project is done, I can finally get time to relax.
- As soon as I done taking care of this customer, I’ll be able to spend more time at home. You know, they are a very important customer.
- I know I said I’d help you, but the tractor is still broken down. I’ve been trying to get to it for weeks now and it still isn’t finished.
- What do you mean this new order is bigger than the last one? I can’t keep working overtime!
- Mom, did you forget I had to be at the fair today… I’m supposed to work serving at the food booth.
- Honey, I’d really like to eat at the table tonight, when was the last time we sat together at the table for a meal.
- No, I can’t go to Duluth again… I’ve already gone this week and I still didn’t get all the shopping done.
- “Hello Joe, this is John, I’m serving on the nominating committee at Church. I know your already serving as a Sunday school teacher, but …

A thousand things… pulling us a thousand different directions and it never seems to stop. Back and forth, to school, to work, back home, to church…

That’s why we can relate to Martha, she too was being pulled back and forth… to the kitchen to check on the food, to the bedrooms to check on the beds. Peter’s drink is empty, “Does Jesus really look comfortable. There is so much to do… how am I going to get it all done! So many places to be at once… so much running around to make sure everything is ready. And everyone is comfortable.”

Well at first reading we might get the idea that there was something wrong with what Martha is doing. Because, after all, Jesus does give her a mild rebuke. But the truth of the matter is that she was doing a good thing. Especially as far as the culture was concerned. You see if guest come to your house you have to make sure they are comfortable. You must take care of them… Look at all the trouble Abraham went through when he had visitors. He got his wife to cook three individual loaves of bread from the best flour they had in the house. He ran to his herd and picked the finest young tender calf he could find. He gave his guests curds and milk. Milk doesn’t keep long in the desert without refrigeration. Abraham went to a lot of trouble to take care of his guests. It was a good thing to do. Martha wants to serve Jesus out of her love for him. He has come to her house. She has invited him in. She wants him to be comfortable. It is a good thing for Martha to want to serve Jesus.

But… there is a very strong contrast in this reading today. Think about the text again. Before we are even told how busy Martha is, we are told about Martha’s sister, Mary. What is Mary doing? That’s right she is sitting at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he has to say. Really the English translation doesn’t really convey what Luke is trying to say. He’s building a strong contrast between Mary and Martha. Mary was sitting there, he says, and she kept on listening, despite what you are going to read next, she was intently sitting at Jesus feet hanging on every word he said. Despite all that was going on around her she was not distracted. Mary too, is motivated by her love for Jesus. She sits at his feet listening to him. She is being served by Jesus.

Well, the contrast doesn’t make Martha very happy. I imagine she too would have like to be able to sit at Jesus feet listening to him. But there were things that needed to be done. “Doesn’t Mary see that I am busy… doesn’t she know I need help… Why doesn’t Jesus tell her to help me?”
But Jesus makes the point very clear. “Martha, Martha, what you are doing is a good thing. I know you love me, but you are being distracted by many things that there will be time for later. Right now, I have come to your house. Right now, I am saying things I want you to hear. Right now, I am here to serve you. That is the one thing you can’t live without. That is the one thing that is needful. See Mary has chosen to be served by me, I won’t take that away from her.”

A different Gospel writer put it this way,
“… the he Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matt 20:28)

In the midst of Martha’s busy life, Jesus Christ came to serve her. In the midst of our busy lives, Jesus Christ has come to serve us. He has come to give us the one thing that we need most. Jesus Christ comes to serve… remember how he healed the man with the withered hand? How he restored sight to the blind? Remember too how he said to Jairus’s daughter, “Talitha Kum!”? and life returned to her cold dead body. Jesus Christ comes to serve… he served us beyond all our ability to serve ourselves. When we deserved death because of our selfish will to live our ever-busy lives without God. Jesus Christ served us by dying for us. When we deserved God’s wrath and punishment for our rejection of God’s control of our lives, Jesus Christ served us by enduring that wrath and punishment. When we deserved to die and stay dead, Jesus Christ served us by rising from the death and breaking its hold on us forever.

But that isn’t all… Jesus Christ is here right now to serve us again. We began our worship in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. He promises to be with us “when ever 2 or three are gathered in his name.” We began by coming before God bearing our sins. “We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed.” “Have mercy on us, serve us Lord Jesus”, we say. And he answers with forgiveness. He comes to his table here both host and food, to again serve us with forgiveness of sins. He regularly comes to serve us here, and we come to be served. Jesus knows the one thing needful, and he comes here to bring it to us, week after week.

Well, this is great! Aren’t we all Marys here? Aren’t we all sitting at Jesus feet listening to his word? Aren’t we all going to come to the Lord’s Table now every Sunday!? Aren’t we here today because we know that we need what Jesus offers? That’s where Martha comes in. We are so easily distracted. Life is so distracting it invades our thoughts even here. Let’s face it there are a lot of things that must happen just so we can gather together here for worship. There is a lot of service going on. There are elders, the alter guild, and musicians all serving Jesus. The communion ware needs to be set up. The offering must be counted… There are parents getting their kids up and ready. All these things are necessary, all these things are good, all of these things are done because we want to serve Jesus. Jesus has come to this house, and we want to serve him. Our minds can be pulled back and forth with all the preparation… in it all we are sometimes distracted from the one thing that’s needed. We sometimes forget that the reason we are here is because Jesus is here, and he brings the gifts he has won by his life, death, and resurrection.

Clear your mind. Jesus is here. Sit at his feet he has gifts to give you. See and listen, taste, and feel Jesus is here. He is saying to you right now,

“My Child; My Child; I am here today. I know that you love me… don’t be distracted by all these many things. Right now I am saying things I want you to hear. This is my body given for you… This is my blood… I forgive you all your sins. It is the one thing you can’t live without; it is the one thing that you need.” Amen.

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

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Luke 10:25-37; The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost; June 10, 2022;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church;
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”” (Luke 10:25–37, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord, Jesus Christ;

Normally this text would be a great time to start out with a Lawyer joke. But, knowing the possibility of an actual lawyer being here, I decided against it.

It is impossible to step over the lawyer in this text. He is central to Jesus’ use of a parable to teach. He’s an intelligent man. He didn’t get to be a lawyer by being lazy. He is an expert in the Jewish law. He likely knows the Pentateuch backwards and forwards. And not only that, but the text tells us a few very important details. Jesus answers his question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” with another question. Jesus is a good teacher. He asks the lawyer to tell what he knows about the law.
And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”” (Luke 10:27, ESV)
If it were me, I’d be thrilled if a student answered such a complete answer about God’s law. It so clearly reflects the two tables of the law in the Ten Commandments. The answer defines the importance of our relationship with God and how it effects our relationship with others. It is a good answer.

And Jesus says so.
“You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”” (Luke 10:28a, ESV)

Of course, he adds the additional statement. …do this, and you will live.”” (Luke 10:28b, ESV)

It has the desired effect. The lawyer wants to clarify. He wants to get a technical definition. He wants to “justify himself”. This is not a throwaway phrase. It is as central to the text as the lawyer himself. This is what lawyers do. They push the law to its limits for the sake of their clients. They seek exceptions if necessary. Good lawyers find ways to justify their clients’ actions. For this lawyer, he is his own client. He wants to be able to earn (inherit) his own salvation through his actions. He wants to know who he must love, but more importantly, who he doesn’t have to love.

It is what Jesus knows. I don’t think the people standing around know what is going on as clearly as Jesus. He sees into the heart of this lawyer. It doesn’t even have to be a miracle. Jesus simply knows people. He only has to be a good observer of human nature, to know that all people want to justify themselves. It’s the initial question that tells Jesus everything he needs to know.
Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 10:25b, ESV)

Do you see the problem with this question? The lawyer puts himself at the center of it. “What must I do to inherit…” Jesus could have stopped him right there. He could have said something like, “You don’t do anything to inherit. An inheritance is a gift based on your birth. You can do things to be written out of a will. But you don’t do anything to be in it, except being born.” I find it hard to believe that this educated lawyer doesn’t know that. In fact, the text tells us. He is testing Jesus. He is cutting up the law, looking for an exception.

His follow-up question is asked with a razor. “Who is my neighbor?” I wonder what answer he expects; a list of those he must love; A list of those who he doesn’t? That pushes the test. His human nature is on full display, again. The lawyers of the New Testament built a hedge around God’s law. They had 613 laws they put around the Commandments. At its heart the commandment to love your neighbor is non-exclusive. But if you know that that is impossible you have to make exceptions. You have to make it doable. Instead of keeping the one impossible law, you keep the 613 possible ones. It makes the law easier. It makes it so humans can do it.

Jesus will have none of it. The master storyteller tells a parable.

Before I relate it to you, though, I want to make a cultural point. The parable has a very specific structure. In those days, and now in the middle east, the most important point of a story is in the center. Everything is built around it. What’s before and after builds on it. It is what the people listening to Jesus would have understood and looked for. What’s at the center of this parable. The word “compassion”, “ἐσπλαγχνίσθη”. If you know what spelunking (cave exploration) is, you can understand this word. Compassion, for Jesus, is a deep-seated emotion, that drives action. You get down to the depths, deep in your inner organs. More on that in a bit. And one more thing, what you should always look for in Jesus’ parables is the thing that would never happen.

Jesus begins.

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.

This was a likely outcome. It probably happened often. The people listening might have even blamed the Samaritans (Jericho was their home), because not only did the Jews hate the Samarians but the Samaritans hated the Jews. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.” (Luke 10:31, ESV) Oops. People looked up to their religious leaders. That’s not likely. The Jews would expect the priest to stop and help. But he didn’t. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” (Luke 10:32, ESV)

Our lawyer isn’t referring to as a Levite. But a Levite was a master of the Jewish law. Our lawyer must be feeling a bit picked on now.
But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.” (Luke 10:33, ESV)

Here’s the thing that would never happen, according to the hearers. I like to think there was an audible gasp from the crowd. Jesus may have even paused after the word to add emphasis. No Samaritan is capable of such compassion. Especially this kind of compassion. The word is filled with onomatopoeia. It’s the sound the guts make when they hit the altar of sacrifice. They go “Splunk” when the priest slaps the guts of

the sacrificial animal on the altar to burn. It is a visceral image of God’s compassion. His way that offerings a way out for sinners.
He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.” (Luke 10:34, ESV)

The Samaritan does much more than expected. He uses oil and wine to sooth the wounds. He puts him on his own animal and brings him to an inn. And he doesn’t stop there, he takes care of him.
And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’” (Luke 10:35, ESV)

Two denarii, two days wages, is a tidy sum. More than was necessary and he even promises more.

Now Jesus hammers his point home.
Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers? (Luke 10:36, ESV)

Did you hear it? The man in the ditch isn’t the neighbor. It’s the Samaritan. He’s the neighbor. He’s the answer to the question, “who is my neighbor.”

The lawyer can’t even bring himself to identify the Samaritan. He says,
He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”” (Luke 10:37, ESV)

What is Jesus’ definition of your neighbor? Jesus turns the question. Don’t worry about who your neighbor is, you be one. You are to be the neighbor that helps those who God has placed before you to help. You are to be a neighbor to your family. You are to be a neighbor to the people who live and work around you in your community. And even those in your church. That’s how the Samaritan acted. He was the one God had place there to be a neighbor to the one who needed help.

You have often heard that parables are an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. It’s not a great definition but it works in this case. The earthly story tells you to care for people around you. But what is the heavenly meaning?

If we put ourselves in the parable, we are the Samaritan. The one who should help those in distress.

But Jesus has a different reason. He says in Matthew (13:13):
This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” (Matthew 13:13, ESV)

Faith in Jesus is required to understand it fully. Knowing who Jesus is, and what he has done for sinners is at the heart.

Jesus is the Samaritan. He has compassion on poor helpless sinners. His compassion led him to the cross as sacrifice for sin. He sees us, poor and helpless beside the road, doomed to die. He comes down into the ditch to drag us out and save us. What can we do about it? Nothing. It is all Jesus. It is all his compassion. He doesn’t care who you are. He doesn’t look twice. He acts. He gives. He loves.

It is said that when Jesus was suffering on the cross, he had each and every sinner in mind. Hitler, Stalin, the lady at the coffee shop, the bum walking down the street, and you. His compassion for you and your situation is foremost in his mind. So much so, that even a brutal bloody death on the cross is not too much for the Father to ask. So much so, that even the terror of hell is not too much for the Father to ask. His willingness to be the compassionate (ἐσπλαγχνίσθη) bloody sacrifice for you is not too much for the Father to ask.

And what is your response? The word “Christian” means “little Christ”. You act like Jesus. You have compassion on those that God has placed around you. Not to earn the inheritance. But to live in it. Amen.

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

Sunday, July 03, 2022

Galatians 6:14; Fourth Sunday after Pentecost; July 3, 2022;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. (Galatians 6:14-15, ESV)

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

(Thanks to Rev. Paul Raabe)

St. Paul says the world is dead to him. What about you, are you dead to the world? I’m not talking about a really sound sleep; I’m talking about being influence or not by the anti-Christians things that surround you every day. Clearly there are a lot of ideas that you come into contact with every day that you are tempted to believe, tempted to take to heart, tempted to say are not a problem for your life. Do you think like the world? Do you value what the world values?
Maybe I should ask the question a different way: What are you most proud of? What is your biggest boast? What’s the one thing in your life you couldn’t live without? The one thing you are unwilling to lose. Is it your job? Your children? Your savings account? Your family history? Your reputation? You’re standing in the community, position in church, your family held farmland?

Well, we must all confess that we all have things we like to boast in, things we think we brought about through our own hard work, ingenuity, accomplishment, or status. Things that we believe we deserve because of our own good works. That’s from the footprint of sin in our lives. Our sinful nature always wants to adopt the thinking of the broken world around us and to take credit for the good things in our life. We want to be recognized and held in high esteem by the world around us. We even want to be recognized by God for our good works.

That’s part of the problems they were having in the Christian Church in Galatia. And it’s one of the reasons Paul wrote a letter to them; a letter we know as the Book of Galatians. What they were valuing was being “good Jews.” Some of the members of the congregation were boasting that they were circumcised and followed the Jewish laws. They even held it over the non-Jews who were a part of the congregation. “If you really want to be a real Christian, you must be circumcised, like we are. You must follow the exact letter of the Jewish laws, as we do.” They were really boasting in their own accomplishments. “Look at us! Look at what we’ve done! Look at who we are!” That’s the way the world works, isn’t it? We must demand our own attention, to get ahead. We must boast in ourselves. Sometimes that means stepping on other people to push ourselves up.

Now Paul really had reason to boast. His credentials were of the highest caliber. His background was impressive, according to the Jewish religion. He was circumcised on the 8th day, just like the law demanded. He was a faithful member of the house of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin. He followed the strict laws of the Pharisees, went to the best school available at the time. He protected the laws he followed against all those who would make them less important. With zeal he sought out and killed Christians. In many ways Paul could “out-Circumcise” the folks who wanted everyone to follow the letter of the law.

But Paul didn’t boast in any of those accomplishments. In fact, he considered the garbage in light of what Jesus did for him. Paul only boasted in the “cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” Paul knew that all the praise of the world, all the good deeds he did in the name of his religion meant nothing at all to God. In fact, since they were self-centered and full of selfish pride, they were evil in God’s eyes. What God counts as important is not what Paul did but what Jesus did, “the cross of Christ.”

That’s really quite different from the way we think. That’s very different from the way we want to think. Whenever, we hear that God doesn’t consider our good works, we always say things to our ourselves like: “Maybe not other people’s good works, but mine count, to God. They have to. I’ve done some really good things. I sit in church every Sunday. I’m known for giving to mission work. I make sure everything gets done, and that it’s done right. This church couldn’t survive without me. That’s got to mean something to God. God’s got to notice me.” Don’t you see how that matches up with the way things are in the broken world? To get ahead we must be noticed by the boss. We’ve got to go public with our accomplishments or we’ll never be recognized. Volunteer hours must be counted to be praised. God doesn’t work the way we do. He doesn’t think the way we do. We see it most clearly in the only thing that Paul wanted to boast in, the cross of Jesus. What God shows us by sending Jesus to hang on the cross and suffer and die for us is that He doesn’t want to praise you or admire you, he wants to forgive you.

Just think about God’s Law. The way we want to use it is to say, “Look at how I measure up.” Usually, we use it to show that other people don’t live up to it and imply that we do. But God won’t let us get away with that. He tells us that breaking the law is a matter of the heart. We can make a show of keeping God’s law like the Ten Commandments, but in our hearts, we’d rather be breaking them. And the more we really look at them, the more we look at ourselves in light of them the more sin we see and the more hopeless we see our own situation. The world says, “Look inside yourself to find the good that is there.” God shows us that inside the human being is sin, hatred, and death.

But God wants to forgive you. In fact, it is his very nature to do so. The more he can forgive you the happier he is. You won’t find your happiness and life by looking inside yourself. There’s nothing to boast about there. You will find it outside of you, in the only thing you can boast in, the cross of Jesus. Inside of you is sin. Outside of you is a perfect Jesus. Inside of you is death. Outside of you is Jesus’ resurrection from death. That’s the Good News that’s worth boasting on.

Paul said that he was dead to the world, crucified to it. Jesus’ death on the cross put to death the old way of the world. All its values and boasts are worthless to you. They can’t do anything to help you. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead brought about a new world, a new creation. In another letter Paul says it like this. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV) That new creation is in you through faith in Jesus.

The old world doesn’t rule over you anymore. Jesus’ death is your death through baptism. Jesus new life, his resurrection is yours, too, through baptism. You have been crucified with Christ and now you no longer live, but Christ lives in you. You don’t have to boast in your achievements to get God to notice you. He knows who you and he considers you worthy because you are connected to Jesus.

Back in Galatia, some Christians boasted that they were circumcised. The non-Jewish Christians alternative was to boast that they hadn’t been circumcised. Paul said that neither was anything to boast about. What as worth boasting about is what Jesus did for them on the cross. What was worth boasting about was the new life they had received from Jesus.

Well, of course, it’s hard not to be influenced by what we see every day, where we live and work. It’s expected that people will conform to the ways of the world. We are told that boasting is necessary to get ahead, and we are likely to believe it. But to you and me, that world is dead. If you want to boast, boast every time you get wet with water and remember your Baptism. Boast every time you rise from your bed and step in the shower, sit in the bathtub, or pour a cold glass of water down your throat and remember the water that was poured on you in Jesus’ name. Boast that through Baptism you are dead to the world and your life to God. Boast in the Cross of Jesus that is yours. Amen.

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