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Sermon for August 2, 2020, Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 14:13-21 (Ninth Sunday after Pentecost—Series A)

“The Compassion of Jesus”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

August 2, 2020

 

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our text is the Gospel lesson recorded in Matthew 14:

13Now when He had heard, Jesus went away from there in a boat to a desolate place by Himself. And when the crowds heard, they followed Him by foot from the villages. 14And when He got out of the boat, He saw a large crowd and He had heartfelt compassion on them and healed their sick. 15Now when it was evening, the disciples came to Him, saying, “This place is desolate, and the hour has now passed. Send the crowd away so that they might go away into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” 17And they said to Him, “We have nothing here except five loaves of bread and two fish.” 18And He said, “Bring them here to me.” 19And after He had commanded the crowds to recline on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish and, looking up into heaven, He blessed, broke, and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples [gave them] to the people. 20And all ate and were satisfied. And they took up the abundance of broken pieces—twelve baskets full! 21And those who had eaten were about five thousand men besides women and children.

 

         Jesus wanted to be alone. He had just received heartbreaking news. His cousin, John, had been executed by King Herod Antipas. No doubt drunk at his birthday party, having very much enjoyed his step-daughter’s dancing, Herod swore to give the girl anything she wanted, up to half of his kingdom. Prompted by her mother, Herodias, she asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter (Matt. 14:8). And that is what she received. John’s disciples “came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus” (14:12).

         That is the reason why Jesus goes away via boat to a desolate place. Our Lord wanted time to grieve. He personally knew the sting of death and the deep heartache that death causes. This is comfort for us in our grief. Jesus experienced the very sorrow and loss that we experience, the very pain and suffering that the enemy death brings to humanity. As true man, Jesus was subjected to the sadness and anguish that death causes. He experienced it just as you and I do. So He is the perfect One to help us in our grief and sorrow. He understands completely the loss even when others do not.

         But Jesus doesn’t get this time to grieve. As with us, life goes on. The crowds heard that Jesus was on the move. While He crossed the Sea of Galilee in the boat with the Twelve, they followed Jesus on foot from town to town along the shore and reached the place where Jesus was going before He arrived. Going ashore, Jesus saw a large crowd.

         Was Jesus disappointed? Was He frustrated? He was seeking time alone with His disciples in His grief. He wanted time in prayer with the Father, as was His custom. But the lonely place is no longer lonely. The desolate place is jam-packed. But notice what Jesus doesn’t do. He doesn’t turn the boat around and run away. He doesn’t whine and complain. Jesus set aside His needs and had compassion on the crowd and healed their sick (v.14).

Even though Jesus has a need for solitude at this time of grief, He has compassion on this mass of people. In Matthew 9:36 we read, “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.” Then, Jesus felt compassion at a spiritual problem. In today’s Gospel, Jesus feels compassion as He faced people’s physical needs, the physical sicknesses of the crowd and, then later, because they need to eat.

What are our needs that prompt Jesus to have compassion on us? Like the crowds in that desolate place, we also have physical needs. We suffer from sickness and pain, from weakness and deformity. We struggle through grief and heartache during the losses of life. There are times we suffer from lack and from want. Money, food, or clothes may be in short supply. We have to work two or three jobs. We’re tired and worn out, depressed and anxious.

Jesus directs us to Himself in these times of physical need, even as He did the disciples. “You give them something to eat.” The disciples balked at the very idea, “We have nothing here except five loaves and two fish!” The disciples were not looking to their Master to provide what was needed. In our moments of physical need, Jesus directs us also to trust in Him, to trust in the heavenly Father who feeds the birds and clothes the flowers. Jesus invites us to pray to the Father, “Give us this day our daily bread,” trusting that God gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, so that we pray that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving (Small Catechism).

Our entire life and that of all people depends on God. He is the God who has compassion on us, making the earth fruitful and blessing us with the ability to work for the things we need. He has compassion on us through other people. When we are unable to work and do not have, God provides for our needs through the gifts of others—doctors, nurses, counselors, food banks, clothing banks, housing agencies, senior services, youth agencies, and let’s not forget His Church!

         It is saving faith that trusts in Jesus even when the situation looks hopeless from our human perspective. Like the disciples, we are acutely aware of our limited resources. But unlike the disciples at the time, we also know Jesus’ power and goodness. Five loaves and two fish in the compassionate hands of Jesus becomes a feast in which everybody eats their fill.

The compassion of Jesus is something that you and I can bank on all the time. He’ll never let us down. Remember, at the time, Jesus had His own need, but He set it aside to have compassion on the crowd of needy people. In fact, it was our need, humanity’s need, that prompted Jesus in compassion to take on human flesh and become fully man. He set aside, for a time, His royal throne in heaven to walk among flesh-and-blood sinners who have all kinds of spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical needs. Because of sin, we are twisted, always inclined to disobey God. Because of sin, the whole creation is broken and amiss. We suffer the ravages of life in a messed-up world day after day—earthquakes, floods, famines, disease, murder, hunger, thirst. All the different manifestations of creation’s brokenness give rise to Jesus’ compassion toward us. God the Son in the person of the God-Man Jesus Christ came to reestablish His rule over creation and to restore everything that is broken, twisted, amiss, and dying. And that includes you and me.

We read in Philippians 2, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8 ESV). Jesus’ compassion to save you and me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil took Him to a cross. On that cross, Jesus bled and died for you and me and all people. His death purchased and won the forgiveness of all our sins, restoring us to the full favor of our heavenly Father. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead promises our resurrection from death and a place at the heavenly banquet table forever. The God who had compassion on us by giving us His One-of-a-Kind Son to suffer, die, and rise again, is the same God who will seat us with Him at a feast where we will eat with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit at a banquet occupied by real, holy, living, flesh-and-blood people who are all recipients of the Lord’s compassion by grace through faith.

There’s nothing more that we could ever need. We have a compassionate God and Savior, Jesus Christ. We have forgiveness of sins and the life everlasting. He richly and daily provides all that we need to support this body and life. He understands our needs—our hunger, our thirst, our pain, our sickness, our grief—and He is with us in the midst of our need. Jesus set His needs aside so that you can always be provided for by the God who loves you beyond measure. Trust ever more firmly in Him. Look in faith to Christ who will always provide, just not always in the way you might expect. Remember, He provided a feast with five loaves and two fish. He provided a feast of forgiveness and life through a cross. He will continue to provide for you in all your needs of body and soul. In the compassion of Jesus, you have everything that you need. Amen.

 

 

Sermon for July 26, 2020

Matthew 13:44-52 (Eighth Sunday after Pentecost—Series A)

“Purchased”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

July 26, 2020

 

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our text is the Gospel lesson for the day, from Matthew 13:

44“The reign of heaven is like a treasure having been hidden in a field, which, when a man had found it, he hid it, and from his joy, he went and sold all that he had and bought that field. 45Again, the reign of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls. 46And when he found a very valuable pearl, he went away and sold all that he had and bought it. 47Again the reign of heaven is like a net cast into the sea gathering together all kinds of fish. 48After it has been filled, when they had drawn it up onto the seashore and had sat down, they gather the good into containers, but the worthless they threw away. 49So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the evil from the midst of the righteous 50and they will throw them into the fiery furnace. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth there. 51Do you understand all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” 52He said to them, “On account of this every scribe who has become a disciple of the reign of heaven is like a household who brings out of his treasures new things and old things.”

 

          Disciples of Jesus are in the world as “sheep in the midst of wolves” (7:15; 10:16). Disciples of Jesus are in the world—the wheat growing together with the weeds (13:30). As disciples who live by faith in Jesus Christ, we are not removed from the world. Temptation is not taken away. We are daily assaulted by the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh.

          In another parable, Jesus tells us again of this reality of the reign. Jesus said, “Again the reign of heaven is like a net cast into the sea gathering together all kinds of fish.” All kinds of fish are people (just like the weeds and the wheat). There are those who hear the Word and receive the gift of saving faith, forgiveness, and eternal life. There are those also who reject that gift and refuse the promises of God that are for them in the Gospel. As in Jesus’ parable of the weeds and wheat, so also here in the parable of the net, the day will come when the Lord Jesus will send His angels to separate the believers from the non-believers. The weeds will be thrown into the fire to be burned; the worthless fish thrown away; the righteous ones separated from the evil ones; those without saving faith in Jesus thrown into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth but the righteous who live by faith receiving eternal salvation.

Wheat and weeds growing together; good fish and bad fish in the same net. But at the End, all things will be put right at the final judgment at the close of this age. Once again, this means that, for now, you and I get life in the reign of heaven in the midst of stumbling blocks and temptations and evil. And sometimes we are simply buried under the challenges and dangers of our own sinful flesh, of the hostile world around us, and of course, of the father of lies, the devil. But there is the good news of the reign of heaven that we cannot forget. Buried under the challenges, temptations, and dangers, you belong to Jesus.

Before the parable of the net, Jesus taught, “The reign of heaven is like a treasure having been hidden in a field, which, when a man had found it, he hid it, and from his joy, he went and sold all that he had and bought that field. Again, the reign of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls. And when he found a very valuable pearl, he went away and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Sandwiched between the explanation of the parable of the weeds and wheat and the parable of the net are these two really short comparisons. Jesus tells us with these stories what the reign and rule of heaven is about and what God is doing in Jesus who brings the reign of heaven to people. Believers and non-believers will live together until the Last Day. That is true. And believers like you and me are faced with all the trials and temptations and struggles of this life. But notice, in Jesus’ stories the man and the merchant did whatever it took in order to possess what each valued so highly—the treasure and the pearl—even to the point of selling everything he had!

Buried under the challenges and dangers of the devil and his temptations . . . you belong to Jesus. Submerged beneath the challenges and troubles of the hostile world around you . . . you belong to Jesus. Swamped by the weakness of your own sinful flesh with all its ungodly desires . . . you belong to Jesus. You belong to Jesus because you are the treasure. You are the pearl of great value. You are worth the very price of everything God has—the price and cost of His own Son’s holy, sinless life given into sacrificial death for you.

God the Son, Jesus, took on human flesh, without sin. Jesus gave up His glory, His power and prestige, to be born in this world. He gave up His popularity and safety to complete His earthly mission to save the world from sin and death. Jesus gave up His life on a cross so that He might make the perfect and full payment to redeem, to buy you back, from the power of sin, death, and the devil. Only Jesus the sinless God-Man could give His life as the ransom payment for the world (Matt. 20:28). And Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross was to purchase and win you back from the power of the devil, the world, and the sinful flesh. This indeed was an act and expression of divine grace because you are the treasure in Jesus’ eyes. You are the pearl He so wants that He gave up everything for you.

In God’s rule and reign, you are the treasure and the pear of great value. Out of pure, fatherly divine goodness and mercy, your heavenly Father gave His One-of-a-Kind Son to be your Savior because He loves you so much. 1 Peter 1:18-19, “For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish” (1 Peter 1:18-19 CSB). The Lord Jesus gave you His everything, His own perfect life to the death of a cross so that you would have forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus gave you His everything so that you are redeemed from sin, death, and Satan. How did we learn it from the Small Catechism? “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.”

Jesus Christ saved you from the power of the devil, the world, and the flesh so that you might be God’s own child and live under Christ in His reign and rule. You are now equipped by the Spirit and empowered by the Gospel and Sacraments of Christ to stand against devil, world, and flesh as victors in Christ. St John writes in his first epistle, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4–5 ESV).

God the Father, through the death and resurrection of His Son, has purchased you and made you His own treasured possession! The devil wants you to believe that you are worthless and inferior. He wants you to think that you were born to lose, to fail under the temptations and trials of this life that he sets before you. Satan desires you to think that you are defeated by the evil that the world throws in your face and by the desires that your own flesh lusts for in your heart. But you are not! Because of the gift of God’s forgiveness and redemption through Jesus’ shed blood, you are reborn by grace through faith to win! You are already more than conquerors though Jesus Christ! (Rom. 8:37).

As baptized children of God, all your sin and guilt stand forgiven. You are able, through the power of the Holy Spirit who works through God’s Word and Sacraments, to say no to sin and to overcome the temptations of the devil, the world, and the flesh. You also have the guarantee and assurance of resurrection and life forever in the Lord’s new creation at the Last Day. Let there be no doubt, then, that you belong to Jesus and you have infinite value to Him. Amen.

 

 

Sermon for July 19, 2020

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 (7th Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 11—Series A)

“Of Weeds and Wheat”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

July 19, 2020

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Our text is our Gospel Reading from Matthew 13:

24He put before them another parable saying, “The reign of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25While the men were sleeping his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26Now when the growing plants sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also appeared. 27And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? So where did the weeds come from?” 28He said to them, “An enemy did this.” So the slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” 29And he said, “No, lest when you should gather the weeds you might uproot the wheat together with them. 30Leave them to grow together until the harvest, and at the time of the harvest, I will say to the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them into bundles in order to burn them up, but the wheat, gather into my barn.’” . . . 36The He dismissed the crowd and went into the house and His disciples came to Him saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” 37He answered and said, “The sower of the good seed is the Son of Man. 38The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the reign. Now the weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the completion of the age and the harvesters are angels. 40Therefore, just as the weeds are gathered together and burned up by fire, so it will be at the completion of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels and they gather out of His reign all the causes of sin and those who are lawless 42and they will throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous ones will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The one who has ears, let him hear.”

 

          Perhaps Jesus simply doesn’t like weeding the garden. “Leave [the weeds and the wheat] to grow together until the harvest.” But Jesus’ parable isn’t about landscaping or having the most pristine garden in the neighborhood. He’s describing what the kingdom of heaven, the reign and rule of God in Jesus, is like. And it’s like a field in which a farmer’s enemy sowed weeds on top of the wheat. One simply cannot go into the field and collect the weeds without damaging the wheat. For now, both must grow together.

          The reason for this makes complete sense when you understand that the weeds are specifically a type of weed called darnel, which is related to rye grass. Interestingly enough, the grains of darnel are poisonous, so to have it mixed in with wheat renders the crop commercially useless as well as potentially harmful. In the early stages of growth, both darnel and wheat look remarkably similar. Even though darnel has narrower leaves, when the plants are growing, it is too hard to tell which is wheat and which is darnel. A darnel infestation isn’t readily apparent until the plants begin to form ears of grain, but by that time, to try and remove them, as Jesus rightly said, would also root up the wheat because their roots have intertwined.

          In Jesus’ explanation of the parable, He identifies the darnel, the weeds, as the “sons of the evil one” and the good seed as the “sons of the reign.” Like the darnel and wheat in the parable, it is nearly impossible to tell these two apart. If you walked into a Fenway Park full of people, could you separate the believers in Jesus from those who do not believe in Jesus? Of course not. Only God sees saving faith in the heart. And even non-believers do “nice” things and act like believers sometimes, and believers still sin and act like non-believers sometimes. So for now, both Christians and non-Christians, believers and non-believers, must “grow together” in the field of this world.

          This reality of the reign of heaven means that Jesus’ disciples live in a world in which there are all kinds of “causes of sin and those who are lawless.” There are constant temptations to sin surrounding believers in Jesus. Remember, weeds and wheat grow together until the harvest!

          These “causes of sin” are described by the word ska,ndalon (skandalon), from which we get our English word “scandal.” There are “scandalous” things that we as believers in Jesus are attracted to do and think, to say and desire. There are “stumbling blocks” to our life of faith, enticements to false belief. There are temptations to sin as well as those who place temptations before us. St. Paul tells the Roman Christians, “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who create dissensions and stumbling blocks/causes of sin contrary to the teaching that you learned” (Rom. 16:17).

          In the Large Catechism, Dr. Luther identifies three kinds of stumbling blocks that we, as believers, must, for now, endure. They are temptations of the flesh, of the world, and of the devil. He wrote:

For we dwell in the flesh and carry the old Adam about our neck. He exerts himself and encourages us daily to unchastity, laziness, gluttony and drunkenness, greed and deception, to defraud our neighbor and to overcharge him [Galatians 5:19–21; Colossians 3:5–8]. In short, the old Adam encourages us to have all kinds of evil lusts, which cling to us by nature and to which we are moved by the society, the example, and what we hear and see of other people. They often wound and inflame even an innocent heart.

 

Next comes the world, which offends us in word and deed. It drives us to anger and impatience. In short, there is nothing but hatred and envy, hostility, violence and wrong, unfaithfulness, vengeance, cursing, railing, slander, pride and haughtiness, with useless finery, honor, fame, and power. No one is willing to be the least. Everyone desires to sit at the head of the group and to be seen before all [Luke 14:7–11].

 

Then comes the devil, pushing and provoking in all directions. But he especially agitates matters that concern the conscience and spiritual affairs. He leads us to despise and disregard both God’s Word and works. He tears us away from faith, hope, and love [1 Corinthians 13:13], and he brings us into misbelief, false security, and stubbornness. Or, on the other hand, he leads us to despair, denial of God, blasphemy, and innumerable other shocking things. These are snares and nets [2 Timothy 2:26], indeed, real fiery darts that are shot like poison into the heart, not by flesh and blood, but by the devil [Ephesians 6:12, 16].

 

Great and grievous, indeed, are these dangers and temptations, which every Christian must bear. We bear them even though each one were alone by himself. So every hour that we are in this vile life, we are attacked on all sides [2 Corinthians 4:8], chased and hunted down. We are moved to cry out and to pray that God would not allow us to become weary and faint [Isaiah 40:31; Hebrews 12:3] and to fall again into sin, shame, and unbelief. For otherwise it is impossible to overcome even the least temptation.[1]

         

          For now, this is the reality of life in the reign of heaven—weeds and wheat growing together. While we live in the flesh and have the devil around us, sowing causes of sin and placing stumbling blocks before us, we must endure temptations and trials. Sometimes we are even engulfed in them! But we pray, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation,” so that we may not fall and be drowned in them.[2]

          And we won’t be. The reign of heaven has drawn near to us in the person and work of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. The divine Son of God “was made like his brothers in every respect” (Heb. 2:17). The writer to the Hebrews assures us that “because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted,” and that Jesus “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 2:18; 4:15). Jesus knows firsthand what it is like to live in this world among the stumbling blocks and the temptations of the devil, the world, and humanity’s sinful flesh.

It was Jesus who, in His earthly life, overcame these temptations. He did not break any of the Commandments. He kept them perfectly. He didn’t disobey God. Jesus never sinned. This perfect life Jesus lived on our behalf. He was sinless and kept God’s Law perfectly as our substitute so that you and I, and all people, get credited with Christ’s perfection. In exchange, Jesus took all our sinfulness and our disobedience and our guilt upon Himself as if it were His. He offered Himself as the sacrifice to cleanse us from all our sins, once and for all. “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being made holy” (Heb. 10:14). The result of the life, death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ is your forgiveness and your eternal life. The result of Jesus’ saving work is that you have been made children of God by your Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. You are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ Jesus,” Paul says, “if indeed we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:17 NET).

          As the forgiven children of God who live by faith in Jesus Christ, we are not removed from the field of the world. We grow together with weeds sown by the devil. Temptation is not taken away or removed. But know this, as Luther teaches us, “To feel temptation is, therefore, a far different thing from consenting or yielding to it. We must all feel it, although not all in the same way. Some feel it in a greater degree and more severely than others. . . . Such feeling, as long as it is against our will and we would rather be rid of it, can harm no one. For if we did not feel it, it could not be called a temptation. But we consent to it when we give it the reins and do not resist or pray against it. Therefore, we Christians must be armed [Ephesians 6:10–18] and daily expect to be constantly attacked. No one may go on in security and carelessly, as though the devil were far from us. At all times we must expect and block his blows. Though I am now chaste, patient, kind, and in firm faith, the devil will this very hour send such an arrow into my heart that I can scarcely stand. For he is an enemy that never stops or becomes tired. So when one temptation stops, there always arise others and fresh ones.”[3]

          This is real life in the reign as we live it for now. But there is hope and comfort. You belong to God the Father through faith in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. When you do fall into temptation and sin, God has already forgiven you all your sins by means of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. Forgiven and being made holy by the work of the Spirit through Word and Sacrament, you are children of God who have been taught to call God, “Father.” And so in the midst of temptation and the stumbling blocks that the devil, the world, and the flesh put in your way, you can speak to God from the heart, “’Dear Father, You have asked me to pray. Don’t let me fall because of temptations.’ Then you will see that the temptations must stop and finally confess themselves conquered.”[4]

          Today our Lord promises that there will come a time when the temptations and the stumbling blocks to sin will end. On the Last Day, “The Son of Man will send his angels and they gather out of His kingdom all the causes of sin and those who are lawless and they will throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous ones will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

          There will come a time, when we do not know, that the Lord will finally destroy all sin and evil, the devil and all his works and all his ways. Jesus gave John a visual picture in Revelation 19 and 20. John sees Jesus visually depicted as a rider on a white horse, clothed in a robe dipped in blood. His name is The Word of God. On His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. The causes of sin, the temptations, and the spiritual enemies of God’s people are thrown into the lake of fire. The devil is thrown into the lake of fire to be tormented forever and ever. Death and the Grave are thrown into the fiery pit. And then comes a new heaven and earth. God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit will dwell with His people and be with them as their God. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore” (Rev. 21:3-4).

          It is then that you and I and all believers in Christ will shine like the sun in the Father’s kingdom. “No longer will there be anything accursed (No temptations! No stumbling blocks! No sin!). . . . They will need no light of lamp or sun, the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:3, 5).

This final victory is guaranteed to you by the very promise of Him who lived, suffered temptation, died for your sins, and rose again to make you an heir of this glory and kingdom. The day is coming. Your Lord Jesus will come again and the final victory will be yours. God might seem slow, but he is never late. For now, we get life in the reign of heaven in the midst of stumbling blocks and temptation. Then, all things will be put right. Nevertheless, the victory is already yours in Jesus Christ.[5] You are already more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Rom. 8:37). Let today’s Word from God encourage you, give you hope, and stand you firm on your feet so that you may continue to follow Jesus and to serve Him till that day of final victory comes. Amen.

 

 

[1] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 420–421.

[2] Ibid., 421.

[3] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 421.

[4] Ibid., 421.

[5]Jeffrey A. Gibbs, Matthew 11:2-20:34 (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2010), 711.

Sermon for July 12, 2020

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 (Sixth Sunday after Pentecost—Series A)

“Hearing Affects Living and Living Affects Hearing”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

July 12, 2020

 

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our text is the Gospel lesson for the day, from Matthew 13:

 

1On that day, when Jesus had done out of the house, he was sitting by the sea, 2and many crowds gathered to him, so that after getting into a boat, he sat, and all the crowd was standing on the shore. 3And he spoke many things to them by means of  parables, saying, “Behold, the one who was sowing went out in order to sow. 4And while he was sowing, there were seeds which fell by the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5And other seeds feel on the rocky ground where they did not have much soil, and immediately they came up because they did not have depth of soil. 6But when the sun had risen, they were scorched, and because they did not have root, they were withered. 7And other seed fell on the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them. 8And other seeds fell on good soil and continued to give fruit, some a hundred and some sixty and some thirty. 9Let the one who has ears hear.” . . . 18“Therefore, you, hear the parable of the one who sowed. 19When anyone hears the word of the reign and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one who was sown by the path. 20And the one who was sown on the rocky ground, this is the one who is hearing the word and immediately is receiving it with joy. 21But he does not have root in himself, rather, he is temporary, and when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he is caused to stumble. 22And the one who was sown into thorns, this is the one who is hearing the word, and the worry of this age and wealth’s deceitfulness choke the word and it becomes unfruitful. 23And the one who was sown upon good earth, this is the one who is hearing the word and understanding it, who indeed begins to bear fruit and to produce, one a hundred, one sixty, and one thirty.”

 

King Solomon wrote at the beginning of the Book of Proverbs, “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance” (Prov. 1:5 ESV). No matter how wise or knowledgeable a person might consider themself to be, there is much more to learn from the Word of God. Wisdom and understanding come from God through Jesus Christ. Understanding is a free gift from God through the hearing of the Word, received by faith. But Jesus also said, following the parable of the sower, as recorded by St. Luke, “Take care then how you hear” (Luke 8:18 ESV). We are familiar with the Biblical truth that hearing the Word affects our living. How does our living affect the hearing of the Word of God?

The late Rev. Dr. Norma Nagel frequently shared with us seminary students the primacy of the Word of God in the Gospel: “The Word is what does it.” In various contexts, the Word is what does it—creates saving faith in the heart that trusts in Jesus, God’s Son, as Lord and Savior. It is the Word that does it—delivers the forgiveness of sins through the hearing of the Gospel message of Christ crucified and risen. It is the Word that does it, making Baptism a “washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). It is the Word that delivers to us Christ’s true Body and Blood with the bread and the wine in Holy Communion, gifting to us forgiveness, life, and salvation.

As we heard last Sunday from Matthew 11, it is the Word of Christ that reveals the Father to us. It is the Word that shows us the gracious heart of God in His Son Jesus who grants us a pleasant yoke and a light burden as we find our rest in Him. The Gospel Word is God’s gift to us, bringing the reign of heaven to us in the person and saving work of Jesus Christ. Only by hearing the Word is saving faith created so that a person apprehends by the gift of faith the forgiveness Christ won for him or her on the cross. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17 ESV).

The Word, then, is a Means of Grace. It is the way God has chosen to deliver to people personally the forgiveness and everlasting life that Jesus alone purchased with His blood shed on the cross. The Sacraments of Baptism and Lord’s Supper are the Word combined with a visible element (water, bread, and wine) that offers, gives, and seals the forgiveness of sins. But it is the Word that does it! Not the water; not the bread and the wine. The Word of the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. For the Word delivers Jesus to us. The Word gives us His forgiveness. The Word creates and sustains and strengthens faith that receives the gifts of Christ’s cross.

It is not at all foreign to us as Christian, then, that the right use of the Word is to hear it—to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest it! Only the Word of Christ gives us faith and forgiveness and new life. Only the Word of God by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit changes our behavior from sinner to saint, conforming us more and more to the image of Christ. “The Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith” (SC: Explanation of the Third Article). So Jesus admonishes in our reading, “Let the one who has ears hear!” And again, “Therefore, you hear the parable of the one who sowed.” Yes, really hear it. Really listen to understand, to inwardly digest it by taking it to heart.

It’s not only important, then, that we hear the Word of God, but it is also important how we hear it. Hearing the Word affects our living. We receive the forgiveness of sins, life, salvation, faith, strength for the day from the Gospel. It makes us “new creations.”  But living also affects our hearing of the Word.

Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seed shows that, although we cannot do anything to add to the power of the Word of Christ, we can certainly do something to impede its power. “When anyone hears the Word of the reign of heaven,” Jesus begins His explanation, “the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.” Satan is active in the lives of all who hear the Word. He is active to thwart your hearing and understanding of the Word of truth. In fact, it is the evil one, along with your own sinful flesh and the world, that tempt you to ignore the Word by not coming to the Divine Service, by skipping devotional readings of the Bible. Tribulation and persecution because of the Word of Christ, because you are a disciple, can also inhibit the hearing of the Word, causing a person to stumble and fall away because of the ridicule or the hatred that the Word brings. Then there are all those “thorns” of this earthly life—carelessness, indifference, worry, material possessions, and pleasure. These thorns choke the Word of God and inhibit its success in our lives because we turn from the Word to the comfort of things and pleasure rather than finding solace and comfort and strength in that Gospel Word.

But do not loose heart. The Gospel makes the soil (you!) grow things, like faith and good works. The Gospel Word of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for the forgiveness of your sins is dynamite! It is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16 ESV). The Word is what does it! The Word that created your faith in Christ strengthens and sustains your faith in the Savior throughout the trials, the persecutions, and the thorny spots of this life. Despite Satan’s best efforts, the Word still goes forth and does what God has sent it to do—deliver to you and all people the forgiveness of sins and the life everlasting that the Savior won for the world on the cross. We Lutherans know this fact well because we sing it with such conviction:

Though devils all the world should fill,
All eager to devour us,
We tremble not, we fear no ill;
They shall not overpow’r us.
This world’s prince may still
Scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none.
He’s judged; the deed is done;
One little word can fell him. (LSB 656:3)

 

The Gospel Word also grows in you the fruits of faith, empowering you by the Spirit to show forth the good works that demonstrate your faith in concrete ways as your love for other people in the name of Jesus is displayed in mercy. Jesus explained, “And the one who was sown upon good earth, this is the one who is hearing the word and understanding it, who indeed begins to bear fruit and to produce, one a hundred, one sixty, and one thirty.” That’s you, disciples of Jesus Christ, because the Sower went out to sow.

Jesus knew where the seed of the Word would be scattered. He sowed His reckless love to all people in all situations in life. He went to the cross to pay for all sins and to suffer death so that you and all people might have forgiveness and life everlasting. And the Word continues to be sown today in all life’s strangeness, in the midst of thorns and rocky ground and lifeless paths. And that Word is still heard. It still creates saving faith in Jesus Christ, rescues from death and the power of the devil, and gives eternal salvation by grace through faith. Living does affect the hearing of the Word. But the Word is not stopped. It is not defeated. The hearing of the Word affects your living here and now as you are empowered to show love and mercy to all people because it is the Word that does it. It saves you from sin and death and makes you to be holy people through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

 

 

Outdoor Worship July 12

Outdoor worship service tomorrow, July 12, at 9:30 a.m. It’s going to be warm and humid, so be sure you hydrate.

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