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Birds & Lilies: Learning To Be Content in the Way of Faith From Them.

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Luke 12:22-34

Anxiety. Sleepless nights. Panic attacks. Racing heartbeat. Can’t focus.  Our lives can be summed up with one word:  ANXIETY!  Americans spends millions of dollars for sleep, stomach and blood pressure disorders. Anti-anxiety medications are the leading prescription drugs in this country. It is an understatement to say we live in an anxious society.  We are extremely anxious people and it’s not good physically speaking.

And then there is the spiritual anxiety.  Jesus speaks of this today.  It’s time we listen to Him.  So that we are repented from our idols, faith-ed only in Jesus and then led in holy living by His Word.  He knows what is best for us.  He gives what is best for us. 

Jesus says: “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat; nor be anxious about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”  Really?  Yes!  Life is more than food.  The body is more than clothing.  Obviously, Jesus didn’t know about our current economy.  Doesn’t He know about how much it costs to fill up my SUV?  And how much it costs at the grocery store and what it now costs me to clothe and shoe my kids?  He does. 

And today He tells you to think about the birds. The birds? Sure.  Like the ravens.  Or hummingbirds.  Yeah.  That’s the ticket.  Ruby-throated hummingbirds.  I remember when I would visit Jeannie Reinke she would always have these hummingbirds buzzing around in her backyard.   They feasted on all her flowers, bathed in her fountain, and perched on branches of her peach trees.  Those busy little birds didn’t plant the flowers, nor do they tend them. They just found them in her backyard and took full advantage.

The hummingbirds didn’t set up the fountain.  They didn’t clean it or change its water.  They didn’t plant the flowers.  However, they bathed and drank from the fountain and took the nectar from the flowers every day. They worked hard, buzzing here and there in almost continual flight, but they didn’t provide the flowers and the water that keep them alive. Jeannie did that.  So do you. We are the hands of God for them.  One of the ways God provides for them is through us.  Through the trees and flowers we plant and through the water fountains we set up. 

Then Jesus tells you to consider the lilies of the field. Delicately beautiful. Do lilies punch the time clock?  Do they spin cotton and other fabrics to make clothes?  Of course not.  And yet they are decked out with greater beauty and splendor than King Solomon ever was in his finest royal robes. It all works, in a plant-ish sort of way. Their roots reach deep into the soil. Their leaves  turn upward to the sun. And yet the lilies wait in what appears to be a prayerful stillness. Always open to the soil and the sun. Always waiting TO RECEIVE nutrients and energies from both. Lilies, on their own, cannot pick up their roots and move to better climates. They can only be still and soak in what the soil and sun provide. They, like the birds, are a picture of F-A-I-T-H before God:  passive receptivity!

So, consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.  Not anxious about a thing.  Always read to be given to!  To receive.  To be cared for.  So, I ask you:  does all your anxiety or worry put food on the table? Does it clothe you or your children? Can your anxiety or worry lengthen your life one moment? Most likely it shortens your life; makes a heart attack or stroke even more likely.  All your anxiety does is give you sleepless nights, anxious days, indigestion and shouting matches! So, if God takes care of the ravens and the ruby-throated hummingbirds, if He clothes the lilies and the grass, why are you, His dear children and His foremost of creatures made in His image, so anxious and worried? Why do you fret and fuss so much about food, drink, clothes and shoes, O you of little faith?

The question contains the answer.  The diagnosis is also in the question. Why all the anxiety and worry?  Jesus nails it:  LITTLE  F-A-I-T-H. Anxiety reveals the puniness of our faith and the enormity of our unbelief.  It reveals the smallness of our faith in Jesus and our bigger faith in false gods.  I’m reminded of the time when the disciples panicked in the storm and woke Jesus up as He was sleeping in the back of the boat.  “Don’t you care that we’re going to die Jesus?”  Remember that?  Jesus called them “little faith” ones. Reminds me of the time when Peter, walking on the water, took his eyes off of Jesus and then immediately cried out in panic as he began to sink.  Jesus said, “Why did you doubt, O you of little faith?”  Remember? 

We all say we trust Jesus with the big things – forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body, eternal life, and salvation. But the little things, food and clothes – why don’t we trust Him with these? Why are we so anxious?  Answer: little faith. 

Jesus tells us to consider the birds and the plants because they naturally do what we don’t. And what’s that? They trust their Creator. They live, move, and have their existence in the same God, the same creative Word, the same Jesus, as we do. But our sinful, self-centeredness, our inner thoughts and feelings betray us and tell us that we are the masters of our destinies and the captains of our ship. We tell ourselves that we shape our identity and that we’re solely responsible not just for our livelihood but our very existence. Stop and think. Did you punch the time clock to be conceived and to be born? Do you work hard at dying? What about all that time in-between your birth and death? Our anxieties are the fruit of our desires to be gods in place of Jesus. Idolatry breeds anxiety.

This calls for repentance. The life of the baptized believer is a life of repentance. That doesn’t mean “stop being anxious.” “Don’t worry, be happy.” Unfortunately, when Pastor Kuhlman preaches repentance you hear it in terms of “stop sinning,” stop doing what you’re doing and do something better. However, when you focus on not sinning, you sin more. When you focus your thoughts on not being anxious and try to talk yourself out of it, you’ll become anxious over not being anxious. Another spin cycle of the mind and heart.

Repentance in its biblical sense is “metanoia,” a change of mind. Repentance means thinking of things in a different way. It means seeing things in a new light. It means seeing things from a different perspective. Metanoia is re-cognizing a reality you failed to notice. It is to rethink with the mind of Christ. To will with the heart of Christ. To see things in the light of Christ through faith eyes. To let go of your life, to be still and have Christ hold your life as He already Good Friday-ly does. To come to the re-cognition that you are dead to yourself, dead to sin and death, dead to the cares of this world, and you are alive to God the Father in Jesus His Son in an overflowing abundance of life. 

Repentance is a reevaluation of your value to God the Father. If He values the birds of the and the grass of the field, of how much greater value are you, O blood-bought child of God? If He knows the number of the hairs on your head and the days of your life before one of them comes to be, don’t you think He cares about the bread on your table, the clothes on your back and the shoes on your feet? If God the Father feeds you with the Bread of Life, Jesus His Son, if He clothes you with the righteousness of Jesus His Son, don’t you think He cares about what you will eat and what you will wear?

So, seek the kingdom of God. You don’t have to chase after it and you certainly don’t have to build it.  It’s already here and near for you to find. Seek and you will surely find it here in the divine service of Jesus in His Word and in His Supper. That’s why you’re here. Here King Jesus is at work in divine service, giving the gifts of kingdom life, and we, like the humming birds and lilies are on the receiving end of His gracious giving. The kingdom sought is the kingdom found. Here your day, your week, your life is oriented to its center — to Jesus.

This is why Paul wrote these words:  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4)

In the name of Jesus.  Amen

Forgiven & Forgiving

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When You Pray, Say “Our Father …”

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Luke 11:1-13

The theme today is prayer. In the OT reading Abraham prayed for Sodom and Gomorrah. In the gospel reading Jesus teaches His disciples and you how to pray. When He does this He actually gives us the very words for prayer.  Then He speaks a parable about prayer as well as giving encouragement for us to pray.

When one believes in God one prays to Him.  Faith is always DEPENDENT on God.  Always wanting to receive from Him.  So believers pray.  This is why prayer is a heart-to-heart conversation with God.  However, in this conversation God our heavenly Father speaks first.  He speaks.  We His children listen.  We then say back to Him what He says to us.  Just as children learn how to talk by listening, so it is the same with us.  So, in Luke 11 Jesus, the Father’s Son, teaches us how to pray.  The Lord’s Prayer. 

Another thing I have to say and make clear today is that prayer is not a bargain. Nor is it informing God of something He isn’t aware of. “Hey God. Over here. It’s me. I’m sick, in case you haven’t noticed.  I wouldn’t mind feeling better. So could you please send some healing my way?” Doesn’t work that way! Jesus told His disciples, “Your Father in heaven knows what you need even before you ask,” (Mt 6:8). So here is an important point then.  God’s name is holy, His kingdom comes, His will is done WITHOUT OUT PRAYER. Ponder that for a while. God knows what we need.  He does! He promises to give us what is best. In fact, He even causes the rain and sunshine to fall on the unbelievers.

So then, why pray? I’m so glad you asked! Why pray when your Father in heaven has it all covered anyway? First, because He commands it.  Second Commandment.  Using His divine, holy and saving Name to call upon Him in every trouble in prayer, and to praise Him and give thanks to Him.  In addition, we pray because He promises to hear and answer us.  For example, Psalm 50:15, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” 

Prayer, then is holy conversation. Dear children coming to their dear Father in heaven and saying, “Abba. Daddy.” And the Son insisting that the Father listen to us. And the Spirit packaging and delivering our words to the Father.

In Luke 11 please notice right out of the shoot that Jesus prays. Incredible!  Luke doesn’t tell us what Jesus was praying. Luke makes this a point of emphasis in his gospel. However, if anyone didn’t need to pray, it was Jesus. He knew the mind of God the Father perfectly. He and the Father were one. Why did He need to pray? He was God in the flesh. In other parts of the NT we see that Jesus prays for His disciples, for the world, and for the church. That’s a no brainer because He is our High Priest and intercessor who prays for us. And because He prays for us, we are able to pray. We pray through Him, through His sacrifice, through His blood, through His death and resurrection.  That’s why many Christians end their prayers this way:  “in Jesus Name,” or “through Jesus Christ Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You [Father] and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.” 

In the text please take not that Jesus TEACHES His disciples to pray. This is huge!  This means that prayer is not a natural activity, like eating or breathing. Prayer must be taught by the Lord and learned by the disciple. The disciples recognize this. “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” We don’t know what John taught about prayer. But that doesn’t matter. The One greater than John is speaking.

Jesus gives us the very words to pray. Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgiven everyone who is indebted to us. Lead us not into temptation. Luke gives us five of the seven petitions. This is a perfect prayer. It embraces all that we need. Daily bread, certainly. Enough for the day, each and every day. But surrounding that — God’s name and His kingdom, the divine and saving Name by which we are claimed and saved, the kingdom that comes by Jesus’ Good Friday death and Easter resurrection. Jesus teaches us to pray on the front end for the big stuff, the eternal stuff, the stuff that lasts forever. God’s Name, His kingdom, and in the longer version recorded in Matthew’s gospel, His will (Mt 6:10).

This has nothing to do with getting favors from God. Instead, it has everything to do with His favor over us for Jesus’ sake. May your name be holy, Father. On our lips and in our lives. God owns us. He has stamped His divine Name on us in holy baptism like a tattoo. We are His children. We bear His Name. And that Name burnishes our lips like the hot coal that touched the lips of Isaiah. He opens our lips that praise might come forth. He claims our lives for His own that we might serve Him without fear.

May your kingdom come, Father. Rule over us! Be our Lord as you already are. Overrule every competing rule – the devil, the world, and yes, oh yes, my own sinful self that wants to be king. Lord Your Son’s  Good Friday death and Easter Sunday resurrection over me. Let the Word be preached and heard. Let faith take hold and love flow. That’s what we’re praying for. Nothing less than the reign of Jesus over us. Big stuff. Eternal stuff. Stuff that matters forever.

Yes, this all comes “without our prayer,” but in praying we are reminding ourselves from whom it all comes. And when you’re praying that God’s Name be holy and His kingdom come, you’re not so much praying to get stuff as you are praying that God would be gracious to you and establish His reign in your life.

On the other side of daily bread is forgiveness and our being guarded against temptation. That’s the agenda for prayer, then, according to Jesus, and He gives a perfect prayer for us to pray, which means we don’t even have to worry about getting the words right, because, let’s face it, sinners that we are, we’d mess up even something as simple as prayer.

Another thing to note from the text is that Jesus encourages us to pray. He tells a funny parable of a person who has unexpected out of town company and is three loaves short at midnight and so goes and pounds on the door of his neighbor who’s already sound asleep. Outrageous? Of course! It’s over the top. The point of the parable lies in the Greek word which gets translated as impudence but I think is better translated with Yiddish word chutzpah. I suppose we Nebraskans would say:  “guts!”  Prayer is an act of sheer chutzpah, guts, like pounding on your neighbor’s door at midnight. And the only reason we get away with this is that our Father is that crazy neighbor who actually listens to our prayers and petitions and doesn’t mind the midnight intrusion. In fact, He delights in it! He thinks it’s great. But then, what parent doesn’t like to hear from their kids?

Please also notice that Jesus promises that prayers do not go unanswered. Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened. He doesn’t promise that you will get precisely what you ask for, or find exactly what you seek, or that every door you knock on will be opened. Fathers know to give good gifts to their children. Right gifts. Gifts that will bless and benefit them. He promises the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. And with the Spirit, every good and perfect gift.

I dare say that every petition of the Lord’s prayer is answered fully. His name is hallowed. His kingdom comes. His will is done. He sustains your life with daily bread. You are forgiven, guarded from temptation, delivered from evil. Every single petition of that perfect prayer is fulfilled in your life every single day. Maybe not in ways you might expect, but our expectation falls far short of what our Father in heaven wants to give us.

So, when you pray and especially when you pray the Lord’s Prayer, don’t think of prayer as something you do to get something from God, but something you do because you believe you already have everything you need and more. Don’t pray to earn God’s favor or to get favors. Pray because you have God’s favor in Jesus. Don’t pray as though you were coming to a king or some powerful political bigshot.  Instead, pray as children coming to their dear Father in heaven. Pray as Jesus, your Savior, has taught you. Short, sweet, to the point.

And remember this. Prayer doesn’t begin with you. It begins with Jesus. His prayer. His words. His sacrificial life and death. His resurrection. Your baptism into Him that makes you a child of God who dares to knock on the Father’s door at midnight. He has to answer. You’re one of the family.  How wonderful.  Happy Praying! 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen

The Flood

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What A House Call!

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Luke 10:38-42

Imagine the Lord Jesus coming to visit.  Seriously.  Can you imagine that?  Better dust off the Bible and Small Catechism and put them on the coffee table!  Make it look like …. Well, in the text the Lord visits the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha.  Their brother?  Lazarus.  Remember him?  John 11?  Raised him from the dead!  But that’s another sermon for another day.

When Jesus shows up Martha is consumed with getting everything ready to SERVE Jesus who has come to visit.  She wants to SERVE Him.   Who can blame her?  She wants to impress Him.  After all, He is the Lord!  We’d all do the same.  I know I would.  Big time!  I’d be obsessed making preparations to serve Him left and right.  

Martha’s serving, however, and despite her best intentions, turns out to be a diversion so that she’s not with Jesus and Jesus isn’t with her even though He’s in the same house!  She’s stuck in the kitchen. A prime rib roast in the smoker. Slicing and dicing the vegies and onions. Pulling the cork of the best merlot from the wine cellar. Shining the silver, frosting the cake, clanging pots and pans. Meanwhile Jesus is on the sofa in the living room with Martha’s sister Mary.  What’s Mary doing?  Nothing.  Just sitting at the Lord’s feet.  Listening to every word that comes out of His mouth!  Taking every bit of His preaching in her ears.   

That’s when Martha can’t take it anymore.  She’s fit to be tied.  The water for the linguine is boiling over on the stove.  The red marinara sauce won’t thicken. The roast will soon be overdone and  be too dry. The asparagus and peppers are going to get soggy cold.  The table isn’t set yet. Martha comes unglued! Throws off her apron, flings the butcher knife into the cutting board and stomps out of the kitchen.  And who does she lambaste? Does she upbraid Mary her sister? No. Incredibly, Martha lays into her guest, the Lord Jesus Christ!  Check it out. 

“Don’t YOU care? Don’t YOU care, Lord, that my sister has left me to serve all alone? Don’t YOU care that I’m in the kitchen slaving away over a steaming stove while she sits there doe-eyed at your feet doing nothing? Don’t YOU care that I’m pulling all the weight around here and she does nothing? How about cutting all the chit chat and tell her to get her lazy rear end in the kitchen to help me before supper is ruined!”

Martha so wants to please Jesus.  She so wants to serve and impress Him with her very best.  But all her service came crashing down in a fit of anger.  She ends up shouting at Jesus and fuming at her sister. Martha was so concerned with many things, when only one thing was needful. She was busy preparing a seven course dinner that would have earned her four stars in the Michelin guide, but Jesus would have been content with Jimmy John’s.

Jesus, however, wasn’t interested in Martha serving Him.  He was interested in Martha.  Serving her! In Matthew 20 and Luke 22 Jesus gives us all a summary of what He’s about.  He came “not to be served but to serve” (Mt 20:28).  “I am among you as one who serves,” (Lk 22:27).   He came to give, not to get. He came not to be the guest, but to be the host.

Bottom line:  He came to lay down His life on the Good Friday cross as the one and only sacrifice to atone for the sin of the world.  He came to offer Himself up for the life of the world. To be the Bread of Life and wine from heaven to bring refreshment, forgiveness, life, and salvation to all. As far as Jesus is concerned, Martha’s house could have been a mess. She could have offered PBJs and Lays potato chips for lunch. What mattered most to Jesus was that she be served by Him — that she listen to Him and His words of forgiveness, life and salvation.

So what do we learn today from this text?  Well, it’s this — Jesus doesn’t need our service. Seriously!  HE DOESN’T NEED OUR SERVICE!  He’s the Lord. He has heaven and earth at His beck and call. What can we give to Him that He does not already have? What can we do for Him that He has not already done? Martha is about works, busyness, ultimately frustration — law; Mary is about faith and freedom, trust in Jesus and freedom to sit at His feet and take in His Word — gospel. Martha seeks to be justified by her works of service, and in the end winds up frustrated and angry — law. Mary is justified by grace through faith for Jesus’ sake — gospel. Mary does nothing but be given to. Jesus does everything. He is the one needful thing, for her and for you. You need nothing else but Jesus and His Word.

And yet. Don’t we often find ourselves in Martha’s shoes? Busy with so many things that we have no time to rest in Jesus? So busy we have no time to hear His Word, to receive His body and blood. Distracted by this, that, and the other thing. Thinking what we must do in order to please God. But if we are to please God at all, there must first be faith. And faith comes by hearing, sitting with Mary at Jesus’ feet and being given to.

We need to repent of our busyness. We’ve let many things get ahead of the one important thing. We’ve let many things get between us and Jesus. The symptoms are all there. Frustration, anger, snapping at each other, complaining, griping, pointing the finger, accusing. Tell them to get in the kitchen with me and help. When you sense that in yourself, read the symptoms of busyness and hear the words of Jesus, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Just be quiet for a while and listen.

I know it’s hard to do, because we are matrixed to being busy. The way of our world is Martha, not Mary. We need to learn the discipline of faith:  sit and listen. Jesus is here every Sunday to give you heaping portions of His Good Friday forgiveness in His Word. He wants to spend time with you. There’s plenty of opportunity to serve and be busy, but what good is our service and busyness if it simply burns us out on the Lord and on each other?

We live most of our lives under the law. We have duties to execute, obligations to fulfill, expectations to meet, quotas, goals, you name it. We are busy people, running from one thing to the next at breakneck speeds, rarely taking the time to sit still. We even make our play into work. They say that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. This is true. If we are defined solely by our work, we become bored and boring. The story of Mary and Martha reminds us that all work or all play but no receiving the Lord’s divine service through His Word on Sundays will burn us out in our own busyness, chasing after the wind, as Ecclesiastes says, until we burn out like a candle that’s run out of wick.

Thanks be to God that you are here this morning to receive from Jesus.  The Holy Spirit gathered you and drew you to the feet of Jesus. To be given to. The highest worship of Jesus is to sit with Mary in order to hear Jesus’ Word. To let His Word have its way with you. To participate in the promise of His divine rest.  That’s why when you come to the divine service there is an absolution, three readings from Scripture, a sermon based on those readings, the Lord’s words attached to bread and wine, and all the other parts of the liturgy that flow from God’s Word.  That’s why when you’re at home you study and meditate on that Word too.  It’s all about sitting at Jesus feet to hear His Word!   

You sometimes hear that worship or liturgy is work, the “work of the people.” Not hardly! Worship or liturgy is rest. Sabbath Day rest. To rest in Jesus and His Word.  To rest in His saving death, His life, His glory. And that rest is spelled:  F-A-I-T-H. 

It’s a busy world out there. But there is rest and refreshment in Jesus and His Word. In Him there is strength to do what your callings in life demand, not in bitterness but in joy, not to please God but in thanksgiving that you are pleasing to God for Jesus’ sake.

There are many things to occupy you in life. However, one thing is needful, necessary, and indispensable.  It’s this: being served by the Lord Jesus Christ. He came not to be served but to serve (Mt 20).  He is among us as one who serves (Lk 22) in His Word. 

In the Name of Jesus.  Amen

Can These Bones Live? Ezekiel 37 & John 11

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Love Your Neighbor? For salvation? No! But Because You Are Saved For Jesus’ Sake.

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Luke 10:25-37

Look out Jesus!  It’s a lawyer.  They always ask law questions.  They want ready-made law answers.  When a lawyer reads the Bible salvation has to be reasonable.  Feasible!  Attainable!  Doable!  Workable!  In a law way!  No wonder he asks Jesus a law question:  “WHAT MUST I DO to inherit eternal life?”  Not only lawyers ask such a “what must I do” salvation-by-doing question.  Most people ask it.  Sinners are matrixed that way.  I’m asked all the time.  “Reverend, what do I have to do to get to heaven?  What do I have to do to be saved?  What do I have to do or stop doing to get God to love me?” 

Well, do you have to do anything to get an inheritance?  No.  You do nothing! An inheritance is a gift.  In addition, for there to be an inheritance someone HAS TO DIE! AND YOU HAVE TO BE IN THE FAVOR OF THE DECEASED TO BE GIVEN the legacy !  Get it?  Jesus died FOR YOU.  It’s what He did that saves you!  You’re justified by God’s grace through faith in Jesus and His Good Friday dying on the cross FOR YOU!  SALVATION ISN’T ABOUT WHAT YOU MUST DO.  It’s pure gift.  Inheritance gift.  Gospel!      

Well, Jesus knows He’s being tested.  So, He answers Mr. Attorney at Law’s law question with another law question.  Jesus can play that game too. “What is written in the law?”  In other words, what is written in the Old Testament?  “How do you read the OT Mr. Attorney at Law?”  He, of course, responds with what he must do – “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind; love your neighbor as yourself.”  That is what he believes one must do to inherit eternal life.  Love God. Love your neighbor.   That’s the must you have to do to inherit eternal life.  That’s the key.  But only if you can do it!  “Do this, and you will live.” But if you don’t, well, you’re hellishly screwed forever.

Mr. Lawyer is uneasy.  Something must be bothering him.  Maybe it was that widow who urgently needed his help but he ignored her. Perhaps he resents his buddy that gave him horrific investment advice.   Possibly it is his anger and hatred for his ex who betrayed him for another that led to a bitter divorce and huge burden for the kids. 

Love your neighbor as yourself?  Mr. Lawyer knew he loved God.  That’s relatively easy when things are easy peasy in your life.  However, loving your neighbor – that’s a different animal altogether!   Especially when many of the people we know are completely unlovable.  Despicable.  Dreadful.  Appalling.  It’s why we build brick walls and composite fences around the house and yard. It’s why we block certain folks on social media platforms.  It’s why we avoid them at public events at all costs. 

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Mr. Lawyer’s what-must- I-do-salvation is now in serious jeopardy.  It’s coming undone!    If Mr. Lawyer doesn’t love his neighbor as himself, he can have no certainty of inheriting eternal life!  That then leads me to ask all of you today.  Do you love your neighbor as much as you love yourself?  Well, do you?   Not just the neighbor that’s friendly and kind.  But how about the ex-spouse?  The ex-in-law?  How about the friend who betrayed you?  Would you, like Mr. Attorney at Law, want to stake your eternal life, eternal salvation, on your love of neighbor? 

Now you’re getting very nervous too, aren’t you?  So you immediately go into self-justification mode.  “Wait just a cotton pickin’ minute Jesus! You’re telling me that I’m supposed to love the dufus who won’t even give me the time of day?  Who hurts me?  On purpose?  Who wants what is bad for me?  Who tries to push all my buttons?  What kind of rule is that Jesus?  How about love those who love you? Hate those who hate you? Ignore all the rest!  That would be more like it, wouldn’t it Jesus?  How am I supposed to love my neighbor, and what does ‘neighbor’ mean anyway Jesus?  The guy next door? Down the block?  Who?”

Mr. Lawyer looks to salvage his what-must-I-do salvation dilemma.  So, in order to JUSTIFY HIMSELF, he asks Jesus another question. In the way of the law:  “Jesus, tell me. Who in the wild, wild, wild world of sports is my neighbor?”  See where all this law talk goes:  self-justification.  So, to one who would justify himself Jesus tells the parable.  To repent us.  To faith us.  To lead us in holy living.    

In the story Jesus recounts a dude that runs into a pack of lawless hoodlums on the dangerous road between Jerusalem and Jericho.  It was like walking the streets of Chicago, L.A. or San Francisco today.  Extremely perilous for anyone to be on this road even during the day.  The road was full of smash and grab thieves, bandits and crooks with no police or D.A.’s to hold them accountable.  Jesus says that this particular fella fell among gangsters who ripped off all his clothes, brutally beat him to a pulp, to an inch within his life, and left him for dead in the ditch!  The vultures are beginning to gather!  So too the wolves! 

Lo and behold a priest strolls by.  He notices the beaten and bloodied man lying there out of the corner of his eye.  Will he love this  neighbor that desperately needs his love?  He may have wanted to help.  However, the OT law of Moses said that if you touched something that was dead, you’d be unclean.  So if the priest helps the beaten and left for dead man, he would be declared unfit for priestly service in Jerusalem at the temple.  He would have a lengthy purification process to go through, offer an expensive sacrifice and have a bit of explaining to do.  He can’t take the chance to help.  He won’t. 

Earlier, Mr. Lawyer quoted the Bible.  And the Bible says:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s when God tosses out a neighbor who is so incredibly inconvenient, problematic, bothersome and not even worthy of love.  So now what do you do?  The priest passes by on the other side.  Doesn’t even come near the man.  He chooses the way of purity.  That is safe.  Meanwhile the neighbor is dying a painful death in the ditch. 

Then a Levite saunters by.  Levites were assistants to the priests in Jerusalem temple service.  The same purity rules applied to Levites.  He comes a little closer to the ditch.  But he too chooses the way of purity instead of loving his neighbor as himself.  The beaten man is left without any help.  Without any love.  Of course both the priest and the Levite would and could argue that they were just keeping the rules. They could justify their actions.  But did they love their neighbor as themselves?  Of course not! 

And just as soon as you can say “Bob is your uncle,” a hated Samaritan comes along.  Jews, like the priest and the Levite, did not love but despised their Samaritan neighbors.  They considered them half-breeds and heretics.  Impure not only in race but also in religion.  Samaritans were the cancelled, the nulled and voided, the boycotted of their day.   

Mr. Samaritan, however, sees this horrifically beaten, pulverized, bones broken, naked, bleeding-out man in the ditch. He loves his neighbor.  Has compassion on him!  Gets down into the dirty ditch with him. Bandages his wounds. Puts him on his donkey. Takes him to a hotel. Spends the entire night attending to his injuries.  The next day he leaves two day’s wages with the innkeeper and runs a tab for the rest of his care and recuperation.  I’m sure Mr. Samaritan had some explaining to do with his wife and family about why he got home a day late and why the credit card was maxed out.  

That’s when Jesus asks Mr. Lawyer and all of us sitting here today.  “Which of these three men, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

Mr. Attorney at Law can’t bring himself to say:  “The Samaritan!”  He just says, “Well, the one who showed him mercy.”  That’s when Jesus blurts out:  “You go, and do likewise.”

Well, do you think Mr. Attorney at Law left with any hope of inheriting eternal life?  What about you?  Your neighbor is anyone in need of mercy. Anyone that God places in your path no matter how inconvenient he might be.  Can you go and do likewise? And on the basis of that doing know that you will inherit eternal life?

Ask a law question and you receive a law answer. Ask Jesus what you must do and He will tell you what you must do. However, if you come to Him in empty handed need, He will give!  Freely!  Graciously! 

Are you picking up what I’m throwing down?  The good news, the gospel, is that the inheritance of eternal life comes not from your loving God with your whole heart, soul, strength, and mind or in loving your neighbor as yourself.  Instead, it comes only as gift in and through Jesus who became neighbor to YOU and FOR YOU! 

YES, IT’S JESUS who had compassion on you. JESUS joined you in the ditch of your death having been beaten and left for dead by our sin, Satan and the world.  God in His Son became your good Samaritan neighbor, took on your flesh, loved God and loved a world of neighbors so perfectly and purely that it covers everyone.  He pours the healing balm of baptism on you.  He binds up your wounds with His Good Friday wounds.  He brings you into the company of His church, a hospice of sinners justified for Jesus’ sake.  He binds your wounds with His forgiveness.  He gives you the bread of His body and the wine of His blood for nourishment and strength.  He pays your debt in full.

So, how do you inherit eternal life?  The only certain and sure answer is:  by God’s grace through faith for Jesus’ sake.  And then comes the next question.  What do I do as an heir of eternal life to thank Jesus?  Answer:  Get down in the ditch and be a neighbor to that broken man who fell among the thieves like Jesus has down with you.  This is the good use Jesus has of you in your life.  He has set you free to love the neighbor who needs your help. 

In the end, the parable is about Jesus:

Jesus is your good Samaritan who became neighbor to you in the ditch of your death.

Jesus who is neighbor to you in Word and water and Supper to give you the inheritance of eternal life.

What joy!   

In the Name of Jesus,  Amen.

David Defeats Goliath 1 Samuel 17

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He Who Hears You Hears Me

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Luke 10:1-20

“The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” Luke 10:16 is one of the most incredible verses in the Bible.  Did Jesus really say it?  Of course He did.  For many, however, it is a like a chicken bone in their throats.  They choke on the words of Jesus and refuse to believe it.  And when you don’t believe what Jesus says, you are saying that He is a liar!  Don’t go there!  Ever!  However, He says what He says.  He means what He means.  It’s time for us to listen to what He says and trust it. 

What He says is is in the context of His commandingly sending preachers to the Gentiles – to the nations.  Luke 10 is a preview of Matthew 28 where Jesus mandates making disciples of all nations through baptizing and teaching.  Or Mark 16 in which the gospel is to be preached to all creation.  Or Luke 24 in which repentance for the forgiveness of sins be proclaimed in Jesus’ Name to all nations.  So, we’d better hear it again.  Jesus categorically promises:  “The one who hears you [the preachers I send] hears me, and the one who rejects you [the preachers I send] rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

The 72 preachers are sent by Jesus.  In other words, they are sent with authority.  The Lord’s!  And that is to be sent certainly.  Surely.  Without any doubt.  Just like Jesus Himself.  Remember John 20?  “As the Father has sent me so I send you.”  Remember Matthew 28?  “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore …” All-Authority-Given-To-Sent-From-The-Father-Jesus here in Luke 10 sends 72 others to go in His stead and by His mandate. I repeat.  They are sent with Jesus’ authority. Consequently, to hear a preacher whom Jesus sends with His authority is to hear Jesus Himself. To reject a preacher whom Jesus sends is to reject Jesus. And to reject Jesus is to reject the Father who sent Him.  Luke 10:16.  Incredible!

 

I can’t help myself. In the Bible being sent is extremely important.  Again, the Father sends Jesus. Jesus does not go out on His own. The Father sends Him!  The Father gives Him authority in the being sent!   In Romans 10:15 Paul asks:  “And how are they to preach unless they are sent?”  That would be:  SENT BY THE LORD!  Now, here in Luke 10, Jesus authoritatively sends disciples as His apostolic preachers. They are His “sent ones” with all the heaven and on earth authority of Jesus Himself!   

Luke 10, then, is one of the primary texts in the Bible that provides the proof that Jesus instituted what we call the office of the holy ministry. Pastors are sent by the Lord to preach.  He authoritatively sends them.  They are to speak His words.  They are to do what He commands.  This is exactly why Jesus says to His preachers that He sends:  “He who hears you, hears me.” This is why Pastor Kuhlman or any pastor sent by Jesus says:  “Jesus sent me to tell you.  You are forgiven.  His death atoned for all your sins.  Believe it!”  Or:  “As a called and ordained servant of Christ and by His authority I forgive you all your sins …” And your sins are forgiven!  Why?  Because you have Jesus’ word on it! His Word is certain and sure!

Did you notice that Jesus sends the 72 with utter urgency?  Why?  Well, because the fields, the world, are ripe for the harvest.  So there’s no time to lose. I remember when I, as a little boy, would stay with Grandpa and Grandma Kuhlman in Kimball when the western Nebraska wheatfields were ripe and there was enormous urgency to get the harvest done.  The hours were long.  The work was focused and intense. And never enough workers.  That’s the focused intensity of Jesus headed toward Jerusalem. No time to worry about packing boys. Just go. No moneybag, no knapsack, no extra pair of shoes. Get going!  ASAP!

And the dangers!  Wow!  The risks, perils and threats! The 72 sent-by-Christ-with-His-authority-preachers go out as lambs in the midst of  wolves. As they go they represent the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  They speak for Jesus who is going to His sacrificial death on the cross. The wolves will be watching and waiting. That’s one reason Jesus sends them out two by two. The wolves would stalk the lone lamb, the isolated one.

Sidenote:  that’s the danger of individualized Christianity, believing on your own without a communion of saints.  Too many of our members falsely and dangerously believe that they can go it alone without the church.  They actually believe that they can be a lone lamb among the wolves.  Satan loves that!  Here is what will happen.  I guarantee it.  Satan’s wolves will surround the lone sheep.  And they will attack.  It will not end well.  So I’m begging you.  Don’t fall to the Satanic temptation to be a solitary Christian. So, even in the sending here in Luke 10, Jesus keeps them in a fellowship, a communion with one another.

What do the 72 preach?  They proclaim peace. After all, they are ambassadors of the Prince of Peace. “Peace be to this house.” “Peace be with you.” This is divine peace that comes from the Good Friday cross of the Crucified One like in John 20 when Jesus Himself says to the sinners who hurt Him:  “Peace be with you.”

The Hebrew word is “shalom.” It means not only the end to the bitter war, but a restoration of wholeness and completeness. With peace comes healing of body and mind. Thus:  “Heal the sick.” And now wonder.  When they are His ambassadors, they have His authority over disease and the demons. They bear good news. The kingdom of God has come near!

Once again, I can’t help myself.  If you’re paying attention to the text you learn a hard lesson.  And it’s this.  WE DO NOT BUILD GOD’S KINGDOM!  WE JUST ANNOUNCE IT!  Do you see the difference?  It’s a big one!  So I have to say it as clearly as possible.  God’s kingdom comes without our efforts.  God’s kingdom comes with Jesus.  His Good Friday work, not ours.  God’s kingdom comes with the blood, sweat and tears of Good Friday Jesus, not ours.  He does the kingdom of God work.  He said “It is finished!”  We are given to announce that the salvation job “ is indeed finished” by Jesus! 

Now, I want you to think of the following.  Imagine a stranger at your house.  Knocks on your door.  You answer.  He tells you that you have just won 100 million dollars. Do you let him in? Do you ask him to sit down and have dinner.  Do his words mean anything to you? Will they affect you in any way? If you are convinced that he has the authority to speak those words, and if those words are true, then you would be an absolute fool to slam the door in his face and call him a liar.  Right?

How about these words from those sent by Jesus?  “I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Or:  I forgive you all of your sins in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Or these?  “This is my Body.  This is my Blood for you.” Whose words?  The Lord’s!  From Him to you.  FOR YOU!  Can you trust them? Jesus says “Absolutely!”  Luke 10:16:  “He who hears you, hears me.”

However, as Jesus says, His kingdom of God peace preaching and giving is rejectable. People can slam the door in the messenger’s face.  And many do. But be forewarned: Even the dust on the soles of their feet will testify against you. That’s a very middle eastern way of expressing contempt. To raise the heel or to shake the dust off your feet is a sign of excommunication – being cut off from the Lord and His kingdom.

Jesus underscores this with His woes. Woe to Chorazin!  Woe to Bethsaida!  Woe to Capernaum! Israelite cites. Capernaum was his base of operations. These cities had lots of Jesus going on.  Lots of His mighty deeds and words! And yet other cities Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom compare favorably.

This part of the text should repent us PDQ. Why?  Well, because the towns in His day that had the most Jesus – most of His words and deeds — receive His greatest condemnation.  Why?  Because of their rejection.

Listen very carefully.  The Bible teaches that to whom much is given, much also is expected. Get it?  To refuse the gifts of Jesus is to reject the Giver Himself. To refuse baptism, to refuse the absolution, to refuse the preaching of the gospel and to refuse the eating and drinking of the Lord’s Body and Blood is to reject the Gift Giver Himself!  To refuse salvation’s achievement and salvation’s bestowal is to reject the Savior Himself. Even the city of Sodom, the poster city for horrific sin and abominable evil that was consumed by fire and brimstone in Genesis, compares favorably with a town that rejects Jesus – His words and gifts.

I know.  I know.  I’m too long winded again.  Typical Kuhlman.  I see your eyes rolling.  But I have to say a little more about the hellacious consequences of rejecting the faithful preaching and faithful giving of the preachers Jesus sends. THE REFUSAL TO BE FORGIVEN from the preachers Jesus sends will not end well!  I encounter this all the time.  Even with baptized people.  Even members of Trinity.

The kingdom of God has drawn near, but sadly, too many want nothing to do with it. The forgiveness of sins is here FOR YOU every Sunday in the divine service, but many see nothing in themselves that needs the Lord’s forgiveness. To reject the church’s ministry that is offered each week is to reject Jesus, the Lord of the church.  And as Jesus Himself says it is the rejection the Father who sent Jesus as well.  It will be hellacious!  A hellish ending. “You shall be brought down to Hades” is Jesus’ word of warning to such refusal.

“He who hears you, hears me.” In response to Jesus’ clear and categorical words in Luke 10:16, people tell me all the time: “I can talk to God anywhere Reverend. I don’t need Trinity church or a Pastor Kuhlman. I can talk to God on the golf course, in the mountains, at the lake, at the kitchen sink or anywhere at all.” True.  No argument from me on that. You can talk to God anywhere when you pray. And you should. 

But that’s YOU talking to God!  The issue, however, in Luke 10:16 is how God talks to you! Not in your gut.  Not in your feelings, dreams or intuition. Jesus says that He speaks to you, “through the ones I send to you. As Nathan was sent to David. As the prophets were sent to Israel. As Peter was sent to Cornelius and Philip to the Ethiopian in his chariot.  As Kuhlman is sent to Trinity. He who hears the ones I send, hears me.” 

Now I have to wrap up today’s sermon.  You’re getting quite antsy.  Looking at your watches and iphones  So here goes.  The 72 return full of joy. They’re a splendid success. “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” What great fun! Stomping on snakes and scorpions! Kicking out demons! Impressive visible power! The devil’s reign is ended. “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”  Or as the hymn puts it: “He’s judged. The deed is done. One little word can fell him.” The power was not in the 72 but in Jesus and His Name. Where Jesus’ Name is going on, there the devil and all his demons tremble. His death on the cross defeats death! His sacrifice fulfills the law! There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Sin, death, devil all are defeated in Christ!

But the cause for rejoicing is not that the demons submit but that your names are written in heaven. As surely as baptismal water flowed over you, as surely as forgiving words go into your ears, as surely as the Body and Blood of Christ go into your mouths, so surely are your names written in the Lambs’ Book of Life.

Don’t take my word for it. It’s Jesus’ word to you.  He sent me to tell you. 

In the name of Jesus. Amen

2 Samuel 11-12 Part Two

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