Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity – Matthew 9:18-26

A ruler asks Jesus to come and heal his dead daughter. Jesus could have said the same thing to the ruler that He said to the official’s son in John chapter four about seeing signs and wonders before believing. Jesus doesn’t gripe about the request. He doesn’t chastise the man. He doesn’t tell him it’s too late. Jesus rose and followed him.

What a stunning development! Why does Jesus go with him? Shouldn’t this ruler, of all people, know Who Jesus is and what He comes to do? Shouldn’t he merely ask Messiah to heal his daughter and Jesus will speak the word to make it so? Jesus goes with him. Jesus goes without a word of complaint.

Perhaps the reason why Jesus goes with the ruler is to carry this man along with Him. You may be familiar with the Christian devotional writing called “Footprints”. The writer has a dream about walking along a beach with Jesus. All of a sudden there was a moment where two sets of footprints became one set of footprints. The writer wonders if that is when Jesus left the person alone. Not so says our Savior. “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you; never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

A little editorial work on “Footprints” would make the image line up with how Jesus walks with you and me. There can never really be two sets of footprints in the sand. This means you are able to walk with Jesus and never need His help. Our life in Christ is a life of being carried around by a loving Shepherd Who cares for us like a little ewe lamb. Whether our trust in Him is as small as a mustard seed or as large as Denali in Alaska, Jesus carries you from womb to tomb. Jesus today carries this man with Him even though the two of them, and many others in tow, walk together to the corpse of a dead girl. Even though the man asks Jesus to come with him, the man did ask for Jesus to lay Your hand on her and she will live.

While Jesus carries the ruler back to the ruler’s house, something strange happens. When a unique event happens in the middle of another story line in the Gospels, you can bet the farm the strange and unique occurrence isn’t a random event.

The woman with a flow of blood touches Jesus at the perfect moment. Why is it a perfect moment? Because Jesus is carrying a ruler with Him whose trust in Christ as Savior and Helper is not as strong as her trust in Christ. Before the ruler sees his daughter alive again, he sees Jesus turn around and look at a woman who touches the hem of His garment. Saint Mark writes that Jesus felt power leave His body when the woman touched Him. Jesus knew something was happening. He never saw it coming…or did He?

Another pastor I know once told me, “Ministry happens in the interruptions.” It sure does. Jesus ministers to the woman’s illness without saying a word. She, while also being carried by the Savior, receives what she wishes without even asking. All it took was a touch. Not only is she healed, but Jesus blesses her by saying, Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well. At that moment she was made well.

So now Jesus has one more person to carry to the bedside of the little girl. When He gets there, the mourners laugh at Him because He said the girl is not dead but sleeping. Who is laughing now that the girl is alive? Because the girl cannot reach out to touch Jesus, He extends His hand to her. She takes it. Now she is carried along with Him, just like everyone else who looks to Jesus as their Help in every time of need.

That’s a comforting image, isn’t it? You are being carried along by Christ. You could try to go it alone but you’ll never get to the end of the journey by yourself. You could ask Jesus to drop you for a while but those butt prints in the sand, so to speak, will show you that it’s much better to be carried. The load isn’t burdensome for Christ. After all, He bore the sins of the world upon His body as He laid on the cross. He didn’t need your help. He had to do it alone. He also carried your sin into the tomb and left it there. Jesus has spoken for your sin. It has no power over you because of Christ’s blood.

Jesus again carries us with Him into His house, where He cares for your death by applying His life. You will die, unless Jesus returns soon. Here is where you receive palliative care for your death. There’s no need to touch the hem of His garment or to ask Him to lay His hand on you. Jesus comes to you in His preached Word and in His true Body and true Blood. Though death may surround you even in the midst of life, Jesus carries you through from death to life. You are not too heavy. His burden is light. He will see to it that your slumber is turned into everlasting life.

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The Gospel Is A Foolish Sermon to the World and to the Devil

In the world the Gospel must have the reputation of being a foolish sermon, despised and scorned; for the devil cannot hear that this preaching is honored in the world, for it brings no advantage to his kingdom, this he feels, of course, and hence he attacks it with all cunning, so that he may hinder it and cause it to be worthless among his own followers, whose hearts he has entirely blinded and possessed, that the light of the Gospel may not shine for them, as St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” For it is impossible that the preaching of Christ should not produce some fruit. It will not be preached in vain, Isaiah 55:11, “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouthit shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” ; although there be but few who receive it, it matters not.

For the preaching of Christ overthrows everything pleasing to the devil and the world, and what the world regards as the most holy and costly.

Mark well, that you learn from the Gospels that all things are to be found in the one person who is called Christ. And remember, too, that a Christian receives his name alone from Christ. I do not say this in vain, for I know what it costs to keep it, in temptation and in the battle of life.

Martin Luther, First Church Postil for the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity (Matthew 9:18-26)

I Am A Christian Because of What Christ Has Done For Me

What joy must not this woman have experienced, as she permitted another to show her a kindness? This joy and peace all receive, who look to this man for help. Now where this joy is there its works must immediately follow, which prove this joy. So the peace and joy in this woman had to become manifest. For as soon as she received the good deed from the Lord, she confessed it before all the people, and was not ashamed to have it told that she received something from him, and yet gave nothing for it. This work and thanksgiving, however, God desires from us, namely, that we confess and proclaim his kindness, grace and good deeds before all men, so that others may also come and receive his benefits as this woman did. Thus my Christian life urges me to do good to others, as God has done to me through Christ, only that thus Christ may become known; but thereby I do not become a Christian. Just as this woman is not made whole by her knowledge, for she was well before all her work and knowledge. But after she becomes well she confesses Christ, and praises him, only for the good of others, and goes and does good works, one after the other. Thus we, too, live, if we are only Christians, in order that one may serve the others wherever we can. Hence, as this woman became well before she did all her works, so we Christians must also become whole before we can do any good works.

Martin Luther, First Church Postil for the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity (Matthew 9:18-26)

A Christian Receives Something from Christ

To make good people does not belong to the Gospel, for it only makes Christians. It takes much more to be a Christian than to be pious. A person can easily be pious, but not a Christian. A Christian knows nothing to say about his piety, for he finds in himself nothing good or pious. If he is to be pious, he must look for a different piety, a piety in some one else.

To this end Christ is presented to us as an inexhaustible fountain, who at all times overflows with pure goodness and grace. And for such goodness and kindness he accepts nothing, except that the good people, who acknowledge such kindness and grace, thank him for it, praise and love him, although others despise him for it. This is what he reaps from it. So one is not called a Christian because he does much, but because he receives something from Christ, draws from him and lets Christ only give to him. If one no longer receives anything from Christ, he is no longer a Christian, so that the name Christian continues to be based only on receiving, and not on giving and doing, and he receives nothing from any one except from Christ alone. If you look at what you do, you have already lost the Christian name. It is indeed true, that we are to do good works, help, advise and give to others; but no one is called a Christian by reason of that, nor is he on that account a Christian.

Therefore, if you wish to consider the word in its true meaning, you must identify a Christian by the fact that he only receives something from Christ, and has Christ within him; for this is what the word properly means.

Martin Luther, First Church Postil for the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity (Matthew 9:18-26)

Resurrection Now

F.D. Maurice once said that this exchange between Jesus and Martha [in Luke chapter ten] depressed him. How sad it is, he observed, that after two thousand years, the church has gotten most Christians only to the point to which the Pharisees got Martha: resurrection in the future, resurrection a week from some Tuesday. Only a handful have ever gotten past that point and made the leap of faith that Jesus got Martha to make: the leap to resurrection now – to resurrection as the fundamental mystery of creation finally manifest in his own flesh. And yet that mystery is all over the pages of the New Testament. Not only is it in such epistles as Ephesians and Colossians (see Eph. 2:5-6, for example, or Col. 3:1-4), it is also perfectly plain in the Gospels: Jesus never meets a corpse that doesn’t sit up right on the spot. Consider. There is the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:11-17); there is Jairus’s daughter (Luke 8:41-56); and there is Lazarus himself. They all rise not because Jesus does a number on them, not because he puts some magical resurrection machinery into gear, but simply because he has that effect on the dead. they rise because he is the Resurrection even before he himself rises – because, in other words, he is the grand sacrament, the real presence, of the mystery of a kingdom in which everybody rises.

Robert Farrar Capon, “Kingdom, Grace, Judgment”, page 405

Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity – Matthew 22:15-22

Pay particular attention to how Jesus deals with His adversaries in the Gospels. His behavior when dealing with them is a pattern for our behavior as we deal with those who disagree with us. We learn from Jesus both how the enemy attacks and how we defend ourselves. We also receive consolation from our Savior’s pattern because we are convinced that He is an insurmountable King Who can successfully face all the plans of His adversaries and defeat every attack against Himself and against us, too.

The enemies of Christ wanted to ruin Him. They hated Him because He saw through them and told them the truth. In Matthew chapter 21 they perceived that Jesus was speaking about them when He spoke to them in parables. They also feared the crowds because the crowds held Him to be a prophet. So instead of arresting Him in public, Christ’s adversaries turned to cunning to ruin Him. They figured He would falter if they trapped Him in His speech.

So our Lord’s adversaries come to Him with a “Gotcha” question. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? The Jews were under Roman rule. They thought they were independent and didn’t need to be under anyone’s thumb. Moses told them in Deuteronomy chapter 17 that you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. Yet the Jews forgot that they had abandoned their God and His Law.

So if Jesus answers in the affirmative, then Jesus is their ally against Caesar as an affront to their independence. But if Jesus answers in the negative, then they could bring Him to the Roman Governor with the charge of sedition. What a clever noose in which to trap Jesus!

Clever nooses are still set for us. Consider how political parties in our country love to court the Christian’s vote. Some congregations even invite political candidates to speak from the pulpit. You won’t see that here. As citizens who happen to be Christian, we do our civic duty at the ballot box, not in the church building. Caesar has his place and Jesus has His place. When you mix and muddle both civic and religious duties, trouble is not far away.

Apart from elections and candidates, those who scoff at the Christian faith use other clever means to trap us. They try to show how unloving certain matters of what we teach are to everyone else. For example: Why won’t you attend ecumenical worship services in the community? You’ll help us feed the poor and clothe the needy, but you want to have your own Thanksgiving service? Do you think you are better than everyone else? No, we’re just like them: poor, miserable sinners. Yet there are confessional boundaries that show where differences remain between other Christians. Sadly, those differences do divide us to the point that it would be a false witness to the world to say that we all believe the same thing when we don’t. Instead of apologizing for what we can and can’t do, maybe all our community’s congregations could pray for proper unity brought about by the testimony of God’s Word.

There’s so much that could lead us to despair, both here and elsewhere. Nevertheless we do not lose hope because the wisdom of Christ puts to shame the wisdom of His adversaries. Jesus wasn’t fooled. He recognized their behavior. Why put Me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax. By acknowledging the emperor’s denarius as legitimate money, the Jews testified that they had recognized Caesar as their overlord. That is why Jesus says, Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.

The same can be said of us today. Christians do not have their own currency. Lutherans do not have their own currency. We use dollars and cents, just like every other American citizen. By doing so, you have accepted the United States government as your overlord. You are under the rule of our nation’s government. You give them what you owe them, just like Saint Paul says in Romans chapter 13: Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Even today, the wisdom of Christ surpasses all the shrewdness of the world. We deal with the hard questions asked to us by using Christ’s wisdom. Let our Savior’s wisdom be the guiding star in the dark and difficult questions of life. We find Christ’s wisdom in the Scriptures. With the sword of the Spirit at the ready, we are prepared to take on anything that our Savior’s adversaries hurl at us. Enemies cannot overturn the Word. Even the wisest and shrewdest person in the world must be silent when a Christian confronts that person with the simple truth of God’s Word.

But have we practiced swordsmanship lately? Or is our sword rusty? Are we that out of practice with the Word that we have no defense against our adversaries? All the more for you to pick up your Bible and frequently read it. All the more for you to ask me for help if you come across a hard saying in Scripture. I might not have the exact answer, but together we can study the Scriptures for the best answer as God gives us light. It’s not too late to join us on Sunday morning as we study the Epistle to the Hebrews. Questions are always welcome there.

A congregation that regularly practices swordsmanship in God’s Word is invincible. No matter how clever and how cunning their adversaries are, they will never succeed in corrupting those who let Jesus be their strength and their wisdom. As Solomon wrote in today’s Old Testament reading: Wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her. Christ is our wisdom. His work of salvation on our behalf has made us wise in eternal things. As He has made us wise, so we, in turn, speak this wisdom of Christ to our neighbor so that he or she may also receive the wisdom from above that cannot be shaken, the wisdom of forgiveness and life given by Jesus Christ, our Lord.

 

Reformation Day (observed) – John 8:31-36

“The Word they still shall let remain / Nor any thanks have for it”. If there’s anything that is forgotten about the fallout of the Reformation, it is the power of the preached Word. That’s one of the many emphases Martin Luther brought back to the forefront in the Christian Church. Let the Word do what the Word does. Let the righteousness of God in the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf be proclaimed. Let the bird fly, so to speak; the bird being the Holy Spirit.

The first words Jesus speaks in today’s Gospel show us where the heart of the matter is among Christians. If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Let’s take these clauses one at a time. There’s a lot to think about in our Savior’s words here.

If you abide in my word. “Abide” here can also be translated as “remain” or even “to continue to be present”. Jesus abides in His Church in the preaching of His Word and in the giving of the gifts of Holy Baptism, Holy Communion, and Holy Absolution. Where you see and hear these holy gifts, you know God is at work among His people.

These holy gifts, however, are the first things that no longer receive priority in our lives. Don’t think that shirking our Lord’s gifts happens only when times are difficult. When everything goes just so for us, we also neglect the Lord’s Word. What is more, we believe abiding in the Lord’s Word means having to follow a strict set of rules that hampers our lifestyle.

Yes, we live as children of the Light and not as children of the darkness. Yes, we live in such a way as not to offend God and our neighbor in thought, word, and deed. Yet we are not able to live the way our heavenly Father demands we live. That is why God becomes man in Jesus Christ. God in flesh abides among us to forgive our sins and deliver us from death. That’s the Word you hear each week from this pulpit. That’s the Word you abide in at home, at work, or at play. Nevertheless, it is taken for granted as “not for me” or “too hard”.

Worse yet, some may think it is “too easy”. How dare God lets people get away with sin and just merely forgives them. Doesn’t He realize that when a man has an affair with a woman and ruins a marriage that forgiveness just can’t be enough? Doesn’t He realize the damage that is done to people when a young child has leukemia, or bone cancer, or another disease, and dies in the springtime of their life? Doesn’t he realize what His disciples, people like you and me, say and do to ruin the witness of Jesus Christ among those who do not believe His Word?

Jesus calls us His disciples, yet we make quite a mess of what we believe and confess as His disciples. Think for a moment that Jesus left His Church, His people called out of the world into His marvelous light, in the hands of sinners like you and me. He didn’t set up perfect angels to proclaim His Word and enforce His just decrees. He didn’t reincarnate Moses to stand before us with two tablets of stone and demand we do just as they say or we get our just desserts. He hands over the goods that Jesus wins for us in His triumph over sin, the devil, and even death itself through the hands and mouths of sinners. Disciples follow their Master. Disciples learn from their Master. Disciples then teach others about their Master so others see their Master’s work on their behalf. That’s what it means to abide in His Word.

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Let’s take these two phrases together. Think about a time when someone, whether it was a pastor, a Sunday School teacher, a parent, a family member, a friend, or even a complete stranger, spoke the Good News of Jesus Christ to you. Didn’t it feel like a wave of fresh air blowing over you? Maybe it was a nice warm bath of Gospel goodness spoken directly to you in a sermon, in a hymn, or perhaps in a conversation where comforting words all of a sudden rushed through you.

That moment is a moment of truth. Someone spoke it to you. Those spoken words set you free. Martin Luther had so many of those moments. They usually were when he studied Scripture and saw that God was no longer angry at him because of sin. God was pleased with him in Jesus Christ. As the Father said to Christ at His baptism and at His transfiguration, so it was said to Martin Luther in his baptism, when he heard preaching, when he received absolution, even in his darkest days when his life was at risk: This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.

Your heavenly Father said those same words to you in your baptism. He says them to you every time you engage His Word, whether here in the Divine Service or at home as you read Scripture, or even through a friend speaking a word of consolation or encouragement to you. Two weeks ago our District President stood in this pulpit and spoke words of forgiveness and encouragement to us. It was good for me to sit and listen to them because I don’t often sit and listen to preaching. When someone, somewhere, anywhere, consoles you with the Good News of Jesus Christ, you have heard the truth that has set you free.

You are no longer a slave to sin. Your chains are broken by the cross of Jesus Christ. There will be sorrow, anguish, heartbreak, even anger and betrayal this side of Paradise. It will seem as if God has gone silent. It will seem as if even your best friend has left you for dead. It will seem as if even your church family no longer cares about you. We are sinners, all of us. We fall short of the standard demanded by God: perfection. Jesus hears. Jesus knows. Jesus loves. Jesus forgives. Jesus has mercy on you. Jesus sets you free. Jesus raises the dead. Jesus does you good, and never evil, all the days of your life.

This Good News will have its way with you. His grace covers you in a warm blanket of love, mercy, peace, and forgiveness. His love goes in your ears, in your mouth, and all over you to forgive, to bring life, and to save you from the wrath to come. This is the joy Martin Luther believed even in his darkest hour. This is the joy proclaimed by countless Christians through time. This is the joy that is yours because the Living Word, Jesus Christ, said so: If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity – John 4:46-54

Saint Paul writes to the Christians in Corinth: Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Not much has changed over the course of nearly 2,000 years. People still demand signs. People still look to wisdom. People tend to ignore the power of the spoken word to change the hearts of mankind from stone to flesh.

Oh, sure, we’ll listen to preaching, but only if it contains lots of stories germane to my life. After all, I can’t be bored with dry doctrine and simple stories from Sacred Scripture. There’s nothing wrong with a good story in a sermon. Nevertheless, God’s Word spoken has more authority to cause hearers to repent from sin and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ than countless stories. So the Word continues to be spoken from pulpits like this, and even from the mouths of fellow Christians who don’t need a pulpit to speak the so-called foolishness of God.

Somehow, someway, the Good News of Jesus Christ came to a nobleman from Capernaum, who made the journey to Cana in Galilee to ask Jesus to come with him and heal his son, for [the son] was at the point of death. The journey to Cana began with one seemingly small step: believing that Jesus could heal his son. How did he hear this Good News? Someone had to have told him that Jesus has authority to heal the sick, even raise the dead. The nobleman believed Jesus could help and will help, so that is why he asked for help.

The nobleman’s faith, though, still had many shortcomings. He tells Christ, Sir, come down before my child dies. He is presumptuous to tell the all-knowing Son of God to come with him. How about our presumptuousness, though? We also easily demand to Jesus how He should help us. How quickly we forget the Third Petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Like the nobleman we, too, have shortcomings in believing the Savior’s Word is sufficient.

So how about a sign? Jesus puts that request to bed before the nobleman asks for one. Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe. The you here is a plural you. Jesus includes you and me in His statement. Believing Jesus will do what He says He will do requires sure confidence. Yet we want to see, feel, perceive, and experience Jesus rather than believe the mere words He speaks and rely on what He says, especially when everything that we perceive seems to speak against it.

If only we could see our loved ones rise from the grave before Judgment Day. If only we could reach out and touch the hem of our Savior’s garment if He appeared here. Why be baptized or receive Communion when He could show up, we could touch Him, and everything would be just fine. Couldn’t we do something to make corporate worship look more like how we think Jesus would want us to have what He has to give us? Who needs words when we could have a full-on sensory Jesus experience that puts us right in the middle of all He does for us!

You have that full-on sensory Jesus experience every weekend here in His house. Though Jesus may not be flesh-and-blood present the way we might want Him to be present, we have Him in His Word and where His Word says He will be until He comes again. You are baptized into Christ. You are clothed with His garment of incorruption. You eat and drink His true body and true blood in His Supper. You hear His Word proclamed. You hear your sins forgiven for Christ’s sake. Now and then we have incense as a smell that reminds us how our prayers ascend to our Father in heaven through our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. That’s a full-on sensory Jesus experience!

Still, like the nobleman, we trust Jesus too little. Come down before my child dies. Jesus tarried four days after He heard Lazarus died. He raises Lazarus from the tomb even after many thought Lazarus’s corpse would stink. No stinky Lazarus, though, as he emerges a new creation from the tomb. How often have you turned to Jesus only when things look hopeless? Jesus sometimes becomes our last resort. Other helpers failed. All comforts flee. So off you go to the Helper of the helpless to cover your bases. When you go to Jesus in prayer, maybe you still think He won’t listen unless you do something to get His attention or make a promise you know you can’t fulfil.

Jesus leaves you today with the same thing He left the nobleman: a word. In the nobleman’s case Jesus leaves him with five words: Go; your son will live. The nobleman goes home, but when he arrives he still has to check to make sure everything went just so while he was on his way home. The nobleman asked [his servants] the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.

He leaves you today with a word, too. I forgive you all your sins. The Body of Christ, given for you. The blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of your sins. These words to us are His promise, a sure and certain promise that what these words say are done. You don’t receive an assurance of forgiveness or a possibility of His body and blood. You get what His Word says and what His Word does with the earthly things. Has Jesus ever lied? Is His promise to you nothing? His promise of forgiveness and life are what you build your hope for eternity.

In the life of the world to come you will be freed from all shortcomings of believing Jesus’ Word of reconciliation. For now, even when you doubt, even when you waver, Jesus never doubts or wavers in speaking His Word to you. You go home today alive because Christ awakens you with His Word to live in Him when everything else fades away. Believe it for His sake.

Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity – Matthew 9:1-8

One of the common misconceptions about Jesus, even among Christians, is to represent our Savior as a stern, angry judge. This was noted by a German theologian a while back at our seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. He was shown a beautiful mosaic of Jesus that is drawn from the words of the Te Deum: “We believe that Thou shalt come to be our Judge. We therefore pray Thee help Thy servants whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy precious blood.” The German theologian was taken aback to see Christ portrayed not as a merciful Redeemer but as a stern judge seated at the right hand of the Father, in fullness of both power and glory.

No wonder so many quickly flee from Jesus with a suffering conscience to idols. All we consider about Him, it seems, is that Jesus wants to show off His majesty and make sure we know Who is in charge. Make no mistake, Jesus will appear in great glory to judge the living and the dead. Until then, however, Jesus is and remains a King of grace. He continually offers grace to all in the Gospel. He only wants to use His authority to save sinners. Jesus’ gracious authority on earth is to forgive sins.

This may come as a surprise to you, especially when you hear today’s Holy Gospel. Jesus encounters a paralytic in Nazareth. Rather than lay hands on him or immediately speak a word of healing, Jesus tells the paralytic, take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven. It’s not as if Jesus doesn’t care about the man’s paralysis. He does care. What matters most to our Savior is sin. That’s why He took on flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus is born to tell you to take heart!

Easy for Him to say. He knows everything. He knows our sinful condition. He knows our stained conscience. He knows every last thing that we have said, done, or thought. Living as a child of the Light, we hear Saint Paul’s exhortation today to be angry and do not sin. We, like the man in Nazareth, are paralyzed, yet not physically. We are paralyzed in sin. We are not able to make any move toward Jesus. Jesus must move to us. That He does, even though we might see Him as the all-glorious King of the universe.

Jesus makes His move to us because He loves sinners. He loves those who are saddened and shocked because of their sins, yet believe Jesus is Savior. That’s our Lord’s first move toward us. His preached Word opens up your spiritual chest, so to speak, and exposes the black heart of sin. Once you hear that it is hopeless to save yourself because you are dead to sin, Jesus removes your sin, creates a clean heart, and renews a right spirit within you, just as we’ll sing in a bit.

When you hear Jesus say your sins are forgiven to the paralytic, you also hear Him say those words to you. They are, without a doubt, the most powerful words that can ever be spoken in the universe. Imagine a Savior Who will not speak those words to you. He will not send His workmen to speak those words to you. He only wants you to hear how bad you are and how good He is. Not much of a Savior, huh? He doesn’t live up to His name: Jesus. Jesus means “The Lord saves”. Jesus saves you. He forgives all your sins.

When Jesus says to you, as He did a while ago through this unworthy servant of His, “I forgive you all your sins”, heaven opens up on earth and joy comes down from above for you. Peace with God is yours in Christ. The word does it all. As the pastor says when your sins are forgiven in Individual Confession and Absolution: “Let it be done for you as you believe.”

The response of some of the scribes was this man is blaspheming. Jesus is right to say they think evil in their hearts. This authority to forgive sins belongs to Jesus because He is the Son of Man. Remember last week’s encounter with the Pharisees. What you think about the Christ determines your salvation. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus by His Father.

What you hear today in the Holy Gospel is a shining ray of our Lord’s all-powerful and all-knowing attributes. Jesus knew their thoughts. That is why He challenged some of the scribes with the question which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Rise and walk”? Both are easy for Jesus. He has authority to do both things. And so He does both things right before their eyes. Either they believe it and follow Him or they don’t believe it and forfeit the kingdom, proving them to be fools in doing so.

Notice that this authority isn’t strictly for pastors. This authority belongs to the Church; both preachers and hearers exercise this authority. As you have been forgiven, so you forgive others. You forgive me when I sin against you. I forgive you when you sin against me.

In this time of deep division and hard-boiled rancor among citizens of our country, you can certainly see how radical and counter-cultural the authority of forgiving sins are for many people. Some may think that it is casting pearls before swine to forgive child molesters, perpetrators of domestic violence, or even President Trump. It feels so good to harbor hate and withhold forgiveness to others. Perhaps you feel that seething feeling roar through your bloodstream every time you don’t want to forgive someone.

Think of how that feels if Jesus were to do that to you. Instead of forgiving your sins as you come to Him in repentance and faith, He acts like the religious authorities did to Judas Iscariot: What is that to us? See to it yourself. Jesus would betray His name, His Father’s promise, and His authority.

Jesus does no such thing to you. There He stands, even now, ready to forgive your sins and strengthen your trust in what He has done for your salvation. There He stands, ready to apply the medicine of immortality in His true Body and true Blood for the forgiveness of sins. There He stands, arms wide open, ready to receive you as you are as His precious child.

Thanks be to God for such authority given to men! We will tell the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He has done.

A Voice From Our Past: The Lutheran Pastor and Politics

The Lutheran pastor, as a Lutheran pastor, has nothing to do with conducting statecraft…. The Luther preacher must give his time and energies to his pulpit, his parish and his denomination. As a citizen he may go to the ballot box, cast his vote, and then he should come home. In his public appearances, as what he is, he may not discuss political issues. He may not publicly take sides here or there. His membership embraces Republicans, Democrats and whatever else is in the land. If he publicly aligns himself with one group, he justly brings down upon himself the hostility of other groups. And when he is arranging such an alignment, he is not doing the work of a pastor. Therefore he should not bring political matters into his church. No political announcements, comments or advice should sound from his pulpit. There is only one thing that belongs there, and every Lutheran school child knows what that one thing is.

…But some will advance this argument. Some years ago you Lutherans went to bat in Washington and in the various states, in what you called the Parochial School Fight. True. Other citizens were saying that Lutheran citizens and some others should not be allowed to give their children a religious education. In that case our religious as well as our citizenship rights were being assailed. Both are guaranteed to us by the Federal Constitution. Yes, we went to bat, and hit a “circuit drive.”

…No preacher, as such, may dabble in political affairs. They may not be brought into his church. His members are well informed American citizens who are able to decide upon their political connections, and choose their political activities without any advice from him. They understand those matters better than he does.

Rev. Marmaduke N. Carter, “Lutheran Customs”, pages 33-35

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