Monday, February 1, 2016

Sermon for Epiphany 4: "The Word of the Lord Comes"

+ 4th Sunday after Epiphany – January 31st, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C: Jeremiah 1:4-10, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13; Luke 4:31-44

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me,” so the saying goes. But that’s not always true is it? Words have power. Words have authority. To use a legal example, anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. The words of a judge can put you in prison. The word of a law can bring punishment or reward.

When someone in authority speaks, those words carry that authority. When someone with power speaks, those words carry power. When the Son of God – the Word made flesh - speaks the Word, His words are full of God’s power and authority. We hear this in today’s readings. God’s Word has the power and authority to bring life.

For God’s Word is unlike any other Word. “Let there be light,” and there is light. God’s Word does what he says. When God speaks, something happens. God’s Word is more than audible patterns of speech. God’s Word is action. And so the Word of the Lord comes…

That’s the biblical pattern. The Lord calls and sends by His Word. God speaks and something remarkable happens. This is how God calls his prophets, like Jeremiah. It’s Lord’s Word that makes the prophet, not the prophet that makes the Lord’s Word.

The Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah in his youth. Like Isaiah, the Lord touched his mouth and opened it and filled it with divine words: to pluck up and break down…to build and to plant.

The Word of the Lord came to St. Paul as well. The risen Christ appeared, sending Paul to proclaim the unending, abounding love of Christ to Jew and Gentile alike.

And then, the Word of the Lord came to Capernaum as well. Only this time it was not a prophet, but the Prophet greater than Moses; not an apostle, but the One sent by the Father, the Holy One of God. The Word of the Lord in human flesh speaks his Word of authority to bring life, freedom, and healing, and not only in Capernaum, but for you.

Last week we heard Jesus preaching his word in the Nazareth synagogue. This week he’s in Capernaum doing everything Isaiah promised he would: casting out demons, healing the sick, and preaching the good news. The crowds in Nazareth wanted to throw him off a cliff. But what of Capernaum? What’s their response to Jesus’ word?

The demons respond with what sounds like the right response: Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God. The truth is, Jesus did come to destroy them and all the works and powers of the devil. But Jesus knows that the devil takes his word of truth and twists it. Jesus would not have us listen to the voice of demons, even if they do speak the truth. So, he silences them by his Word.

Jesus rebuked him saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” The devil can’t stand in the presence of the Word of God – not in the synagogue and not on the cross. Jesus defeats the devil once again…by His Word.

Seeing the demons run before their eyes, the crowds respond as well. They’re amazed and astonished. What is this Word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out! But instead of throwing him off a cliff, the word about Jesus’ Word of authority and power spreads throughout the region.

And then the Word of the Lord came to Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, a reminder that Jesus’ Word is not only for all people, but it is personal, given to each of us as a gift and treasure. She was ill with a fever. And Jesus stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her…
The same word that rebuked the demon also rebukes disease. Jesus’ Word is action. Jesus speaks and something happens. She was healed. And then her joyous response, freed from disease she is free to love and serve others. And immediately she rose and began to serve them.

But what about us? The Word of the Lord comes to us, and how do we respond?

Like the crowds in Capernaum, are we amazed and astonished by Jesus’ Word, yet lack wisdom and understanding? Like the crowds in Nazareth, do we close our ears and reject Jesus’ Word?

Like the demons, do we know the truth but twist it to serve our own purposes with lies and deceit?

Like Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, do we hear the Word, receive Jesus’ healing and then begin to serve in joyful response?

Truth is, our life is a chaotic mess of it all isn’t it? In this life we wrestle with Jesus’ Words and our own words. We have an inner civil war of words every day: God’s Word and the words of our sinful flesh. What God wills and what we will.

You see, that demon in the synagogue serves as a warning for us too. Wherever God’s Word is given, wherever Baptism washes away our sin, wherever absolution declares sinner pardoned, wherever the Lord’s Supper feeds us with Jesus’ body and blood – that’s where the devil is going to work the hardest to try and remove Jesus’ Words from our ears, lips, hearts, and minds. This is the devil’s oldest and only trick: remove Jesus’ Word.

The Word of the Lord comes to us just as it did to Jeremiah, Paul, prophets, and apostles, even to Peter’s mother-in-law, and Jesus does the same thing he said he would long ago. He speaks his Word to Destroy and overthrow…to build and to plant.

With his Word Jesus calls us to repentance…and to rejoice.

With his Word he overthrows the devil and hell, and destroys sin and death forever.

With a word he rebukes your sin, as easily and swiftly as he did the demon and the disease. 
It is finished. Jesus Crucified for you. There’s your Word of life, freedom, and healing. And when Jesus speaks his last breath for you on the cross, something happens. Heaven opens. Sin is forgiven. Death is defeated. The devil is cast out. And you are healed. Set free.

For the man possessed by the unclean spirit, for the confused yet amazed crowds, and for Peter’s mother-in-law freedom, life, and healing didn’t come by their own words but by Jesus’ Word. So it is for us. The Good News is nowhere to be found in our own words, but in Jesus’ Word of power and authority.

By His Word, Jesus promised to go to Jerusalem to suffer, die, and rise again for you. And he did, just as he said.

By His Word, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to speak continually to you of His death and resurrection, and he did just as he said.

By His Word, Jesus promised to be with you always, and he is, just as he said.

By his Word, we speak not with the clang and clamor of gongs and symbols, but with his Word of love that sets us free to love others.

The Word of the Lord in human flesh speaks his Word of authority to bring life, freedom, and healing for you.

Jesus’ Word comes to you. The same Word that silenced demons, that raised old ladies from their sickbed, comes to you. “I forgive you all of your sins.” “This is my Body given for you, my Blood shed for you. For the forgiveness of your sins.” Jesus says it, and it happens. Jesus’ Word comes to you with the same power and authority to forgive you, heal you, restore you, raise you up from death to life. You are forgiven. You are cleansed. The devil is silenced. Death has no dominion over you. Jesus gets the final word.

And so…Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Col. 3:16-17).

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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