+ Pentecost 20 – October 2, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C, proper 22: Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4; 2 Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:1-10
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It’s church picnic day here at Redeemer. Today we’re reminded again that all of God’s gifts from his table to ours, comes from him. Give us this day, our daily bread, we pray. And he does. God gathers us, feeds us, and provides for all our needs. First the food of God’s Word, then the food that fills our stomachs and gets us ready for a Sunday afternoon nap.
In fact, all this food talk reminds me of something we’ve all heard before – parents, grandparents or others…
“You are what you eat.”
Our parents were right all along. Biscuit and Gravy flavored potato chips and a cold, crisp Coke may taste great, but it’s no steady diet. What goes into our mouths may not corrupt our hearts spiritually, but it certainly may affect our health. What we eat matters.
But this isn’t a sermon on the next greatest Christian dieting fad; and I’m not called to and ordained to be America’s next Food Network Star. For man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Yes, even at Church, you are what you eat.
And if what goes into the mouth matters, what goes into our ears matters even more. Words matter – specifically God’s Words to us. And so the words we use in our teaching and preaching matter. The words in the liturgy and music matter.
This is how and where God feeds us - with His very own Son in flesh and blood. Jesus, present for you in the Word that turns ordinary water into a sin-cleansing flood. Jesus’ Word that feeds you with his body and blood in and with ordinary bread and wine. Jesus’ word that takes an ordinary sinner like yourself and gives you his pardon and absolution. You are forgiven all your sin. This is the main course that God calls Redeemer to serve up week after week, whether we’re gathered in the park or in our pews back on Springdale St.
Follow the pattern of sound words, St. Paul instructs us in 1 Timothy. It’s like when you cook: follow the recipe. Follow the pattern.
And so we listen to Jesus’ words, even when they are hard to understand – as they are today.
“Temptations to sin are sure to come but woe to the one through whom they come!”
When you hear “temptations to sin” think of the word–scandal, offensive, stumbling block. Scandals of faith will surely come. They are as sure as the devil, the world and our old sinful flesh. Where there is faith, some kind of scandal or temptation will seek to lead you astray. Where the Lord gathers you, his flock, there’s a wolf trying to devour the sheep.
And that wolf also loves to use words. Word that are twisted, full of lies, half-truths, and despair. Jesus warns us that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. It was by twisting and changing God’s Word that the devil first tempted Adam and Eve as well.
So Jesus warns us again…
“Woe through whom these temptations come…It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.”
This is why at ordination, pastors vow to conduct all our preaching and teaching in conformity with God’s Words and the Lutheran Confessions. It’s why at your confirmation, each of you confessed that you would suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from the confession of faith in Christ – in his Words. That’s how serious Jesus is about His Word. His Word is your life.
“Follow the pattern of sound words.” Follow the recipe. Hear the Words.
And yet we know how hard this can be. It is much easier to preach a Christianity without mentioning those ugly things like sin and death than it is to confess that I am a poor miserable sinner. I have sinned in thought, word, and deed. It is far easier to follow the pattern of best-selling authors and hear about positive thinking or victorious Christian living than it is to join Paul in confessing: We preach Christ Crucified. It is far easier to listen to words like we’ve all heard before: “Jesus was a good teacher, but not God”…or…”That’s not what I feel God’s Word says about __________.” – than it is to follow the pattern of sound words in Scripture. Yes, a Christless, crossless, sin-free Christianity is easier to talk about, think about, and worship. But there’s just one problem.
It’s not the Gospel any more than Twinkies and hot-pockets are a source of good nutrition.
Jesus isn’t Jiminy Cricket. Jesus isn’t a new Moses with 10 laws for a better Christian retirement portfolio. Jesus isn’t a spiritual coach or guide or a great moral teacher, your homeboy or your cheerleader. He’s your Savior. Redeemer. Lord.
“Lord to whom shall we go? You have the pattern of sound Words for eternal life.”
Jesus says, “Temptations to sin are sure to come”. In other words, “Sin happens.” And it would be better if a huge millstone were hung around our necks and we were thrown Godfather-style into the ocean than if we were to cause someone to sin. True, our sin needs rebuking. Repent…and rejoice. For God’s love for you is greater than your sin. He forgives you all your sin.
“If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
Did you catch that? You will forgive him. Like St. Paul’s words in Romans 5: “Now the Law came to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” What’s greater – your sin or Jesus’ atoning death on the cross that covers your sin? It’s Jesus’ blood, cross, and death – every time. It’s no accident Jesus uses the Biblical number 7 – the same day that creation was completed and called perfect and whole. Or like the disciples ask Jesus, how many times shall I forgive my brother, “seventy times seven.” Forgiveness without limit. Forgiveness that makes you whole and restores you in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
This is why God has placed Redeemer Lutheran in Huntington Beach; it’s why he’s placed you in the communities where you live. This is why we have a preschool, Bible studies, and weekly confession and absolution – public and private. This is why we baptize adults and infants and everyone in between. This is why we want to celebrate the Sacrament of the Altar more and more. Because more hearing and more receiving of Jesus’ Word and body and blood means more receiving forgiveness. And the more we receive God’s word of forgiveness, the more we want to speak that forgiving, life-giving word to others.
These two things – repentance and forgiveness – these are what the church is given to do –all day, every day, every week, every service, in every age at in all places for all people. Repent and hear the Gospel. Repent and receive his absolution, his body and blood, his mercy and grace. It’s like your shampoo bottles: rinse and repeat. Follow the pattern of sound words.
And with the disciples we pray, Lord, increase our faith.
And the very faith you need, Jesus gives. You see, to be a disciple of Jesus isn’t to ask for the faith to work the kinds of miracles Jesus did. Nor is it to look at your faith and say, “Wow, that’s impressive. What a good Christian I am.” Rather, to have faith in the miracles worked by Christ is to see that Jesus gives you the greatest miracle of all – faith in his Word. Life by his Word. Strength to live by his Word.
But Jesus doesn’t stop there. All of your rebuke, Jesus bore in crimson stripes so that you would receive forgiveness, not once or twice, but 7 x 70. Jesus cannot deny Himself. He loves, saves, and forgives you. Jesus, who knew no offense of sin, became the most despicable sinner for you. Jesus redeems you from the curse by becoming the curse for you. For us unworthy servants Jesus took a servant’s form. Your life is buried and risen in Him: heaven, life and salvation, carved out for you in the flesh and blood of Jesus, your Savior.
All of our sin – our boasting in our own faith and our lack of faith – it sinks to the bottom of the font. Jesus took that millstone that was around your neck and threw it around his own for you. Jesus uproots your sin and plants you in the tree of his cross, your tree of life.
Follow the pattern of sound words, Jesus’ words for you.
Jesus’ Word that proclaim: You’re forgiven. Jesus’ word that washes away all your sin. Jesus’ Word that declares you righteous by faith in Christ. Jesus’ Word that fills your hungry sin-ridden bodies with His body and blood. Jesus’ Word puts the devil to flight and quenches your sin-parched lips with the cup salvation dripping.
In Jesus, you really are what you eat.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.