Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity -
Luke 7:11-16

The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity, 2011

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn #  191                 Christ the Lord                      2:97
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual       
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed             p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #188                Hallelujah                   2:20     

Thankfulness toward God

The Communion Hymn #  206            Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense  2:81
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #   212     A Hymn of Glory                                    2:93

KJV Ephesians 3:13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. 14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

KJV Luke 7:11 And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. 12 Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. 14 And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. 15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother. 16 And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people. 17 And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about.


Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst send Thy Son to be made flesh, that by His death He might atone for our sins and deliver us from eternal death: We pray Thee, confirm in our hearts the hope that our Lord Jesus Christ, who with but a word raised the widow's son, in like manner will raise us on the last day, and grant us eternal life: through Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Thankfulness toward God

Luke 7:11 And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. 12 Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.

Each miracle recorded has one or more lessons for us. The Gospels are so full of spiritual wisdom that each point could be expanded upon many times over.

Many Gospel narratives dispel the notion that the miracle did not really happen as recorded. That is what happens when an alien philosophy is imposed on the revealed Word of God. Although the self-appointed expert has another view to impose on the passage, the plain words of the Bible come through anyway.

One rationalistic spin is that people became healthy because of their faith in this charismatic figure Jesus. They thought they were sick but then imagined they were healthy when they came close to Him. Therefore, the term “faith-healing” has been used in derision, to speak about the primitive people who had such a strange view of God.

Many Gospel passages show that God comes to us. Nothing is clearer than in the raising of the dead. In this vivid example, Jesus comes upon a funeral where the widow is weeping for her only son. She has already lost a husband and now, her protector and source of economic support is gone too.

Here we have no request from anyone. Certainly the dead man did not have faith in Jesus. It takes the Word to create this faith. The widow was not asking but mourning her loss and fearing her future.

This illustrates the famous Isaiah passage, that He is already answering us before we even ask, and Paul’s reminder that God gives more than we can even imagine.

The blackness of unbelief is this – that those without faith do not see that God has compassion on them, cares for each one of them, and provides the means for their forgiveness and salvation. Unbelievers act toward God the way a spoiled child does in the midst of a tantrum. When the spoiled child gets what he has been demanding with shouts, tears, and pounding the floor, from an all-too-understanding parent, he knocks it away. So the unbelievers demand God’s miracles and never see them. They demand examples of God’s love and compassion, but anything they see only makes them more bitter. They jeer at Christians who suffer any kind of setback, unable to see the fruits of the Christian life.

Central to God’s compassion is the crucified Messiah, dying for the sins of the world. That is the Gospel, the message of reconciliation. God has already taken care of the problem of sin, before we believed or even thought to ask. That is the part unbelievers hate the most. They say, “I cannot believe in a God who requires the sacrifice of His Son.”

The widow’s son was simply incapable of faith at that point, and his grieving mother was overwhelmed with sorrow and fear. Therefore, Jesus came to her because of His compassion for her:

Luke 7:13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.

I often discuss with students how our emotions use up our energy. That is, we can be so afraid and frustrated that a relatively simple task becomes impossible. In the struggles of life, this is compounded by complexity. And yet, the plain answer from the Word of God is – trust in His compassion. He already has been planning an answer, one far better than anyone can imagine.

Weep not – that is a good beginning. The alternative is to place one’s worries, anxieties, and crises before the merciful Father in Heaven. All the passages in the Bible that deal with fear also have this admonition – trust in the Lord.

That is why Luther said, “You have as much faith as you have laughter.” Anxious people do not laugh. We learned from our baby Erin Joy that we can laugh or cry about situations. Laughing is a lot more fun. In fact, we often laughed so hard that tears came to our eyes, and she laughed even more because of it.  Because of this, she lit up the places where she stayed. One nurse said, “Erin, tell your parents what happened today.” The event was that nurse carrying a tiny baby, tripping on a hose, and falling on the floor. No one was hurt. Erin loved spills. As soon as the story started, Erin began to laugh. That built up more and more as the tumble was described. We were howling with laughter, especially since nurses would say, “Your daughter is a sadist.”

Of course, a baptized baby has faith, because the Gospel plants faith in hearts of those who listen and receive the message of salvation. Babies have enormous intelligence but not the stubborn rationalism that makes adults refuse the grace of God with pride and arrogance.

Sometimes people tell us, or we tell them, in faith, “This misadventure will bring blessings. Trust in God for the outcome.”

Ministers grieve that they are not in those high and mighty places where they think influential people work. The church building is too humble. The location is something like Prairie Flats, far away from headquarters. The material circumstances mean nothing for God’s Word, incarnate in a stable. How does a minister move from Christmas Day to moaning about worn carpeting in the church? It is the Old Adam in all of us, fighting against child-like faith.

The only way to beat down that Old Adam is to build up faith through the Word of God. The word of man destroys faith. The Word of God builds faith in Him.

14 And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.

This is a perfect illustration of the efficacy of the Word. Jesus touched the bier and everything stopped. People felt His power. No one could miss it. Although Jesus normally assumed the appearance of an ordinary man, He drew people to Him with His grace and compassion. His divinity was never absent, even when He chose not to display it.

First He stopped the procession of grief. A crowd always attended a burial, party from support, but also from curiosity. In any small town, a burial is a community event. Friends and relatives who could travel would also be there to show respect and love.
Therefore, this miracle had many witnesses from all walks of life. This was a public display of the power of the Word. Jesus only said one sentence and raised the dead to life again.

Can the Word of God bring people back to life?

KJV John 5:25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. 26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

One Sunday School teacher was puzzled over how this could happen if cannibals ate Christians and became converted later. How would God handle this? I asked, as a student in the class, “Is that more difficult than dealing with dust and those lost in the ocean or fires?”

15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And He delivered him to his mother.

Some would like to say the young man was in a swoon and not really dead. The raising of Lazarus illustrates the folly of that interpretation. As one Lutheran used to say, “Any excuse will do.” That is, when someone refuses to believe the Word, any excuse for that unbelief will do.

Luke 7:16 And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people. 17 And this rumour [GJ – literally – This Word went forth] of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about.

When the people realized they were in the presence of God’s power, they were afraid. They knew they were at the turning point of history, if God was visiting them. That filled them with awe, wonder, and fear.

This also explains why such large crowds followed Jesus and made His opponents angry. The Word went forth, converting people, causing them to trust in Him. They longed to see and hear Him.

The application of this miracle is best explained by Luther himself.

Luther had this to say about the miracle:
8. So it was in the case of this widow, in whom God lets himself be known, as to what kind of a God he is, what he thinks of us, and what we must think of him. This woman has two misfortunes around her neck. First, she is a widow. This is misfortune enough for one woman, that she is forsaken and alone, and has no one to whom she dare look for comfort. And therefore God in the Scriptures is often mentioned as the Father of the widow and orphans, as in Ps. 68, 6 and 146, 9: "God setteth the solitary in families. The Lord preserveth the strangers and orphans, he delivers the widow." Again: she has an only son about to die, who should have been her comfort. Now, God comes and takes away her husband and son. She had much better have lost house and home, yes, her own life, than her son and husband. But the Lord turns it around. While the husband lived the woman did not appreciate what a blessing a husband was; but when he died she first became aware of it. When he lived, she thought: 0, other women have husbands, too! And thought her husband was like other husbands. But afterwards when he was dead, she became aware what kind of a man she had lost.

So, too, when her son was bright and well, she did not appreciate the blessing of God, but as soon as he died, she then first saw what a treasure she had lost. Before she did not desire to spend on him; but now, since he is dead, she spends all she has and even herself upon him. And thus it is also with us. There are many of you who do not expend ten dollars that your child may be reared better; if the child dies the parents wish and say: 0 would to God he were alive, I would give many hundred dollars! Why did you not give something before that he might have learned a little? What is the reason you do not appreciate the grace and blessings of God? In short, the world remains world, and it will not change into anything else.

Luther often brought up the importance of thankfulness toward God for all we have, instead of indifference or bitterness about what we imagine we lack. All our earthly woes are brief, and they often bring the fruits of spiritual blessings. We know two little girls in this area who barely survived birth. They have many problems, but they are happy as can be. I asked their mother, “Do they like coloring books?” She said, “They love to color.” I went to the car and got two of Norma Boeckler’s coloring books for The Story of Jesus in pictures. The mother gasped at how good the illustrations were, as our friend did in Moline. She received two for herself and her granddaughter. She said, “I don’t want color, I want to color.”

The Gospel messages consists of rocks tossed in a pond. The waves go forth in all directions. Some run into interference, just as the Word always does in every place. And yet the message moves on.

Thankfulness makes us more directly toward God because it means thanking God. Unhappiness comes from blaming ourselves and others, not thinking of what God accomplishes in the worst of circumstances.

One man filled me in on what I suspected. At one time I thought being an editor at a Lutheran publishing firm would be great. But later I realized that looking at and working with the writings of others would make me pretty tired of the whole enterprise by the end  of the day. I happened to sit at a faculty meeting with a former editor of a big publishing firm. He knew Jackie Kennedy and worked with her. I told him about my theory of editing, that no one goes home from the job and writes. He said, “Believe me. Editors never write.”

Book printing has come unglued, probably from the success of e-books and the work of the late Steve Jobs. Everyone (but me) wants in iPad. That innovation means people can read books wherever they want, instead of being needing to carry them, keep track of them, haul them to new locations. The Word has taken flight even more than ever before, because of the shift from old-fashioned printed.

At our reunion I delighted in telling people, especially a famous minister, about our little church. My friend from the class has been everywhere in America and all over the world, since he is ordained and also a great singer. His mouth fell open as I described how to use a $100 camera and a computer to reach the world and record services at the same time.

The last thing people imagine, when they have marble altars, is hooking up a little camera in a little room to reach the world with the Gospel message of Christ.

The Work of the Holy Spirit is the Word of God

"Whoever comes to faith can only say that the Holy Spirit comes when and where and to whom He pleases at the time He pleases. He comes when and where He pleases, and also gives a person as many gifts as He pleases."
            What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 665.

"That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith, where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ's sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ's sake. They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparation and works."
            Augsburg Confession, V. #1-2. The Ministry. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 45. Tappert, p. 31. Heiser, p. 13.

 "He [Paul] thus extols co-laborers that they [the Corinthians] may not despise the external Word as if they were not in need of it or knew it well enough. For although God might accomplish all things inwardly by the Spirit, without the external Word, He has no intention of doing so. He wants to employ preachers as assistants and co-laborers and to accomplish His purposes through their word when and where it pleases Him. Since, then, preachers have the office, name, and honor of being God's assistants, no man is so learned or holy that he may neglect or despise the poorest preaching; for he does not know when the hour will come in which God will perform His work in him through the preachers."
            What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed. Ewald M. Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House 1959 III, p. 1118. W 17, II, 179; SL 12, 436; sermon #3572; 2 Corinthians 6:1-10

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