Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sermon: Trinity 13 and Installation

17 August 2008 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 10:23-37 (Hos 6:1-6, Gal 3:15-22)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Dear Christian brothers and sisters. Today, we are installing two teachers in our school. It is fitting and proper that the Lord, in His wisdom, selected the Parable of the Good Samaritan to be the Gospel lesson for us today.

Teaching is a godly vocation – so much so that we expect more of our teachers than do the State of Louisiana and the United States of America. Our teachers must additionally be citizens of the Kingdom of God and witnesses of Jesus Christ, as they are called to teach much more than math and science, computers and music, PE and foreign languages. All of these are important, but teachers at Salem Lutheran School do all of this, and more.

They, like our Blessed Lord, are also in the business of teaching about “eternal life.” They are to instruct concerning the Law, but more importantly, to serve as living witnesses of the Gospel. When our Lord asks, “Who was the good neighbor?”, the lawyer correctly answered: “He who showed mercy on him.” Our Lord replied: “Go and do likewise.”

All of our teachers, especially you, Kim and Jonathan, listen carefully to our Lord’s teaching. For you are to “go and do likewise,” showing mercy to your neighbor, whether they are your students, their parents, your fellow faculty and staff, the administration, your brother and sister church members, or anyone else in need of mercy. That is what it means to be a Lutheran school teacher.

For our Lord Himself is called “Teacher” – even as you are called, given a vocation to teach, in our school, the missionary extension of our church in this community.

All of us here at Salem are equipped to “go and do likewise,” – all because of the “likewise.” For our Lord is the original “Good Samaritan” – the humble outcast, the One whose mercy by far exceeds that of the priests and Levites. He is the “Seed,” in the words of St. Paul, who has come to fulfill the law, to be the Mediator between the holy God and sinful man, the One who comes “to whom the promise was made.” My fellow teachers, we can indeed show mercy, because mercy was first shown to us.

This cuts to the quick of the Gospel. Though you are not called to step into the pulpit to preach the Gospel, you are called to step into a classroom and bear witness to the Gospel. And this is more, much more, than teaching Religion class. All Christians are, to borrow a term from Luther, to be “little Christs” to the world. The Lord uses us in all of our vocations to bear witness to Him in whose service we labor.

The Good Samaritan saw a person in need, and acted with mercy. His neighbor was a wounded victim, and he used what skills he had to cure him, ordinary elements like bandages, oil, and wine. The Good Samaritan also gave of his treasure, his hard-earned money to care for his neighbor in need. And he asked for nothing in return.

We Christians are called upon to “go and do likewise” – for this mercy was “likewise” done to us. Our Lord Jesus bandages us with Holy Absolution, binding up our wounds of sin and guilt. Just like the victim in our Lord’s story, we too, in this sinful world, are battered and beaten around by the world, our flesh, and the devil. We are constantly accused. We are constantly under temptation. And often we fall into sin. We need the bandage of the Lord’s absolution carried out by humble hands and voices like those of the Samaritan. The Lord Himself has used oil, an ancient symbol of baptism, to seal us with the sign of the cross, anointing us, literally in the Greek “Christing” us, as we are baptized into the Lord’s death and resurrection. The Lord Himself has given us the wine of His blood, an antiseptic that kills all germs, not just the physical germs – but even the spiritual “germs” of sin and guilt.

Mercy is given to us by our Lord through humble servants, like the Good Samaritan. And by virtue of this mercy shown to us, we are empowered to “go and do likewise” in our own vocations and callings in life.

And like the Good Samaritan, showing such mercy will not make you rich in the worldly sense. If you are looking to become wealthy, being a Lutheran school teacher is probably not the right path for you. If you are looking for applause and approval from the world, you will not get it as a Christian. But if you are looking to be wealthy in a different way, storing up treasures in heaven, being rich in mercy and filled with joy at serving your Lord and your neighbor – you will be rich beyond measure. Last week, we were reminded by St. Lawrence where the true treasure of the Church lies.

And though the eyes see only a Samaritan outcast, faith sees a Savior. Though the eyes see only bandages, oil, and wine, faith sees the mighty work of God. Though the eyes see students who don’t seem to be paying attention, a paycheck that is less than that of your friends, days where you are forced to clean up blood and other messes, times when you feel like you are a failure, situations where you are inadequate to the task, days when you feel underappreciated – the eyes of faith see a holy and glorious service, a godly vocation, work of education and witness of the faith that will have eternal ramifications, the touching of lives and the giving of love to children, parents, peers, and people of every tribe and tongue in our community.

For whether we feel it or not, whether the payoff is immediate or not – the teaching vocation is indeed the work of the Lord. And there is also great and glorious joy in the smile of a student who now understands, in the hug from a child who has been comforted, in the relief of concerned parents, and in your own heart at the end of the day when you can thank the Lord for showing you such great mercy to allow you the privilege to do his work.

The prophet Hosea says: “Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning. He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth.” We Christian school teachers help our students “pursue the knowledge of the Lord.” And yet that knowledge is not merely intellectual (as important as that is). The knowledge we bring is also imparted by the mercy we show in the name of Jesus, being the Good Samaritans to children who, like the rest of us, are in dire need of hearing the good news that Jesus has died for them, shows them mercy, bandages them up, salves them with oil, cleanses them with wine, and even pays the price so they can return home again eternally, in communion with God and in harmony with their neighbor.

Whatever your calling, your vocation, dear brothers and sisters, our Lord has shown you mercy as well. And He has not only empowered you, but has given you the joyful responsibility as a forgiven sinner, as a light shining in the darkness, as a witness to the saving work of our Blessed Lord, to likewise show mercy to your neighbor. Having been shown mercy, we are called upon to be merciful – even to strangers, even to our enemies, even to people who don’t deserve to be shown mercy any more than we do. But that’s what mercy is all about. It is undeserved. It is by grace. And we have received it in full measure.

Now, you have been freed from your sins and liberated to “go and do likewise.” Amen.

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

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