Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sermon: Trinity 24 - 2010

14 November 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 9:18-26

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

“In the very midst of life / Snares of death surround us.”

This hymn was already a couple hundred years old when Luther translated it into German and set it to the same melody that we just sang. It has been used at Lutheran funerals for centuries. It is traditionally sung as a casket is being carried to its grave.

It is a somber reminder of the fallenness of our world and the wages of sin. For as much as we delude ourselves into thinking that everything is okay, we know that it isn’t. We live in a world where we bleed and we die.

“We mourn that we have greatly erred / That our sins Thy wrath have stirred.”

And no mourning is as bitter as for the death of a child. We know the girl whom Jesus raised from death - by taking her hand and speaking tenderly to her - was only twelve years old. I know from classroom experience that there are many things twelve year old girls often do that they are not supposed to do. They often pass notes and giggle in class. They are often not as focused as they ought to be. Sometimes their priorities are not what they should be. But the one thing above all things that twelve year old girls are not supposed to do is to die.

Nothing drives home the point that death is unnatural and alien to the good creation made by God than when a dear child passes away.

And there is no desperation that compares to that of a parent whose child is in danger of death. There is no mourning so deep and so devastating as the mourning of a parent who has had to bury a child. And in light of this, imagine the faith of the synagogue ruler who has come to Jesus before even burying his beloved daughter, kneeling before our Lord and saying: “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” Not only is this a plea for mercy, but it is a prayer offered in faith, for he truly believes that Jesus has the power to resurrect his daughter, and he asks Jesus to do just that.

And cutting through the commotion of mourners and musicians, ignoring the scoffing of unbelievers and mockers, our blessed Lord puts the jeering crowd out, takes the lifeless child by the hand, and invites her to rise from death. And by the power of the Word Made Flesh and His healing touch, that is exactly what she does.

“Who shall help us in the strife / Lest the foe confound us? / Thou only, Lord, Thou only!”

The synagogue ruler knew that the antidote to death was Jesus. So too, the woman with the hemorrhage. For life is in the blood, and her blood had been spilled for twelve years. Unchecked, this condition would also lead to death, even as left unchecked, sin leads to eternal death. And like the synagogue ruler, this suffering and desperate woman knows to seek out Jesus: “If I only touch his garment,” she confesses, “I will be made well.” Once again, what a beautiful expression of faith, childlike faith, life-giving faith, a faith rooted in Jesus and His divine will. For He has come into the world to save sinners and to wrench life out of the snares of death.

“Thy precious blood was shed to win / Full atonement for our sin.”

She knew where to seek help. She knew who had the power to save her. She had faith not only in the holy and mighty God’s ability, but also in the healing offered by the holy and all-merciful Savior! She believed that He could, and would, save her from the snares of death, and she was right!

“Lord, preserve and keep us / In the peace that faith can give.”

“Take heart, daughter,” declares our merciful Lord, “your faith has made you well.”

For just as girls were not made to die, neither were grown women, men, boys, the old, the young, the rich, or the poor. No-one was created for the purpose of returning to dust. No-one was designed to bleed to death. No-one was crafted to lie on a deathbed surrounded by mourners.

That, dear friends, is all our doing. That is the wages of sin.

For “in the midst of utter woe / When our sins oppress us, / Where shall we for refuge go, / Where for grace to bless us? To Thee, Lord Jesus, only!”

We know where to find the solution to our own loss of blood and of life. We know where to find the cure to death itself. We know where to find the antidote to sin. To our Lord Jesus only! For we have another hymn that proclaims this truth, this gospel truth, this eternal truth, this truth that was also confessed by another who sought our Lord’s healing and mercy amid the snares of death, the great hymn and confession of Job: “I know that my Redeemer lives.”

For even as it is true that “in the very midst of life / Snares of death surround us,” it is equally true that by the redeeming and atoning work of our merciful Savior, we can just as easily sing: “in the very midst of death, we are surrounded by life,” thanks to our Redeemer, thanks to His atoning death, thanks to His miraculous resurrection, and thanks to His gift of faith, even a faith that has made us well and given us new life.

In that redemption and forgiveness, even among the snares of death, even in the suffering of this fallen world, we can sing boldly and joyfully with the saints, the redeemed sinners of every age:

Holy and righteous God!
Holy and mighty God!
Holy and all merciful Savior!
Eternal Lord God!
Lord, preserve and keep us
In the peace that faith can give.
Have mercy, O Lord.


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

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