Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sermon: Trinity 8 – 2012

29 July 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Mat 7:15-23 (Jer 23:16-29, Acts 20:27-38

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Some of you might be familiar with the mural with the words “Do your job.”  It serves as a reminder to stay focused on what you are supposed to be doing, not to be distracted by the changes and chances of this life, not to be diverted by those who wish your downfall, not to allow yourself to be derailed by those who promise shortcuts and quick fixes. 

“Do your job” is an admonition to carry out your vocation – whether that calling is to be a quarterback or a father, a coach or a mother, a preacher of the Word or a hearer of the Word.  For we Christians have been bound together into one body and are all in this together.  And unlike a football team, our victory has already been won.  We are not in this for a trophy to be earned by our blood, sweat, and tears on a practice field, but for eternal life that has already been earned on our behalf by the Lord’s blood, sweat, and tears on the cross.

Our Lord encourages us to do our jobs with a warning: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” 

“But the one who does the will of My Father.”

“Do your job,” says our Lord.  We are not called upon to be hearers of the Word only, as our Lord instructs us through St. James, but also doers.  We are not to be like someone who looks in the mirror and does nothing about his appearance.  Hearing and doing go hand in hand.

Of course, central to our life of faith is faith itself.  We are saved by grace.  We receive this grace through faith.  We cannot earn God’s favor, and apart from faith, from belief, from trust – we do not have salvation.  St. Paul goes so far as to say: “to the one who does not work but trusts Him who justifies the ungodly, His faith is counted as righteousness.”  But lest we think that grace is license for laziness, or that faith is the opposite of work (rather than work being the outgrowth of faith), let us not forget what St. James teaches us: “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

“Do your job.”

Of course, you can’t do your job unless you know what it is.  You need to hear God’s Word in it purity.  You need to hear the Law and the Gospel.  You need to hear your pastor preaching.  You need to hear the words of absolution.  You need to believe and be baptized.  You need to eat the Lord’s flesh and drink the Lord’s blood.  You need Jesus, the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul!

And so the Lord warns us: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits.”

People have a lot of choices these days – especially in matters of faith.  You can join any number of churches that will tell you what you want to hear, that will entertain you, that will accommodate your lifestyle, excuse your sins, replace the Gospel with music that you like or with impressive programs.  They may say “Lord, Lord” and even claim to cast out demons.  They may claim to speak in tongues or have thousands of people packing their sanctuaries.  But the Lord warns us not to be drawn in by distractions.

“Do your job.”

My job, dear friends, is to preach the Gospel, to teach the Word of God, to administer the Holy Sacraments, and to do battle against the devil in this place.  My job is to heed the Lord’s warning through St. Paul speaking to pastors to “declare… the whole counsel of God,” to “pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood.”  My job, dear brothers and sisters, is to warn you about “fierce wolves” and “twisted things” – false teachers and false teachings – which will stand in the way of your doing your job as hearers of the Word.

Your job, dear friends, is to hear the Word, to let it have its way with you, to learn it, repeat it, confess it, pray it, teach it to your children, and allow it to reign in your hearts and in your homes.  Your job is described by the prophet Jeremiah: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you filling you with vain hopes.”  You are to hear the whole counsel of God, not the false theology of glory that “It shall be well with you,” and “No disaster shall come upon you.”

Dear brothers and sisters, you are to reject such teachers and such teachings.  You are to flee those who teach you to be lazy or who focus your eyes on the things of this world rather than on the things of God.  You are to teach your children that nothing in this life is more important than God’s Word, than the Holy Sacraments, than living continuously in Christ, in grace, in forgiveness, in communion with Him.  You are to teach them: “Do your job” and set the example by bringing them to Jesus.

We are surrounded by the changes and chances of this life.  We are assaulted at every side by those who seek our downfall.  We are barraged with offers of shortcuts and quick fixes.  But to all of these, our blessed Lord tells us to do our jobs, carry out our vocations, preach if you are a preacher, hear if you are a hearer.  Learn and listen if you are a child, lead and set the example if you are a parent.  Shun the world’s emphasis on materialism, on greed, on the lust for domination, on things that don’t matter, on temporary entertainments instead of eternal joys. 

“Do your job.”

Hear the Word of the Lord, dear friends!  Listen to it and let it form you into what the Lord wills you to be.  Let it be the focus and center of your life and of your family.  Let it be the vehicle that brings you into eternal life.  Let it grow within you to bear fruit for the kingdom.  Let it nurture you in the forgiveness of sins, in the restoration of paradise, in the glorious transformation of creation, in communion with the living God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Let it deliver you to the cross and deliver you from your sins.  Let it deliver you to the altar, and deliver to you the Lord Jesus Himself in His life-giving, miraculous physical and mystical presence.  Let it be to you a chisel as the Lord sculpts you into His very image: forgiven, recreated, and reborn to eternal life!

“Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away?  Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him?  Declares the Lord.  Do I not fill heaven and earth? Declares the Lord….  Is not My Word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks rock in pieces?”

Do not be deceived, dear friends!  There is power in the Word, not in the world.  There is joy to be had in eternity, while happiness in this life is temporary.  Stay focused on what is important, keep your eyes on the prize, don’t allow yourselves to be drawn this way and that.  Do your job – for the Lord has done His saving work for you!

And with St. Paul, I call upon you, dear brothers and sisters:

“Be alert, remembering that… I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.  And now I commend you to God and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified….  By working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’”


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

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