Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sermon: Trinity 21 – 2015

11 October 2015

Text: John 4:46-54 (Gen 1:1-2:3, Eph 6:10-17)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“In the beginning, God created…”

Once more, dear brothers and sisters, we have heard the account of our origin, of the world’s origin, of the universe’s origin, from the very Word of God itself, from the Word Himself.  For there was a beginning, and there was a creation.  There is a Creator, and there are creatures.  God created time and matter and energy from nothing, and the will of God created the laws of the universe, by which all things move and have their being.  Our existence is purposeful, meaningful, and holy.

The Creator, moreover, is no mad scientist, no tinkerer.  He is a Father.  He loves His creation, even to the point of granting us freedom: freedom to love Him or reject Him.  He created matter and energy and time, and set them into motion according to the laws of nature.  But He gave us minds by which we can act with a will of our own.  We are free to love God, and we are free to reject our Creator, even to the point of self-destruction.

Dear friends, we all know what happened with our first parents in that “very good” creation, that perfect creation.  We invited disharmony and discord.  We invited disease and disfigurement.  We invited death and damnation.

And with that He was wounded with the cruelest blow of all, with betrayal and unrequited love, with treason and treachery. And yet, nevertheless, He loves us.

The world hears this and laughs, mocks, rages, and hates.  The world patronizingly pats us on the head as though we believe in genies in lamps and leprechauns in the woods, but it rages against us with raw hatred and maliciously seeks to cut off our heads.  Our brothers and sisters are, at this very moment across the world that God created, suffering in lonely cold prison cells, being tortured, being beheaded, and worse.  Even here in a liberal, free, civilized society, Christians are jailed for conscientious objection to rulings that defy the laws of nature and the laws of the people.  Christians are subjected to brutal and cruel fines from unelected commissioners who have admitted that they are motivated by hatred.  Christians are gunned down methodically in schools.  All the while, those who hate us mock us and assure us that we are not being persecuted.

Tell that to confessors Pastor Saied Abedini and Mrs. Asia Bibi – for whom we have been praying for years.  Tell that to confessors Aaron and Melissa Klein.  Tell that to the nine martyred students at Umpqua Community College who were shot after confessing their Christian faith.

The betrayal that we feel at the hands of our fellow men, whom we love and for whom we pray, is a small taste of the cross of our Lord, whom we betray by our sins, whom we deny when it is inconvenient to confess, whom we ignore when we look for other gods to serve.

And yet, dear friends, in spite of our sins, in spite of our betrayals, in spite of our persecution of Jesus Himself, He endures the shame of the cross; He suffers death; He permits His dead body to be sown into the earth like a seed.  And that seed, the Seed of the Woman, blasted through the shell of the tomb, like a plant-yielding seed, that is for us, the very Tree of Life.  He rises from the death we deserve, even as He shed the blood we ought to have shed.

This, dear brothers and sisters, is the meaning of the miracle of the healing of the son of the official of Capernaum.  For officials understand the power of the word. One little word with the seal of an important enough official can give life to a condemned prisoner, or send an innocent man to his own execution.  But this official at Capernaum knew that all the signatures and seals and fancy parchments in the world were powerless to save a dying son.

This official goes to where true power resides and is wielded, to the One who has more than a fancy letterhead or luxurious robes of royalty.  This official of Capernaum has true faith, for he knows that he is powerless in the face of death, but knows One who is to defeat death and the grave: Jesus.  This man prays.  He asks the Christ: “Sir, come down before my child dies.”  And the man “believed the Word.”

For Jesus is the Word.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “In the beginning God created...”  “And God said, ‘Let there be… and there was…’”

Our Lord Jesus is not a creature, but the Creator. He is not the word that is spoken, but the Word that speaks.

He came to set the tottering creation right.  He came to heal the broken universe.  He came to restore harmony: peace between God and man, between man and man, and between man and nature.  He came to love us even though we are unlovable.  He does not betray us, though we betray Him.  He comes to hold out the olive branch from the nail-pierced hand of God Himself, so that we might find not just requited love, but unconditional and eternal love.

“Go; your son will live” – even as the Son of God likewise lives, though He was crucified.  

Jesus has come to give His life as a ransom for the world.  Nobody is excluded from the Father’s grace. Though “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” He “so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” And yet, even then, most people opt out of the gift.

Many find the creation account repulsive.  Many refuse to believe in objective truth as we Christians confess. Many simply hate us because they hate Christ – and as Jesus asks, can a disciple be above his teacher?  If they crucified Christ, how can we expect to be treated by the world?

How has the world treated the confessors Pastor Saied Abedini and Mrs. Asia Bibi?  How has the world treated the confessors Aaron and Melissa Klein?  How has the world treated the nine martyred students at Umpqua Community College who were shot after confessing their Christian faith?

Dear friends, it is not an easy thing to be a Christian.  St. Paul encourages us to “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”  For our fight is a spiritual fight.  Behind the madmen with bullets and fanatics with swords and malicious bureaucrats with power to levy fines are “spiritual forces of evil.”  We must look past our comfortable modern American lifestyle to see, with the eyes of faith, the pitched battle being waged in the world that we confess in the creed that is “invisible.”

Gird yourself with truth, dear friends.  Never give in to the lie.  Wear the breastplate of righteousness, never fight this battle in an unrighteous way.  Shoe your feet by means of the readiness of the Gospel, a Gospel of peace, and never forget that we are the people of peace and the people of good news.  Don’t neglect to shield yourself, dear friends, not with anything in this material world, but with faith, faith in Christ, the faith of the official of Capernaum and his household who believed.  Wear as a crown for your head the salvation given to you as a gift, and avoid the temptation to be crowned with the worldly honor of this crooked generation.  And do not forget, dear friends, your one offensive weapon in this spiritual warfare, your sword, the sword of the Spirit, the very Word of God.

We know what that Word is, what that Word says, and most importantly of all, who that Word is.  He is the Word who created us, the Word who redeems us, the Word who declares us righteous, the Word who loves us, heals us, saves us, and recreates the universe anew.  

“In the beginning was the Word…” Amen.

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

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