Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The WORD of the Lord!

Sermon  for Pentecost 19, Proper 25A, preached on Sunday, October 23, 2011 (St. James of Jerusalem, recalled)

    Did you ever hear about the group of Lutherans who went to see Star Wars when it first came out?  When they heard on the screen “The force be with you” they instinctively replied “And also with you.”  It is easy to forget what we are saying and to only repeat what is ingrained into us.
    Ever notice how we end the lessons: The Word of the Lord.  Perhaps you have already instinctively thought: “Thanks be to God!”  These words at the end of the readings are not a  defense of what was just read or an attempt to convince you that what was read really is the Word of the Lord.  We do not make it the Word of God. It just is – whether we acknowledge it or not.  The Word of the Lord.  Period.  It seems so routine and commonplace to hear that said at the end of the lessons that we often miss the importance of what that simple phrase means.  And the same with our response: Thanks be to God!  This is no perfunctory response that erupts without thought.  This is faith speaking.  For it is only faith that hears this as the Word of the Lord and only faith that responds with thanksgiving for this life-giving Word that has addressed us children of God.
    The Word of the Lord.  The Word of the Lord in all its truth, purity and fullness.  It is the two edged sword of the Word of the Lord.  The Law with all its blunt truth to order our lives and protect us from chaos and excess.  The Law with all its blunt truth to accuse us of our sin we think is so well hidden and out of sight, lest we think we are getting by with something.  The Law with all its blunt truth to guide the redeemed of the Lord, whose hearts He changed so that what is good and right is what they desire and do.
    The Word of the Lord.  The Word of the Lord is Gospel – sweet, sweet Word of life and hope to bring rescue to the lost and condemned sinners. The Gospel in its sweetness to forgive those who do not deserve forgiving and dare not even ask for this privilege – only grace.  The Gospel in all its sweetness which speaks life to the dead in trespasses and sin, speaks life to those whom death has claimed but Christ has set free.  The Gospel in all it sweetness that saves that what sin has turned into refuse and rubbish – so great is the power of this Word to justify what sin condemned and restore what sin took.
    No word of man can do this for the words of men have no such power. The great and mighty of man fall every day – victims of their enemies and of their own weakness.  The once seemingly invincible paraded around in their fallen state from Libya to America.  The word of man has no such power but only the Word of the Lord.  Whereas the word of man depends upon some other power to keep what it says, God's Word is its own power to kill and make alive, to destroy or create.  God's Word is efficacious – it does exactly what it says.  No other Word can do this – only God's!
    So what can be said in response to this Word of the Lord?  Can we add or take away from this Word?  Can we change or nullify what it says?  No, it is left only to us to hear and recognize that it is the Word of the Lord.  So the Word of the Lord speaks and the Spirit works in the ears and hearts of the hearers so that they hear this voice as the living voice of God and respond with faith: Thanks be to God!
    Thanks be to God that there is Word which is truth that does not change depending upon the day or the circumstance but the truth that is forever the same.  Thanks be to God that there is Word that speaks life and bestows the life of which it speaks to any sinner who hears for no one is too lost that God cannot find him or too bad for God to redeem him.  Thanks be to God that there is Word that bestows salvation – a promise beyond human imagination that can only be hinted at for we see through the glass dimly until God makes it all clear and delivers to us the promise He has given in Christ Jesus.
    Thanks be to God that what the human heart cannot fathom or believe the Spirit works so that with faith we may hear it and with faith we may receive its gifts.  Thanks be to God that this Word is all we need to hold on to when life fails, death is near, or captive to despair.  Thanks be to God!
    Thanks be to God that this Word does not leave us as it finds us but transforms us with the power of its truth and life.  Thanks be to God that God meets us all as we are and where we are but loves us enough not to leave us where He finds us or as we are.  Thanks be to God that we are not passive before this Word but through the agency of the Holy Spirit transformed into the very doers of this Word – keeping in word and in deed the promise of its hope and life in us and through us for the sake of the world.
    So with St. Paul we rejoice that this Word has been heard in our ears, that it has found and made its home in our hearts, declared us righteous in Christ and taught us this righteousness that we might live it out as we live out our new lives in Christ Jesus.
    God's Word is not some fact book or encyclopedia or textbook.  It is the living Word that is efficacious – that bestows what it promises and does what it speaks.  So when you hear that simple phrase again: The Word of the Lord. And the Spirit wells up in you that glorious faith to hear and receive its life and truth, then let your response be not only words: Thanks be to God but action that show forth this Thanks be to God in deeds as well.
    The Word of the Lord endures forever.... I am right now passing away in front of you... Moment by moment, death is claiming me.  But because the Word of the Lord came to me and by baptism I have been planted in that Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, I will endure.  The grass withers, the flower fades, the world is decaying, but the Word endures for ever and those planted in that Word by baptism and faith endure...  You, too, are passing away right now...  so the world around you... so are the words of man is passing away – like a wisp of smoke that dissipates until nothing is left.... but the Word of the Lord endures forever and those who are born again by the power of that Word in baptism, who are daily met by that Word in confession and repentance, who feed upon this Word hidden in bread and wine in this holy Supper, well they become like that Word, forever by the grace and favor of God.  Truly what can we say: Thanks be to God.


Anonymous said...

Rev. Peters: You write, “The Law with all its blunt truth to accuse us of our sin we think is so well hidden and out of sight, lest we think we are getting by with something.” Is it presumptuous for me to say that I am not one of these “us” whom the Law accuses? Should we not grasp the words of St. Paul with every bit of faith God has given “us” (these are the “us” to whom I claim to belong by the Blood of the Lamb), (Romans 3:19) “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law,…” and (Romans 3:21), “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.), and (Romans 8:33), “Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God Who justifies. Who is to condemn?” Also, do you really think that any member of the Elect could possibly think that a sin could be hidden from God? Or that we could possibly think we could put one over on God? Does this possibly imply that a sin we are not aware of cannot be forgiven? By the way, when are our sins forgiven? I mean the sins committed by a child of God and member of His Kingdom? This could not be “Third Use”, because in the “Third Use” there is no “accusation” by the Law.

In the next sentence you write, “The Law with all its blunt truth to guide the redeemed of the Lord by changing them and their hearts so that what is good and right is what they desire and do.” You could not have meant this the way it reads. “The Law” is the subject of this sentence and “by changing them” is one of the verbs that shows what the Law supposedly does. But can you seriously mean that “the ministry of death” (2 Cor. 3:7) changes the hearts of the people of God so that, “what is good and right is what they desire and do.”?

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Pastor Peters said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erik Maldre said...

Oh, what comforting words!