Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Come, Lord Jesus!

Sermon for Epiphany 5B preached on Sunday, February 5, 2012.

    Once while speaking with a member over the phone, I heard of the troubles they were facing and the sickness running through the family so I asked if they would like me to stop by and visit them.  "Lord, no!" came the reply.  I fully understood.  There was sickness in the house.  Their lives were in disarray.  There were dishes in the sink.  The floors could stand to be cleaned.  It was not a good time to visit.  They would schedule a visit when their lives were in better shape.  We've all been there.  We have all cringed when the door bell rang and we were surrounded by our messes, weaknesses, and failures.
    But Jesus is drawn to our needs and our messes like a magnet.  Jesus will not be put off by the disarray in our lives.  Simon Peter confesses to Jesus that his family is in disarray.  Mom is down for the count.  Jesus says He will stop by for a visit. We can all imagine how Simon Peter felt.  Thanks, but no thanks; not now Jesus.  Didn't you hear?  Mom is sick.  But Jesus comes to the sick bed, with all it coughing, fever and pain.  This is why Jesus has come.  For needs like this.
    Jesus comes to us not when we are well prepared for Him but in the moments of our greatest need, when our lives are in disarray.  That is what we heard in the Gospel lesson for today.  Jesus comes to those who are sick – sick with sin and waiting for death.  Jesus comes to us not when we are at our best but when we are at our worst.  He comes because we need Him.  He comes not because we are cleaned up and ready but because our great need cries to Him and compels Him to come with His mercy to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves!
    When our homes and families and lives are in greatest disarray, Jesus comes.  He is come into the world not to set the Good Housekeeping seal of approval upon us and our lives but to rescue and redeem us, to reach into the abyss of our sickness, sin and death. We can protest that we are not ready and we can try to hide behind modesty and humility, but Jesus insists upon coming to us, to be there for us, to address us with His healing and forgiving grace.  It seems like the timing is all wrong but it is all right for the Kingdom of God!
    Despite what we have become accustomed to praying (Come, Lord Jesus....) Jesus is not come to be our guest but to serve us with His grace.  He is come not to be served by us but to serve us and to give His life as a ransom for our sins.  He is here not to pronounce us fit but to heal the wounds of sin, its mark of death, and its sea of conflict, disappointment, and despair.
    He took Peter's mother-in-law by the hand and lifted her up.  In case you did not notice, Jesus violated the rules of propriety for His day.  He transcended the protocol of modesty in order that the kingdom of God might come to this woman and address her with healing grace.
    When she is healed, what is her response?  Peter's mother-in-law gets out of bed and rushes to the kitchen to put the kettle on and serve Jesus and all those who had come to visit her in her need.  She could not abide to be served once the kingdom of God had come near with its healing and grace.  She was compelled to respond to Jesus’s healing grace by serving Him and His disciples in love and thanksgiving.  The very nature of the kingdom is that it frees us to serve others as God has served us in Christ as St. Paul admonishes us in the Epistle for today.
    It was not that this was woman's work or her place to serve but Jesus had freed her to serve by serving her with the kingdom and its richest treasures of grace and mercy and power.  That is what Jesus does.  He frees us from that which keeps us from fulfilling our calling and taking up our place as servants of God in Christ.  We do for others what God has done for us in Christ – speaking His Word of hope, loving in Christ without condition or demand, and showing forth the character of His mercy in our actions.
    It is not a good time.  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard those words.  It is never a good time.  Sundays are always bad.  We are never caught up.  We are never thoroughly well.  We are always marked by trouble.  We are always in some kind of jam, in some kind of need, in some trouble.  Hunting is always best on Sunday mornings and the golf balls go further on Sunday morning than on any other day of the week.
    We are never at our best.  We ache, we have pains, we are stressed out, we have sins that need to be fixed, and we live in death's long, dark shadow.  But there is never a good time to shine and impress Jesus.  Jesus has not come to honor our goodness.  Jesus has come not to be served but to serve.  He serves us right here and right now as His royal guests  – with the grace of His Word, the life-giving water of baptism, the hopeful voice of the absolution, and the food of a heavenly table set in the presence of our enemies.
    He has come for us and for moments exactly like these.  His healing grace not only binds up our wounds but sets us free to serve others as He has served us.  We discover that the joy of life lies not in being served but in serving as Christ has served us.  We have a place and a purpose in His kingdom.  The sickness of sin and its death would keep us from that place and purpose.  But Jesus has come to set us free that we might love and serve others in His name, taking up the mantle of the kingdom in our daily lives.
    We are never ready but Jesus is always ready.  We are never prepared but Jesus is always prepared.  We never have all our messes cleaned up but Jesus has come to cleanse those messes.  Come, Lord Jesus.  Amen!


Laura said...

Thank you for your words

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Pastor, for your comments that direct us to the objective means of grace in Word and Sacraments. Kudos.