Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Jesus IS the Word... enfleshed for us!

Sermon for the Third Sunday after Epiphany, preached on January 27, 2013.

    What is Jesus up to?  We watch, we wait, we listen.  A baptismal epiphany, a miracle of water to wine.  What does this mean?  Nazareth looked to Jesus to do something but Jesus points them instead to the Word.  From the works to the Word, unexpected and scandalous, Jesus says who He is.  Jesus reads the prophetic words of Isaiah and insists that Isaiah spoke of Him.  Jesus is not simply saying the prophetic words are fulfilled in Him.  He is saying "I AM the WORD!"  Jesus is the Word of Scripture, its voice and message.  All Scripture speaks of Him and if we read Him not in Scripture, we read it all wrong.
    We have sadly come to think of Scripture as many books, many messages, and many purposes.  It has become the book of the wisdom of the ages for us to admire.  Most non-Christians admire Jesus and His wisdom – even Muslims.  But He has not come to impart wisdom admired by the ages.  Scripture has become the book of truths to instruct the mind, to explain, to guide, and to illuminate.  We open our Bibles as if they were encyclopedias and use our computers to google search out little tidbits of truth to our many questions.  But Jesus has not come to explain things to us.
    Sadly, the Scriptures have become little more than the place we go for immortal help for the mortal problems of mortal people.  We come with our needs and mine the Scriptures for quick fixes to all that ails our bodies, our spirits, our marriages, our families, our culture.  Our religion has become little more the search for a way to make today better and, if that fails, a consolation prize awarded to us for not getting what we really want.  We open Scripture for many things but not for Jesus.  And so we miss it all.
    Yet the Scriptures are but one message, speaking with one voice, for one purpose – to make known Jesus Christ that we might believe and that believing we might have His life in us.  It begins with the realization that the Scriptures do not speak about Jesus but Jesus is the Word – spoken of old by the prophets, spoken to the blessed Virgin to become flesh and blood in her womb, born as one of us yet without sin, walking the earth as its King and Savior, suffering for us the burden of sin, dying our death that we might live, and rising to lead us to eternal life.
    Open the Scriptures and you will find Jesus.  The Word imparts not simply the knowledge of Christ but Christ Himself.  Faith comes by hearing the Word – the living voice that bestows what it promises.  The prophecy fulfilled and the works done are not ends in and of themselves but they point us to the Word that is Christ for us and our salvation.
    That we might believe in the Lord Jesus as the Christ of God.  He is not some messenger with a Word from the Lord but the Word of the Lord who is come and through whom we are saved.  He gives meaning and purpose to the lives we live now as His children by baptism and faith.  He directs us to the completion of that begin in our baptism and lived out in holy lives seeking to become the very people God has declared us to be.  His promise kept is the flesh and blood of the Savior given for us and for our salvation into life, into death, and into everlasting life.
    That by believing we might have life in His name.  Not the old life made a little better for knowing Jesus but the new life born of a drowning death in the baptismal waters and our new creation as God's own child.
    The fruit of Christ's work is not some better version of our old selves but the radical new self created in Christ Jesus to live as Christ's own in this world for now and forever in heaven.  The fruit of Christ's redeeming work is not some explanation for the disappointments of this day or some comfort amid the sorrows we cannot escape.  The fruit of Christ‘s redeeming work is new life, unchained from the shackles of death and born for holiness of life and the good works of a willing heart.
    Jesus is no sage or teacher.  He is no whiz kid to impress us or example to inspire us to be better than we are.  He is the Son of God who comes to do what God has promised and bestow the gifts of heaven – good news given to the poor, liberty to the captive, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and to make known the year of the Lord's favor.  This is what we encounter right here on Sunday morning.  Here is Christ standing among us still, speaking in His Word, doing what He has promised, and bestowing what He has won.  Here, every Sunday, Jesus says "Today this is fulfilled in Your hearing!"
    When my kids were very small, I would come back from a trip with pockets filled with trinkets and candy.  They were so excited for these little treasures, they did not even notice that I was there.  Could we be the same on Sunday morning?  Could we be so taken with the works we want or expect or desire that we miss Jesus?  Could we be so contented with the little treasures that we miss entirely the great treasure of God in flesh for us and our salvation?
    The people came expecting so little that they walked away empty, refusing to see and hear what Jesus had revealed.  Let us not come as they came.  Let us come now in faith, confident of Christ in His Word and Sacraments, joyfully receiving what He bestows.  Here is life, here is salvation, here is forgiveness, here is comfort, here is hope...  Because Here is Christ!  In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

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