Saturday, June 30, 2018

Thanks be to God!

Sermon preached for Sts. Peter and Paul, June 29, 2018.

We think it is a big deal when out of our mouths comes “The Word of the Lord” but even Satan can say that and mean it.  The part of the proposition that takes faith is the part that says “Thanks be to God!”

It does not require faith to know who God is or what He has done or even to publicly affirm these truths.  The devil can and does do that.  He knows the Scriptures better than we know them.  Knowledge often passes for faith but it is not.  The devil knows the same things people of faith know.  But he does not believe in Jesus.

Pilate knew enough to mark the cross of Jesus with the charge laid against Him by the Pharisees:  “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”  But knowing that Jesus was the rightful King of the Jews or knowing that Jesus was not guilty of anything worthy of death, is not that same as confessing “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord...”

Peter did know who God was and who Jesus was and followed by the side of Jesus for years but it did not stop him from denying that he ever knew the Lord while hiding by the fire, trying to blend in and avoid being seen as a follower of Jesus.  The leader of the apostles of Jesus was one of the first to deny the Lord.  Imagine that!

Paul certainly knew the Law and the Prophets better than any of us know them but it did not keep Him from holding the coats while he stirred men up to stone Stephen for confessing Christ or gaining a reputation as an enemy of the Christian Church.  He knew the Word better than all of us but it did not lead to faith that joyfully acclaimed Jesus as Lord.  At least not until the Holy Spirit came to him.  Blind and broken and he saw what he had missed.

On this day when we commemorate St. Peter together with St. Paul, we are forced to admit that knowledge is not faith, no matter who you know or how much you know.  Both of these names would lie forgotten in the annals of history except that the Holy Spirit was there to transform their knowledge into something more profound and more powerful – faith.

There is where we stand today.  We recall the mighty who have fallen and those thought they knew everything but in reality knew nothing at all.  Knowledge of salvation is not the biggest problem.  Faith is.  Trusting in what eyes cannot see and the mind dismisses as fancy.  That was and is our problem.  We don’t have a problem admitting what Scripture is or what it says.  Our problem is believing it and trusting it and building our lives on it instead of what our eyes see, our minds reason, and our egos claim.

Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you. . . Peter’s knowledge becomes faith because the Spirit is at work in that Word.  Paul’s pedigree of learning and his stature as a holy man becomes something far more profound when he learns to believe under the prompting of the Spirit.  And it happens to you, as well.

Faith is not a right reading of the evidence or what makes sense to our logical minds.  Faith is trust, planted by the Spirit where there was none, created by the Word and Sacraments, and strengthened by the same work of the Spirit through the same means of grace.

Peters knows fishing but nothing of the Lord’s heart and gift until the Spirit brings him to Jesus and Jesus to him.  Paul knew nothing of the Lord’s heart until the Spirit released him from his blindness and he saw the light.  You think that if you know more, faith will be easier but knowledge is not faith and faith is not knowledge. 

It is faith that caused Peter to proclaim what flesh and blood had not taught him but the Spirit did.  It is faith that turned an enemy of the Gospel into its fiercest defender and the Spirit did it.  It is faith that turns you from the knowledge that puffs up to the confession of Christ that saves and the Spirit did it all, building you up in love so that you may build up others in the love of God which is ours in Christ.

Once the Spirit has done his work, the lips that once blathered on about all the things we thought we knew or thought were important finally confesses simply and with greatest of joy, “Thanks be to God!”  And that is what we do today.  This is the work of the Spirit that you believe and that you confess and that you remember your baptism and that you eat and drink salvation’s food and cup.  And there is one more work of the Spirit.  Your life begins to reflect in holy thoughts and holy words and holy deeds this thanksgiving.  Amen.

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