Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.
‹Robert Herrick›
Atlantis: the domain of the Stingray
author: Stingray
category: Sermons
comments: 0
trackbacks: 0

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany of Our Lord

Luke 4:31-44

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

It is a familiar saying that John 3:16 is the Gospel in a nutshell; that God loved the world, so He sent His Son. "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." We are familiar with the liturgical song, the Agnus Dei which proclaims with the other John that Jesus is the "Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world." St. Paul is keen to tell us that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself."

Therefore, from Scripture (especially these passages), we find this truth: Jesus is the Savior of the world. But, we can also discern this truth: If Jesus is the Savior of the world, then He is the Savior of each person, individually, that is part of the world.

This morning's Gospel finds Jesus of Nazareth having left Nazareth, after passing through the people unharmed as they sought to throw him over the brow of the cliff on which the town was built. He is now back in Capernaum, teaching and amazing His hearers. He speaks with authority...His own authority. He doesn't merely repeat what had been repeated by teachers before him and teachers before them: "You have heard that it was said...but I say to you..."

A demon-possessed man was in the synagogue where Jesus was teaching with authority. This world that Jesus had come to save was the playground of these unclean demons. And so, this one cries out, "Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!" Now, isn't it amazing that when the demon speaks, He identifies Jesus as the Christ; there are very few people in the Gospel accounts that do the same. But, as we have learned, "Even the demons believe and tremble;" the demons believe, in this case know who Jesus is, and tremble before Him. So, to this knowledgeable but trembling demon Jesus rebukes, "Be quiet, and come out of him!"

"Be quiet!" "It is not for you to tell these people who I am. It is not yet my time. When my time comes, and the Son of Man is lifted up as the serpent was in the wilderness, then they can gaze upon me and know that I am the Christ. So, come out of him!"

And, once again, the people were amazed. "What a word this is! For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out." In other words, "How is He able to speak and the unclean spirits obey? Who is this that even the demons obey Him?" Oh, if only they knew, and they will soon enough.

"What's next?" you can imagine them thinking. Simple! He gets up, and leaves.

This past week, in a little spare time at night, I've been taking a trip down memory lane. I found a group of like-minded men and women on the internet who had the privilege of sitting at the feet of the dear Dr. Normal Nagel and soaking in his gracious words in classes at the seminary. They relayed stories of what makes this doctor of the church such a beloved man—Nagel-isms they call them. One in particular is one I have witnessed countless times: He would come in to the classroom, put his briefcase on the desk, and start pacing, eyes closed, and lecturing. He would walk from one side of the room to the other, coming mere millimeters from running into the wall at either end. Then, after about 15 or so minutes of lecturing, he would abruptly leave the classroom. He had said what he wanted to say. He had said what he needed to say. We were left in amazement at what he had said, and we were graciously given time to soak it in, ruminate on it, fully digest it, and come to class the next day and discuss it. Of any man I have ever met, I like to think that Dr. Nagel is the most Christ-like.

(Of course, I also know that Dr. Nagel would scoff at me and rebuke me, or anyone, for comparing him to the Christ in this manner. He recognizes his own sinfulness and need for Christ's forgiveness and Gospel; he knows of his own need to be given to and done to in the death of Christ, to be bodied and bloodied with Christ, if I may paraphrase the good doctor. But no other man that I have personally met, and I have met a few that I deeply respect, none other exudes grace and Gospel like Dr. Nagel does.)

So, it doesn't take much for me to imagine that Jesus did something similar in Capernaum that day in our Gospel lesson. Now, we already know, from last week especially, that when Jesus taught, He sat. So, I don't imagine Him pacing and nearly missing a collision with the synagogue walls, but I certainly imagine Him abruptly leaving the people once He had said what He wanted and needed to say—leaving them to ponder and marvel at what He had said, to ruminate on it and fully digest it.

Where does He go? He goes into the house of Peter, His disciple. Peter's mother-in-law was sick with a fever, and He had been told about it. This is an amazing bit of information. Jesus left the crowd, left the many, to attend to the one. God sent His Son to save the world, and in so doing, sent His Son to save the person who lives in the world.

The Holy One of God leaves His lofty, seated position of authority, and stoops down to one lowly soul who is suffering with a fever. He rebukes the fever, it leaves her, and she begins serving them. There was no pomp or circumstance there, she simply went about the task of caring for the house and all who were in it. But she did so confident in the knowledge that her son-in-law's teacher was sent for her individually.

Now, the crowd had followed Him to Peter's house, and by this time had assembled at the door with many of their own sick and demon-possessed relatives. "[A]nd He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them." He laid His hands on every one of them, individually. Every person who had need of God's grace received it individually from the Son of God...well into the night, after the sun had set, and into the early hours of the next day as we mark days.

(And, so that I may continue this parenthetical comparison of Dr. Nagel and Jesus the Christ: any student who wanted or needed grace individually from Dr. Nagel was always given time by the good doctor.)

How deep is the love of Christ that He does this for those people, individually, in Capernaum. How deep is the love of Christ that He does the same for you. While I certainly mean you corporately, Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church, I definitely mean each of you individually assembled here.

In all of your cares and situations, you have the privilege as an individual in the world that Christ was sent to save to present your petitions before God. And God does hear them and answer them. In those times of illness, pray to God for God in Christ heals your diseases, if not in time, then certainly in eternity. If you are wrestling with some other burden, a sin or concern that has you sorely weighed down, or even demon-possession (yes, they can and do still happen), "take it to the Lord in prayer;" God hears your prayers, and He answers them for He has taken your burdens from you, individually, and placed them on the individual of His Son who bore them to the cross, for you, individually. All of this He does out of love for you, His people, and for you, individually, His son in Christ. As I often like to say, take this personally.

God is gracious—He has sent someone to you to care for you and feed you. So, in those times of need and tribulation, you can and should certainly pray to God, but you can also call your pastor. This man, by the command and in the stead of his Lord Jesus Christ (and your Lord) will then come to you, individually, to hear your concern and to proclaim the Word of God to you in your personal need. He can be there to pray with you; he can be there to lay his hands on you in blessing and prayer.

We will get a beautiful taste of this grace given to God's people individually in about two months. As we celebrate Maundy Thursday, the service will begin with corporate confession and absolution. After the congregation corporately confess sins, you are invited up to received Christ's absolution individually. The pastor places his hands on the penitent's head and pronounces, "In the stead and command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." What's different about it this time is that "you" and "your" is singular. And this is just as valid and certain as if God in Heaven were speaking to you, personally, in the absolution. So, take it personally.

But, you don't have to wait that long. If you ever find yourself burdened by any particular sin between now and then (and even after Maundy Thursday), call your pastor. He is called by God to hear your (singular) confession, speak the absolution over you (singular), and encourage you (singular) with the Word of God. Please, do not hesitate to make use of this gift that God has given to the Church, and to each of you, His sons in Christ.

Now when it was day, He departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them; but He said to them, "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent." And He was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee.

With all of this comes a word of caution. We can easily be tempted to view Jesus as our "personal Lord and Savior." While this is true, it can so easily lead to the belief that God sent His Son to do our bidding. "He's my Savior to give me what I need and want when I need and want it."

God does promise to hear our prayers, but only once is a promise is ever made to answer our prayers in a manner or time that pleases us. We are encouraged and commanded to call upon God in "every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks." St. Paul tells us to "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" and that "God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." But, only once are we ever told that prayers and wants are answered immediately and in the manner desired.

Therefore, do not be discouraged when God does not immediately heal you of your illness, as he did to Peter's mother-in-law. Do not grumble against God when He doesn't allow your favorite football team to win. Do not curse God when He does not give you the handsome raise or promotion you think you deserve—or if He doesn't give you the job you want—or if doesn't magically make the money you want appear in your lap. In other words, do not hinder the Christ from accomplishing the purpose for which He was sent.

On the contrary, in those times, look to the cross, for there you find the immediate answer to the one prayer, just as He promises. For we are told, "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me" and "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Look to the cross, for it is there that the prayer, "Lord, have mercy" is answered with the death of His Son, a death which was the purpose for which He was sent. It is at the cross that we see the Son of God lifted up, that all may gaze upon Him, see Him, believe in Him, and there receive the forgiveness of sins. So, dear hearers, look to the cross, for there you find the answer to your prayer, "Look on my affliction and my pain, and forgive all my sins."

"Forgive me for despairing of your mercy when you did not take my fever away when I asked." "Forgive me for blaming you for the Vikings loss." (No, I wasn't hoping the Vikings would win last week.) "Forgive me for cursing you for not giving me the money I wanted." "Look on my affliction and my pain, and forgive all my sins."

Dear hearers, cast your cares upon Jesus. By God's grace, confess yours sins for what they are. God is faithful and just—He hears your prayers; He answers your prayers; He forgives your sins. Look at the cross and see your Savior hanging there; that blood was shed for you, all of you gathered here, each one of you individually, for the forgiveness of your sins. Take this personally!

So, with that prayer for forgiveness answered, you receive peace. "[A]nd the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Since this is true for all of you, it is true for each of you individually, because you, each one of you, are forgiven for all of your sins.

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

audio recorded on my digital recorder and converted to mp3
Have something to say about this entry? Submit your comment below.
Give me a cookie and remember my personal info.
Hide my email address.
Type the correct answer: They are going to get they're / there / their reward.

This is a simple question designed to prevent spambots from spamming the site.

your comment(s):
[ Emoticons ]
Small print: All html tags except <b> and <i> will be removed from your comment. You can make links by just typing the url or mail-address.