Today is North Texas Giving Day… an opportunity to support various organizations from all around north Texas. Messiah Lutheran Classical Academy is part of the festivities. If you would like to support Lutheran classical education in Keller, Texas, follow the link HERE.
The Deaf man lived in a different world, the sounds of the world, the speaking of praise and prayer…the speaking of buying and selling, living, and playing: all shut off, shut down, left out. But he may have not even thought himself disabled and unfortunate. He may have been comfortable with his life and his deafness. He could have adapted to his life, learned sign language, hung out with others like himself or he could have been miserable, and alone, and shunned OR both. Whatever his life, in his Deafness, It didn’t matter…his friends had heard about a miracle worker and they brought him to Jesus.
His ears stopped… Jesus opened them. His tongue stuck… Jesus loosed it.
But there is something more here. The Deaf man’s ears had been stopped from hearing the Word of God…and here and now, the first thing he hears is the Incarnate One speaking to him: directly to him, Ephphatha! That is “BE OPEN!” Like every last one of us, our ears, our hearts, stopped up from the Word of God. We downplay, ignore it, move it to the back burner, pay attention to it when it is convenient, but treat it like we feel it to be: an inconvenient necessity. What has your sin done to your ears and your hearts?
And where has this put our priorities? What has happened to our speech? Do we hang out with others like ourselves, have we made up a [sign] language to communicate what’s convenient rather than what is real and important? We’re privileged with the presidential campaigns in full swing but we don’t need help bringing to light the absurdity of our talk, our lifestyle, our concerns and worries: we’d rather talk about walls and fences between Canada and the USA, global warming and climate change, which movie is better, which sports team is going to win, than how to save the babies and how to uphold marriage.
The Lord knows our present reality. He knows that we are broken, sinful, stopped up. He knows that we’ve all made a mess out of things and the church is not immune. We make doctrine “convenient” talk while life is relegated to the “inconvenient” category and then fill the void of our deaf ears with life while ignoring doctrine.
We talk about gay marriage while our families fall to ruin and slowly our marriages fail.
We talk about abortion while our children are neglected.
We talk about whether a clerk should go to jail for her beliefs while ignoring our neighbor’s needs, the neighbors and coworkers we see everyday.
We would rather tolerate our neighbors, as though that is a virtue, instead of loving them.
Repent. The Kingdom of God has come to open you.
Not sent to heal, but Jesus was sent to preach. It is remarkable that everything that God does in his means of Grace – preaching, baptism, Lord’s Supper, Absolution, the Divine Service – engages your whole self. He gives you your body and all your senses and not only does he take care of them, but he uses them to assure your of your belonging. When you were first called the Holy Spirit washed you with water. Water combined with his Word and with his command, washed over you… in a similar way that Jesus took the Deaf man, he took you. Taken aside, out of the loud and boisterous crowd, the Deaf man has his one on one, face to face meeting with Jesus. And whereas he wasn’t sent to heal, he has COMPASSION. He compassion that moves him to get dirty…to get down in the trenches with the sinner, to lift us up out of our sin and carry us to safety.
And so it was that Jesus really did stick his fingers in the Deaf man’s ears. He groaned and he spat on the ground, he touched his tongue. But then he preached. Ephphatha! That is, “Be Open!” Be Open! Let your ears hear and let your lips be opened and your mouth declare the praises of God. Ephphatha!!
His Holy Spirit calls each of you to this place. Maybe a friend brought you, maybe it was your mom. You might have been comfortable in your sin. You might love your sin very much. You might hang out with people like you and you might have your own language of sin and death. You might be thinking of that right now and how inconvenient it is that you have to be here. And you might be miserable, alone, suffering, and shunned. And you might be both.
Whatever your life, Jesus has found you and brought you here that you might have your ears unstopped and your mouth loosed. He has brought your into his holy ark of the church to be a member of his holy bride. And like the Deaf man, he really does place his resurrected body into your mouth and his blood he pours down your throat. He has COMPASSION on you. Compassion for Jesus is his death and there is no greater love that a man can have for you.
Here is COMPASSION: Jesus dies on the cross of Calvary to win you back, to destroy death and the devil, and to unravel the sting of sin. He was raised for your justification, your reconciliation, for your life. You moved Jesus to action. Your sin and your mess and your deafness, and blindness, brought him to lay down his life and to pick it up again so that you would have life.
So this is where doctrine and life meet. This new testament is even more glorious than the Law’s work of condemnation. The ministry of reconciliation is this: Jesus has reconciled the Father to you, by the shedding of his blood. The New Testament is in the Blood. It undoes the old ministry because Life is in the Blood and He bestows that Life through it. This gives permanent glory. It makes a holy temples in your heart. The Israelites could not look at Moses’ face, but God has taken flesh that we might look Him in the eye, that He might abide with us, and that we would not be afraid to hear Him.
Be opened, O Christian, and be not afraid. He opens you not to destroy you, but to fill you with himself. Now you live in a different world! The sounds of God’s love, the speaking of his forgiveness and life in Jesus, and the living, playing, and joy of God’s kingdom are yours. Rejoice! Jesus spoke you open! He does all things well.
Mark 6… In the very midst of life… do you know the life you have, governed by science and math. What is gravity to you or how much weight can the surface of the sea hold?? The snares of death surround you. Don’t they? This upward climb of life, all that you endure, do you feel the ground slipping under you? What happens when the world you think you know becomes a world of unknowns and looking out on the sea of life (like you have your whole adult career, you see what MUST be a ghost?) The air getting thin from time to time? How about the sorrows of loss and pain and sickness… and death. Are you lonely, depressed, or hurt? Are you mad or angry? The snares of death surround you. Not only that, the snares of the world, the snares of your flesh, and the snares of Satan’s wily tongue, they would press in on you from every side and finally in the midst of death’s dark vale the powers of hell overtake you.
Who will help you when they assail you? Where shall we for refuge go? In the midst of utter woe, when your sins oppress you, from where does your help come?
Have your sorrows and pain assaulted you for many years? Have you turned every which way and have never found comfort? Have you been pulling on the blanket only to never have it cover you in the cold long years of your life? Or rather, has your sin and sorrow come in the middle of the night, like a thief and in the innocence of your – minding your own business – assaulted you and left you for afraid and fearing a ghost walking on your water?
When faced with that question, we would exhaust our resources. It’s there that your flesh takes over again. Your reason, your own strength, right? How often in this world, in your fight, do you think your are doing the sailing? That you have all the answers or that the world has a teacher that you can find, to be your help. And that is exactly what you have done. You come here, and sail your boat past your God and around waters you think you’ve charted, but you ignore who he really is. And when you think you’ve lost, “Why trouble the teacher any further?”
Do you remember so long ago, the words… “The LORD keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore”? It was spoken at your baptism. It is sung in Psalm 121…to remind you, and not just that, it’s the Spirit telling you that Jesus won’t let you think you’ve troubled the Teacher or to think that you have been abandoned to sin’s oppression. He won’t let you sink into the snares of Satan and his dark stormy waters. It’s there that Jesus bids you into his arms again – to carry you up a different mountain. For your help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
Repent – for the Kingdom of God has come to you. He overhears you, he perceives your thoughts, he speaks to you in your sorrow and pain and in the guilt of sin and despair. You have sailed around and about him. You have called him your Lord, but you have not called upon his name in every trouble, you have not prayed, nor given thanks. You’ve used him for your devices and when the going seemed convenient, you’ve used him, but what about when everything is over and sin and death crouch at the door?
It’s just then that Jesus reminds you, like he reminded the disciples, “It is I, do NOT be afraid.” They had sailed that sea so many times before, but the Lord had walked right through their dark night of sorrow and pain, right through the storms of their sins, and getting into the boat he bids them peace.
Do not fear, only believe! Do not fear, your sins are forgiven! I am the Help that comes from the Lord – I made heaven and earth and my Word performs. It performed when I called you out of darkness in the waters of your baptism and it performs today. I’m not a ghost like you presume, IT IS I, your Lord and teacher! I make all things well.
But why would Jesus do such a thing to his poor disciples? Why didn’t he meet them on the other side, or tell them to wait as he dismissed the crowds? Jesus came to those disciples, walking on the water…he came to strip them of their confidence in themselves. He came in the midst of earthly turmoil to point them to the calm of the kingdom of heaven. They heard their master’s voice…they heard what was sure and comfortable in the midst of the persecution of this fallen world, but distracted by the waves, distracted by their own confidence, when we revert back to our sinful ways, we sink. And that is what you fear. To sink…to drown…to die. Your conscience will confirm that the knife of the Law is above you and the stormy water of the Sea of Galilee is below you.
And that is why Jesus walks on the water. The Lord does not stay high above you and watch as you squirm in the waves of life, he comes all the way to the water and the waves. He knows that you will sink and drown, so he comes all the way to the place where you are and holds out his hand and calms you. There in the water he drowns holding you up. It is Jesus that dies when your sin should have killed you. It is Jesus that drowns in that water, hangs upon the tree of the cross – endures what you fear, suffers your death and walks out to you in the storms of your life.
His Spirit gives you faith to call him Lord. His Holy Spirit gives you his death and his life in your baptism. His Holy Spirit opens your ears to hear your Lord say to you, “Come!” “Come!” He says to each one of you, “Come to me you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest! For my yoke is easy and my burden is light and you will find rest for your souls!” Come! But that simple whisper still isn’t enough for your Lord… Christ reaches out his hand and he touches you! He catches you…His body – he puts upon your lips – and his blood he pours into your mouth. And there from his cross he strengthens your faith. And with Jesus, just like Peter and all the saints, you climb into the safety of his boat – which is the church! He is the Son of God, he encamps around you – walks on stormy water to find you, comforts you with his gentle whisper, and with his hands, his feet, and his side, his death delivers you from all your fears. And YOU are FORGIVEN!
In the name of the Father and of the ☩Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It’s not by blood…It isn’t the will of the flesh…It isn’t of the will of man, but it’s of God, that you are called heavenly heirs. It isn’t by our own reason and strength that we call Jesus, Lord – but because we have been born of the Spirit. Not presenting yourself once again in your mother’s womb (No!)– but passing through water combined by the command of God to the living Word of God.
Nicodemus – are you not a teacher of the children of Israel and yet you do not know that the Law does not lead to eternal life?
God’s holy law only points to that which is greater. Moses and the prophets only direct us to the Son of Man lifted up. And so just like Moses lifted up the serpent – the Great Serpent and deceiver of our souls is destroyed ONLY!! —by the Son of God, lifted up. That he who first deceived by the tree of knowledge, would see his destruction by a NEW tree of life – Golgotha’s cross.
God lays down his life to redeem rebels who have forsaken Him. For his own did not receive him. AND…the world did not know him. The world does not love him, and yet he loves them (He loves you). This work of God is his love. This is how he loves: He dies the death we deserve, exhausts his own wrath, and satisfies justice. And so we can rightly say God is LOVE.
And it’s this love that is the toughest thing to grasp! It makes mad the children of men as they wag their tongues: Foolish are these Christians – stupid is this thing they call the Gospel! For this gospel makes it sound like you don’t do a thing to inherit the Kingdom of God. It makes it sound like you are passive receiver. Nicodemus would agree. Doesn’t a person enter the kingdom of God through the Law, through his own works as he pleases God by his doing?
Jesus says: no, a person must be born anew, from above. God lavishes his love upon the sinner – from above sinners are made new. Rebirth is it. Rebirth it has to be! Holy rebirth – where the Holy Spirit gathers you up and places his mark upon you. He bathes you in God’s eternal and powerful love. The love that is so great and precise that he knows the intimate details of each person, even counting the hairs on their heads and their chins. Not a generic love, the way some people love cats and chocolate – no a love of deliberate action. A birth from above, o passive receiver, uniting us to the love of God in Christ Jesus.
And, this, the world hates. It’s not that the world misunderstands Jesus or you for that matter or me. The Gospel is clear. IN YOUR FACE clear. You are a passive receiver, saved by Grace —through faith in Jesus Christ and it isn’t your own work, it is the gift of God. You are his workmanship and the object of his love. It is that this infuriates the world. It is a stumbling block and foolishness and they hate it and they Him and they hate you for it.
Our God—this JESUS—deliberately laid down his life for a specific kind of person. Jesus comes only for sinners. And so this birth of baptism makes children of God. Baptism calls the lost and rescues the sinner.
Baptism shows the individual, specific, unique love God has for each of his children. Your God has deliberately and specifically rescued and recreated you – turning what was doomed for demise (an eternal damnation) into heavenly heirs and children of God.
This Holy Trinity, of which we celebrate today, has rescued and recreated you in the waters of Baptism—naming you as his own. We are no longer who we were. We have been drawn into his death and resurrection, expelled from the womb to life eternal, born again of Water and the Spirit, renamed and reclaimed into the name of the Holy Trinity (The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit). So also he continues to rescue and recreate you, today. Your name has been called out and your heavenly Father lavishes his love here upon you.
Create in me a clean heart, we will sing. Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. He does just that. He takes what was broken and shed upon the cross of Calvary and rescues and recreates us again. Resting upon our altar – the God Man Jesus brings heavenly glory and calls you by name again.
The Word was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to us whom the Holy Spirit has showered the love of God upon – to us – The Children of God – born of water and the Spirit…we behold the glory of the cross. We see the salvation prepared before the face of all people and we hold onto our King and our God. Children of God, once again, COME, be guests at the Father’s table, with the Son as your Host with the unity of the Spirit.
**But you might be thinking that your sins are too much. You can’t come because you aren’t worthy of a King GodMan. Like Nicodemus who had to come to Jesus by night or Isaiah who shouted “Woe is me for I am a man of unclean lips!” But you would be wrong about Jesus. He’s the one that brought you here. And just like the angel that carried a live coal to Isaiah’s lips, so also a live coal—the Living, Resurrected Lord will be carried to your lips…he bids you welcome and worth at his altar. Have your sins purged and the coal of Jesus’ sacrifice burn away your sin.** Dine on his body. Drink his blood. Lift up the Cup of Peace. Our God and King we see, as at the rail, here, on bended knee our hungry mouths from Him receive the food and drink of immortality. The victory is declared HERE…in this place…again today. God’s love is lavished upon the children of God and you are renewed, recreated, and made whole and complete again. Your sins are forgiven. ✞ In Jesus’ Name ✞
Soli Deo Gloria!
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. The slayer, the liar, the deceiver – with brutal jabs from his poisoned tongue – is the planter of deception and doubt. “No one could steal the sting from death.” “No one cares enough about you to save you…no one is going to rescue you from valley of death,” he says. “Save yourself, show off to God or to yourself that you can do it all by yourself. Rub it in!”
You know, it’s the same game Satan played in the Garden on that day of darkness and despair, the day Eve gave Satan an audience and Adam abdicated his throne. “God knows that you won’t surely die, for i the day you do it you will become just like him!” He’s turned the tables, his message, which resonates with your old abdicating Adam, is all about you and your works and the ignoring and pushing aside of God and his good gifts. Ignore, rename, redefine, and downplay the works of god and instead elevate, showcase, highlight, and depend on your own works.
We live as if God doesn’t really matter and as if we really matter most! Works have captivated the minds and hearts of man in his struggles with the Old Adam ever since that horrible day in the garden. It’s ramped throughout the world. Even the church is not immune. This congregation isn’t immune. We don’t love our God with all our hearts and minds and we haven’t loved our neighbor as ourselves. We don’t even love spouses as we ought. Are we saved by our own works or by the works of God?? We call bad people good, we even query why bad things happen to good people all the while knowing (but ignoring) the fact that there are no good people and that the real question should be — “why do good things happen to bad people?” Every man for himself – with a ladder of works to climb leaves no one at the top. Satan knows that and he delights in dead branches: the causalities of the law’s accusing and murdering.
The catechumen told us Friday night at their public questioning and will tell you as they publicly denounce Satan’s teachings this morning, and call a liar for what he is, that the Bible has TWO doctrines: The Law and the Gospel. One must have both. Two good gifts from a heavenly Father, a royal gardener. They will publicly declare what you know: you can’t have one without the other. The Law will always accuse and demand. It requires everything, it demands blood for your sin. It says with Jesus, “If you don’t abide in me, the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.” With the Law there is death.
“NO!! Don’t say I’m a sinner! We are not miserable and we are not poor… look at all the good we have done.” But even the good that you do help and save you never. Indeed the demand too great, the requirement impossible… apart from the Gospel, without Jesus, you can do nothing!
Repent! The Kingdom of God is at hand.
There is someone who can remove the sting of death and has.
There is someone who cares enough to give everything to save you.
Jesus comes to rescue you from this valley of sorrow and death.
One man, this Man of God (the GodMan) is good and so makes you all good.
Listen not to the father of lies, but to the Vine, the Good Shepherd, the New Adam, the Crucified One. Which of you has ever heard of a branch grafting itself into the vine? It doesn’t happen. It can’t happen. But a gardener can. And he does. And it is this message that is performative. The gospel, this Jesus, is the true Vine that rescues and makes alive. So it is that the Gardener – the heavenly Father has sent the Holy Pruning Shears: The Holy Spirit. He, by water and the Word, has made you a part of the vine. In Baptism you have been grafted, named, claimed, marked, and loved. And again the Holy Spirit is sent today to prune and to water and care for you by the preaching away of your sins…the forgiving of all your sins and the nourishing of your souls.
To give you Jesus, the Father gives him up in death. By the cross he receives the payment for sin and his righteous wrath is stilled. The good work, the perfect keeping of the Law by Jesus, is perfect Gospel for you. And it is then by grafting you into the vine that you can do anything. Did you catch what Jesus has said? Apart from me you can do nothing, but whoever abides in me bears much fruit. He wants there to be fruit. He expects hat you will do good works, but they help and save you never. They only come after the saving. After you have been claimed and the Holy Spirit has created faith in your heart then there are good works. And so he has! And an awesome day to celebrate… in just a few minutes we’ll receive new members into our fellowship. At second service our catechumens will be confirmed and brought into altar fellowship. You’re about to sing the Te Deum Ladaumus. By this you know the Spirit of God: All of us will publicly confess Jesus to be God and man and our Lord.
Children, you have overcome the great Liar and Deceiver of our souls. Satan is undone…and he who is greater, the stronger man, Jesus is in you all. We are from God and we are connected to him. Jesus, the righteous one has conquered all your foes and you are connected to him. He the vine, you the branches —to feed you, nourish you, keep you. You are forgiven and free.
All with the sweet sound of your Savior’s tongue, music to your ears.
In +Jesus’ Name.
The day is surely drawing near…so Jesus gives us a parable concerning the last day.
For some reason or another we have constructed a safe zone between us and God. We think that we need to be kept safe from HIM — his coming in and his going out…We’ve made him out to be a hard man: reaping where he does not sow, and gathering where he scatters no seed…and that he is somewhere far far away – a journey perhaps – but definitely not in Keller, Texas, let alone in our homes, at our work, and in the midst of our lives. We have made him out to be what he is not.
It my own fault; it’s your fault. We are really good (all of us) at putting God where we want him and really good at ignoring where he actually is and what he has done and keeps doing for you and to you.
It really could be the world projecting upon us its opinions about God or maybe it could be Satan’s scowl, fierce as he will – the daily whisper of his fowl demonic breath upon our ears…but actually we’re willing accomplices of both the world and the devil. One little WORD can fell them all, but we’ve locked that WORD up, buried it beneath the dirt…because we were afraid, NOT of the world, or of the devil…but of God.
But each of us a servant, each already working for the master – called out of darkness! That’s you. He’s saved you from death and the devil. He’s marked you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. His Holy Spirit has created faith in you and taken up residence in your heart: his holy temple.
So how could WE determine that God is a hard man, reaping where he did not sow and gathering where he scattered no seed?
We expect good things from God, but we want that GOOD by itself, apart from where God gives it – apart from the rest of life, the GOOD we feel entitled to. We want it like the world seems to get it. We see sickness, illness, trials, persecution, and the like in a vacuum…and we expect God to answer our prayers the way we have already answered them in our heart. But God isn’t a respecter of persons…whereas the rain falls upon just and the unjust alike, his love and his mercy only come through Jesus Christ. We receive the forgiveness of sins in the preaching of the Word, at the font, on bended knee.
We can only think God a hard man because we have not known him, we do not listen to his Word, and we do not partake of his gifts. BUT Pastor Cholak, you say… “I here, you’re preaching to the choir. It’s the members of Christ’s church that aren’t here that you need to preach to…AND yet, it is we who have sat in these pews and have ignored his Word, refused to forgive our brothers – breezing past the Father’s vast forgiveness and love to hold on to our own grudges, to get what we want at the expense of others, to fulfill some requirement on a Sunday all the while ignoring God all the week long. Our prayers have faltered, we have not loved our neighbor as ourself, and we’ve kept God in our safe zone even within these sacred walls.
Repent. Your Lord and Master is at hand.
Even behind locked doors and sealed rooms, your Lord Jesus finds you. Even buried under the dirt, with large stones blocking the way He walks into the midst of your life. You’re here because His Holy Spirit has called you. Jesus has sent his gifts to you by way of that Spirit…you are a servant of the most high God because Jesus loves you and gave himself up for you.
The talents in the parable weren’t play money and they weren’t things to handle. On the one hand, He gives you responsibility from His Kingdom only as your ability allows. He’ll come back and want you to give an account. But on the other hand, you will encounter things in this world that you can’t handle. More than you can bear. He gives you crosses and pain. There will be sorrow and tears, your prayers will not always be answered the way you think they should. And it may from time to time all seem unbearable – and harsh…and it will be impossible for you.
These things are impossible for mere men like you and me. But take heart and do not fear. Jesus declares, “My peace I leave you!” Fear not that Godman from heaven — for all things are possible with him. The man, the master, has gone away, but he is not gone. He comes to you again today. His sweet and pure Word he speaks into your ears, straight into your heart.
This day Jesus has bridged our chasms, walked into the midst of our safe zones, and bids you come, kneel and receive food from heaven, the very body and blood of Christ who died upon the cross that you would have life. It is medicine of immortality. Christ your Lord unites with you this day. Come, for all things are ready, come, enter into the joy of your master and live. AMEN.
I expect to be soaking in the blood of Jesus when the preacher says, “Amen.” That bright red river of life from the cross of Calvary makes the robes of God’s people white like snow. The professors at the seminary would say that a sermon should be a good exposition of Law and Gospel in a liturgical context. There should be Law that cuts you down and Gospel that picks you up. BUT the Gospel should always predominate. In other words, when the preacher opens his mouth – Jesus picks you up. The preacher must give you Jesus. He shouldn’t just tell you about Jesus. He shouldn’t just mention the cross. Preachers should never tell you about telling the story. Preachers are called to preach the Christ. They are called out of darkness to proclaim light and life into this dark and dead world. Preachers do that by preaching Jesus to your person. Pastors bring the forgiveness of sins from the cross and wrap you with it, like a warm blanket on a cold, winter’s night. They take his blood and wash you with it. Like a mother after you’ve played in the mud, a pastor scrubs you clean (even behind the ears) with Christ’s blood. They do it because only that blood can take away your sins. They are faithful to this call because God resurrects the sinner from his watery grave and gives him new life. How does God do it? He does it by opening the mouths of preachers, and then soaking you in his Son’s blood. He does it by opening your mouth and pouring that blood down your throat. He does it through weak and sinful men. He does it through your pastor. Expect to be soaking in Christ’s blood when the pastor says, “Amen.” Expect to be alive because Christ has wrapped you with his love and breathed new life into your ears. Not only should you expect it, you should demand it. It is your heritage. It is God’s good gift. AND…it’s yours.
Satan would have you silent. Holy Scriptures tell you that all the thoughts of your heart are evil all the time. And yet Satan’s demons close the mouth of this man… they make mute their captive and it is the Lord Christ that opens his lips. A bit backwards to the world’s reason, the weapon of slander and hateful word-play is loosed by the Lord of Heaven and closed by the prince of lies. Your tongue is the most used and well seasoned of all your evil tools in your sinful bag of tricks. It only gets better with time. For all men are liars – and their tongues and lips carry on their speeches of deception.
But Jesus opens the lips of men because he remembers why they were created. He knows that praise must come to His Father in heaven and if they were not to come from the tongues of men, even the rocks upon the road would cry out. So he opens the mouth of the sinner. The man oppressed by the power of a demon finds his mouth unloosed and his lips free to move once again. Free to pray, praise, and give thanks. To speak all things with the best construction, not to hurt or harm his neighbor, but to help him keep what belongs to him.
You are just like that man. Caught between a rock and a hard place, you know not when to use your mouth and when to speak the praises of the heavenly King. Are they lies that come from your lips or do you keep silent as others exercise their tongues in deceitful abuse of neighbor and so called friends and family? Those that don’t know Jesus – do you leave them that way by appeasing the devil in silence or have you spoken out of both sides of the mouth your Savior gave to you? You back-peddle, deny, and lie with the best of them. For the children of men are practiced in the art of deception.
And even as the Psalmist declares that you are a liar, he also declares that it is Christ that opens your lips to declare His praise. Not only does He open your mouth to bring forth the praises of heaven, He opens your ears to hear what the world wishes would go silent… itching ears that wish to hear more of the deceit so familiar to their lips, instead receive the Word of God given to your pastor and to pastors throughout Christ’s church. The One that so graceful opens the mouth of a sinner, opens their ears to hear the Word of God.
The kingdom of heaven is not divided and no civil war has pulled it apart. The finger of God that so beautifully placed the stars in the heavens is at hand to open the mouth of a sinner. The Kingdom of God has come to you, for knowing that all men sin and that to open the mouth of a sinner means that they will lie, deceive and trick – Jesus still opens first your ears to hear and the mouth of your Pastor to tell of the heavenly victory over the prince of deception and your freedom from an eternal death. He opens your mouth to sing the heavenly song… and here you offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving and your tongue calls upon the name of the Lord!
The Kingdom of God has come to you… the Son of God has fulfilled the will of His Father and laid down his life as He took His seat on the throne of Calvary’s cross. Not only by the sword of the human tongue did they murder Him, but with nails and a spear they ended His life… it temporarily silenced the only tongue that never lied and always told the truth so that every law would be complete and even Jesus would remember the Sabbath day and lay in a tomb to rest. That rest removed the sting of the grave and the mouth of Christ was again opened to speak of His victory over death… to speak to your ears, to fill your mouths. You who were once mute, now speak… you who were deaf, now hear…
Your sins are forgiven.
Jesus has driven out the demons and the kingdom of God has come to you. You belong to the Lord of heaven. That Lord has opened your lips. Thanking the Lord. Singing His praise. Telling everyone what He has done. What has he done? He has made all things well. Taken your sins and sent them as far as the east is from the west, given you heavenly inheritance by making you His brothers. He has removed the guilt of your sin and now oh beautiful bride He shows you to his heavenly Father and brings you to eat of the feast His Father has prepared for you. The Cup of Salvation is ready. Come, the Lord has opened your lips – now eat and drink!
So as the season of Epiphany comes to a close, we return to the recurring truth that is the Son of God: He walks through locked doors. We would have all sorts of walls to keep him out, but instead, he walks right through them and settles in on our sin. What does he do that for?? He comes for one reason: to take it from you. In its place he puts his righteousness and salvation. As you celebrate Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras or Carnival… remember that we celebrate because our God has become a Man and he walks through the mess that is your sin and forgives it all. He comes for you and clothes you in his righteousness. You don’t have to go find him, he has sought you and found you.
Every marriage is about a name. Whether you choose to hyphenate it, or keep your old one, or take up his or hers. When no suitable helpmate was found for Adam, God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep and when he was asleep took a rib from his side, having closed up the place with flesh – God took the rib and made it into a woman and gave her to the man. At LAST, bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh… she shall be called woman for she was taken out of man. (That’s what all you guys said at your wedding, right?)
And yet it is the sin of Adam that everyone has inherited…coursing through the whole human race. The problem is we aren’t comfortable with the word LOVE… and therefore can’t begin to be comfortable with obey or submit. You have to be accountable to someone else and that isn’t the way we want it. We have to be connected to someone else??! Our god is our belly and our life is narrated by our passions. And the problem with that is that our passions, our bellies, always leave us alone and worse yet, dead in our sin.
What’s love to the world? What’s love to you? Forget about submitting and obeying and listening… What is love? Tina Turner thought it was a second hand emotion. The world talks about falling into and out of love, but it misses the whole point. Don’t confuse love with the wicked passions of your belly. Don’t be tempted by the world to think that love is a passing feeling that resides in some warm fuzzy you feel in your heart. No! We have other names for those feelings. Those feelings are real – ALBEIT fleeting, but real and they are not LOVE. Love has to do with neighbor and with God. Love has to do with looking away from your navel and looking up at the world around you – and the persons around you.
And yet… and yet… we will not do it. There is need all around us and even us who work at the church headquarters are belly watchers. And with all this belly watching going on, how will we learn to LOVE? How can we love the Lord our God with all our heart when it is lent out as a second hand emotion or even a first hand one? How can we learn to submit or even take the time to figure out what that is if we can’t stop thinking about our own passions and lusts?
God loves a wedding feast! “Go bright jewel of my crown! It is time to have compassion, he says. Bring to all salvation, from sin and sorrow set them free!! Slay bitter death for them that they may live with you forever!” OH, this is a mystery, Paul says… This is a profound mystery about Christ and his church. Want to know what LOVE is? Look to Jesus Christ alone. For the Son of God became incarnate and was born of the Virgin Mary to shed his blood for your forgiveness and peace. Therefore the MAN, Jesus Christ, left his Father in heaven and came for you and me. Dying upon the CROSS of Calvary he holds fast to the church, his bride, for there they have become one flesh.
What is LOVE? To die for your beloved. To lay down your passions and your heart and all the fuzzy feelings to give the other your everything. What’s love look like? The Cross alone. That Cross of Jesus is our life… for it is there that Christ loves us. “At last, bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh… she shall be called CHURCH and they shall be called Christians for they were taken out Christ.
In Jesus+ Name. Amen.
Rev. Steven Cholak
LCMS International Center (January 23, AD 2014)