Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Sermon for Wednesday, 21 September 2016, Trinity 17

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Psalm 23
My Shepherd
Wednesday of Trinity 17, 21 September 2016
For an Elder to read

In the Name of Jesus. Amen

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Psalm 23 introduces an unordinary shepherd. His name is the Lord–Yahweh. David uses the Lord’s self-revealed name here. This Lord did not come to be served, but to serve. A Good shepherd cares for His flock so that they will not be in want. The Lord, our shepherd, gives us everything that we need to support this body and life, including daily bread. But man does not live on bread alone.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. Green pastures mean abundance. We’re not talking sagebrush, but lush, plentiful, nourishing grass. Other scripture speaks of such abundance as a land of milk and honey, rich wine, a place of plenty. Your shepherd supplies your need.
He leads me beside still waters. It is easier to drink from a cup than from a garden hose or water fountain. Why? In a cup, the water stays still! Still waters are important so that we may get the hydration we need. Sheep are a thirsty lot. And so are Christians. Jesus gives us living water from the Holy Spirit, welling up within us to eternal life.
He restores my soul. If we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He restores our souls. Daily confession of sin. Daily repentance. Daily remembrance of being baptized into Christ by His action. Daily forgiveness of sins–regular as daily bread.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Jesus is more than an example. He is true God, true man, our only Savior, the Christ, and our Good Shepherd. Yet, He is also an example. He leads us in paths of righteousness. He sets us on the straight and narrow way with His Word.
But what happens? We fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way...” And our Lord calls us back to Himself. He calls to you, too. He was born to die for you. He washed many of you in the regenerating waters of Holy Baptism according to His promise. Baptism now saves you, the Scripture says, because Jesus is the one doing the saving.
Your Lord calls you to walk again in the paths of righteousness. We all have gone astray through sin. And your Lord has left the ninety-nine for a time to come looking for you and carry you home on His shoulders. Does it make any sense to run away from green pastures, still waters, and the restoration of your very soul?
He leads you in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. He doesn’t do it because of any merit or righteousness within us. He does it by grace, through faith, not by works so that anyone could boast. He holds the burning coal to your lips. Your guilt is gone. Your sin is atoned for.
An interesting transition takes place at this point in David’s psalm. From the first line David has used the term “He” to refer to the Lord, His shepherd. From this point, David addresses the Lord directly with the word, “You.”
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; No valley, no shadow, not even the threat of death should cause us to fear when the Lord is with us. If God is for us, who can be against us? Even though we may fear dying, we need not fear death. For the Christian, and only the Christian, it is only a portal to life with Christ in the first heaven.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. The rod is used to beat away wolves and other predators. The staff’s hook is used to lift a sheep out of danger. Today, Christian pastors–the word itself means shepherd–warn members of their flock against false teachers and doctrines contrary to the Bible and lift them out of spiritual danger so that they may again walk on the path of righteousness.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; It’s hard not to think about the Lord’s Supper with this verse. Faithful Christians will always be in the minority on this earth. We are often surrounded by those who oppose Biblical, historic, apostolic Christianity. Some bear the name of Christ only to make money for their media ministry. Others claim Christ only to build up a kingdom for themselves. The Lord prepares His table, a foretaste of the marriage feast of the Lamb described in Revelation. The verse about the valley of the shadow previously reminded us about the dangers we face in this world.
You anoint my head with oil; David was anointed King. Jesus was anointed for His purpose of dying for our sins to reconcile us to the Father and the rest of the sheepfold. That’s why He was called Messiah and Christ. Both of those words mean anointed. You have been anointed to follow Christ, to receive His gift of forgiveness through His Spirit and the means the Spirit uses to deliver those gifts. We dare not forget that oil is an ancient symbol for the Holy Spirit that every Christian is given at Holy Baptism. You are a temple of the Holy Spirit! And you have been called to tell the good news about Jesus to those you know and those you meet, including your family. We are called to raise our children in the one, holy faith.
My cup overflows. Again we are reminded of the Lord’s Supper. In the big picture, we see Scripture overflow with Gospel promises–good news. The Lord gives His gifts and somehow, there are still more! Our sins are washed away in Holy Baptism, the New Testament says, and yet, we hear our sins forgiven by His proclamation through His servants, and we taste and see that the Lord is Good at His altar.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. In life, there is hardship, trial, tribulation, and heartache. Even so, the Lord abides with us. He gives us His Word and Spirit to strengthen us when the path of righteousness goes right through the valley of shadow. And His goodness and His mercy follow His Christians.
The Lord calls all members of the body of Christ to stay connected first to Christ and then to each other in the strengthening love and forgiveness that Jesus shares. God provides this strength to us through the church family as we join together in His Word and Sacrament. Hear the powerful message of hope because God strengthens what remains.
The Lord Himself leads you, yes, you, in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake so that you may dwell in the house of the Lord forever. The Twenty-third Psalm emphasizes the Lord’s action for His sheep, His Christians. That’s you. He loves you. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sermon for 11 September 2016, Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

The Rev. Paul J Cain
1 Kings 17:17–24
Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity, 11 September 2016
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
For an Elder to read

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

This is our second week with Elijah, the widow of [ZARE-uh-fath] Zarephath, and her son. The region is in the midst of a long draught, one brought on by the evils of the reign of King Ahaz. The draught will end spectacularly, with the Lord defeating the false prophets leading His people astray. On the way to meet the widow, the Lord provided for Elijah east of the Jordan. Ravens brought him bread and meat and he drank from a brook. Then, he had another divine appointment.

TLSB: Through Elijah, the Lord miraculously provides food for a widow in Zarephath. This story illustrates God’s never-ending goodness. He daily and richly provides for all our needs, blessing us far beyond what we deserve or what we ask. [1]

All we need to support this body and live is provided by the good Lord. We pray:71 Give us this day our daily bread.

In the Large Catechism, Luther explains all that we pray for: 72 Here, now, we consider the poor breadbasket, the necessities of our body and of the temporal life. It is a brief and simple word, but it has a very wide scope. For when you mention and pray for daily bread, you pray for everything that is necessary in order to have and enjoy daily bread. On the other hand, you also pray against everything that interferes with it. Therefore, you must open wide and extend your thoughts not only to the oven or the flour bin, but also to the distant field and the entire land, which bears and brings to us daily bread and every sort of nourishment. For if God did not cause food to grow and He did not bless and preserve it in the field, we could never take bread from the oven or have any to set upon the table.

73 To sum things up, this petition includes everything that belongs to our entire life in the world, for we need daily bread because of life alone. It is not only necessary for our life that our body have food and clothes and other necessaries. It is also necessary that we spend our days in peace and quiet among the people with whom we live and have dealings in daily business and conversation and all sorts of doings [1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:12; 1 Timothy 2:2]. In short, this petition applies both to the household and also to the neighborly or civil relationship and government. Where these two things are hindered so that they do not prosper as they should, the necessaries of life also are hindered. Ultimately, life cannot be maintained. 74 There is, indeed, the greatest need to pray for earthly authority and government. By them, most of all, God preserves for us our daily bread and all the comforts of this life. Though we have received from God all good things in abundance, we are not able to keep any of them or use them in security and happiness if He did not give us a permanent and peaceful government. For where there are dissension, strife, and war, there the daily bread is already taken away or is at least hindered.[2]

The widow and her son are rescued from starvation by the Lord through Elijah. And then, there is today’s Old Testament reading: 17 After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him.

The son didn’t starve to death. The Lord provided food miraculously, as we learned last week. He died for another reason, to confirm to the woman that Elijah came from God and that Elijah’s word from the Lord was truth.

Understandably, she has a strong reaction to the death of her son:  18 And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!”

Did you hear who she blames? She blames Elijah first, Elijah in God’s place. Then, as she comes to her senses, she also blames herself—she blames her own sin, believing that could be the cause of her son’s death.

Elijah responds differently than she likely expects: 19 And he said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him from her arms and carried him up into the upper chamber where he lodged, and laid him on his own bed. 20 And he cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” 21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” 22 And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” 24 And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”

Death is a result to sin. Jesus is the solution to sin and death.

See, your son lives. Resurrection. Good news. It is news we hear of in the New Testament, notably with the raising of Jairus’ Daughter (Mark 9:18ff; Mark 5:21ff), the raising of the widow’s son (Luke 7:11ff), and the raising of Lazarus (John 11:1ff). Who did the miracle here? Elijah, but not by himself. The Lord God did the work of resurrection. Who does the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the raising of the widow’s son, and the raising of Lazarus from the dead? Jesus. Jesus, the Lord God Himself in the flesh.

The Lutheran Formula of Concord (Solid Declaration) shows the connection between our original sin and our need for the resurrection.

FCSD 2 1. We believe, teach, and confess that there is a distinction between man’s nature and original sin. This applied not only when he was originally created by God pure and holy and without sin [Genesis 1:31], but it also applies to the way we have that nature now after the fall. In other words, we distinguish between the nature itself (which even after the fall is and remains God’s creature) and original sin. This distinction is as great as the distinction between God’s work and the devil’s work.

3 2. We believe, teach, and confess that this distinction should be maintained with the greatest care. For this doctrine (that no distinction is to be made between our corrupt human nature and original sin) conflicts with the chief articles of our Christian faith about creation, redemption, sanctification, and the resurrection of our body. It cannot stand with them.

4 God created the body and soul of Adam and Eve before the fall. But He also created our bodies and souls after the fall. Even though they are corrupt, God still acknowledges them as His work, as it is written in Job 10:8, “Your hands fashioned and made me.” (See also Deuteronomy 32:18; Isaiah 45:9–10; 54:5; 64:8; Acts 17:28; Psalm 100:3; 139:14; Ecclesiastes 12:1.)

5 Furthermore, God’s Son has received this human nature [John 1:14], but without sin. Therefore, He did not receive a foreign nature, but our own flesh in the unity of His person. In this way He has become our true Brother. Hebrews 2:14 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things.” Again, “For surely it is not angels that He helps, but He helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, … yet without sin” [2:16; 4:15]. 6 In the same way, Christ redeemed human nature as His work, sanctifies it, raises it from the dead, and gloriously adorns it as His work. But original sin He has not created, received, redeemed, or sanctified. He will not raise it, adorn it, or save it in the elect. In the ‹blessed› resurrection original sin will be entirely destroyed [1 Corinthians 15:51–57].[3]

The resurrection of the widow’s son in 1 Kings gives us a preview of the resurrections that Jesus performs, which gives us a preview of Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead, which gives us a preview of our own resurrection from the dead on the Last Day.

When the widow’s son dies, Elijah raises him back to life by God’s power. Already in OT stories such as this, we see God’s power over death, the height of which is Christ’s glorious resurrection from the dead. For us and for our salvation, He has conquered sin, Satan, and death, opening the gates to everlasting life in heaven. [4]

Our Good News today is that Jesus gives us our Daily Bread, everything we need to support this body and life, everything we need to remain faithful to Him until our death and resurrection, or His return. Jesus also gives us new life now in Holy Baptism and the forgiveness of sins and will raise us and all the dead and give eternal life to us and all believers in Christ.

This is most certainly true! Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

[1] Engelbrecht, E. A. (2009). The Lutheran Study Bible (p. 567). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
[2] McCain, P. T. (Ed.). (2005). Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (p. 417). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
[3] McCain, P. T. (Ed.). (2005). Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (pp. 474–475). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
[4] Engelbrecht, E. A. (2009). The Lutheran Study Bible (p. 568). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.