Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sermon for 27 February 2011, Epiphany 8A

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Matthew 6:24-34
Enough to Worry About
Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany, Proper [3] (A), 27 February 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY

In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It was a difficult spot to be in to say the least. Tim had two full-time jobs and had an impossible schedule each day. He had more than enough to worry about. From early in the morning to early afternoon, he worked at the lumberyard. Then, he had the late shift at the railroad yard. He barely had time to eat and sleep. He wasn’t married. If he were, he’d never see his wife and children. We’d probably all agree that this was no way to live. Something had to give. And finally, Tim had to make a choice. He was promoted at the railroad and was offered the day shift. There simply was no good reason to try to work two jobs. Even the money wasn’t worth what it was doing to him. Tim learned by experience what Jesus said: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Money is a wonderful servant but a terrible master. For some, it becomes the god in which they put their trust. Providing for the family becomes a convenient excuse to work more and more and accumulate more money in the bank account or more stuff in the house or garage.
Even our young people sometimes fall into the trap. Money from a part-time job often goes to what are really luxuries: cars, music, electronics, video game systems, or name-brand clothing. While none of us would likely give up being a Christian for a billion dollars, many simply do it for minimum wage. I’m thankful to see you for Church today.
God knows we need our daily bread, everything that supports our bodies and lives. We pray for daily bread daily. By faith we see that everything we have is a gift from Him. We receive our daily bread with thanksgiving. But we still worry. We worry about important things. We worry about silly things. We worry about what other people will think. We worry about how we’ll pay the bills. We worry about how much we worry. And Jesus says: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
God provides you with everything you truly need. That’s the sermon in one sentence. God gives you daily bread and spiritual bread, forgiveness in Christ. You have enough to worry about in regularly receiving the Lord’s gifts and offering back to him your sacrifice of thanksgiving, praise, and good works.
Seek the kingdom first. The spiritual gifts endure forever. They are the only ones you can take with you once you die. God knows you need physical blessings. He gives food to all, even the evil. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
I’m not going to rehash a list of the things that concern you. That would be a waste of my time and yours. Instead, think about those things before the Lord in prayer and pray in faith that the Lord can and will resolve them! Worry uses up so much valuable prayer time. Many times you cannot change what is happening. You just have to sit there and watch it happen. You can change how you react to situations. You can act out of faith instead of acting out of fear.
We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things—including money. All too often we have a different kind of fear—the being afraid kind—and it can be paralyzing.
One dark pitch-black night a man was walking down an unfamiliar road. On either side was a steep ravine. [Why he’s walking down the road and why it’s at night we’re never told.] Suddenly he stepped into space and began to fall. Thinking he was falling to certain death, he began flailing his arms and clutching for anything he could get his hands on. He was able to grasp a bush along the side, and he held on for dear life. It was agony. His body became numb. At last in weakness and despair, he let go and dropped—six inches to the bottom of the ditch. Think of the endless agony he went through because he didn’t let go sooner. Think of the needless agony you go through in the midst of your worries because you don’t let go and let God.
You have enough to worry about. And worry is often an excuse to doubt God’s love and care of us. We lean on Him and our families and Christian family in time of need. And sometimes we actually pay enough attention to notice that the Lord has provided enough. We just haven’t been spiritually awake enough to see all that He has provided. God will provide for your needs. He may have a difference of opinion with you on the difference between something you want and something you truly need. Worry is not something you need. Prayer is.
Just yesterday, a member told me, “I’ve been a member here for a long time. I don’t think I’ve seen so many of our members hurting in so many different ways all at one time. And the ones hurting are the ones who are usually the first on the scene to help.” What an insight. We do not always know the reason behind our pain and suffering in this life. Sometimes, yes sometimes we may get insight into why. Perhaps it is our turn to help them.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Isn’t that the truth! God gives daily bread daily. Trouble comes daily. And God gives us what we need to make it through each day. We aren’t told exactly what each day will bring. God has called us to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. We pray that the Lord will give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that His hand is leading us and His love supporting us through Christ, our Lord.
The famous musician was depressed. His right side was paralyzed. All his money was gone. He was so deeply in debt that he was threatened with being thrown into jail. Nevertheless, he worked on composing the musical masterpiece for which he is still remembered. He worked so fast and hard, he seldom stopped for meals. When his servant brought him food, the servant often found his master weeping. In twenty-four days, from August 22 through September 14, 1741, George Frederic Handel finished his oratorio Messiah.
We don’t know how much this grandson of a German Lutheran pastor prayed while he was composing such great music amid such great anxieties, [yet] He is said to have commented, “I think I did see all heaven before me, and the great God Himself.” Handel’s music shows us how needless are our worries, even in the face of what appears desperate, because the Almighty accomplishes great things!
We celebrate some of those great things today. We remember our baptism into Christ in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We rejoice in the forgiveness of sins. We thank God for the opportunity to hear His Word. We are blessed to be able to freely assemble in His name in this country thanks to the sacrifice of others. We will leave this place with His blessing. And we give thanks for the good we are able to both receive and give this day and this coming week. Next Sunday, we will receive the Lord’s Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins.
God provides you with everything you truly need. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. In Christ, You have nothing to truly worry about! Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sermon for 20 February 2011, Epiphany 7C

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Matthew 5: 38-48
Mercy in Christ
Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, 20 February 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
You hear a lot of things said in this world. Not all are worth hearing. Not all are said in proper context. Some things that are “said” are not said in love or to be constructive.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” You’ve heard that said and it is garbage. Don’t believe it. Words can hurt over and over again in our memories long after the physical bruises and broken bones have healed.
There is little Gospel in today’s text. It is primarily law. Let’s understand both in proper context.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ You have heard that. Is that the whole story? This is what the Old Testament literally says. This is what Islamic sharia law is like. What does Jesus say to put this command of punishment in proper context?
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic,7 let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Turn. Let him take. Go. Give. Do not refuse. There’s law and then there’s LAW. This is some of the heaviest there is. How many sins of omission, of not following these verses can you think of in your own life? Getting slapped usually leads to slapping them back or worse. Lawsuits are unpleasant and costly to all sides. Compelling someone to go along against their will leads to plans for escape, not another mile. Americans, particularly American Christians and Christians in general are a very generous people. We give and we lend, but we tend to be suspicious for fear of scams
In The Tragedy of American Compassion, Marvin Olasky notes some criteria developed in the late 1800s to help those in need in St. Louis:
“The St. Louis solution was to require volunteers to abide by a set of rules of giving:
·         To give relief only after personal investigation of each case…
·         To give necessary articles and only what is immediately necessary…
·         To give what is least susceptible of abuse.
·         To give only in small quantities in proportion to immediate need; and less than might be procured by labor, except in cases of sickness.
·         To give assistance at the right moment; not to prolong it beyond duration of the necessity which calls for it…
·         To require of each beneficiary abstinence from intoxicating liquors…
·         To discontinue relieving all who manifest a purpose to depend on alms rather than their own exertions for support.
These rules have guided our social assistance here in Sheridan. We want to deploy our limited funds so that they can make a difference. In 2010, Immanuel was able to help two families avoid foreclosure on their homes. We also make every attempt to protect the anonymity of donors as well as those we help.
LCMS World Relief and Human Care, while under the direction of the Rev. Matthew Harrison, Pastor and former classical school Headmaster and now LCMS President, developed the following “Theology for Mercy.”
The introduction reads like this: “Love, care and concern for those in need (diakonic mercy/ love) are actions motivated by the gospel, when faith (fides qua creditur/the faith by which we believe) apprehends the righteousness of Christ and his merits (Augsburg Confession IV&VI), unto eternal life. The gospel thus laid hold of, produces love. Love seeks and serves the neighbor. Love for the neighbor, while an action mandated by the law of God, is a reflection of the very being of the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit (1 John 4:7). This love finds its source and motivation in the deep gospel matrix and totality of the true faith (fides quae creditur/ the faith which is believed).”
Turn. Let him take. Go. Give. Do not refuse. Uncomfortable actions like these are what sets apart Christians in this life. These are works of diakonia, works of mercy in conjunction with our witness and our life together in Christ.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,8 what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. [1]
Yes, even tax collectors and sinners “love” those who “love” them. Imagine someone who refuses your love, even rejects your love some or most of the time. How long would you put up with it? Human beings reject God’s love far more than they love Him back, yet God still loves us and continues to love us in Christ Jesus. You are all sons of your Father in heaven, Children of the Heavenly Father. Yes, there is some Gospel in this text.
And then the uncomfortable and inconvenient commands return: Love. Pray. Greet. Be perfect. We are given to love our neighbor as our own selves. This is the Golden Rule. But be perfect? You’ve heard the answer to this before—only two weeks ago!
I ask you, “Does your righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees?” Are you perfect? (Pause)
Awkward silences teach us to examine ourselves, hopefully using the Ten Commandments as the yardstick. Christ Jesus gives you His righteousness and declares that you are Salt and Light. Therefore, your righteousness is good enough for the kingdom of heaven, for you have Christ’s own righteousness as a gift, righteousness far greater than scribes, Pharisees, or anyone else in all the earth. You are perfect in Christ, but only in Christ. That is your righteousness in relationship to God. Striving for righteousness in service to your neighbor is ongoing.
Christ is merciful and we are given to be merciful and forgiving as we have already been forgiven and have already been shown mercy in Christ. Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Lutheran Service Book Three Year Lectionary. 2009. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Sermon for 13 February 2011, Epiphany 6C

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Matthew 5: 21-37
Five, Six, Eight
Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, 13 February 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Five. Six. Eight. This isn’t math class and I do know how to count. In today’s appointed Holy Gospel for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, this section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount gives His teachings on Commandments Five, Six, and Eight.

The Fifth Commandment
[God's Gift of Life]
You shall not murder.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother2 will be liable to judgment; whoever insults3 his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell4 of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.5
Who is responsible for beginning a process of reconciliation? You are. I am. To put it briefly, the first person who recognizes that there is a need for reconciliation.
If you…remember that your brother has something against you…go. First be reconciled to your brother…
Matthew 18 tells the other side of the story, when you have been sinned against.: 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” [1]
If you realize you have sinned, go and be reconciled. If someone has sinned against you, seek reconciliation. The goal is always forgiveness and reconciliation.

The Sixth Commandment
[God's Gift of Marriage]
You shall not commit adultery.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
In his explanation of the Sixth Commandment, Luther violates his own common pattern. We’re used to hearing, “We should fear and love God so that we do not…” followed by a list of things we are not to do. Luther was pretty smart here. When it comes to sexual sins, he didn’t want to give anyone any ideas! After all, boys are gross and girls are complicated.
How does it go today? Just like in Jesus’ day. There are those who say, “This is a difficult saying. Who can stand it? Who can keep it?” People have not change. And neither should Christian theology. Faithful practice needs to remain in this regard.
Matthew 19 gives more of Jesus’ teaching: 19 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2 And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.” [2]
1 Corinthians 7 is another helpful chapter on Holy Matrimony. Desertion is another reason for divorce, including its modern manifestation, abuse.
But MUST a person who MAY Biblically divorce for reasons of unfaithfulness or desertion divorce? Must divorce happen in those cases? No. Reconciliation is possible. Some marriages are stronger if trust can be rebuilt. Falling back in love is possible. And even there we must remember that the promise at a marriage is to love. That promise may be initially based on emotional love, but commitment love is what is promised, hence, “What God has joined together, let not man [or woman] separate.”

The Eighth Commandment
[God's Gift of a Good Reputation]
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.6 [3]
Swearing is not taking the Lord’s name in vain nor saying crass words about bodily functions. The former is cursing, breaking the Second Commandment. The latter is…rude at best. Remember, boys are gross.
Swearing should be avoided in most circumstances. At a celebration of the Holy Matrimony, the vows are oaths before God and man for the sake of the benefit of all involved, particularly man and wife and witnesses. An American President swears or affirms to be faithful to the U. S. Constitution. Oaths are also used to prevent perjury in courts of law. Christians may swear in these cases without sin based on Jesus’ oath in His own trial in Matthew 26: 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?” [4]
“You are the Christ, the Son of God.” Yes, the high priest said these words. Jesus turned them into a confession: “You have said so.” And then He elaborated. All this took place because of the oath-making invocation: “I adjure you by the living God…” And this is why civil courts use the question, “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
Let your yes and no stand on their own. If can help your neighbor by swearing, as Jesus did, you are not sinning to do so.

Matthew 22 sums up today’s teaching from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:
37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” [5]
Christ came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets and did so perfectly.
Jesus gives clear teaching on Commandments Five, Six, and Eight.
In Christ Jesus, you have forgiveness, life, and salvation. Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Mt 18:15–20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[2] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Mt 19:1–12). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[3] Lutheran Service Book Three Year Lectionary. 2009. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
[4] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Mt 26:62–68). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[5] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Mt 22:37–40). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.