SERMON FOR THE 16TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, 9-16-2018

LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI

Rev. Michael Larson

1 Kings 17:17–24; Psalm 30; Eph. 3:13–21; Luke 7:11–17

If you’ve ever visited or talked with your life insurance agent, they rarely really talk about death. They will say things like, “well if something unforeseen should happen,” or, “let’s think about being prepared if something should happen to you.” But when it comes to death there are no maybes. It’s not some possibility or unforeseen event. When it comes to death we should not say “if” but simply “when.” Death isn’t a possibility. It’s a certainty. And it comes to all of us. The old saying is true that when it comes to this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. 

But for the woman this morning in our Gospel text, she bears an even heavier weight. Her son has died. And not just any son – but her only son – her only child. And what’s more. She is a widow. Not only had she lost her husband, but now the one treasure she had left in the whole world was unfairly taken from her. The Scriptures say that a huge crowd was with her – but in this moment she was all alone – no one and nothing could console her. And so she did what any mother would do. She wept. And there are no tears as bitter as those that come from the loss of a child.  I’ve been with enough mothers and widows to know that none of them would even hesitate to exchange their own lives for that of their children. This woman would have gladly given her life in exchange for her son. But death marches on. And that funeral procession moved on – like a freight train – with no one to stop it – or so it would seem.

Yet this funeral procession was not the only event in town. There was talk about a man named Jesus who was doing miracles, healing the sick and casting out demons. And after healing the centurion’s son – now Jesus is leading a processional of his own. His disciples all following him, in his train. His procession will go to Jerusalem – to be crucified – to die – but yet to rise from the grave to bring life and immortality to life.

But even now, Jesus sees this poor mother and he does not pass by. His heart is moved with compassion and pity. He tells her not to weep. He walks right up to the coffin, lays his hands upon it, and the pall bearers all stop in their tracks. The funeral procession comes to a halt and all become silent. And Jesus speaks. “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the man who was once dead opens his eyes. He sits up. The cloth which covered him falls to the ground. He begins speaking and Jesus returns this man to his mother. Her tears of bitter weeping immediately turned to tears of sweetest joy as they embraced one another – and showered one another with kisses and hugs.

It is said in our Gospel this morning that fear seized them all. The big crowd, all those who witnessed this were filled with fear. And why should they not be afraid? A dead man stood up. How could you not tremble at the sight of it? How could your knees not buckle at the sight of God raising the dead. Jesus casts out demons – he raises the dead – he will return on the last day – lightning will crash – a trumpet will blast – and Jesus will descend from the heavens will armies of angels to separate the righteous from the unrighteous – to judge the living and the dead.  

Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.

Those who stubbornly spurn His love will be cast out into darkness where there will be a weeping and gnashing of teeth. Those who gladly await His coming will be received into his loving arms as he transforms our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body. Raised up and seated with Him in glory. Surrounding the Lamb of God with palm branches in their hands.

But of course, we’re not there yet. We’re down here. In a sort of funeral procession of our own. We’ve said goodbye to too many friends. Too many families have been separated. And our fears and troubles seem to actually grow with each passing year. As the seasons change, the days now becoming shorter, we are again reminded that life is delicate like a dry leaf. It dries up, becomes brittle, falls, and returns to the ground. We are no different.

But the same Jesus who saw this poor widow and cared for her by giving her back her son is the same Jesus who sees you. He doesn’t pass you by. He notices you. He cares. He sees your specific struggles – your sorrows, your misfortune, and your tears. And he wants to help. This same Jesus – who lives - places his hands on you, and speaks the same words to you. Young girl, young man, I say to you arise. He forgives your sins. He restores your life. For everything that afflicts you – He has an answer for all of it. You are loved. You shall not die but live.  

There is another widow whose heart was pierced with sadness when her only Son died – whose body was wrapped up in a linen cloth and laid in a tomb. This widow’s name was Mary. But of course this widow’s Son did not stay dead either. He is the long-promised Messiah. His Father raised Him from the dead – and so today’s Gospel anticipates the death of Jesus and His glorious resurrection. By His death, He laid siege to death. By His three days rest in the tomb, He hallowed the graves of all who believe in Him. And by His resurrection from the dead, He brings life and immorality to light. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”    

This morning we have another processional in our midst. We walk to the altar as we walk through death and into life. With those who have gone before us. We approach the new Jerusalem. We fall asleep but we will awake. But even now, today, Jesus is here. God is with us. He comes under bread and wine. Declares it to be His very body and blood. In which we have the promise of eternal salvation and life everlasting. That we shall behold God face to face and that every tear shall be wiped from our eyes. To be joined with all the company of heaven – along with a happy reunion with those we love who have fallen asleep but await the resurrection of all flesh.

It’s true that death is a certainty in life. But much more certain is that Jesus was raised from the dead. That’s why at every funeral the pastor puts his hand on the casket like Jesus did. And says the following words from Romans chapter six: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. 

This is what all Christians hope for. Because it’s the answer to all our prayers. I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come. In Jesus, death has been undone – and life has sprung up. And just as Jesus hands the son over into the hands of his mother, so it is that we Christians believe that everything we’ve lost in this life – will all be restored to us – when this valley of tears is lifted. And nothing is hidden from our sight anymore. In the name of Jesus. Amen.    

SERMON FOR THE 15TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, 9-9-2018

LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI

Rev. Michael Larson

1 Kings 17:8–16; Psalm 146; Gal. 5:25—6:10; Matt. 6:24–34

In short, this Gospel text is about the evil sin of greed and incessant worry – a sin which clings deeply to all of us. The whole world is engulfed by a hunger for more, nearly everyone is discontent is some way with what he has received from God and everyone wants more. No one is truly content.

Our closets are bursting with clothes, but our souls are empty. And our anxiety is just as great as our greed. As soon as the apple crunched in paradise we have been scared stiff at the sound of a rustling leaf. We worry about everything. We doubt whether God is capable of caring for our own children. We worry about our aging parents and how we can possibly care for them. We worry about the future of our church even though He has said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Students imagine the worst about classes, grades, and being able to survive the semester.

Yet more than anything else we worry about money. We don’t think we have enough of it. We think God is holding out on us. The dirty little secret is that we don’t trust in God to take care of us. That’s why worry occupies our thoughts. And we are worrying ourselves to death!  Our wrinkles and stomach problems bear witness to that. And so do our medicine cabinets.

In Greek mythology the most famous king was named King Midas. Everything he touched would turn to gold. This king was so greedy that he wished everything would turn to gold. So he touched his coat, his table, his bed, doors, and pillars of his house. Everything immediately turned to gold. The knife which he ate, the bread, the wine, and the cheese turned to gold. As a result the king, in his addiction to wealth had no bread or drink and starved himself to death. Even if you stock pile your riches. We cannot eat our gold, our stuff, or mutual funds.

So the Lord teaches us: Man does not even live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. A God who in loving kindness gives us everything we need.

This morning Jesus gives us a wakeup call. He wants us to put the brakes on our incessant worry and misplaced trust. He wants us to learn to stockpile up riches in heaven rather than stockpile treasures on earth, where neither moth or rust destroy. He wants to restore our weary souls and find comfort in our Father’s loving arms. He wants our hearts to find rest in him. Knowing, with confidence that God shall provide.

Provide, such as He did, for Elijah, when He sent ravens to the brook to feed him. Provide, as when the Lord sustained that that poor widow of Zarephath by the promise of His Word. The jar of flour was not spent. The jug of oil did not run out. Provide as when the Lord Himself gave the sacrifice of the Ram on Mount Moriah – showing us the sacrifice to come in the giving of His Son.

This morning Jesus preaches a magnificent sermon about birds and flowers. He says “Look 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? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”

Our dear Lord holds before us the example of birds, that we might model our lives after them. Birds don’t have a care in the world. They don’t worry. They don’t stockpile any seed. They trust that God will take care of them. They consider their kitchen table as long as the earth is wide. Their barns are always full as they look from sea to shining sea. They believe they have a heavenly Father, who will provide – the same heavenly Father who wants nothing more than to feed you. Birds don’t worry like us. When a storm, and a devastating wind comes their way in the dark of the night and shakes their little nest to the ground, they still chirp and sing a hymn the next morning when the sun rises.

The birds of the air ought to shame us. We should learn to be like them. We should learn to believe like them. We should sing like them. Like the birds we should let God be God. We should allow our heavenly Father, actually to take care of us. And only then can we truly be as happy and joyful as the birds of the air.

And then our dear Lord starts talking about flowers. Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they neither toil nor spin. The flowers that bloom on the side of the road as we come to church are preaching a magnificent sermon to us. These flowers that bloom are endowed with beautiful colors, reds, and violet, blue, and pink. Their loveliness should put us to shame!  If God so adorns flowers with such beauty, which barely lasts a couple days in the field, how can you doubt whether he will clothe you and feed you!

But dear Christian, you are more valuable to God than birds. And to Him you are more radiant than the brightest flower.

The Lord himself has already worried about your salvation so that you wouldn’t have to. In the garden of gethsemane, he was so anxious for what was coming that his sweat became drops of blood. He has already toiled on the dusty and blood-soaked path toward the holy cross. He has toiled and spun on the cross in agony that you would be spared the darkest night and fiercest storm of God’s wrath. This Son of God was clothed with your shame that you would be dressed to the nines in His righteousness!  His mouth was dry on the cross and he thirsted for vinegar – so that you would be able to whistle and sing like a bird of the heavens. And the morning has now come. The eternal Son has risen.

The storm has passed over. The demons have been cast down, and death has been destroyed. St. Paul writes in Romans chapter 8: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

In other words, God did not withhold his most precious treasure from you. He did not spare His only Son. So if God can be trusted with your greatest need, how can you possibly doubt whether he will meet every little need as well.

Jesus says do not be anxious, saying, “what shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or what shall you wear?  Your Heavenly father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”  Dear Christian, in Christ your future is most certainly bright. In the Kingdom of God, like Gaohua ("gow-wha") and Yicheng ("ee-chen"), in Holy Baptism this morning, you are richer than Kings and Queens. You have plenty. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. Body and blood, food and drink, unspeakable riches, and God’s divine approval.

He bespeaks you holy and righteous, cleansed and forgiven. And for you there is no need for worry, for you have a God who has already done that for you. And what’s more, He has triumphed over it all in his resurrection.

So whatever it is that you’re facing right now: More demands at work, uncertainty about the future, or for university students, with studies, and papers, and grades – keep calm and remember your baptism. Namely, that your Father in heaven loves you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow for tomorrow will be anxious for itself, sufficient for the day is its own trouble. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

SERMON FOR THE 14TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, 9-2-2018

LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI

Rev. Michael Larson

Prov. 4:10–23; Psalm 119:9–16; Gal. 5:16–24; Luke 17:11–19

If you could only read one writing from Dr. Martin Luther, besides of course the Small Catechism, you could make a case for a short little writing, titled “A Brief instruction on what to look for and expect in the Gospels.” Anyone could do it and it’s only 5 or 6 pages. In it he suggests that Christians should take hold of Christ in the hearing of the Gospel in a twofold manner.

First, Christ is an example to us. We imitate him and walk as he walks. We follow him. We love and serve our neighbor. But secondly, Luther suggest we must grasp and lay hold of Christ on a yet higher level than this. Namely, that before we take Christ as an example, we accept and recognize Him as a gift to us – that this Jesus is sent by God to be our Savior. We must see that this Lord Christ is born for us, bled for us, and died for us. That God raised him up from the grave to speak a word of absolution –a peace that surpasses all understanding – an approval from God – which unbars the gates of heaven.

When we read and hear the Holy Gospel and have it preached to us, we learn that it is nothing else than Christ Himself coming to us, or we being brought to him. What do we mean by this? It means that when you read the Gospel or hear of Christ healing 10 lepers, besides being a historical account which it is, it is ultimately also about the ongoing ministry of Christ among us. The lepers may as well be you. So when we hear of healings, and miracles, and sinners helped in the Gospels, we see and hear about the work of Christ among us – here and now! This is why the great Christian artists will often paint themselves into their works, at the side of Christ, at his crucifixion or so forth. We must do the same. In a way, it is not enough to acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God. Even the demons know who this Jesus is. We must, by faith, also believe that Jesus is for us – that he is on our side, a gift, our comfort, and greatest joy. We believe that he comes near to us filled with nothing but kindness and compassion. Has pity on us, and pardons us from all sins.

This is faith. Something the Samaritan leper certainly had, and which Christ glorifies. “Your faith,” said the Lord, “has saved you.” Faith is to believe that through Christ we have forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Faith is a glorious thing, if you believe, well, then that’s the way it will be.

This morning in our Gospel do note: The ten lepers cried out from a distance, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Luke 17:11–19). They cry out from a distance because their condition cut them off from God and others. So also do the works of the leprous flesh cut us off from God and others: idolatry, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, envy, drunkenness, sexual immorality, and the like. Our mind and hearts are by nature hostile to God. “Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” writes the apostle Paul. Thus we cry out with the lepers, “Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy,” eagerly seeking His good gifts. When we sing the Kyrie on the Lord’s Day, we are like those lepers. And that kyrie is no penitential dirge. It’s a hymn of praise. We believe that God will help us, that his chief attribute of mercy will rain down upon us, that he will be gracious to us.

Jesus said to the lepers, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. So too, we walk by faith and not by sight, being confident of Jesus’ help before we see any evidence of it, trusting that Jesus’ cleansing words of forgiveness will restore us to wholeness in the resurrection of all flesh.

So what can we learn above all from the healing of the Ten Lepers? First, consider what a great and wonderful thing faith is. To believe in God with a total trust, saying, “I know that for Christ’s sake God will give and do for me whatever I ask for. And even if he doesn’t do it in the way and at the time I would prefer, he will do it in his own way, which is infinitely better.”

Second, we learn from the bad example of those 9 healed lepers who refused to turn around and thank God. Ingratitude is a plague and disease from the devil. An ungrateful heart destroys the joy and love of life – and encourages unhappiness and misery.

We must first be thankful to God above all, our father in heaven, for he provides for every need of body and soul. He makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. Rather than shoveling food in our mouths, we should first open our mouths to pray, “The eyes of all look to you O Lord, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”

We ought to cultivate gratitude: gratitude in response to the undeserved kindness of God. That he does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. But comes to us in kindness, gentleness, and love through the mediation of His Son. The father’s heart is kindly disposed toward us. And so even though we deserve only death and hell, we instead receive God’s approval, health and healing, heaven itself and all spiritual blessings.

Christian children, university students, and all sons and daughters be on guard against the destructive sin of ingratitude toward your parents. Through father and mother you received life and all that you are and have. Your parents risked everything on seeing that you were cared for. Be on guard against anger, frustration, or ingratitude toward them – this is the work of the devil. You can never repay them enough. Look past their shortcomings as Christ has also done for you, and in their old age cover them with the mantle of His grace, that they would be adorned with God’s honor and protection.

The third lesson we learn springs from the fact that Christ does not let the ingratitude of the nine lepers deter him from doing good to others. In this, we learn from Christ to be truly thankful, but we also learn the unique Christian virtue of learning to put up with ingratitude from others – all the while, being patient, kind, long suffering- and serving one another sacrificially and gladly even when its met with thanklessness and scorn.

Our Father in heaven makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. He makes to spring up every good food, every pretty flower, every good gift for life and joy, and hardly anyone thinks to thank him at all. He could darken the sun, and let the whole world die of hunger. But he doesn’t do this. In spite of the world’s thanklessness, and ingratitude, the goodness and mercy of the Lord endures.

We see our dear Lord Christ in this way today. This is what Christian love must be like. That it bears and patiently tolerates all things, including ingratitude, and will not allow it to make one bitter. Christian should come to learn to expect ingratitude in this life, but remain cheerful, and we should not at all become discouraged. Every Christian should continue to do good to others, knowing that the Lord himself will thank them in their stead.

In summary, what can we learn from the account of the 10 lepers? We should see ourselves in the miracle. Like those lepers, we acknowledge that our sin and the works of our fallen flesh have separated us from God. But God in His mercy, has come near with healing. He has baptized you, washed you, and cleansed you from all sins, making you pleasing to God in heaven. Let us all be as the one leper who returned to the true High Priest to give Him thanks and glory. For Jesus bore our infirmities in His sacrifice at Calvary. His words are life and healing to our flesh. So we too do an about face, week after week, and return to Him, and confess Him as Lord and God.

In him, you may boldly say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

For this we are eternally grateful to God. We patiently tolerate ingratitude and do good to all people. Cheerfully, gladly, until Christ returns. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

(much of this sermon is a reflection on Martin Luther’s House Postil for Trinity 14)

GENERAL PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

Almighty and most merciful God, the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, we give You thanks for all your goodness and tender mercies, especially for the gift of Your dear Son and for the revelation of Your will and grace. Implant Your Word in us that, with good and honest hearts, we may keep it and bring forth the fruits of faith.

We humbly implore You to rule and govern Your Church throughout the world. Bless those who proclaim Your truth that we may be preserved in the pure doctrine of Your saving Word and that faith in You may be strengthened, love toward others increased, and Your kingdom extended. Send forth laborers into Your harvest, and sustain those whom You have sent that the Word of reconciliation may be proclaimed to all people and the Gospel preached in all the world.

Grant health and prosperity to all who are I authority, especially to the president and the congress of the United States, the governor and legislature of this state, and to all those who make, administer and judge our laws. Grant them grace to rule according to Your good pleasure for the maintenance of righteousness and the hindrance and punishment of wickedness, that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty.

Accord to Your good pleasure, turn the hearts of our enemies and adversaries that they may cease their hostilities and walk with us in meekness and in peace.

Comfort, O God, with Your Holy Spirit all who are in trouble, want, sickness, anguish of labor, peril of death, or any other adversity. Grant courage and steadfastness especially to those who suffer for your name’s sake that they may receive their afflictions in the confidence that You will acknowledge them as Your own.

Although we have deserved Your righteous wrath and punishment, yet, we ask you, O most merciful Father, not to remember the sins of our youth nor our many transgressions. Out of Your unspeakable goodness and mercy defend us from all transgressions. Out of Your unspeakable goodness and mercy defend us from all harm and danger to body and soul. Preserve us from false doctrine, from war and bloodshed, from plague and pestilence, from all calamity by fire and water, from hail and tempest, from failure of harvest and form famine, from anguish of heart and despair of Your mercy, and from an evil death. In every time of trouble, show Yourself a very present help, the Savior of all, especially to those who believe.

Cause all needed fruits of the earth to prosper that we may enjoy them in due season. Give success to the Christian training of the young, to all lawful occupations on land, sea, and air, and to all pure arts and useful knowledge, crowning them with your blessing.

Receive, O God, our bodies and souls and all our talents, together with the offerings we bring You, for by His blood Your Son has purchased us to be Your own that we may live under Him in His kingdom.

These and whatsoever other things You would have us ask of You, O God, grant us for the sake of Jesus Christ, your only Son, our Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Sermon for the Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity - August 26th, 2018

Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center

Rev. Michael Larson

2 Chron. 28:8–15; Psalm 32; Gal. 3:15–22; Luke 10:23–37

This morning a lawyer stands before Jesus and calls out “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus says to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The lawyer answers, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus looks at the lawyer approvingly and simply says, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

What’s strikes us as odd is that the lawyer actually thought he was on the right track here.  He thought he was on the way to eternal life.  He thought he was a good person.  He made a good living.  He came to the synagogue.  He tithed the 10 percent commanded by God.  He was a member of the Lions club and town board.  He’s a good guy everyone said of him.  He kept his nose out of public scandal and shame.  His reputation was impeccable.  And he knew it. 

But this successful, well thought of man, lacked one thing.  He did not have a proper faith in God.  He did not fear, love, and trust in God above all things.  He trusted in himself.  And this man, seeking to justify himself, said to Jesus, “well, then who is my neighbor?” 

Jesus then tells the parable of the Good Samaritan.  A man came down from Jerusalem and he fell among robbers, who stripped him, beat him to a pulp and left him half dead on the side of the road.  First the priest passed by – he didn’t want to get his hands dirty and he passed by on the other side.  Then the levite passed by as well – he was much too above the business of getting involved with something as unsightly as this bloody beaten mess of a man on the side of the road.  The priest and levite were members of the religious establishment.  In the Old Testament it was ritually unclean to touch the dead.  So they passed by – they didn’t want to dirty themselves in the ghastly scene. 

But then comes along the Good Samaritan.  And unlike the priest and levite, the Good Samaritan took notice.  Our text says that the Samaritan felt compassion. The greek word here is splagna which is actually the origin of the english word for our spleen.  That is to say, this Samaritan – this outsider – was so deeply moved in compassion that the innermost part of his very being was troubled to the very core – his bowels twisted and contorted.

This Samaritan man was so profoundly troubled at this man’s injury that his spleen – his intestines became upset.  Indeed the Scriptures elsewhere says when one member suffers all suffer with him.  In a very real way the Samaritan was suffering with the beaten and half dead man.

So that Samaritan did not pass by.  But ran to the man in need.  And using an ancient yet very effective first aid kit – he began to help him.  He used oil which not only cleans – but also a skin moisturizer and soothing lotion.  Wine, of course is a disinfectant – it cleans wounds and helps heal.

The Samaritan hoists the man on an animal – a beast of burden and carries the man to an inn – and didn’t just drop him off but stayed the whole night with the wounded man.  Probably continued to nurse him back to health through the night.  Then he paid the innkeeper, saying “Take care of him, I will repay you when I come back.”    

Jesus concludes the parable by asking the lawyer the following question: “Which of these three, do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers.”  The lawyer said “Well, the Samaritan - the One who showed mercy.”  Our Lord then says “You go, and do likewise.”

Over the last couple hundred years it has been a common practice to just assume that Jesus is telling us a story about how to be caring and compassionate.  The Good Samaritan is compassionate and therefore be like the Good Samaritan.  But this is not really the point of the parable.  As with all other parables, they are not so much about us as they are about Jesus.  With the early church fathers and with Martin Luther they understood that in this parable – Jesus is actually speaking about himself. 

The man who has been robbed, stripped, beaten and left half dead on the road is Adam (sinful humanity) – that is you and I!  When God warned us from turning away from him.  He said that in that day you shall surely die.  Through one man’s sin death entered in. Saint Paul writes in Ephesians chapter 2 that you were dead in your trespasses and sins.  Not sick or injured but dead.  Dead just like the man in this parable.  Who are the robbers who beat the man? The robbers are sin, death, and the devil – the same robbers that beat you up – that make a mess of you.   

In this beaten man, we see Adam, in fact we see all sinful humanity! For he leaves Jerusalem (Jerusalem, you see see, is shorthand for paradise). He is beaten up by the robbers of sin, death, and the devil.  The priest who passes by represents the law of the Old Testament which cannot save.  The Levite who passes by represents the prophets of the Old Testament, which cannot save. But then comes the Samaritan, the outsider whom is Christ Himself.  He heals our wounds, which is our disobedience. 

We are placed on the beast of burden, which represents the body of Christ.  Jesus himself says “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Jesus carries our sorrows and bears our sins – He is the scapegoat – He is the sacrifice – He is the Passover Lamb. He is the beast of burden.  He carries the sins of the world upon his back. 

And when this Good Samaritan gets on his knees and pours out oil and wine – what should we think of?  Since the earliest days of the church oil has been associated with Holy Baptism, where we are washed and cleansed and anointed in the baptism of Christ.  And what is the wine that this Good Samaritan offers but the sacrificial blood of Christ!  A sweet wine, which is poured out sacrificially unto sin-parched lips – to refresh and bring back to life dying sinners like us.  Here in this parable you have Baptism and the Lord’s Supper! – The very means by which dying sinners are resuscitated from death and raised to new life! 

And where does the Good Samaritan carry the beaten and robbed man – that he might be taken care of – and nourished – and healed? He takes him to an inn.  And what is the inn but the one holy Christian and apostolic church.  Our church – here at Luther Memorial Chapel - Our hospital of grace – our heavenly Jerusalem to keep us safe – the church!  The Good Samaritan hands over the man to the Innkeeper, simply saying “take care of him, until I come back.”  The innkeeper is the pastor charged with dispensing the means of healing, baptism, Lord’s Supper, and the preaching of the Gospel.

The Good Samaritan tells the innkeeper that he is coming back.  He is speaking of the Second Coming and the day of judgment. When Christ will come again. 

Who is the Good Samaritan?  There is only one who is truly good.  It is the Good Shepherd – Jesus – who heals you.  Anoints you with the healing water and oil of baptism.  Gives you food for hungry souls and drink for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

He puts you on his divine shoulders and carries you, with all the children of God to the heavenly inn of eternal life.  In Jesus name. AMEN.

SERMON FOR THE WEDDING OF EMMETT & JAIMIE, 8-18-2018

LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI

Rev. Michael Larson

Readings: Genesis 2:7, 18-24; Ephesians 5:1-2; 22-33; Matthew 25:1-13

The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. The arrival of the bridegroom will be sudden and unexpected. Therefore, you are to be watchful and ready like the five wise virgins. For you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man is to return. He will burst through the clouds with angel armies. The deafening blast of a trumpet will sound forth. He will sit on his glorious throne and judge the nations. He will separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats. The wise virgins will enter into the joy of their bridegroom – into the wedding hall. And the Lord will say to those foolish virgins, with no malice, truly, I say to you, I do not know you. And they will be forever shut out.  

The foolish virgins are foolish above all in spurning the gift of God’s grace. They neglect the treasures of salvation. They are the religious do-it-yourselfers – who boast and say “Oh, I have a strong faith!” Such things at meeting on the Lord’s Day, or hearing the Scriptures read and preached in the Divine Service, or receiving the holy body and blood of Christ, hey let’s not get too carried away here! Let’s not get too fanatical! In other words, what’s the least I have to do to be a Christian mentality. Dear people loved by God, it’s good to be fanatics in the kingdom of God. It is best to camp out and keep vigil by the rich vessels of grace, the means of grace, in the Holy Church.

The lamps are the Word of Christ. The oil in the lamps is the Holy Spirit, who works through the Word to create and sustain the flame of faith in Christ. The foolish virgins, they are those who do not give proper attention to the working of the Holy Spirit in baptism, preaching, and the supper, and so their faith does not endure – it flickers and is snuffed out.

The wise, however, they are those who diligently attend to these gifts of the Spirit, and who therefore have an abundance of oil. For them, the flame of faith endures to the end – and burns brightly - until the Bridegroom Christ returns. By God’s grace they are received into the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end - the new heavens and the new earth created by the Lord for the joy of His people.

Therefore, a Christian marriage in this life, must always looks beyond itself. And only in looking ahead toward the consummation – can one truly, as we say, “live in the moment.” This precious gift of marriage between a husband and wife, between Emmitt and Jaimie, ultimately signifies and points to the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, and His holy Bride, the church. The kingdom of heaven is like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the Bridegroom. Husbands and wives, Christian parents and children, little babies even called to faith in the Gospel, live in the hope of the resurrection and in the eager expectation of the final judgment.

That a Christian marriage looks toward the Last Day is by no means some dreary over-the-top apocalyptic view. No. Christian marriage in this life is illuminated by the bright beams that shine into it through that open door of the wedding hall – by experiencing and participating in the Lord’s Supper – the consummation between Christ and His Bride the Church – the consummation between heaven and earth. This is the ultimate marriage that matters – that shapes and informs marriage among us – that teaches us all how to love one another.

So for Christian marriage, there is no higher relationship on this earth. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife – and the two shall become one flesh. No longer two but one. What God hath joined together, let not man rent asunder.   

Emmitt, love your wife, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word. Behold her, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, for she is after all baptized, holy, and without blemish. In Christ, she is perfect, and radiant – your wife. 

Jaimie, submit to Emmett, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Dear people loved by God, Christian women find delight in these words. Submit is a Gospel word. As the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands. The church submits to Christ by trusting in Him, receiving His name in Holy Baptism, by coming to the altar to receive his good gifts and treasures from heaven – things like forgiveness, and life, and salvation. Christ of course, does not bully his bride. He does not withhold anything from her, he does not talk down to her or berate her. He welcomes her. He is patient, kind, and tenderhearted toward her. He is gentle. He looks past her faults, covers them. He in fact suffers for her and gives his life for her. He loves her. That’s what it means to submit – to receive those good things - to bask in undeserved love. Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved you and gave himself up for you, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Emmett and Jamie, the vows you will soon make. And the promises that you will soon speak to one another. You, in and of yourselves, and not capable of fulfilling. Not even for a single hour. You are sinners. And each of you are marrying another sinner, a broken vessel, like yourself. So God be praised, the vows you will pledge toward one another are grounded fundamentally in the promise of the Gospel. That in Christ, God is gracious toward you. That he has forgiven you your sins and cleansed you through his atoning blood. Your God loved you by sending His Son to die for you, before you even knew your greatest need.

The wedding vows depend upon Christ and His Word. It’s Jesus who has promised to have and hold you from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. Christ has promised to love and cherish you. By His innocent suffering and death – He pledges to you His faithfulness. By the wedding ring of faith you receive all that belongs to Him – His righteousness, his innocence, and his blessedness.

Emmett and Jaimie, groomsmen, and bridesmaids, and all you people loved by God, made wise by God’s Word and Spirit. He has not destined you for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for you so that whether you are awake or asleep you might live with him.

The Bridegroom soon shall come. Let him find you awake, and keeping vigil with your lamps burning with the light of Christ. Seek the blessed oil of the Lord, where it is found in His Word and Sacraments. And when he calls you, enter into his wedding feast with joy, no longer as bridesmaids, groomsmen, ushers, and guests, but as His beloved Bride, made ready for her husband, virgin pure, radiant, and absolutely beautiful. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Prayer of the Church for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity, 19 August 2018

Let us pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.

For all the baptized, and especially for the saints here at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, that our ears would be opened by the Spirit to the Gospel of peace and salvation, and that our lips would show forth our thanks and praise, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

For the Church throughout the world, especially for our Synod, that God would bless all congregations, pastors and agencies to serve faithfully and without fear; and for an increase in faithful servants sent out into the harvest, that Christ’s kingdom would be expanded, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

For all pastors, that they would be faithful and compassionate in the exercise of their duties, and that they would speak the truth in love as they catechize the young and old, bring mercy to the sick and shut-in, provide counsel and care to those in need, pray for all under their charge, and proclaim the Gospel as those who recognize how much they need it themselves, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

For all in authority by whose service God provides for us the gift of order, including parents and family, our government, our police and firemen, our military and our schools, that God would give them strength and endurance to carry out their duties for the good of those entrusted to their care, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

For Emmett and Jaimie, united in the gift of holy marriage yesterday, that they would be richly blessed, draw close to God, and find strength in God’s Word and sacraments.  let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

For Holly and for Malcolm preparing for marriage, that they would fix their eyes on the sacrificial, self-giving love of Jesus Christ. Draw them to those words of absolution which provide joy and peace and inspire selfless service and compassion toward one another, let us pray to the Lord: Lord have mercy.

For all who partake this day of the Holy Supper of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that they would receive the very body and blood of Christ in true repentance and sincere faith, and to their abundant blessing, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

For the saints who have gone before us and now rest from their labors, let us give thanks to the Lord, that we would, by God’s grace, be kept in their holy communion unto eternal life in Christ’s kingdom, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy, through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a