Text: PSALM 146/IS.35:3-7/1 COR. 14:1-13/LUKE 18:31-45
Preached by Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting at Catalina Lutheran Church and Christ Lutheran Church – Marana
Jesus said of Himself to the twelve, “they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. Jesus asked the blind man near Jericho, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover you sight; your faith has made you well.” QUINQUAGESIMA SUNDAY, 2/22/09
PSALM 146/IS.35:3-7/1 COR. 14:1-13/LUKE 18:31-45
Preached by Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting at Catalina Lutheran Church and Christ Lutheran Church – Marana
To the Church of God at Catalina Lutheran Church and Christ Lutheran Church – Marana , saints in Christ Jesus, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center in Shorewood, WI sends greetings to you as you give thanks to God for Pastor Morehouse’s tenth anniversary in the Holy Ministry. It is the kind understanding and support of God’s people there that allows me to be with you today.
They send greetings also to the pastors whom the risen Christ has called to minister to you – Pastor Pacy – and to you Pastor Morehouse - and to the diaconate whom you have chosen to serve in various ways in your midst. Pastor Morehouse, we remember your year of vicarage and the presence of Marty and your boys – Daniel and David and Jacob with warmth and gratefulness. We especially give thanks for Your service as Christ’s under-shepherd for over a decade in this place and overseas in the chaplaincy.
Jesus said of Himself to the twelve, “they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. Jesus asked the blind man near Jericho, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover you sight; your faith has made you well.”
The verbs are imperfect. That means that the lack of understanding of the twelve was ongoing. They continued not to get it! It also means that the blind man kept on crying out and wouldn’t stop – even when he was rebuked and told to be silent he continued to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”
As you give thanks for the decade of continuing service of Pastor Morehouse I would invite you to do so by way of the continuing action these two imperfect verbs portray. For sometimes those who have physical sight are blind and those who are blind can see. The twelve continued not to understand the center of human history. The twelve continued not to understand what God had announced by the prophets since the world began – in Eden when the dying male seed of Eve was promised to crush the serpent’s head – in the wilderness when the bronze serpent was lifted up foreshadowing the lifting up of Christ on the cross and the healing He brings – in the words Isaiah, the suffering servant by whose stripes we are healed.
They continued not to understand even when Christ clearly and consistently predicted His coming death by crucifixion. He had told them straight out what must be. Now, just before His passion He spoon feeds them again - See we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles to be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
There are none so blind as those who will not see! They recognized that He was the Prophet greater than Moses. They knew that He was the promised Messiah. They had witnessed miracle after miracle at His hand. They had preached and healed in His Name. They had confessed and worshipped Him as the Son of the Living God. Yet they understood none of these things.
They were not ready to face the cost of His love – to acknowledge what it means that God’s love (agape love) bears all things and endures all things. They could not comprehend God’s love in slimy spit sliding down His face – in flesh and blood splattering from His back laid open by the scourge – in spikes driven into His hands that touched and healed lepers – in the death of God in the flesh. They understood none of these things.
But where they were blind, the blind man saw. He called Jesus by the Messianic title – Son of David. He cried out as a beggar – as a man desperate for God’s prophecies to be fulfilled. God had promised to unstop the ears of the deaf and heal the lame and open the eyes of the blind. He asked only for such mercy from the Messiah. He continued to beg even when rebuked for His pleading. “Jesus, Son of David have mercy on me”. “Lord let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” Literally Jesus said, your faith has saved you. This man saw Jesus as the One who not only heals eyes, but gives total healing of body and soul. He received more than the wonderful gift of physical eye sight. This beggar received eternal life. Your faith has saved you!
Fellow-redeemed; in our natural state we are blind to God’s love in Christ Jesus. Like the twelve we continue not to understand the cross. Until the day we die the default setting of our Old Adam will be to pull us away from the cross. That’s why Jesus taught so clearly that His suffering and death and resurrection were absolutely necessary for our salvation. His sacrificial death is the banner to which the prophets point forward and the apostles point backward. The crucified one also stands at the center of what the called ministers of Christ are to continually proclaim to those they serve.
I am sure that in the last decade you have heard sermons aplenty from this pulpit (as the one this morning) that lifted up Christ crucified and risen, not as some add-on…but as the continuing center of God’s love. Never underestimate the worth of such preaching and teaching for such a clear note is not one sounding forth from all pulpits. Dr. Martin Luther said that pastors were one of Seven Holy possessions of the church… Professor Nagel… “not important is the bloke in the office – cover him with robes”. I am also sure that you have never heard a sermon from this pulpit that pitted the resurrection of Christ against His crucifixion - as if His resurrection trumped His crucifixion – as if by Easter God meant to take our eyes off of Jesus’ crucifixion. “No, no, no!” The light of the empty tomb – throws our attention back to the cross of Christ as the most beautiful sight in the world. It is not pretty – with the spit and the blood and the ugliness of death – but it is ever so beautiful.
When Jesus hung in shameful agony on Good Friday, there was no panic in heaven as if the outcome were uncertain. Jesus had to rise again. He is life itself! Holy Scripture states that it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him (Acts 2:24). But could the love of God bear all things – even the sin of the world – even your life-long stinking mess? Could the love of God endure all things – even the punishment of the damned in hell as our substitute? Could the death of one man accomplish our Salvation?
See we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. What will happen in Jerusalem is not accidental nor is it open for negotiation. According to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God He who strengthens weak hands would have hands so weak they were bound as He was led away. He who makes firm feeble knees would have knees so feeble they no longer raised His body for breath on that bloody tree. He who says to anxious hearts – “be strong, fear not! Behold your God will come with vengeance…” received the full fury of that vengeance against sin. Everything written about the Son of Man by the prophets was accomplished. They killed Him! There your salvation was concluded in full – not almost not 99% - not with something done by you or done to you in the past excluded – not with that worry or anger or pride or envy or greed that clings to you excluded – not with the lack of patient, kind, agape love for your pastor or Pastor Morehouse for God’s people here excluded - but 100% completed? In loud victorious voice Jesus answers “yes” – It is finished!
To that triumphant cry God spoke His “Amen”! On the morning of the third day Jesus rose from death speaking peace, absolving and releasing dying sinners with His forgiveness. That’s why God Ordained Pastor Morehouse and called him to serve you over ten years ago and Pastor Pacy more recently to serve you. They are to know nothing but Christ crucified and risen in your midst. They are never to stop speaking the peace that the risen Christ brings to sinners who beg for His mercy.
You see, it was finally on that day – on the day of His resurrection that the disciples understood! On the road to Emmaus Jesus opened their mind to understand the Scriptures. He set their hearts to burning. “Was it not necessary that Christ should suffer these things and to enter His glory? And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures (Luke 24).
You know the rest of the story! You know that He was finally recognized by them in the breaking of the bread! You know that this is still the beating heart of how the risen Christ brings the fruits of His cross to you! When you gather together here each week for the Divine Service the risen, living Christ is in your midst to do just what He did then - teach you and feed you and forgive you. Nothing in all the world even comes close to the importance of your presence here each week as the Bride of Christ to receive the incarnate, intimate love Jesus comes to bestow.
This is not the sugary, fickle, invented love of our culture. True love is sometimes tough love. The parent who indulges the sin of the child is not truly loving the child. The congregation that lets public, unrepentant sin go unchecked is not loving its members. The Church that refuses to speak the truth no matter how politically incorrect the truth is perceived to be does not love. So continue to speak the truth in love to one another and to this dying world.
• We live in a culture that has swallowed the fairy tale of macro evolution…
• We live in a culture of death where human life of the smallest ones – life at its very beginning is viewed as medicine for us bigger, older sickly ones as if a few more months or years here were the big prize.
• We live in a culture where perversion of God’s beautiful sexual gifts has demanded equality and where it may soon bring open persecution of those who speak the truth in love as has happened so many times in history and in other lands.
• We live in a post-modern culture where truth is everyone’s play thing and where spirituality is thought to be governed by nature or by stars or by crystals or by eastern meditation or most pointedly by one’s own feelings.
But you dear Christians grasp what Jesus did when He went up to Jerusalem and what He continues to say and do here. No longer blind to the work of Christ and His healing presence you gather to confess your sins and receive His absolution! How did this happen? He who commanded the blind man be brought to Him commanded that you be brought to the font. There He baptized you into His death and gave You new life. He who feeds the hungry banquets you with the heavenly food of His holy body and His holy blood. There by His doing you all together proclaim His death until He comes again.
Your faith, your hunger and thirst for His righteousness is a miracle of God’s own giving. You did not decide to open your blind eyes to Him but rather He has graciously given Himself to you. As you have learned to confess, I believe that I cannot, by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the one true faith.
And that brings us to one final imperfect verb from our text. Jesus said to the blind man “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. The man who was formerly blind and could now see continued to follow Jesus glorifying God.
He followed Him to Jerusalem’s bloody hill and past the empty tomb. He followed Him through earthly life with all of the suffering and sorrow it includes. He followed Him through the valley of the shadow of death because the Good Shepherd was with Him.
You also are continuing to follow the Good Shepherd. Pastor Morehouse, continue to ask for God’s mercy and receive His love and forgiveness, continue to serve God’s sheep His food and not your own, continue to ask the help of the Holy Spirit to pray for and love all those whom you serve. Continue to recognize that God’s strength is made perfect in your weakness.
Dear members of Catalina Lutheran and Christ Lutheran, continue to pray for and love your pastors. They are not here by their own doing but by the sending of Jesus Christ. Pastor Morehouse is only a clay pot, but the gifts He has been called to serve you are priceless, eternal treasures.
Just like Jesus spoke so pointedly of His death so He speaks clearly also of your death! Up ahead just a bit, your earthly life will end. You do not know the manner or the hour of your death but God does and He holds that time in His hands. That is a beautiful place to leave it, for His hands have conquered death and opened eternal life to you. In Him, you are free. In Him the best is yet to come, especially when He calls you from this life. In the meantime the healing medicine He gives you here is reason for joy and hope and patient love. There will soon be no need for faith for you will see Him face to face. There will soon be no need for hope for everything you hope for will be realized. But love – God’s perfect love for you in Christ never ends. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.