SERMON FOR THE 21st SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, 10-14-2018
LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI
Rev. Michael Larson
From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee. This morning an official, a nobleman, is truly crying out from the depths of woe. Death is wrapping its cruel hands around his son. The boy is burning up with a fever. He’s sick and dying. And this father, an official, with means and wealth, and resources, is helpless to beat back death.
Some of you know what that’s like. To stand idly by and watch a loved one suffer, sweat, and burn with a fever. Or watch a child undergo treatment or chemotherapy. See them grow pale and tired, unable to keep down a meal. Even to hold a child with croup, in the middle of the night, while he squirms and gasps for breath, is enough to break any father or mother. And many of you, I know, have prayed with a loved one before a major surgery, remembering the doctor’s words, that there are no guarantees, considering all the things that can go wrong – unsure whether it’s your last visit on earth.
From depths of woe we cry to Thee. And cry we should. For this morning you heard from Genesis chapter 1 what man has lost. Fellowship with God in the splendor of paradise. Friendship with the angels. Man and woman reflecting the image of the Triune God of love – living in perfect harmony with the will of God. How lovely and how beautiful. Adam was a nobleman, if ever there was one. Eve, his wife, a radiant queen.
But a mutiny broke out in God’s kingdom. A rebel angel, named Satan, took the form of a serpent, and lured the first royal family into rebellion against the God of love, by reaching out for what God, in his great love had forbidden. In the day that you turn away from me, and my Word, which is the very source of your life, you will surely die, the Lord had warned.
Even before the crunch of that forbidden fruit – the deed had been done – doubt and unbelief had slithered into their hearts. Insurrection had begun!
God has subjected creation to decay as a consequence of man’s rebellion. We have turned away from the God of love. From our unbelief springs every sin and every kind of wickedness. It results in human suffering, disease, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Things are cursed down here. Women experience pain in childbirth and in the rearing of children. Man’s work is hard and difficult. We live in a fallen world under the dominion of Satan and the sinful flesh and its corruption. Every day through the pain and trouble we suffer we are reminded that we are sinful creatures who need God’s salvation.
So, let me tell you about another nobleman. A nobleman who heard of a single miracle where Jesus changed water into wine, and believed that in Him he could find help. He traveled a full day’s journey, 17 miles, from Capernaum to Galilee, to throw himself upon the mercy of Jesus. “Jesus, my boy is sick. He is dying. Please heal him.” The nobleman further implores Jesus that he must travel all the way to his house, to be at the bedside, to perform this miracle. Well, Jesus rebukes, the nobleman, in fact he rebukes everyone there. “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” What’s that mean? Jesus is rebuking our weak faith, which struggles to believe that Jesus Word and promise is enough. Nevertheless, Jesus does not turn the nobleman away, but says, “Go; your son lives!”
Well, that nobleman believed the word that Jesus spoke to him. His faith was not perfect. His understanding of Jesus was not complete, but he believed. And that was enough. Faith is a sincere trust in God. To close one’s eyes, and to open one’s ears to the words and promises of God.
Jesus is giving us a marvelous sermon, for our sake on Christian faith. Here we have encouragement to enjoy a cheerful and confident trust that He will not turn us away. That God will never fail us. That everything that he promises he will most certainly deliver, if we simply take him at his word, and believe it.
This morning we learn to obey the First Commandment. You shall have no other gods. We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. I am the Lord your God, He says. I alone want to be your God. You are to trust in me with all your heart and believe that I will be gracious and good to you. Look to me alone for all good things. Trust in me and believe the Word that I speak to you.
That father gladly walked home, and what joy seized him, when his servants ran to him announcing the health and restoration of his sick and dying son, healed at the seventh hour – the exact moment that Jesus has spoken the words “Your Son will live.” Jesus’ Word had done it all.
But let us also remember another Father whose son was also at the point of death. Who at the seventh hour was suffering, and hanging on the cross for the sins of the world. He was sweating profusely, burning up with a fever of God’s wrath. He was wheezing and gasping for breath, being choked by asphyxiation, and dying for rebel man.
At His death for the life of the world the whole earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. Satan was undone, and hell’s power vanquished. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
Consider now what God will say on the Last Day to us who lie in our graves. Arise all you dead! Immediately we will arise from the ground and come forth. Every coffin lid will be opened.
Dear Christians, you have been called by the Gospel, enlightened with His gifts, sanctified and kept in the true faith. Live cheerfully and confidently in the promises of God! Laugh a little more, sing a little louder. Don’t be so afraid to joke around! Your sins are put away. Even the grave someday will not shut you in. How can we not be cheerful? God’s Word does it all – even raise our loved ones from the dead.
In Christ, by His incarnation, his suffering, death, and resurrection. By his ongoing ministry among us in His preaching and sacraments we enjoy something far greater than paradise in Genesis chapter one. That was a mere prelude to the greater gift of God sending to us His own Son, in which participate in the holy life of God Himself – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So sure, the disappointments in this life are at times bitter and devastating. Cancer, and sickness, bitterness, loss, and death itself. But more devastating yet is the love of God, which overcomes all. Which exchanges life for death – and calls us out of darkness into his marvelous light. Know in your hearts that the same God who took pity upon this nobleman and his son also takes pity upon you.
For those of you this morning who are troubled, depressed, and hanging by a thread, like that desperate nobleman, there is good news for you. For even if you have a slender thread of faith that still looks to God for mercy, you still have Jesus – all of Him, with all His mercy and love, forgiveness and salvation. Jesus will never cut that slender thread, and He will never turn a weak faith away. Like that nobleman, learn again that the Word is enough.
Your Jesus will not let you down. Like that nobleman, he may send you home today with nothing but a promise in your pocket, but it’s only and always to teach you that in having His promise, you have everything you need and more.
The Word of God does everything. It brings you forgiveness of sin, offers eternal life, and costs you nothing more than that you hear and believe it! In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Let us pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.
For the priesthood of the baptized, that through the ongoing reception of the Holy Word and Sacraments, their faith in the Lord’s promises would be increased, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For this congregation, at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, and for all congregations in our Synod, that they would be blessed with pastors who preach the whole counsel of God and parishioners who hear and believe, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For workers sent out to serve in the Lord’s vineyard of grace, Rev. Jacob Gaugert, the Askins family, the Cortrights, Sovitzky family, and Deirdre Christiansen, that the proclamation of repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name would be heard by all sinners, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For protection against the schemes of the devil, that God’s children would, by the power of the Spirit, don the whole armor of God to withstand all demonic assaults and remain steadfast in the Word, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For those who live without faith in Christ, that the Holy Spirit would call them to repentance and grant them a confident trust in Jesus, who lived and died for them and all sinners, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For a culture of life to spread throughout our land, that all life from the womb to the grave would be cherished and protected, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For those whom God has placed in authority over us, that they would serve with integrity and honor, striving for peace and the collective good of all, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For all who are sick or suffering in any way, and for all who have requested our prayers, including Carol, Dorothea, Betty, Doris, Cliff and Carol, Teresa, Ethel, and Paul, that they would be relieved of their afflictions, according to the Lord’s will, or strengthened to endure, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For those who receive the body and blood of Christ in the fellowship of this altar, that they would be strengthened and preserved in body and soul to life everlasting, 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.