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Trinity 14 2018 - Luke 17:11-19

Trinity 14 2018

Luke 17:11-19

September 2, 2018

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Last week’s Gospel reading we heard of the Good Samaritan while this Sunday shows us the thankful Samaritan.

St. Luke tells us that this miracle takes place when the Lord is travelling to Jerusalem. This is the last journey to Jerusalem that Jesus would make; it was to offer Himself as the Lamb for the slaughter and the sacrifice. On this journey, Luke tell us that He was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.  This was not the direct route, nor the shortest by any means. He was meandering His way along, with a desire to help and heal all who were oppressed by sin, death, and the devil. As He entered a village, He was met by lepers. According to God’s command, lepers were to avoid other people, cover their upper lip, wear torn clothing and cry out “unclean, unclean” (Leviticus 13:45-46).  Because of their sickness, they cry out to Jesus, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Since they approach Him prayerfully, He comes to their aid.

These lepers give us a picture of all humanity, which has been infected with the leprosy of sin. It is a disease that spreads, wreaking havoc in its wake. It cannot be healed by human means, but if someone is to be healed their flesh must be renewed, just as if he is to be delivered from sin, he must be renewed by the Holy Spirit. The knowledge our sin and our need is the first step in knowing our Savior. We must recognize that we are totally unworthy of Christ’s help and are distant and far separated from God. And cry to Him for mercy, in the faith and certainty that He hears and He answers.

God’s mercy is for the unworthy.  Jesus isn’t about breaking down social barriers, or about welcoming the outcast, or challenging societal views on the needy or gender roles or sexual orientation. Jesus isn’t about migrants and refugees and border control. Jesus is the about the forgiveness of sins, about dying upon the cross to restore the brokenness of the world.  Jesus is about taking the disease of sin upon Himself so that those who believe in Him might rise and go their way being made well again, saved, healed, whole.  True health, true faith, true life.

Jesus speaks to the lepers and they are healed.  It is simply by His Word that He brings this healing, this restoration. The Lord communicates the forgiveness of our sins in this way, by His Word.  It is the Word, combined with the water, that makes the baptism. It is the Word, added to the bread and wine, that makes it the Holy Eucharist. It is the Word spoken by God’s people to forgive and retain sins.

After all this, it is sad that only one of the ten returns to Jesus to give Him thanks.  This is same Greek word used by Jesus during His last supper as He took the bread and then the wine. Eucharist. This single Samaritan had acquired peace for His soul, while the other had only regained physical health, which would be of little help to them on the day of their death.  This Samaritan brought forth the fruit of the Spirit, as St. Paul talks about in the Epistle.  The other nine gratified the desires of the flesh.  It is a sad reality that one often begins in the spirit but ends in the flesh, who receive the grace of the Lord and yet walk away from Him with little to no thought afterward.  How often this happens! Many Israelites were led out of Egypt, yet only a few entered the Promised Land. How many Christians have been started out in a good way, healed of their sickness only to go on their merry way with little to no thought of God or Christ or His Church ever again?

What happens after cleansing is just as important as what happens before. When we have been cleansed, purified, declared righteous for the sake of Christ, gratitude sends us back to Him over and over again. The restoration from deadly sin is followed by fellowship with Christ, and those once blessed must return.  Arron and Amanda, that means that you too have a responsibility to bring Archer back to Jesus again and again in eucharist, in thanksgiving.  David and Debbie, as sponsors, you are to encourage them to do this. And Zion, as their family in Christ, you are to pray with them and for them, help them in their raising their son in the Christian faith, just as you all have that responsibility for one another.

We learn here in our Gospel reading that we are to continuously give thanks to Christ for His acts of mercy and charity. Sunday is a day when we return to the Lord’s presence to thank and praise Him, a day of thanksgiving for the grace of Holy Baptism. Sunday is a commemoration of Easter, the day of resurrection, a day to receive renewal again of our baptismal grace, a day when the Holy Eucharist is received as a continuation and deliverance of that same grace delivered in baptism.

Listen to this prayer, called the Proper Preface, that is said right before Communion, “It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who, out of love for His fallen creation, humbled Himself by taking on the form of a servant, becoming obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Risen from the dead, He has freed us from eternal death and given us life everlasting…” The Lord has freed us, healed us, from our leprous sin, and so we give thanks by receiving His Eucharist, His sacrifice, His body and blood. We kneel to receive and give thanks, and then at His command we rise.

Jesus commends the faith of the Samaritan who alone gives thanks for his healing. He tells the thankful Samaritan, “Rise and go your way, your faith has made you well.” It is Jesus who sends us on our way, the way of the cross, with His healing, with His blessing, and with His Word.

Trinity 10 2018 - Luke 19:41-48

Trinity 10 2018

Luke 19:41-48

A House of Prayer

August 5, 2018

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Trinity 9 2018 - Luke 16:1-13

Trinity 9 2018

Luke 16:1-13

Faithful with Little, Faithful with Much

July 29, 2018

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Today in our Gospel reading we hear of the parable of a rich man who had a manager.   The man in the parable is the manager over the rich man’s possessions.  The manager does not own the property and wealth that he is supervising.  Instead, it all belongs to the rich man.  The manager has the responsibility for supervising how it is used.  He is to see to it that the rich man’s property and wealth are managed in ways that cause them to increase for the rich man.  The manager has a duty to both his master and to those who are under him. 

It is interesting to note that the word “manager”, which can also be translated as “steward” is the same word that St. Paul applies to those who serve God in his Church.  Nick Whitney, listen up, because this is going to apply to you. The apostle writes, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).  He says of those who may become pastors, “For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach” (Titus 1:7).

While not everyone is called into the Office of the Holy Ministry as a steward of the mysteries of God, every Christian is in fact a steward of God.  We are God’s stewards because God created us, and then through Holy Baptism he recreated us.  In the Small Catechism’s explanation of the First Article of the Creed, we confess, “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.”  God made us, and so we belong to him. We may talk about “our body” but the fact remains that if God does not continue to take care of our body it cannot live.  Our body, mind and all that it can do is a gift from God, but it never ceases to belong to God.  It is a gift that God puts into our management.

All things we have come from His hands, and He has given us all things (1 Chronicles 30:16). Christ does not deal out all thing equally. To one He gives much, to another little, but it all come from Him, even the smallest things. If God has given us more than what is necessary for this body and life, we should not think that these things belong solely to us, but that we have merely been placed over them as stewards. And if we feel that God has given us less, we need to remember that God gives as He sees fit and as we need, not always as we want.

Since we are managers of the Lord’s creation, we must not think that these earthly things are to be used at our pleasure and according to our own purposes. We should use things for the spread of the Word of God, for the preservation of churches and church schools, for support of our leaders and helping those in need, for that is what the Lord has put before us.

When it turns out that the manager in today’s parable had not been doing what he had been tasked to do, he is told to turn in the books because he can no longer serve as manager. He squandered all that he had been given and a day of accounting had come.  His unfaithfulness does not remain hidden when the dishonest manager squanders the goods in his care. He has wasted his master’s goods and not earned the love of those under his authority.

The Lord pays close attention to the way that we handle His creation and His gifts to us. As a faithful friend, the Lord lets us know far in advance that we must give an account one day. It should come as no surprise, and not without warning.  In Luke 12:48, we hear, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.”

The parable of the dishonest manager shows the responsibility for our high calling as the people of God, as recipients of God’s grace and favor found in Christ.  The Epistle illustrates the same. It shows how the history of the Jews serve as a warning for us today. A chosen people who rejected God’s grace in Christ, and in turn became a rejected people. A people who trusted too much in their genealogy and sense of entitlement rather than in the promised Messiah. Christians too must beware of the dangers of security based in our efforts or work or lineage, or of despair, in thinking that God could not, would not, love or forgive you.

As God is our Creator,  He also recreates us as we are born again of water and the Spirit in Holy Baptism (John 3:5).  He gives the gift of faith and joins us to the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:12).  God gives us the first fruits of the Holy Spirit – the guarantee that we will share in the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:23).  He provides the 0assurance that when Christ returns in glory on the Last Day He “will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).   He promises the day when our bodies will never again die (1 Corinthians 15:50-55) and the world itself will be very good once again (Romans 8:18-21).

This identity as a new creation in Christ shapes our management of all we have.  In the parable Jesus brings up the shrewdness of the world and we see how the sons of this world are. At times they are almost consumed by their efforts for worldly gain. Where do we find equal zeal and work on the part of Christians for those things of eternal value.

The zeal of the world in their earthly plans ought to be an example to us in our striving toward something better, something greater: our eternal goal. We may imitate the wisdom of this world in their shrewdness, but greater in that our works are carried out in faith in Christ and in service toward our neighbor. All too often though the world uses its wisdom in a greater way than we do. Jesus says is plain and clear, “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” Since we are managers, then let us show our faithfulness to God and to man. Let our love and our confession of faith in Christ be so real and beyond a doubt that the world cannot help but notice Christ as work within us. So let us manage the Lord’s gifts as He has equipped us to do. Let us give thanks to the giver of all good gifts, the One who sustains our life and has prepared an eternal inheritance for those whom He calls His own. 

Trinity 7 2018 - Genesis 2:7-17

Genesis 2:7-17

Humanity in Creation

Trinity 7 2018

July 15, 2018

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

In our Old Testament reading for today from Genesis 2, we zoom in to the 6th day of creation when God creates Adam.  Unlike the rest of creation, God does not make humanity out of nothing. He does not simply speak him into existence like He does the birds and animals and fish and plants, the light and sun and the moon and the stars.  No, God shapes man from the existing material of the created world.  God takes the dust from the ground and He forms man, breathing the breath of life into his nostrils to make him a living creature.  Right there from the beginning we have a definition of what it means to be human – God created, Spirit breathed and enlivened body.  Or in other words, a body and a rational soul.  That is what it means to be human.  It takes both, not one or the other, or one and something else.

At first glance, this may not seem to be such a profound teaching, but nowadays in our culture, this is critical.  Our culture is suffering from an identity crisis. What I mean by that is that there is wide spread confusion over what it means to be human. When you disregard or discount God’s creation of Adam and Eve, when a person doesn’t know their creator, they can’t know their purpose or reason for being as a creation. There is a widespread belief that the body doesn’t really matter, that it’s not the “real” you. This is how people can think that a 5 year old can be think he is a boy trapped in a girl’s body, or vice versa.  Or non-binary, feeling that they are neither a man or woman “on the inside” regardless of biology.  It is the promotion of the false idea that the true self is made up only of how a person self identifies, of their feelings, that what matter is all that is on the inside.  This is how people can be led to think that taking hormones, or having surgery to change the body’s natural growth, can fix the problem of identity.  Take my mind and download it into a computer and I’ll still be me, but better because machine is better than flesh. All of this is a rejection of our creatureliness, of how the Lord God created humanity. It’s not new, but it’s really just part of an ancient heresy that continues to plague the Christian Church called Gnosticism.

Along with this is the all too common in popular Christian, and non-Christian, belief is that the goal and purpose of this life is simply to die and go to heaven, disembodied spirit singing with the heavenly choirs for all eternity.  That then leads to a sense that this world and this life is like the trial period for heaven. That this life is just a temporary valley of sorrow and tears we must get through to get to the “real” life. That’s not Scriptural, and that’s not Christian. The most common place I hear about this is at a funeral, when someone looks a dead body and says, “my grandma” isn’t there.  What they mean is that her soul isn’t there anymore, which is true, but her body still is. And that is a body that Jesus died to redeem from death. That is the body that Jesus will raise again from the dust. According to Genesis 2, that body is half the person that is experiencing the ultimate curse of sin, death.    Listen to the final blessing in the liturgy for the burial of a Christian, “May God the Father, who created this body; may God the T Son, Who by His blood redeemed this body; may God the Holy Spirit, Who by Holy Baptism sanctified this body to be His temple, keep these remains to the day of the resurrection of all flesh.” Which means the way we treat the body and the way we treat the soul are both important because body and soul is the Biblical definition of what it means to be human.

The key to this is found in the incarnation of Jesus.  The Son of God is at the same time both God and man. He is God begotten from the substance of the Father before all ages; and He is man, born from the substance of His mother, Mary, composed of a rational soul and human flesh. This takes place not by the conversion of the divinity into flesh, but by the assumption of the humanity in God. This Christ, perfect God and perfect man, suffered for our salvation, died upon the cross, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence He will come to judge the living and the dead (Athanasian Creed). 

Jesus Christ risen, alive, forever fully God and fully human. Christ then both communicates to us who God is, but also who man is.  Jesus has redeemed us to be fully human, not to be something different, or only human in part, but to restore humanity to its created intent and purpose.  This is why in Philippians 3:21 St. Paul writes in regard to the resurrection that Christ will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body by the power that enables Him to subdue all things to Himself. That is our goal, that is our eternal life: as fully human, body and soul, living with God and all His people in perfect fellowship and unity and purpose.

Immediately after creating the first man, Adam, the Lord God plants a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He plants not just the trees, but also Adam. It is here in the Garden of Eden that we hear of the first “great commission”, be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over creation. Why is man created? To work in and keep God’s creation.  Man’s first purpose to take care of God’s creation.  This work is neither a punishment, nor is it “hard’ in the sense that it is unpleasant.  Work only becomes a source of hardship and suffering as a result of the Fall into sin. But Christ has dealt with your sin.  On the cross, your sin is forgiven. By the means of grace, that forgiveness, the fruit of Christ’s work for you, is applied.  St. Paul explains in our Epistle from Romans 6, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” It is through Christ that you are freed from your sin, from the curse of the law, from your death, from your selfishness. You are freed to live and work under the cross of Christ to be who you are in Christ: a beloved child of God, created by Him, made anew through the waters of your Baptism, to do the work of God that He has prepared in advance for you to do. 

What are you supposed to do? How do you answer those questions, “Why I am here? Why am I still here?  What is my reason for being?” The Lord reveals this to you: to take care of God’s creation.  That’s your job, that’s what you are supposed to do. Do you need to go be farmers? Plant some corn, sugar beets, hops, hay? Not really, unless that is what you want to do.  All the different tasks that we do are part of taking care of creation. If you’re a doctor, you’re taking care of God’s creation by taking care of the physical needs of people. If you are a teacher, you’re taking care of God’s creation by teaching others about God’s creation. If you’re a police officer, you’re taking care of God’s creation by protecting and serving others.  If you’re a mechanic, you’re taking care of God’s creation by fixing things that become broke because of sin. If you’re a farmer or a rancher or a dairyman, you’re taking care of God’s creation by those means. All of the different vocations that we have go to serve this purpose.  And in all these vocations, God works through people to care for His creation.

In a confused world, remember who you are: created by God, beloved in the Lord, redeemed by Christ, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.  

Funeral for Evelyn Munster

Romans 8:35-39

Funeral Sermon for Evelyn Munster

July 6, 2018

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Gone, but not forgotten. That’s why we mourn today.  A dear child of God has died. After 96 years of life on this earth, she made quite a mark, and so she is not forgotten.  The Munster name can still be found around town.  The Munster name is still connected to the barbershop. Children and grandchildren, great and great-greatgrandchildren. Five generations. Memories, experiences, that must live on here is quite astonishing.  After the service today, I hope you can join us in Luther Hall to share in some of the memories.

Gone, but not forgotten. But what happens when you who remember Evelyn aren’t here anymore either?  What happens to us when those who remember aren’t here anymore either? If we are forgotten, does that mean that we are gone?

Or let me put it another way. It is no secret that over the last several years, Evelyn’s mind was not what it once was. Most of her memories were gone, but that could not rob her of who she was: a faithful wife and mother, a friend, and most importantly, a child of God. In my opinion, this was one of the defining aspects of her life in her last years.  Still singing the song she taught her children, and she may have first learned from her parents. “Jesus loves me.”  She sang this song continuously, to everyone at every situation. The staff knew it. The other residents knew it. Any visitors knew it. It could very well be that Evelyn was one of the greatest evangelists in Park Place, simply by singing and sharing that “Jesus loves me.”  What a testament of her faith. Testament of her Savior.  She may have forgotten much, but she is not gone. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. Not dementia, not death, not sadness.

Her faith in Christ was deeper than her memory, because the Lord remembers His people. Though her mind may have been gone, she was remembered by the Lord who preserved her in that true faith to life everlasting. Psalm 115:12-18, “The Lord has remembered us; He will bless us; He will bless the house of Israel; He will bless the house of Arron; He will bless those who fear the Lord, both the small and the great. May the Lord give you increase, you and your children! May you be blessed by the Lord, who made heaven and earth! The heavens are the Lord’s heavens, but the earth He has given to the children of man. The dead do not praise the Lord, not do any who go down into silence. But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the Lord!”

This is very significant. The Lord remembered Evelyn.  He remembered His promises to her, delivered at her baptism when she was only a couple weeks old, reaffirmed throughout her life by the Word of God itself, fed and nourished continuously by means of the true body and blood of Jesus in the Sacrament of the Altar.  The Lord did not forget His promise that nothing would separate her from Him, not death nor life, angels nor rulers, things present nor things to come, nor power, nor height nor depth, not anything else in all creation, not even dementia.  As the Psalmist says, the dead do not praise the Lord. Because of Christ, Evelyn lives. Death is defeated. She continues to praise the Lord even now. And she will rise again when Christ returns.

The Lord remembers you. He knows you. He knows your fears, your sadness, your joys.  He knows your sin. And what He remembers is that He sent His Son to die so that you might live, that your sins be forgiven, that you be placed into His nail pierced hands to be remembered forever.  He remembers the promises made at your baptism, as we spoke already this morning from Romans 6, “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 the 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.” 

Gone but not forgotten, indeed.  Today, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us by sending His Son, Jesus, into the world for us.

Trinity 6 2018 - Matthew 5:17-26

Matthew 5:17-26

The Role of the Law in the Life of the Christian

Trinity 6

July 8, 2018

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

“Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus spoke these words as part of His sermon on the mount.  The chief purpose of this sermon was to teach the right understanding of divine justice. This is why He came into the world: to bring people to realize His gracious deeds so that by His righteousness they would be justified before God, and that people rely solely upon His righteousness and abandon trust in their own works.  For whoever continues to seek righteousness within himself does not seek it with Christ.

Now, if people are to abandon trusting in their own works, they must have a proper understanding of God’s Law, which requires not just perfect outward obedience, but also perfect inner obedience.  This is why Christ explains the Law in so much detail here.  He counters the Pharisees false teaching that only an outward obedience is what matters.  Jesus doesn’t speak these words in opposition of the Law as if He wanted to make something more perfect or do away with what Moses delivered to the people.  For Jesus comes not to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them.

So Christ, the giver of the Law itself, states here that the Law demands more. In His example of the 5th Commandment He says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”  He differentiates between the judgment, the court, and the fire of hell according to Leviticus 19, in which these judgments were exacted, all upon the pain of death. He wishes to teach that even the slightest breaking of this commandment, outward or inward, in itself is deserving of judgment.

God gave His Law and His demands are high.  Not just perfect external works, but also a purity of heart.  When God says, “You shall not murder”, it is His wish that the hand, the mouth, the heart should not be inclined to hurt or harm the neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need (SC).  This is what the Law requires.  But when we examine ourselves, we do not find this within us. The Law requires holy and pious thoughts, but as Matthew 15:19 states, out of our hearts comes every evil thought, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.  The Law demands a perfect righteousness, yet as Isaiah 64:6 states, all our righteous deeds are like filthy rags.

So what are we to do? We can’t do away with the Law, for it is simply God’s will for His creation. People try to live without the Law, and yet God’s nature demands perfect justice. You break the Law, you face the consequences.  It is as simple as that.  Without righteousness we are not able to stand before a holy and perfect and righteousness God.

So we seek the righteousness of Christ.  He has taken our place. He is perfectly obedient to the Law, both outwardly in His words and actions, and also inwardly, for His obedience flows out of a totally perfect and sinless heart, doing everything out of a perfect love.  Not because He had to, for He Himself was the Lawgiver, and there was nothing that He had to earn for Himself through His own obedience, for He had everything by His eternal begotten-ness from the Father.

Here’s the beauty of the Gospel: Jesus does it all for you.  As St. Paul so eloquently put it in 2 Corinthians 5[:21], “For our sake, [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”  His obedience, His righteousness, His eternal love is yours, received only by faith in Him. We become righteous only when His righteousness is imputed, is given and received, to and by us, held on to by faith: by the fear, love, and trust in Him above all things. 

And this is why we value the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments, so highly.  In Baptism, we are clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covers all our sin. How do you know you stand righteous before God? I am baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. We begin the Divine Service in the name of the Triune God, making the sign of the cross upon ourselves just as it was given us in those blessed waters.  In the Absolution, we hear God’s declaration that our sins are forgiven and we stand righteous before God. In the Sacrament of the Altar, the very body and blood of Christ are given and shed for us for the forgiveness of all our sins, that we are kept steadfast in the true faith to life everlasting.

This is the righteousness, the reception of and the faith in Christ’s righteousness, that one must have before God. From this flow all good works, by faith hearts are made pure. Where a pure heart exists, good works must follow. The Christian can never do this perfectly in this life. We remain poor, miserable sinners who need the forgiveness of our sins for Christ’s sake.  But we are to strive toward this active righteousness of our faith, but always and only trusting in the perfect righteousness of Christ.  That is what Jesus means that our righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, that we have the righteousness of faith, the righteousness of Christ, which alone can stand before the judgment seat of God.

 

This sermon was partly based upon one by Johann Gerhard, Postilla, Vol. 2. “On the Sixth Sunday after Trinity” pp. 68-76.

Trinity 4 2018

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Luke 1:57-80

June 24, 2018

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Nine months of silence, of listening without talking. Nine months to reflect on what it all meant.  Nine months of doing his job, a priest before God in the temple, without being able to speak out loud to the people of God, or to utter his prayers vocally before the Lord. Nine months because he did not believe the angel’s words that he, an old man with a barren wife, who would have son who would be great before the Lord, who would turn many to the Lord their God, who would go before the Messiah in the spirit of Elijah to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.

But then the silence was soon to be broken. Zechariah’s child was born as the angel had promised. Eight days later, Zechariah and Elizabeth brought the boy to the temple to be circumcised and to be named. There is confusion over the name itself, until Zechariah motioned for a writing tablet and a pen and wrote, “His name is John”, which had no family connection, only the word of the Lord. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed and he spoke blessing God. The text of the Benedictus, Zechariah’s hymn of praise, likely were the first words out of his mouth, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people…”

These words show exactly where Zechariah’s heart is.  His first words since knowledge of his son’s life were not about John, his newborn son. They were about the Lord.  When you open your mouth, when God has done great and wondrous things in your lives, what are the first words that come out of your mouth? Do you praise the blessing, or do you praise the One who blesses? This will tell a lot about a person’s heart, for your words also show where your heart is.  Remember Psalm 51:15. King David writes this after his affair with Bathsheba and then when Nathanael points the finger at him and says, “you are that man.”  He writes, “create in me a clean heart of God and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation and uphold me with Thy free spirit.”  Later he writes, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise.” This verse is a powerful and profound part of the Christian’s prayer and praise. And wonder upon wonders, the Lord hears such prayers. He knows the faith of Zechariah and opens his mouth, so too he knows your faith and He opens your mouth to speak of Christ.

What a blessing this is! How many times have you been faced with a situation where there is a chance to speak about your faith, your hope in your savior and wonder what to say, you wonder if you have the strength or courage to speak up.  How many times have you thought back and wished that your mouth might have been opened.  So pray this prayer. The Lord will hear, He will act. When you speak, speak not of yourself, but speak of Christ, Christ for you, what Christ has done and what He still does.

This is what Zechariah does. He speaks of the Lord who has visited His people and redeemed His people. Pregnant Mary may have even still be staying in their house at this time, though regardless Zechariah would have remembered the encounter between Mary and Elizabeth, which fittingly is called the Visitation, and is celebrated by the Church on July 2.  Greater than the visit between the cousins of Mary and Elizabeth was the visit of the cousins Jesus and John. This was no chance encounter, but promised of old. As surely as God walked in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, so too He would walk His people again. Feet on the ground, in the dirt, visiting His creation.

In Christ, God assumed the human nature.  God literally, physically, He visited and redeemed His people, He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David. The Son of God dying, nailed to the tree, bleeding divine blood that you might be delivered, freed from the enemies of sin, from death, from the devil.  Delivered for a purpose: “that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.”  All of God’s covenant and victories on Israel’s behalf had one purpose: to redeem His people and to enable them to serve Him freely, fearlessly, in holiness and righteousness forever. You have been redeemed to live this way, here on earth as a foreshadow of what our eternal life shall be like.

Zechariah’s words turn to his child John, who had a certain calling from of old: to be the prophet of the Most High. He speaks not just of the Lord, but he speaks of what the Lord has done for him, and how He will use this newborn child to go before the Lord to prepare His ways: to give knowledge of salvation to His people in the forgiveness of sins.  This is the central theme of the Gospel that echo the promises of the new covenant. That was John’s job, to point to Jesus. By his birth, he does this.  Through his life, the Lord opens his mouth to prepare the way for Jesus. Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

And that’s why you’re here this morning. You come here to be directed to Jesus, to receive Jesus, to have knowledge and faith of the salvation that Jesus won the forgiveness of sins for you. And He has. This is all yours, by faith. Your doubting of God’s promises, you’re failure or even your refusal to open your mouth and declare the praises of God are forgiven because of the tender mercy of our God.

He is faithful to His promises. He was faithful to Zechariah and Elizabeth in giving them a child, promised of old, who would prepare the way of the Lord. He was faithful in keeping His promises of visiting His people by sending His Son into the flesh. He kept His promise of redeeming His people by His death and resurrection.  There are still more promises to keep, and that is what we look forward to as well. We hope for a fulfillment of all God’s divine promises, to the immanent return of Christ, of our glorification with Christ, of eternal life with Him, to guide our feet into the way of peace until peace with God is all that remains.

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