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Funeral for Dan Evans

Funeral Sermon for Dan Evans

John 14

October 29, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

This afternoon I want to speak a little bit about this man. Some of you know him well, others not as much, and some wish there was more time to get to know him.  His voice, the words he spoke were important.  There were those who heard his voice, his commentary, a quote filled with wisdom that sometimes even stung with the truth.  He was a good man, a godly man, who loved his family and his friends. He would give so much of himself for those who he loved. Above all, he wanted to make a difference, to be remembered as a man who made a difference in the world.  He wanted to be involved in the important times of people’s lives, and he was, and he is.  We are here today because of him. This man, of course, of whom I’m speaking, is Jesus. 

But Jesus is not just a man.  He is God in the flesh, the One who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who prepares a place in His eternal kingdom for those who believe in Him, that the world might be saved through faith in Him and not condemned because of their sin.  The only way to get there is through faith in Jesus. If you try to get in on your own, by being good and doing the right things in life, it won’t cut it. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus, who is the Way and the Truth and the Life. 

Dan knew this Way. Dan knew this Truth. Dan knew this Life. This shaped the way he lived. 

Even in the last years of his life, when Dan’s memories were fading, when dementia took hold of mind, God’s gift of faith still belonged to him.  Not dementia, not sin, not even death is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Because Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed.  Alleluia.

Today, we remember Jesus and what Jesus has done for Dan and what Jesus has done for you.  As Dan is remembered by those who loved him, whom he loved and cared for in this body and life.  More important, and more to the point, he was and is remembered by the Lord, who called him by name in Holy Baptism, who pursued him all his days, and gathered him to Himself in heavenly glory. 

For some reason, Dan wanted included in his biography for his 80th, and now it is in his obituary, that he had worked his way up to attendance captain in elementary school.  While that may be a random fact of his life, attendance was important to him.  Showing up and being present was important, and still is.  If you want to honor Dan and his memory, he would want to you to attend and be present, with each other not just today, but throughout your life, and in the most important thing in his life, which is eternity with Christ.   

Today at this memorial service for Dan, we look at death and call it what it is. It is an enemy.  It is caused by sin.  It is not very good. It is not what God intended for us.  It is the work of the devil who is a murderer (John 8:44).  And it is defeated.  And at this memorial service, we look at the Life of the World, and call it what it is.  In the middle of mourning and sadness, we celebrate the resurrection life of Jesus Christ, and what this means for Dan who has died. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25).  

Jesus resurrection is the firstfruits of the resurrection that all Christians will experience (1 Corinthians 15:23). The risen and ascended Lord will return in glory to raise up our bodies.  So St. Paul tells us that, “we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:21). This is the life that we celebrate at a Christian funeral. 

John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  For Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, alleluia!

Reformation 2020

Reformation 2020

Psalm 46

October 25, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

 

There is nothing quite like the music on Reformation Sunday. We get to sing some of the greatest hymns of Christianity today, those beautiful songs proclaiming the Gospel.  Out of all of them, there is nothing quite so beloved as “A mighty fortress.”  This beautiful hymn, based off of Psalm 46, boldly proclaims the truth of Scripture and our confidence in Christ who has overcome the devil, forgiven our sins, and grants us eternal life through faith in Him.  So let’s take a look at Psalm 46 to see Christ, our mighty fortress, in the Psalm. 

The Psalmist boldly proclaims, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, through the mountains be moved into the heart of sea, though its waters roar and foam, through the mountains tremble at its swelling.” The Psalmist’s confidence is striking. Like a military commander, the Psalmist declares and rally’s God’s people around the certainty of God’s action and God’s victory.  This is why Psalm 46 was such a fitting song for Luther to base “A Mighty Fortress” upon. It stirs up the courage of God’s people in the sure and certain confidence of Jesus’ victory upon the cross and over the grave. 

These opening verses of the Psalm could be understood in two way.  Literally, the words refer to the undoing of the created world, perhaps the end of this age – a terrifying future.  But it could also be figurative, referring to the present troubles of living in a fallen world.  These are not unconnected.  Troubles are not new in the history of the world.  The shaking of the earth and the of the rocking of the mountains are always lurking around the corner of our lives.  Trouble can strike at any time and destroy the sense of stability we may have had.  So are these last days that we are living, the trials and troubles of this world, political and societal turmoil a sign that the end is near?  In a sense, yes. Present troubles are always hint of the final judgment. But again, this is not new, the Church has lived in the end times since Christ’s resurrection, always with the prayer upon her lips, “Come, Lord Jesus.” And so the Psalmist calls us back to Christ who is our refuge and strength so that we will not fear no matter what happens. We live in the belief that God actively controls everything and no one can escape His reach.  It is God who delivers both disaster and deliverance.

The voice of this Psalm is the voice of the Church, the Holy City, which is the dwelling place of God, our refuge and strength. Behind these confidence cries of faith, the gnawing questions, “Where is God to be found?  How is He a refuge and strength? What does His help look like here and now in my life?” 

The Psalmist responds, “There is river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.” The dawn of that day, is the day of resurrection, God’s victory over chaos and death.  The imagery of a river harkens back to peace of Eden, to the beginning of creation, and the presence of God walking with Adam and Eve.  But it also points to Jerusalem.  In the Old Testament, Jerusalem was referred to as the City of God, for it was the location of the Temple, the place where God was present for His people. The City of God, located on Mt. Zion, is the place of the holy habitation of the Most High.  This was the only place where God’s people were supposed to offer sacrifices but also where the blood of the sacrifice of the atonement was sprinkled on the people. But even these things were only a shadow of the reality that was to come. 

We proclaim with the Psalmist, however, that the holy habitation no longer names a place but a person.  This is what St. John was referring, when He proclaims in the first chapter of his Gospel account, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt, tabernacled, among us.  And we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). In Jesus, God is present for His people.  In Jesus, the city of God no longer refers to a geographical location but to a people, to God’s people, to the Church of God.  In His Church, the Lord dwells as a refuge for sinners, and from out of Christ flows rivers of living water that make glad by bringing eternal life and the forgiveness of all your sins, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe (Romans 3:22). 

Peace now reigns inside this holy City, peace with God and peace with one another by means of Jesus.  He reconciled us to the Father by His death and resurrection, freeing us from the slavery of sin, keeping us in the house of the Lord forever as a beloved son. The Lord gathers us around Himself, around Jesus, around the place where peace is offered and given and strengthened, in His Word and Sacraments where God is readily found as a very present help in trouble. 

At every turning point in the psalm, the Psalmist brings us back to the one thing we are to remember: “The Lord of hosts is with us…” In Hebrew, Yahweh Sabaoth immanu.  Yahwhe, the Lord of the heavenly, angelic host, is with us.  The last word of course, is the beginning of Immanu – el “God with us”. This of course, refers to Christ, the Lord, who abides with us, His people, even to the end of the world. These words bring us to the Church, where we gather around the life giving Word and Sacraments where God dwells with His people in mercy and grace, and to receive His Spirit to help, to strengthen, to protect us as we wait for the eternal city and the garden at the end of time, the New Jerusalem, where God Himself dwells in the midst of His people, a mighty fortress who is our God. In the end, we return to the City of God, and to the Garden and the future heavenly Jerusalem. 

St. Luke, Evangelist 2020

St. Luke, Evangelist 2020

2 Timothy 4:5-18; Luke 10:1-9

October 18, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

 

Today is the feast day of St. Luke. Most of us know him as the author of the Gospel that bears his name. He diligently prepared both a Gospel account, the history of Christ's work in the flesh before His ascension, and the Acts of the Apostles, the history of Jesus’ continued work among His Church. About 1/3 of the New Testament was composed by Luke as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit.  Luke and his writings are a gift from this Ascended Lord (Eph. 4:8-12), written for Theophilus and for all who love His appearing (2 Tim. 4:5-8), so that those who hear and read these accounts have certainty concerning Christ and the things that you have been taught about him.  It’s from St. Luke that we hear so many of the beloved accounts of Christ - the traditional Christmas account, the great hymns of the Magnificat, Benedictus, and Nunc Dimittis.  It’s in the Gospel of Luke that we hear of the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, Lazarus and the rich man – and from Acts we hear of the early church, the missionary journeys of St. Paul and the spreading of the Gospel around the world.

It’s also fairly well known that St. Luke was a medical doctor and probably a Gentile.  St. Paul calls him the beloved physician (Col 4:14).  Perhaps very few know that according to tradition, Luke was also the very first iconographer of our Lord. In other words, St. Luke drew the first portrait of Jesus that has become a model for artists even until today. It’s also probably not widely known among Christians that St. Luke was martyred for preaching the Christian faith when he was 84 years old, hence the red paraments around the church today. And yet, Luke’s proclamation of the Gospel continues to this day, as his words are read from lecterns and pulpits in every Christian church in the world, in every language, and on every continent. Luke’s words (which are really God’s Word) ring out, and have rung out, every day around the globe for nearly two thousand years without interruption. 

And so we remember St. Luke who was a faithful servant of Christ, a highly educated man, a researcher who could hold his own against any other ancient historian from the Greco-Roman world, a doctor, an artist, and an eloquent writer. According to today’s Gospel text, written by the hand of Luke himself, the Lord commissioned 72 preachers to proclaim the Gospel in advance of the Lord’s coming. It is very possible that Luke was one of these preachers. 

This calling went long after the commission of the 72 in Luke 10.  Luke proved to be a faithful companion throughout St. Paul's missionary journeys, through many trials and crosses, and even to Rome, where he alone was with Paul. In reading St. Luke’s words, it is often clear to see St. Paul’s influence on the theology of Luke, of his understanding of Christ, but it probably went both ways.  It was not until after Paul’s journeys with Luke that Paul began to speak of Christ as the head of His body, the Church, using very physical, medical terms even, to describe this relationship between Jesus and His Church.  Eph 4:15-16  “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

St. Luke began his work as a medical doctor with the calling of easing pain, of stopping issues of blood, of grasping life itself from the jaws of death – but even in that noble vocation, death always eventually claims the patient. However, the Lord Jesus transforms Luke into a new kind of doctor, who eases the pain of guilty consciences, who gives out the life-giving blood of the Lord, who rescues from death and the grave to give life that never ends. He is called to do the work under the authority, in the stead and by the command of the Great Physician Himself. He presents us with Jesus, whose blood provides the medicine of immortality. 

Some people greet these preachers in peace, in which case the Lord, speaking through the preacher, blesses that home with His peace. He is to heal the sick, and to make an announcement to those who welcome him: “The kingdom of God has come near you.” To those who receive the peace from the preacher who is sent out by Christ, this announcement is good news, but to those who will be judged by the Word of God, held in slavery to sin and entrapped by the devil, under the curse of the law, the preacher’s words proclaim the stark reality of sin unchecked and unforgiven, of divine healing rejected which only leads to impending, eternal death. 

The Lord still sends out His preachers to proclaim the Good News, that the kingdom of God has come in God’s very presence in the person of Jesus Christ. The same commission to proclaim Law and Gospel is given to every preacher from the time of the apostles even to our day.  We pray that the Lord would raise up such men, to send men out into the world with the Word of Christ where they will be met by sons of peace but also with rejection, lambs sent out among wolves. We pray for Nick Whitney, a child of our congregation, who received his vicarage assignment as he continues to his study and training and formation into a pastor. 

And pray that you would receive God’s preachers rightly, with ears of faith, repentant hearts, and mouths to confess Christ. It is the preachers job to declare the kingdom of God is present when and where Jesus comes. When the Law of God is proclaimed, you would repent of your sin, that you would look to the Word of God as guidance and direction in living a holy life of godly virtue and character. When the Gospel of Christ is proclaimed, you receive God’s peace, the peace of God with passes all understanding. 

The kingdom of God has come near to you today as Christ the King comes in His Word and Sacrament.  Let us receive Him today with thanks and praise.

LWML Sunday 2020

LWML Sunday 2020

Matthew 21:43

Modified from a sermon by Rv. Larry Krueger

October 4, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

 

In 1998, the National Youth Gathering of the LCMS was held in Atlanta, Georgia. One of the main streets running through the city is Peachtree Street. In the southern Atlanta metro area, one there’s also a Peachtree City. Of course, finding a street and a city in Georgia with these names should be of no great surprise to anybody who knows anything about Georgia. After all, Georgia is well-known for the delicious peaches that the state’s people produce. Thus, it is known as the Peach State. 

However, Georgia is not unique in being known for its production of a particular fruit. For example, if one were to think of the state of Washington, one would most likely think of apples. Similarly, a mention of Florida would bring oranges to mind. In Idaho, the state fruit is the huckleberry.  

Just as states are known by the fruit each produces; the kingdom of God is recognized by the fruit its people produce. Of course, this fruit is different than that which is found on common branches or vines. Kingdom people produce kingdom fruit, which is in of itself, a work of the Holy Spirit in lives of God’s people.

The importance of this task cannot be over-stressed, especially when one considers the fruit has been taken away from others who failed to produce.  Jesus teaches the lesson of our Gospel reading, which was directed at the refusal of the Jews to acknowledge and believe in Him as the promised Messiah. When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parable, they perceived that he was speaking about them. Their perception was correct. They stumbled over the cornerstone of Christ.  They had not been producing kingdom fruit. Now, they were rejecting the very Son of God and would be the ones who would be responsible for His death. They were following the pattern of their forefathers who had rejected the prophets and their message, which prophetic message was now being fulfilled in Jesus. 

The result of their actions was stated very clearly and emphatically by Jesus. He stated in no uncertain terms, “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits” (Matthew 21:43). These words of rejection spoken to those who denied Jesus also carry special emphasis for those who receive the kingdom of God. The emphasis of His message is just as strong to the new tenants. Simply stated, “The kingdom of God will be given to a people producing its fruits.” What does this mean, “Kingdom people produce kingdom fruit.” 

Let there be no doubt, to be kingdom people is a gift. The words of Jesus are clear. The kingdom of God is “given.” At the same time, let it be equally understood. The production of kingdom fruit is the expectation of kingdom people. As Jesus taught in the parable, the master will let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons (Matthew 21:41b). 

This is not a new expectation for kingdom people. It was declared of old by the prophets, as recorded in Isaiah 5: “My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes” (Isaiah 5:1–2). God expects good fruit from His people. The message of John the Baptist was equally clear, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). 

As people of the kingdom, the production of our sanctified lives is kingdom fruit recognized through fruits of righteousness, namely, repentance, faith, and new obedience.   As people of the kingdom of God, God graciously nurtures us and generously gives us everything we need to produce fruit for the kingdom. The words from verse 33 of the Gospel reading remind us of what the master has done: “[The master] planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower.” All this He did before turning over the vineyard to the tenants. The master supplied everything the tenants needed to produce fruit.

The same is true today. The Lord supplies all we need. The Holy Spirit calls us by the Gospel and enlightens us with His gifts. We are connected to Jesus, who is our lifeline for bearing fruit. This is His message in John chapter 15. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit … I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit” (John 15:5a, 16b). He empowers us through Word and Sacrament for this very purpose. Being fully nurtured by God, we walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work (Colossians 1:10). 

God has been abundantly generous to us, His people. We lack nothing for the work of His kingdom. Yet, we all too often find ourselves making excuses instead of producing fruit. We even fall into the trap of the original tenants in the parable. We believe that what we possess is ours! Meanwhile, the psalmist reminds us, “The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1). We have the warning of what happens to those who do not respond to His generosity, those who reject His Word and His Son, and those who do not produce. The kingdom will be taken away. 

To you whom the kingdom of God has been given, it is fruit production season. This is what kingdom people do. By God’s grace, this is what the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League does, that we remember today. From churches to communities to the world, these Lutheran Women in Mission are well known for gathering mites for mission grants in their home districts and global work abroad. Their hands-on labors expand from congregation to community and around the world. The LWML is a blessing to many. “Kingdom people produce kingdom fruit” fits well the description of their purpose and mission. 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Every healthy tree bears good fruit” (Matthew 7:17). As followers of Jesus, God makes us healthy in Christ. We are in the right state, namely His kingdom. We are in the right season, the fruit-producing season. So, Kingdom People, “Produce Kingdom Fruit!” Bear forth the fruits of repentance, faith, and the new obedience.  May the kingdom of God be recognized by our fruit! To God alone be the glory! In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

*This sermon is modified from one provided by the Lutheran Women's Missionary League for LWML Sunday.

Trinity 16 2020 - 1 Kings 17:17-24

Trinity 16 2020

1 Kings 17:17-24

September 27, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

 

The bad got better, and then it got even worse. The widow in our Old Testament lesson had just been the recipient of a miracle. If you remember from last week, she and her son were on their last meal, with a drought in the land and no hope of surviving.  But then Elijah arises, sent by God, to receive food from her.  Her flour and oil did not run out, but God provided for them until the rain fell again. God, the creator of all life, is also the sustainer of life. And then her son gets sick and dies. 

The big question that rings out in this section is that of “why”?  Why did the son of the widow die? God has miraculously provided for her and her son and Elijah in the flour and oil that did not run out.  Why did God preserve the life of the boy earlier, saving him from starving, only to let him die? 

His mother thinks it may be because of the guilt of her sin (iniquity).  By this time she probably was a believer in God through the witness of Elijah and the miracle.  But now in her grief she lashes out at the prophet, the man of God, believing that his presence has brought God’s wrath to her and caused her son’s death.  God seems cruel. 

We aren’t ever given a reason for the boy’s death, nor why God allowed it to happen.  But we see Elijah acting out of compassion and pity, wrestling with God over this death. “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even up this widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” Elijah doesn’t hold back his questions, nor hold back his confusion. He demands an answer from God.  The bitterness of the moment forces him to pour out his heart to God, to approach Him in prayer, to complain over the evil and sadness that death brings.

All believers can do the same.  God invites your prayers, not just for the good or needy, but also in your grief, over evil and sadness, even complaining to God. That is no sin is going to God when you experience unfairness, grief and sorrow, even anger. “Why? What did I do, God? What did You do?” Only partial answers can be given.  But we do know God’s final answer to death: resurrection.   

The prophet Elijah performs a miracle that has never been done before, to make a dead person alive again. He calls upon God and stretches out over the child three times, no doubt a reference to his belief in the Trinity, trusting that God would use him as an instrument to bring divine action, to bring life out of death.  Resurrection is the God’s business. He is the Lord of life, after all.

This proves to the widow that not only is the Lord the God who provides food wherein the false idol Baal could not, but that He has power over death itself.  In the Canaanite religion, Baal had to submit to Mot, the Canaanite god of death and the underworld. The widow is brought to even greater faith and a bold confession, a daughter of Abraham not by blood by faith in the One true God!

This miracle foreshadows the conversion of the Gentiles, and also the greatest prophet, who by His own authority raised the son of the widow at Nain.  Not only did Christ deal with that death, but for a while this Son of God was dead as well. He suffered and died, not because of His iniquity and guilt, but for the world’s.  Where is the outrage and the sorrow over this injustice? Not because an innocent man died at the hands of the authorities, but because of your sin.  It was your sin that drove Jesus to the cross. God’s Word comes to bring your sin and guilt to remembrance that caused that death of God’s only begotten son.

And God’s answer to His Son’s death was the same as for the sons of the widow at Zarephath and the widow at Nain, but even greater.  For Jesus was raised on the third day and by His resurrection He has killed death itself. Christ has been raised from the dead, He will never die again.  Death has no more dominion over him.  And because of Him, you who believe has spiritual life, which will never end, and your bodies will be resurrected perfect, and glorious and everlasting.  That is God’s final answer to the “why” of evil, injustice, confusion; to death itself. 

Yet believers will still die physically. Through you have total pardon for your sins through faith in Christ, your bodies will die as a consequence of sin and living in a sin ruined world.  But it has no power, or permeance, over you.  COVID is not a death sentence.  Cancer is not a death sentence. Accidents and tragedy are not a death sentence.  Because Jesus lives, you who believe in Him shall live. As our Lord says in John 11, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.” (John 11:25-26). 

The raising of the widow’s son beautifully foreshadows the resurrection of the dead, the resurrection we confess every time we say the Creed. At the return of Christ, those who are “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep.” (2 Thess 4:14).  He will transform these lowly bodies to be like His glorious body by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:21). 

So when death comes, when evil and injustice and worry and confusion arises in life, call upon the Lord, grieve, but not as those who have no hope. Christ has taken away the sting of death for believers who know that at Jesus’ return on the Last Day death, death will be destroyed forever.  Look forward to that glorious day of the Lord, the day of resurrection, and your eternal life, body and spirit reunited for eternity in the new creation.

Trinity 15 2020 - 1 Kings 17:8-16

Trinity 15 2020

1 Kings 17:8-16

September 20, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

 

Around 900 years before the birth of Jesus, Elijah bursts onto the scene with the force and impact of a prophet of the true God, bearing the Word of the Lord to God’s people in a straightforward and fearless manner.  Elijah is God’s answer to King Ahab and Jezebel’s attempt to make Baal the false god of Israel. Baal, was the Canaanite storm god to whom sacrifices were made for good weather. Now, Elijah calls on the God of Israel, the God who does not tolerate idolatry, to prove that Baal was helpless before Him, that in fact, Baal doesn’t even exist.  The Lord would withhold dew and rain for a period of time and the land would go into a severe drought. 

Ahab and Jezebel were filled with a murderous rage.  So God told Elijah to flee from there to hide in a secluded place and that God would provide for him.  Twice a day with a supply of bread and meat, God provided by sending ravens to deliver the food and drinking from a nearby brook.  After a while, when the brook dried up because of the drought, God tells Elijah to go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and was in Phoenician territory, and dwell there.  Elijah could have gone to the Jordan River, where the water doesn’t run out, but he obeys God who has reasons for sending Elijah to Zarephath, to the home of a particular Phoenician widow. 

That’s where we pick up in our Old Testament reading today.  Elijah goes as he was commanded and meets the widow.  After asking for a drink, he calls out to her again and asks for food. She balks at this request, not out of a lack of hospitality, but because she has no such bread to give.  She has only enough for one last meal for her and her son, and then she is prepared to die.  She backs up her point in the strongest possible way with this Israelite prophet, “As the Lord your God lives…” Notice, she says, “your God,” implying that this Gentile, Phoenician woman, did not yet claim the Lord as “her” God.   

But Elijah responds by telling the widow, “Do not fear.”  Despite what the widow had said, he tells her to make some bread anyway.  But notice as well what he says, “First make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son.”  Elijah knows there isn’t enough to do this, but he deals with her fear by indicating that a miracle was going to take place, that the flour and oil would be miraculously renewed. 

And it was.  The jar of flour was not spent, and neither did the jug of oil become empty. They ate for many days, until the Lord sent rain against and ended the drought, until crops could once again grow and there would be adequate food.  And this, according to the word of the Lord that He spoke by Elijah. The word that the woman had heard and believed, and in her faith, and that of Elijah, we are reminded that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. 

In the religious crisis during the days of Elijah and Elisha, more “signs and wonders” witnessed to the power of the true God than in any period since the Exodus (Ex 7:3).  In this miracle, the wondrous provision of food recalled God sending manna to sustain Israel while the people were wandering in the wilderness during the Exodus.  And it foreshadowed the miracles of the greatest Prophet, Jesus.  This Jesus who by His own power and authority, multiplied bread and fed thousands, not once but twice!  This Jesus, whose only excursion beyond the borders of ancient Israel was “to the region of Tyre and Sidon,” where He, too, met a Syro-phoenician woman of great faith (Mk 7:24–30), whose daughter was plagued by a demon and who simply begged for the  crumbs that fell from her master’s table, for that would be enough. 

And this is the greater miracle we hear of in our Scripture readings.  It is not just that God is the Creator and therefore greater than false gods made up in creation. Nothing and no one moves or breathes apart from our Creator God. The Lord who took up our Flesh, who walked this earth, has never been separate from the physical stuff of His creation or ashamed of it. He does His creative work through and with and for His creation. The Lord works a miracle in Zarephath but it is inside creation. Elijah, the widow, and her son eat it. But it is always the Lord who is acting, who is doing, who provides, whether it appears miraculous or mundane and ordinary.

So by faith, by the trust in God’s promises and provincial care in Christ, we see the hand of God working throughout His creation and for the good of His people.  Through Elijah, the Lord miraculously provides food for a widow in Zarephath. This account illustrates God’s never-ending goodness. He daily and richly provides for all our needs, blessing us far beyond what we deserve or what we ask. In a wicked, harsh, and hostile world, God watches over those who are His. No matter how much everything may seem to be against us, the Lord is with His people, a haven of everlasting love.

This faith in Christ castes out anxiety, fear, and leads to a dependency and freedom in being a beloved child of God. God cares for the birds and the flowers, and all His creation, but God has a closer relationship with you.  God did not become a flower of the field or a bird of the air.  He became a man in order to save, to preserve, to care and provide for mankind, for you. 

Do not fear.  You may have little or may have an abundance.  You may be going through a time of drought and despair, worry and concern over life here in this fallen world.  But God is still God, and Christ is still risen from the dead.   He attends to the needs of your soul; He attends to the needs of your body.  The sinful world and the powers of hell cannot touch you, for even in death, God will preserve your life.  Your last meal here on earth will not be your last, for God has prepared an eternal banquet for those who belong to Him.  Those who have God as their care will have no other. 

Trinity 14 2020 - Galatians 5:16-24

Trinity 14 2020

Galatians 5:16-24

September 13, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

 

We are at war.  There is a struggle going on and it does no good to pretend otherwise.  I’m not talking about the social unrest in our country, nor the politics, nor what to do about COVID.  No, the war that I’m referring to isn’t one that is being waged out there, but the one that is being raged in here. In the Epistle, St. Paul shows the great battlefield of the soul, where the Kingdom of the Spirit and the kingdom of the flesh, the Kingdom of Grace and the ungodly kingdom of sin are locked in battle.  Two opposing forces are active and doing battle, and as a Christian, you are caught up in that struggle.

St. Paul describes the flesh as distinct from the Spirit who guides us Christians.  The flesh is our human nature, which is ours by natural birth.  The spirit is the Spirit of God, which is our by the birth of holy baptism.  Paul writes, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.  For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law."  Paul says we cannot simply do as we please.  On the one hand, we are not free to do evil, because we are the adopted children of the Holy One.  Evil is contrary to who we are.  On the other hand, because the sinful man still clings to us, we are not able freely to follow what is holy, because our flesh resists and fights us every inch of the way.

One of the ways the Apostle distinguishes between the two is to refer to the "works" of the flesh in contrast to the "fruit" of the Spirit.  Paul here encourages us toward good works and bearing the fruits of faith.  God seriously wants Christians to avoid the desires of the flesh, if we want to remain in the Spirit.  This also shows where Christians obtain strength so that we can resist the desires of the flesh.  We have received the Spirit through faith and know we have a gracious God. 

Resist and do not follow the desires of the flesh so that you do not provoke God to anger.  You want what is evil, and you know what is good.  Your behavior represents a decided break from the non-Christian, flesh-driven worldliness.  Avoid these evil things that are listed here in our text.  Keep away from them. Don’t play around with this stuff, guard your soul.  They are not befitting of a Christian, nor of the sanctified life in which the Spirit works.

Every Christian is like a tree planted by the Holy Spirit to bear good fruit. When your Lord Jesus baptized you, His word was sown like a seed.  That seed shall root, nourished by the Word and Sacrament, to produce the fruit of faith. The Holy Spirit grows this seed. 

But we also see the opposition.  The Christian life is not easy.  Walking by the Spirit has its difficulties, its challenges, and temptations to sin come.  What the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit to prevent you from doing what you want, that is what you want to do according to the Spirit.  As a Christian, you still sin but you will not live your lives looking back to the desires of the flesh.  The Christian walk is always directed forward, under the shadow of the cross, and facing the dawning of the new creation at the return of Christ. Even though you may still feel weakness in this struggle, the Law cannot condemn you because through faith you are and remain in Christ. 

As a Christian you have a power available to you in your ongoing personal struggle that is not accessible through observing the Law, but is one by grace given in the Spirit.  God’s Spirit neutralizes the flesh’s attack.  Paul does not envision walking by the Spirit as an act of your willpower.  This fruit of the Spirit grows from Jesus, but it is first and foremost fruits by Jesus. He perfectly does the good and rejects the evil. The solution isn’t just for you to “stop it.” That is just piling up more Law for us to try to do in order to be good. The solution is that Christ has put a stop to it.  He died upon the cross to put an end to such things.  That happens only through repentance and faith in Christ.  By the blood of Jesus, enmity, division between God and man is reconciled. Because of that, enmity between one another is as well.  For Jesus’ sake, we are freed from the burdens of jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, division, envy and the like.  Because you, who have been baptized, belong to Christ. You have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Baptism entails a daily crucifixion, a daily putting to death of the sinful flesh so that we have peace with God and with one another.

Foster a love for the fruit of the Spirit. Taste its sweetness in your lives, the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Pursue these things, for they are the work of Christ in your lives, the fruit of His Spirit working upon you and through You by His means of grace. He works love, because God is love. The joy arises from knowing your redemption, your salvation, the promises of God which are a fulfilled in Christ. Peace comes from a right relationship with God, forgiven of our sins, reconciled to the Father through His Son. We have patience because we know the outcome of this war, that we have victory in Christ and so we wait for the final consummation of all things. While we wait, kindness and goodness are shared with our neighbor because God is kind and gracious and good.  He is so good that we overflow with His goodness when He dwells within us.  God is faithful and just, and so, when the Spirit works faith in us, He also works faithfulness in our lives.  The gentleness and self-control flow out of all the things that the Spirit works in us.  We are gentle and controlled because we have nothing to be violent about.  God is in charge.  God in Christ has, and will provide. 

Walk by the Spirit, or in other words, through faith in Jesus live your lives by the Holy Spirit’s power and leading. Do not gratify the desires of your flesh, but reap the sweet harvest of Christ’s work in your lives as beloved children of God, crucified with Him, forgiven, strengthened, and preserved unto live everlasting.  The good work of God that he has begun at your baptism, may He bring to completion on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

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