Thursday, April 05, 2007

Lent 6 Preaching - Wednesday

Pastor Rick Sawyer
Shepherd Lutheran Church
Brandon, MS

Luke 20:9-19/LentWed6.07

Dear Baptized, when it comes to talking about an inheritance, sometimes the conversation can get a bit, well, awkward. Even if what parents leave behind isn’t all that much, it does some pretty strange things to siblings when it’s time to get together and receive what Mom and Dad have left the kids. Imagine when the estate is HUGE!

Over the past couple of Sundays, we’ve heard about children and the inheritance. In our Lord’s Parable of the Prodigal Son, one boy tells his Dad, “Drop dead! I want my money NOW!” and then runs off to squander it in reckless and wild living. This past Sunday, we heard how tenants plot to kill the Owner’s Son, because in doing so, they hoped to make the inheritance — the vineyard and its fruit—their own.

In the Book of Hebrews tonight, we hear that Jesus “is the mediator of a new covenant or testament so that those who are called may receive th the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant or testament.”

Jesus is the One Who sets up God’s estate — for US — by dying in our pr place. He came into our Flesh and lived the perfect life. Then He died the death we ought to die, in place of every sinner. Before doing so, the way that parents do when they are thinking of the children they will leave behind — so they are taken care of and not left destitute — Thinking of you and me, Whom He desires to care about for all eternity, Jesus gets His family together before He dies and puts His will in place.

His Last Will and Testament. The NEW Testament in Jesus’ Blood. That’s the final section of the Catechism that we hear about tonight — The Sacrament of the Altar, the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, the Eucharist, the Table of our Lord. These are the names by which we speak of that Meal which our Lord established, in which He gathers His family, the heirs of His estate, and divvies out to each the blood-bought, flesh-secured inheritance. That’s what happens at the reading of a Will and Testament, isn’t it? You get what someone else worked hard to earn. You get it, because they died, and before they died, they set up some provision for the way it goes out to the heirs.

Every time we gather for the Supper of our Lord, we proclaim His death. Without that, there is no giving out of His estate. There is no gathering of heirs to get what He worked hard to gain. But since He died, there is no question: What belongs to Him now comes to us. We’re His beneficiaries, and whatever He accomplished by His going to our cross, that HE gives us here, in the New Testament in Jesus’ Blood!

Do you see what joy this is? Yes, JOY! Be honest now; you know it’s great to get a big, fat inheritance! It’s been around 2,000 years since Jesus died and rose. This is all joy now. Oh, at first there was sorrow. There surely was the night of Christ’s betrayal. Little did they know that they’d been gathered for the reading of the will. Talk of Jesus dying was upsetting, frightening. But then He rose. And now, so many centuries have passed — there isn’t any reason we should weep or mourn for Jesus. Instead, we should learn some sorrow over how we treat His property; how we behave when we’ve been given such a treasure.

Kids who get what they’ve done absolutely nothing to attain can put on such a show! It’s embarrassing, shameful. Arguing, bickering, then wasting what they’re given. Let’s learn some sorrow over how little we appreciate what we receive. Let’s learn to weep and mourn about the ways we squander our inheritance, like spoiled brats.

What IS it we’ve inherited? Jesus tells us. So does the Catechism. “It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and drink.”

That should teach us good behavior every time we gather for this Feast. God isn’t throwing money at our feet. He’s not so crass or foolish. Jesus didn’t redeem us with gold or silver. Could you imagine what piggish fools we’d make of ourselves if He had? The Lord’s Altar is abused enough as it is, without God catering to our basest greed. Imagine if Christ paid for you in cold hard cash, and then set in place a man to doll that out as often as you come? What pushing and shoving we would expect to see, as sinners who care little for the God Who saves us scramble for the god who all men care about: MONEY!

What parents would keep their children from the Service THEN? “No, honey, you don’t need your thousand dollars from the pastor THIS Sunday! We gave you $5 for your allowance last week!” Ha! Parents whom we see now coming only on occasion would become — with all of us — most religiously faithful, and parents who don’t mind their children running off to other churches where this is all pretend, would DEMAND they come HERE. “Go to a church where the pastor DOESN’T give a thousand dollars to you? No, you’re GETTING your grand. You’ve got college to pay for. And don’t even THINK you’re going to a church where the pastor only PRETENDS that it’s a thousand dollars. Our pastor GIVES a grand to everyone who comes. One Sunday away is a thousand dollars poorer, and we cannot afford to lose that kind of money – just because YOU want to run off with some friends and hear some upbeat music. Kids, you can get your rock music ANYTIME. But where else will ANYONE, much less a PASTOR, simply hand you a thousand dollars just because you act like you cannot live without it? And kids, have you heard there are actually TWO services a Sunday? I’m told the PASTOR’S wife comes forward TWICE! The Pastor too!”

Oh, yes, it’s clear what kind of people God has chosen. If only He would be the kind of GOD we think we need!

Sorrow over all of this, dear Christian, since your God has given you what outlasts every ounce of gold and silver that there is. He has given you His holy precious blood, which He shed for you at His innocent suffering and death. What He gave on a cross for you, THAT’S what He gives you here in bread and wine. Many will tell you it’s only make-believe, symbolic, pretend, a representation. You wouldn’t stand for make-believe if God had given MONEY for your life, forgiveness and salvation. Don’t let anybody rob you of the Body and the Blood of God Himself. A pretend God won’t do you any good. An absent God won’t save you. JESUS says, “My Flesh is REAL Food, and My Blood is REAL Drink.” After all, you’re REAL sinners, and you’ll die a REAL death. JESUS says, “Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood HAS eternal life, and I WILL raise him up at the last day!”

This is the REAL deal, as the Holy Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and St. Paul tell us. It’s what the Church has called the Medicine of Immortality. Along with Baptism, Absolution and the Preaching of the Gospel, it delivers “forgiveness of sins, life and salvation . . . for where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.”

Point your friends to Jesus’ Table. There is where He wants us to see God and eat and drink. This is what all the eating and drinking in the Old Testament was pointing to. The Tree of Life? We are eating from it here, and we will partake of it for all eternity in the Paradise of God. The Passover Lamb? Here is the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world; your sin and mine! The Manna which sustained God’s people in the wilderness? Here is the Bread Come down from heaven, which a man may eat of and never die! The Peace or Fellowship Offerings Israel partook of in the Tabernacle and the Temple? Here He is. The Peace of the Lord be with you, His Body and His Blood for you in Bread and Wine. Here is the foretaste of that eternal banquet God has promised He would set before His people on His Holy Mountain: the fat portions, the best of meats and the finest of wines! From the four corners of the earth, God will gather His elect to join Him at the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom, which has no end; and here, He’s started it already — with angels, archangels and all the company of heaven; all the heirs, all the family, gathered for the reading of the Will and Testament of Jesus, and the giving out of all the treasures Jesus spent for our salvation! Whew!

Point the world to this, dear Christian. But tell them not to come like pigs, but like repentant sons, dressed up — as only the Father can get them ready; washed,, absolved, instructed and admitted by the Master of the House Himself. People want to admit themselves, have you noticed? People behave very badly when there’s an inheritance around, or when there’s something that they want, no matter what it is. The tenants in the Gospel for this Sunday beat men up and killed a son. They wanted what they wanted and to hell with anybody else’s way but theirs! God has been trying to make sons out of sow’s ears for a long, long time!

Read your Bibles, dear Christian, and realize that the vast majority of men won’t do the same. Won’t learn. But you, repent and wallow in something that can do some good. God told His children they were free to eat from anything He planted; only, they were not to eat from the Tree at the center of the Garden. They were to be His children by not putting their mouths where God had told them not to. Later, Israel received God’s meals. The Peace offerings. Those who were unclean were not to eat. God has a way of bringing sons to His table, but pigs must stay away. If foreigners wanted to partake of Israel’s Passover, God said they could be circumcised. Be made sons, then eat and drink — as members of the family.

Do strangers come in off the street and sit down at the reading of the will? If someone says, “I get a share of that,” we want to know, “And how are you related?” No one apart from Israel could partake of Israel’s suppers. And no one but whom Christ Himself instructed sat down with Our Savior and communed with Him the night He was betrayed. Jesus taught the Twelve to hold everything He had commanded. When He’d washed them, got them all prepared, He fed them His own Flesh and Blood.

Read all the Gospels and you’ll see, that’s how the Lord has fellowship. Only with sinners. No one’s ready on account of anything in THEM! Jesus didn’t feed St. Peter ‘cause He saw how full of FAITH that dear disciple was — swearing not to falter — only hours before He did. And Jesus didn’t feed poor Judas ‘cause that man had such a heart for Jesus. But when he left to do turn His Master over for a price, no one knew he was a traitor. No one knew he was a hypocrite. Judas left the Faith, but all that anyone knew then was that he’d been instructed by the Master, and was one of them.

Our Lord has NEVER taught us what the world wants now; communion that is open, even to those who deny the articles of Faith, even to those who want to live like pigs, unrepentant in their sins; even to those who want no part of being “family,” but only want a place to grab a bite and then move on. Fast-food Communion! The Lord has never taught us to be spoiled, like brats demanding to be catered to. Oh, God forbid! The Lord has raised up CHILDREN for the Father, children who know they should be well-behaved; children who know their manners and their place.

Read, children. Actually open up the Bible and read how Jesus teaches faith. He treats a woman badly; He ignores her, makes her wait, says He wasn’t sent for such as her, and calls her names. And when, despite such treatment, she persists in needing Jesus, in holding to the One She trusts to even treat a dog to crumbs, Christ calls that FAITH!

And a person who is not admitted to the Table on the first occasion, who is unknown to the pastor and to hardly anybody else — Such a person gets OFFENDED, and are we supposed to think that such a one is well-prepared? Please! Read the Bible.

When someone says, “But St. Paul says a man should examine HIMSELF,” and on that basis presumes to make the steward of God’s Mysteries a lackey, a hired hand, a pill-peddling physician who doles out God’s prescription Medicine to people just because they rudely make demands? Can you say, “Malpractice”? “Criminal negligence”? “Unloving behavior that is worthy of hell”?

Our Lord has NEVER taught us to be rude before Him. Read your Bibles, and learn that Jesus teaches that we should NEVER seat ourselves in places of honor at a Feast, lest the Master bid us leave. Instead, we should take the lowest seat, and let the Master admit us higher. And the man who came into the feast without the proper garments? He didn’t stay. No one admits or prepares himself.

Examine yourselves, and you will learn how little you deserve what God hands out. Examine yourselves, and you will learn how rude and piggish and unprepared you really are. No one comes because they conclude they ought to. That’s why NO ONE admits himself. We come to BE admitted. Like Peter, we are washed, despite our lack of faith, and Jesus clothes Himself in Bread and Wine and feeds us our inheritance.

“For you,” is what He gave upon the cross. “For you” is what He gives you still. “For you” is what He’s all about, dear Children of the Father. So no one needs to be FOR themselves — scrambling about to get, demanding what they want. That is JUST the opposite of having faith in these words, “given and shed for you.”

Dear Beneficiaries of Christ’s Death and Resurrection, “For you” means you NEVER have to seat yourself, or worry that — if you don’t pitch a fit and act a sight — you won’t be seated. You are heirs. He’s stated it in His own Will and Testament. Don’t act the fool, or the pig, or the spoiled brat. Sit quietly as the Testament is read again, and then, in due time and with due reverence, receive what’s yours. Yours v not because you demand it — but because He’s given it for you on His cross and TO you here in bread and wine, according to the preparations and provisions He has made. No need to be rudely impatient, like the Prodigal. No need to make what He intends to give you YOURS, the way of those ungodly tenants. Instead, the way of Faith and Joy is the way of being GIVEN to — of sitting and hearing and being sure: “This is FOR YOU!” So it is, In Jesus’ Name, Amen

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