May 29, 2016 Words and Works, Words and Works
Who said these three things…? I do not believe there is a problem in this country or the world today which could not be settled if approached through the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. – You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog! – If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen. That’s right Harry S Truman said all those things. (Memorial Day-Pres wartime service) Why do most people like Harry S Truman? Because he both spoke and acted in a consistent way. He used his words in concert with his works.
Now I bring up Harry because people like they way his words usually went together with his works. And that’s what we see that Jesus always does. Jesus’ works point to His words. And His words clarify His works. Words and works, words and works. There’s a rhythm to this. And we see that rhythm so very often in the book of Luke.
This new season of the church year we’re in, the one with all the green paraments, is called the season of Pentecost. In this season, for this year, we’ll be reading through much of the book of Luke. If you would, let me ask you to take the time this week to read through the entire book of Luke. Do it as quickly as you can in order to see the overall story of the book. As you read it bear in mind that Luke was written primarily for Gentile readers like you and I.
But for today let’s get back to that rhythm of words and works. And (btw) look for that rhythm as you read Luke. Note how today Luke ties the previous section of teaching, words, to this section of miracles, works, by saying; after he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people he entered Capernaum. In today’s gospel lesson Jesus’ works, in healing the centurions slave, take place after speaking the words of the Sermon on the Mount that Harry Truman referred to in our opening quotes. So here we see that rhythm, words and works. And in our lives Jesus’ words change us because His works testify to the truth that He is the Son of God.
At the heart of today’s passage is the centurion’s trust in the authoritative word of Jesus, which brings healing to his slave. Jesus’ miracles add to what He teaches, and His teaching helps us to understand His miracles. We’re not given one without the other. Words and works, words and works. When we’re baptized we’re given the words of Christ spoken to us, and at the same time we’re given the miracle, the work, of new life in Christ. It’s the Lord, not the pastor, who does the work in baptism. It is the word of God which makes the water powerful for baptism. The words of God in our life do the work of God in our life.(X2) In the same way, His Word makes Holy Communion, baptism and absolution powerful. We trust in the word of Jesus to perform what it says. His word delivers the promises it makes. His word is His work in us.
Now there’s yet another thing today’s Roman centurion can teach us in his sending a delegation of Jewish leaders to Jesus. According to one writer, a delegation sent from one person carries the legal weight of the person themselves being in attendance. That means that the centurion sent himself through the Jewish elders to Jesus.
The same is true with the Holy Spirit sent from the Father by Jesus to us. Jesus designates the Holy Spirit to represent Himself to help believers remember all that Jesus has done. The Holy Spirit helps us to remember that in Jesus coming to earth and taking on our flesh, He did that so He could die on the cross in our place and rise to new life in the flesh to grant us eternal life. Thus, in receiving the Holy Spirit we have all of God come to us. So like the centurion’s ‘coming’ to Jesus through the Jewish elders, so God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit comes to us in the sending of the Holy Spirit to us in our baptism and by faith.
So let me ask, do we reflect the faith we’ve been given in Christ as the centurion did? That is, are our actions in line with our faith – the faith we’ve been given by hearing just as the centurion had?
This is what makes the gift of faith so precious – it gives us all we need to act on, as the centurion acted. Our words, and our works, like Harry Truman’s are to be consistent. The centurion believed the words about Jesus and in faith he acted when he sent the Jewish delegation to Jesus.
Here are 2 more examples of God using words and works. In today’s epistle from Galatians Paul talks about the hearing of the gospel by the Galatian churches. Now Paul is warning them that they’re in danger of turning away from those words by listening to a preaching that is contrary to the gospel that was proclaimed by the power of the Holy Spirit. So he makes clear that listening to false words can turn someone away from the true good news of salvation in Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. Again it is hearing words, gospel words, that are important for the work of God in our lives.
And secondly in the Old Testament passage from Kings – what is it that Solomon says God does? With your mouth you have promised and with your hand you have fulfilled it. Once again our theme is there, words and works, words and works. And more than that, what is it that draws foreign people to the land of Israel? Why do they come to worship the God of Israel?
It’s because they have heard of the deeds of God toward His beloved people. Read Vss 41&42 aloud with me please… As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name – for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm, when they come and pray toward this temple… did you hear that? For they will hear!
They’ve heard that this is a God, the God, who listens and who hears the prayers of His people and then He acts for them. This is one reason why you’ve heard me say that only Christians, believers, can pray and know that God hears them. The foreigners, as Solomon refers to them, hear of this God who answers the prayers of His people and that is why they come to the holy temple that he’s dedicating today.
And this brings us back to the gospel lesson. Because it’s now a foreigner, this Roman centurion, who has heard of Jesus and it is that Roman centurion’s faith, which Jesus extols to Israel as an example.
Now before I close with another story about another president, let me again remind you to please take the time to read the entire book of Luke this week. I guarantee its words will affect your work. So please do it sooner rather than later.
Now this story is about the president who followed Harry Truman into office. But this takes place much later. Billy Graham tells of visiting Dwight Eisenhower shortly before he died.
Ike said to him, “Billy, I want you to tell me once again how I can be sure of my salvation.” Billy Graham reports: “I took out my New Testament and read him several Scriptures. I pointed out that we are not going to heaven because of our own good works, or because of money we have given to church. We are going to heaven totally and completely on the basis of the merits of what Christ did on the cross. Therefore he could rest in the comfort that Jesus paid it all.” President Eisenhower responded: “Thank you, Billy! I’m ready!”
The key in that story is where Billy said, “I read him several scriptures.” There it is, the words of God again doing the works of God. In this case to fortify faith in Ike and remind him of the assurance that he needed to depart this world in the peace of Christ alone. The words of God bring about the works of God. They do that in you and they do that through you as well. Never doubt, that as you speak God’s word – He works. In His name, amen!
Sermon #829 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading 1 Kings 8:22-24, 27-29, 41-43 22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the whole assembly of Israel, spread out his hands toward heaven 23 and said: “Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way. 24 You have kept your promise to your servant David my father; with your mouth you have promised and with your hand you have fulfilled it—as it is today…
27 “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! 28 Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. 29 May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place…
41 “As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name— 42 for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, 43 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name.
Epistle Galatians 1:1-12 1 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers and sisters with me, To the churches in Galatia:
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! 10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. 11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
Holy Gospel Luke 7:1-10
7 When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. 2 There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. 3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” 6 So Jesus went with them.
He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. 7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.