Aug 28, 2016 What an Honor

Menelik, a former leader of Ethiopia, was a good leader who accomplished many things for his country. However, he was a bit of a religious fanatic with strange ideas. He believed the Bible was a magical book with healing powers. Whenever he felt sick, he would eat a page of scripture. One time he felt really sick, so he ate the entire books of 1&2 Kings. The “magic” didn’t work of course. The autopsy revealed that he died of an intestinal obstruction.

In order to be truly healed the leader of Ethiopia would’ve been better served to seek healing from the pure living word of God who is Jesus Christ. Instead he treated the word of God superstitiously, as the world does and as false teachers do. Under the dominion of darkness, those whose worldly agenda does allow scripture to speak clearly, do not allow people to see true healing and wholeness as God alone provides us with – through Jesus Christ. Though the world doesn’t want us well and healthy Jesus disregards this world’s standards and does us the honor of healing anyway. As we just sang twice, Jesus is the source of life and truth and grace. Jesus wants us whole and pure. The Old Testament lesson says today Remove the dross from the silver, and a silversmith can produce a vessel.

Jesus produces vessels by His righteousness and His healing power. Today, in the gospel, Jesus does His healing in spite of the Pharisees, in spite of what this world thinks is right or correct. It’s not the standards of the world that Jesus has come to meet. Those are low and false anyway.

Jesus came to meet the standards of holiness and righteousness set by His Heavenly Father. That standard is perfection and pure righteousness.

It’s only the pure, like pure silver, who will have the honor to stand before God. And there’s no other way to be pure than to be purged of all the dross – the sin, the filth and false humility that we so easily possess. And sometimes we even forsake the false part of humility and we pursue our own agenda or seek to promote ourselves above others.

This is pointed out in all three lessons today. All of them speak of not seeking the highest place for yourself but rather letting the host come and find you and He brings you up to the place of honor where He would have you be. If we’re honest, we see in our sin and pettiness that we indeed have no reason to think we deserve any honor anyway. I have only to look into my heart and life to realize and be in terror of my sinfulness. Heavens!…

Not only do I have no standing to seek a place of honor, I don’t even deserve to be at the banquet! The stain and shame of my sin is as the wickedness of the wicked officials in Proverbs that keep the King’s throne from being established in righteousness. That’s me that wickedness is what I am.

How often – just using the things in the epistle lesson – how often do I love money / am immoral / or refuse to show hospitality? And how often, when I do give any thought to those in prison, is it a self-righteous thought that they deserve it anyway. Truth is that’s where you and I belong in our sinfulness.

What about those who’re mistreated? Again how often do I even give them a thought, let alone seek to, in some small pittance of a way, help them. And then it’s more out of guilt rather than gratitude that I do even that! No, I am not fit to be at the banquet.

However, and that’s a huge ‘however’, however by what Jesus does with the man in the gospel who was misshapen, so my misshapen form under my old nature – the old man – the sinful self that I was born with, is changed. I am given grace to be made, not just acceptable, but pure and righteous. I’m given a new form and a new nature. The nature I am given is that of Jesus.

It’s New Life that He gives me. It’s only by His mercy and grace that I’m not just spared, but by His doing, I’m given a totally new life. It’s an honor given to me that I don’t deserve. Honor is something you don’t take for yourself, honor is given to you.

The rumpled, brown‑paper package was addressed simply to “Monsieur Kipling.” Rudyard Kipling, celebrated British author and Nobel Prize winner, opened it, his curiosity aroused by the painstaking scrawl on the package. Inside was a red box containing a French translation of his novel, Kim. It had been pierced by a bullet hole that stopped at the last 20 pages. Through the large bullet hole, tied with string, dangled the Maltese Cross of the Croix de Guerre, France’s medal for bravery in war. The book had been sent to Kipling by a young French soldier named Maurice. He explained in a letter that had this book not been in his pocket when he went into battle, he would have been killed. Maurice asked Kipling to accept the book and medal as a token of gratitude. Kipling felt more moved than he had been by any other honor he’d received. Through him, God had spared the life of this soldier.

Like this soldier, so we too have been given new life from a Book. It’s the word of God that gives us life. And like the honor given to Kipling, it’s a pure gift. It’s an honor bestowed by grace and not because of anything we’ve done or said. It is pure gift. And it’s not from being superstitious like Menelik.

Jesus gives me, in spite of this world and its desire to block my healing; Jesus gives me New Life – that restoration to wholeness that puts a new nature within me. At the baptismal font and the banquet of Holy Communion and by the gift of faith, Jesus gives me purity and true holiness.

Again as the epistle lesson says, Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. His blood shed outside the city gate on the cross, that alone, is what changes me. That blood and perfect sacrifice was done so that, like the man healed in the gospel lesson as everyone was watching to see if Jesus would do it, I too am healed. I am healed through His gift of faith to me. At the font and at the altar rail I am healed with everyone watching. No, not watching me but watching to see what Jesus does here (pointing at the font) and here (at the altar) and here in our hearts.

Remember in Hebrews, God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” 6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

Who cares if the world watches? The Lord is our helper! We cannot be constrained by the world, the devil or our own sinful flesh – the Lord is our helper. Say it with me, the Lord is our helper!!

Knowing that, living in that, and allowing that truth to fill us, we then can hear vss 15 and 16, Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

We are free of the world, free to do good and to share with others. Though the world watches us and even judges us, just as they did with Jesus, it’s the thanksgiving of our hearts for being made holy and pure that now flows from our lips and in our actions. That’s because as Jesus said in vs 11 of the gospel, those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Jesus is the One who has exalted us. He has brought us up to the highest place of honor. We’ve been brought into the wedding feast of the lamb in the kingdom of God. By the blood of that same Lamb of God, He has taken away our stain and shame of sin and He has exalted us by His grace and mercy alone.

So what will we show to the world, the world that seeks to hold us down and drown us in our sin? As they watch, what will we show them?

We have the great honor to show them good and to share with them the healing, wholeness and restoration that we, though underserving, have been gifted with. We go from here today in Jesus name truly Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel, amen!

Sermon #842 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

First Reading                                       Proverbs 25:2-10
2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. 3 As the heavens are high and the earth is deep, so the hearts of kings are unsearchable.

4 Remove the dross from the silver, and a silversmith can produce a vessel; 5 remove wicked officials from the king’s presence, and his throne will be established through righteousness. 6 Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among his great men; 7 it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,” than for him to humiliate you before his nobles. What you have seen with your eyes 8 do not bring hastily to court, for what will you do in the end  if your neighbor puts you to shame?

9 If you take your neighbor to court, do not betray another’s confidence, 10 or the one who hears it may shame you and the charge against you will stand.

 Epistle                                                                      Hebrews 13:1-17
13 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. 10 We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.

11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

Holy Gospel                                                                                   Luke 14:1-14
14 One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. 2 There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. 3 Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” 4 But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.

5 Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” 6 And they had nothing to say.

7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”