June 23, 2019 – “Stay and Tell”

June 23, 2019 – “Stay and Tell”

I don’t know if this only happens to me but there’re times that God, it seems, is toying with me or confusing me. I sometimes feel like I’m just left to wonder what God is up to in my life.

I know of a comedian named Steven Wright. He does a bit where he talks about naming a puppy. His idea is to name the puppy “Stay” just to confuse the poor animal. That way when he calls him, he says, “come here, Stay; come here, Stay; come here, Stay!” Well I’m guessing that such confusion is, perhaps, what

the demon-possessed man in the gospel lesson today must’ve felt. When Jesus had healed him, he wanted to go with Jesus, maybe thought it was only natural or even expected of him. But, no, Jesus told him to – stay! And that wasn’t the only thing Jesus said to the man.

He told him to stay… and tell. Stay and tell. He was to stay in that town and tell what it was that God had done for him. That idea of telling, sounds familiar to us as our mission is Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel. We’re also to stay / in our town and, share the gospel. And, like this demoniac who was healed, we’re to tell what God has done for us though sharing the gospel of Christ.

In this story, the man is demon possessed and is released from his demons by the word of Jesus. When Jesus goes to leave the town, at the request of the fearful people in that place, this man who’s been healed and has had his world totally changed, naturally wants to go with Jesus who healed him. But Jesus’ comment to the man was that he was to ‘stay and tell of what God’, what God (!) had done for the man! Notice the hugely important point from these few words… Jesus’ work – is God’s work!

Jesus knows His own identity and with this bold statement makes it clear that He understands, and does not hide the fact, that He is God – in the flesh. When Jesus heals this man with His word of deliverance, Jesus does what only God can do; He restores this man.  Jesus gives him a right mind and sets him free from the power of sin, Satan, and death. Jesus is God in the flesh and here Jesus makes that clear, in His words and His works.

Jesus, in showing His power over Satan and his demons in this way, also shows us that we’re in the same condition as either this man or the fearful townspeople. That is, we either live in the abject fear of God and His power – just as the pig herders and people of that town expressed – or we’re like this poor fellow, bound under the power of Satan and sin, and needing the deliverance that Jesus grants by His Word alone.

And did you notice how the townspeople came to fear Jesus? It was by the witness of the pig farmers to what Jesus had done. The town was told! That’s the power of a witness. But in this case rather than rejoice at the work of God by the power of Jesus’ word, they reacted in fear.

We know that we, and all the world, need the ‘work of God’, need the deliverance He declares in the words and works of Jesus. And some people do receive God’s help with thankfulness and joy, relief and praise.

But some, some want Jesus just to leave them alone. They really don’t want to live free of sin and its power that both surrounds us and lives in us. And in so choosing to turn from Jesus, we can be condemned to the fires of hell reserved for Satan and all who reject Christ.

There are those who’ve said, or perhaps even we’ve said at one time or another, that we really don’t need God to get along in our daily life. We all know people who think that ‘religion’ is not for them. And many people are religious about believing that. In one sense they are right about religion. But we do need Jesus.

Everyone needs deliverance and healing through Jesus’ words and works alone. His works, His death on the cross and victorious resurrection to life, are what He promises in His word that give us life eternal in heaven with Him.

But for many people, they’re just too proud or seemingly self-sufficient to ‘need’ God. Sad to say, Andrew Carnegie once said: “I don’t want a free ticket into heaven!”  To such people  salvation by grace through faith alone is a very hard – difficult teaching.

It’s amazing to me that since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, we’ve found ways to reject God that – at their core – continue to be the same. But, God always, always (!) seeks after us. He comes to us. We’re in a world that, on the whole, rejects God. And yet we need not be fearful of what will happen as our future is in God’s hands. We simply receive what He has for us.

No, the world we live in still finds ways to spurn God as it has since Eden. Think for a moment, what have you seen in the news recently or heard in a conversation that confirms this for you? How many times have you seen others, or you yourself, cover up sin and call it something else, like ‘it’s just a quirk – it’s only a small failing I have – it’s my choice – it’s not really hurting anyone? We say those things because no one likes the idea that they sin! To admit to sin would mean there’s a Judge who is greater than we are. No one likes that idea. We like to be the center of the world. So, it’s no different today than even in Isaiah’s day as we read in the Old Testament lesson. Isaiah outlines ways that people offend God.

And in the townspeople in the gospel lesson we see what Isaiah describes. In verse 1 Isaiah tells us that God ‘reveals Himself to a people who did not ask for Him’. Isaiah also points out that there are people who, in verse 4 sit among the tombs. It’s uncanny how this passage from Isaiah has elements in it from the gospel lesson. It even speaks of pigs! The condition of our world, as Isaiah describes it, has not changed.

The question is… will we recognize the condition we’re in? Will we receive the healing that God brings to us in Jesus’ words and works and be set free like the demoniac? Or will we, like the townspeople and like Isaiah said, reject God – out of fear? That’s an important question to consider.

We need to recognize that fear is what those around us live in. Fear, whether they realize it or not, is at the root of why they reject God and His love in Jesus Christ. And, if we’re honest, we too have done that in our own lives in various ways.

As we live mindful and aware that we are living in the grace and mercy of God, we see more clearly that God is in control and not us. It’s a Hebrew way of thinking – it’s both/and – we are both totally free and at the same time totally in the will of God, by /His /grace.

I know that for me fear of not doing the right thing is often what I let prevent me from living in the freedom Christ has died to give me. Fear is that thing that can paralyze me into inaction just because I’d rather not do anything rather than do the wrong thing. Wayne Gretzky, the hockey star, once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”

Well, not ‘taking shots’ is wrong for me since I claim to be free in Christ. In believing the truth that I profess to be found in scripture, then I need not fear. I am free to try and do the right thing and if I make a mistake in trying to do what I believe God wants me to do, then I trust in Him to both forgive me and to correct me.

God does correct us when we do the wrong thing, but that’s done out of His love for us, not as punishment. I need not fear His punishment in that way. Jesus has taken the wrath of God on the cross. Christ has taken away all divine punishment for all my wrongs, all my sins…all my fear. Jesus didn’t punish the demoniac for doing wrong; rather Jesus took away what it was that caused him to live as he did. Jesus removed the source of his torment.

Jesus, by His cross and through the Holy Spirit in His Word and Sacraments does that for us. He removes fear by His grace to us. There’s a parody of the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers that goes: “Onward Christian soldiers, running from the war With the cross of Jesus hid behind the door.”

Well, that is not us. We don’t hide the Cross of Jesus behind the door and we don’t run from the war we’re in. We gather together here in faith, faith in the power of God’s words and works to deliver us. We know we have been delivered from our fear, and from being the possession of Satan. The blood of Jesus from the cross has accomplished that and He has delivered faith to us. The epistle lesson today says, “Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed”.

We’re reminded in these words what it is to have been locked up, being fearful and rejecting God just like those we seek share the gospel with. But by faith coming to us, coming to us through the declaration of God’s word, we are set free. We have been released.

We’re not confused about who we are unlike that puppy named ‘Stay’. We are not held in bondage like the townspeople in the gospel. And we’re not like Andrew Carnegie!

We embrace the ‘free ticket’ to heaven that’s God’s gift to us through the costly sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and His victorious resurrection to life again. We are now soldiers of that cross and we’ve been given our right mind and been clothed; like the demoniac.

Now don’t miss this! We’ve been clothed in the righteousness of Christ and we’ve been given the mind of Christ. So, for us, we hear Jesus’ words to the demoniac now for ourselves. Jesus says for us to stay and tell. We get to tell what God has done for us.

And that brings us back to the subtle power of the statement that Jesus made. What Jesus’ work has done for us He’s done because He is God in the flesh. His power and work have been revealed to us, as Isaiah said, even though we were once a people who didn’t ask for God to reveal Himself to us. Yet in love He has done just that. Reveals Himself.

I love that He’s sent our demons to drown in the baptismal waters we’ve been washed with. We have been freed of that deadly fear that once possessed us. We’re now in our right minds, because we have the mind of Christ. And Jesus wants us also to stay and tell by Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel. What form will that take for you this week? How will you be intentional about sharing; about telling the gospel?  In Jesus name, Amen.

Sermon #1033 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

First Reading                                                                                    1 Kings 19:9b-21

…And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. 20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”

“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”

21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.

 Epistle                                                                                            Galatians 5:1, 13-25

5 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Holy Gospel                                                                                                Luke 9:51-62

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”