Sunday, August 22, 2010

Homily for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 12)


Mark 7:31-37; Romans 10:9-16; Isaiah 29:17-24

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

What must I do to be saved? Now, there’s a question that gets people’s attention. If only we could have that questioned answered, get a check-list of those things we must do, then we’d get right to work in doing them and we’d feel pretty good about ourselves and about our oh-so fair, just, and reasonable God. That’s all we’ve ever really wanted, isn’t it, a plain and simple statement of the minimum that’s required of us so that we can do it and live happily ever after?

Well, there are a lot of churches dedicated to answering that question for you. They’ll give you sermons full of practical advice on how to live your life, how to raise your kids, how to keep your marriage alive. They’ll tell you that all you really have to do is have faith and try to be the best person you can be. And many of these churches are large and prosperous, some are even made of crystal, but they are filled by souls that are no more saved by their works according to the Law than are the souls of this humble assembly. For, it is by grace that we are saved, through faith, and not by works of the Law. And that, my brothers and sisters, is the Word of the Lord that endures forever.

For, it is a delusion, a lie, to believe that we can justify ourselves before God by our works. This truth Martin Luther himself confessed as his final written words before his death saying, “We are beggars, this is true.” We are beggars who have nothing of our own to offer to God, for we are conceived into this life already corrupted by Original Sin and our wills are enslaved in bondage to sin and can do no good before God in and of themselves. It does no good to protest “That’s not fair! Sin that I was born with, even conceived in? That’s not my sin. That’s my parent’s sin! That’s Adam’s Sin!” It does not good to protest, for, we are Adam, all of us, one huge sinful man. And, not only have we nothing within us to offer to God, but we cannot even move towards Him of our own wills. We are spiritually blind, deaf, and dumb; from conception we are corrupted by sin and from birth our ears are stopped from hearing God’s Word, our eyes are blind to seeing the light of His Truth, and our lips are closed to praising His Name. We are in bondage, in chains and shackles, to sin and death, and we are so desperately in need of a Savior, someone to have mercy upon us and shower us with His grace and favor lest we perish.

So, as we could not come to Him, God came to us in the person of His Son. The Son of God stepped into our spiritual ditch and there He took up our flesh, wounded and bleeding from the assaults of the devil, left for dead, and He made with us a glorious exchange, binding up our wounds and pouring on oil and wine while taking our stripes as His own and dying our death. For, Jesus is God moved in love and compassion to reach out and to help those who cannot help themselves, those who will not reject His help or claim self-sufficiency. He has come to save sinners, and only sinners can be saved. He has come to poor sinners such as us to pardon, to restore, and to grace with His lavish gifts of goodness and love beyond our imaginings.

Jesus came to us who could not come to Him; He has set us free from our bondage to sin and death and He has empowered us by His Holy Spirit to bring others to Him who are in bondage to sin and death. This is why the crowds in the Gospel lesson brought a man to Jesus who was deaf and unable to speak. The man could not speak because he could not hear; he could not hear because he was in bondage to sin. It’s not that being deaf is sinful, but deafness is a result of sin, just as baldness and arthritis are a result of sin. Nor is the deafness the result of that one man’s sin or anyone’s sin in particular, but deafness is the result of sin in general: For, the wages of sin is always death.

The man could not hear the Word of God and his mouth could not confess Jesus as Lord; he was utterly incapable of changing his condition or situation. Such is our condition according to nature, fallen, corrupted, in bondage to sin. But those who could hear and speak brought the poor man to Jesus and they begged the Lord to lay His hand upon Him. Last Sunday the very same thing happened right here in your presence as Christian parents brought their infant daughter, who could not come on her own, who could not understand the Word of God, or confess with her mouth that Jesus is Lord, in faith they brought her to Jesus that He may lay His hand upon her, forgive her sin, and receive her into Himself through the means of Holy Baptism.

Just as Jesus, through the hands and mouth of the Pastor, released that infant child from the bondage of sin and death, opening her ears to hear the Word of the Lord and to receive faith, releasing her tongue to confess Jesus as Lord and to sing His praise, so too Jesus took the man aside, put his fingers into the man’s ears, spat and touched the man’s tongue, looked up to heaven to give God the glory, and then He spoke the Word “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. It was not Jesus’ fingers alone that opened the man’s ears anymore than the pastor’s touch in Holy Baptism, nor was it His spit and touch alone that released the man’s tongue anymore than the water of Holy Baptism, but it was the Word that Jesus spoke, the Word of God, along with these physical elements, that released the man from bondage to sin and death: The Word of God the Father, the touch of God the Son, and the finger of God the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is the Word of God made flesh, come down to earth, to speak forgiveness and release from the bondage of sin and death to we who were spiritually deaf, dumb, and blind. Whether we were brought to Jesus as helpless infants that He might touch us with water and Word or if we were brought to Him later in life by those who love us and would have us know the love of God in Jesus they enjoy, it is the Word, only and always the Word, that opens our sin-closed ears and releases our sin-tied tongues that we might confess with our mouths what we believe in our hearts, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

In Jesus, Isaiah’s prophecy has been fulfilled: In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. For, on the cross our Savior Jesus sighed and breathed His last for us and has given us to hear and to believe in Him; He has opened our lips that our mouths may declare His praise.

We could not come to Him, so He came to us; while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Even still, in bondage to sin and death, we could not hear the Word of the Lord or speak His praise. So, again, Jesus comes to us and brings us to Himself through the hands, feet, and mouths of His pastors, believing parents, friends, and even strangers that we might receive His healing touch and life-giving Word and be opened to confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and to believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead and be saved – to the glory of God the Father, in Christ His beloved Son, through the sanctifying power of His Holy Spirit.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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