Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 12)

Mark 7:31-37; 2 Corinthians 3:4-11; Isaiah 29:17-24

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Knowledge of the Scriptures cannot save you. Only faith can do that. So, whether you seek wisdom like the Greeks, or signs from God like the Jews, these do not and cannot save you. Only faith can do that. You are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in God’s Son Jesus Christ alone. Therefore, hear, read, and study the Word of God – Yes! To be sure! – but do not think that your knowledge of Bible history, of the great stories of the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, and that your memorization of countless verses can save you. Only faith can do that.
Our First Parents succumbed to the temptation to become wise in a worldly and fleshly way. However, the wisdom they thought they were gaining was really a lie. Indeed, they could only attain that wisdom by rebelling against and rejecting the true wisdom of God, His Law and His Word. They exchanged God’s Truth for a lie because they desired to be like God – they desired to be gods themselves. And, so do you. God didn’t make them that way, covetous, jealous, discontent, rebellious – but He gave them the freedom to rebel against Him, the freedom to choose according to their own will, against His will. They should never have rebelled against God were it not for Satan’s tempting; but, alas, that is the way the tale goes. And, you are their rebellious children, carrying their corruption in your own body, your will enslaved by sin, with freedom only to rebel, to choose against God, His Word, and His Will – spiritually deaf, dumb, and blind. Who will save you from your body of death? Who will open your eyes, your ears, and your mouth? Who will release your tongue?
“O LORD, open Thou my lips and my mouth will show forth Thy praise.” Salvation comes to you from outside. “Behold, your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He.” He turns a desert into a fruitful field. He opens the ears of the deaf and the eyes of the blind. He opens the mouths and looses the tongues of those who cannot speak. He says “to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you’.” Did you hear that? He did not say that a Savior will come. He did not even say that the Messiah will come. But, He said, your God,your King, will come. Your God, your King, will come and He willsave you!
In Jesus, Emmanuel, which means God with us, God has visited His people to redeem them, to savethem! Jesus is God in the flesh come to save His people. He is your Savior, your King, and your God, and this is His salvific, kingly, and Godly work – to save you, to save you from sin, and from death, and from Satan. And so, the crowd that had heard Jesus’ teaching and that had witnessed His miracles brought to Him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment. They brought to their King one of His subjects who was captive to the effects of sin that He might save him, release him, and heal him. They brought the man to Jesus, just as you bring your infant children to Him, that He might bless them and touch them, speak His Word of Absolution to them, release them, heal them, and save them. And He did: Jesus took the man aside from the crowd, put His fingers into the man’s ears, took spittle and touched his tongue; and “looking up to heaven, He sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened’.” And, the man’s “ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.”
Just as the Word of God was once spoken into the nothingness before creation and all things came to be, just as the Word of God called Lazarus to life out of death, just as the Word of God was spoken from the cross, “It is finished,” and it truly was, just as the Word of God was spoken to the deaf and mute man and his ears were opened and his tongue was loosed, so too is the Word of God spoken over the re-creative waters of Holy Baptism and a spiritual nothing, a spiritual Lazarus, a spiritually deaf and mute man, woman, or child is brought out of the nothingness, is raised to life out of death, his ears opened, his tongue loosed to confess, to thank, to praise, and to serve. For God has come to save His people. In Jesus, God has visited His people to save them. The King has come, and His reign has begun. Your King reigns over heaven and earth, and His reign is seen and confessed in the proclamation of His Word and the forgiveness of sinners in Holy Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper of His very body and blood.
Though Jesus put His fingers in the man’s ears, spat and touched his tongue, these actions and signs alone did not release the man, but it was Jesus’ Word spoken, “‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened!’” It was this performative and creative Word, in, with, and under the elements and Jesus’ actions that opened the man’s ears and loosed his tongue. And, it is still that performative and creative Word, in, with, and under the elements and the actions of the Blessed Sacraments that creates in you a clean heart, forgives you of your sin, and strengthens and equips you for every good work.
On this Rally Day, in which we celebrate the kick-off of another year of Christian Education, let us ever keep this truth in mind and on our hearts. The Word of God is like no other word. God’s Word is powerful, performative, and creative – it has the power to bring into being what it says. If God’s Word says that you are forgiven, then you are forgiven. If God’s Word says this bread is His body and this wine is His blood shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins, then that is precisely what they are. And if God’s Word says that He will never leave you or forsake you and that nothing can separate you from His love in Christ Jesus, then you can bet your life and your soul that He will keep His promise.
Therefore parents and teachers, guard and keep this Word and make every effort to keep it pure, to teach it in truth and purity, whole and undefiled, for it is powerful for life unto salvation. And students, listen attentively to this Word and ponder it in your hearts and in your minds as the Holy Spirit works through it to open your ears, hearts, and minds to it that your faith may be strengthened, that you may have courage to resist Satan’s temptation and to remain firm, and that you may have comfort when you walk in darkness knowing that you are not alone and that the Word of the LORD is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path.
Because God made you spirit and flesh, body and soul, His Word became flesh and made His dwelling amongst us, as one of us, as our brother. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. He is Spirit Word in human flesh, God and man in one person to be your King, your Savior, and your God. Just as He used His fingers and spit along with His Word in healing the deaf mute, so does He minister to you, forgive you, and heal you with Spirit Word and created elements, bread, wine, and water. Do not despise the lowliness of these means any more than you could possibly despise the human flesh and blood body the Word of God has taken up. Rather, give thanks to the LORD your God who comes to you who could not come to Him. Behold, your God comes. Let us receive Him and give thanks.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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