Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sermon -- 2nd Sunday after Pentecost (June 2, 2013)

LUKE 7:1-10

In the name + of Jesus.

     A Roman soldier had been deployed to serve in the territory of Galilee.  While he was there, he made Capernaum his home.  He learned about the Lord from the Jews who lived around him.  He embraced the saving faith.  He cherished the holy Redeemer.  He even demonstrated that by building the synagogue in Capernaum, supplying the funds, the laborers, or both.  It’s no wonder the elders in Capernaum loved him.  And it’s no wonder these elders grieved with him as his beloved servant lay sick and dying.
     When they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.”  And Jesus went with them. (Luke 7:4-6)  The elders of Capernaum loved the centurion.  He worshiped with them.  He and his soldiers kept the streets safe.  And he was a generous benefactor to the people.  Therefore, they concluded that he was worthy of divine favor.
     While the Jews’ assessment of the centurion was flattering, the Roman soldier did not buy it.  He knew his heart.  He understood his place.  And he confessed so.  When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.  Therefore I did not presume to come to you.” (Luke 7:6-7)  Great faith submits to divine authority.  The centurion recognized that God had commanded him how to live.  God demands that all people be holy in thought, word, and deed.  That was not open for debate.  God had commanded it.  It must be so.  The centurion knew that it was not so; not in his case.  He submitted to God’s judgment.  He confessed: “I am not worthy.”
     And so, the centurion said, I did not presume to come to you.  But say the word, and let my servant be healed.  For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” (Luke 7:7-8)  This Roman soldier made his living receiving orders and giving them.  He was under authority, and he had authority.  He knew that commands were never open for debate, whether he received them from superiors or gave them to the men in his charge.  Each command was given with authority.  Therefore, each command would be carried out.  Good soldiers would submit.  Rebellious soldiers would be court-martialed and executed.
     The word of the Lord stands supreme to military authority.  We see God’s authoritative word at creation.  God simply commanded things to come into being.  “Let there be light.”  And there was light.  It had to be so, because God had said so.  The Lord gives his Commandments with the same authority.  His Commandments are standing orders to be fully obeyed.  You win no points for effort or intentions, either.  No sergeant tells his recruits to try marching.  No sergeant commends his troops because they meant to clean the barracks.  In the same way, none of God’s Commandments begin with the word, “Try.”  You shall not have other gods.  You shall not dishonor God’s name or neglect God’s word.  The Lord not only judges deeds, but even motives.  You shall not murder, commit adultery, or steal; and neither shall you hate or lust or covet.  Nor do you get to choose when to obey.  In love you are to help and bless and serve all people, even the wicked.  This is a standing order.  This is his divine will.  You have no permission to challenge God’s commands, much less to defy them.  What can you say?  You have not obeyed.  You haven’t even wanted to.  You have not submitted to divine authority or obeyed divine commands.  Repent.
     When he dedicated the temple, King Solomon knew that the word which was proclaimed there would be heard by others outside of Israel.  The glory of that message was more than God’s holiness.  Rather, it was God’s mercy.  Every sacrifice foretold of divine atonement.  The Roman centurion had heard about this mercy.  He would cling to the promises he had heard.  He would trust that God had not made his promises deceitfully.  He had heard about Jesus, and he believed that Jesus’ words had authority.  If Jesus said so, it would be so.  A great faith submits to divine authority.
     The centurion’s faith did not rest on his merit, but on God’s mercy.  He sought healing for his servant.  The centurion urged Jesus to give his command.  His word had divine authority.  Whatever Jesus commanded would take place.  It would be so, because he said so.  Lord, if you say, “Go,” the illness will go.  If you say, “Come,” healing will come.  If you say, “Do this,” it will be done.  When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” (Luke 7:9)  Great faith submits to divine authority and clings to it.  And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well. (Luke 7:10)  The Lord Jesus did show mercy.  He did give the divine word.  As he said, so it was.  The servant was healed.  Great faith sought this word and this act of mercy.  Great faith submitted to divine authority and received divine mercy.
     Your Lord has been most merciful to you as well.  He does not treat you as your sins deserve.  He does not owe you such mercy.  Yet, this is the love that God has for you—that God would offer up the life of his own holy, obedient Son for people who deny him, defy him, and disobey him.  The Lord does not leave you to die in your sins.  He sent Jesus for you.  Jesus has taken up your sins.  He demonstrated his mercy not merely with words but also with actions.  God’s word demands that those who sin are worthy of death.  So Jesus submitted to the curse of the Law for you.  Jesus submitted himself to a sinner’s death for you.  He redeems you from the curse by becoming a curse for you.  Jesus has consumed all of God’s wrath and punishment.  What’s more, he swallowed up death for you.
     Jesus conquered death, and so his word now even overrules the grave.  The risen Lord appeared to his apostles and proclaimed peace to them.  It is not that he wants you to have peace.  Jesus declares that you have it.  It is so because he says so.  He adds his word to water to wash you clean of all sins and to cloak you in his righteousness.  You are forgiven because he says so.  You are blameless because he says so.  You are delivered from death and hell because he says so.  God does not ask you if you feel you are worthy to receive these things.  It is his gracious promise to you.  Great faith submits to divine authority and receives divine mercy.
     The Risen Savior stands behind every word that comes from the mouth of God.  This puts to flight any doubts or fears, guilt or grief.  Jesus gives you a place in the kingdom of God.  Jesus shushes the conscience that afflicts you with past sins.  Jesus consoles you when death would suggest it has claim on you and your loved ones.  Jesus assures you that you are his forever—redeemed from death, delivered from sin, and reconciled to God.  He made these promises with his blood.  He confirmed these promises by his resurrection.  He repeats these promises in preaching, in absolution, and in the sacraments.  Great faith runs and clings to these things because our wounded souls need constant healing.  Great faith submits to divine authority; and you have it on divine authority that God’s mercy is yours.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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