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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Oct 16, 2016  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, AMEN

The text for our meditation today is the Epistle Lesson for this 21st Sunday After Pentecost, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5. There we read these words:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

We begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN

"What is this Holy Bible that I see in your church and in your home? How would you describe this book to me?" If asked such questions, many of your fellow Christians in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod as well as many of you would happily answer, "The Bible is the inspired, authoritative Word of God." Perhaps if you yourself were asked to describe what the Bible is, you also would use those same words: inspired and authoritative.

You would not be wrong, of course. We dearly believe—we have built our church congregations and our families and our own lives upon the belief—we dearly believe ...that the Bible is truly God’s Word; ...that the writers of our Old and New Testaments wrote by divine inspiration "as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21); ...that the Bible is the sole authority by which we preach and teach as we do; ...that "all Scripture is," as you heard Paul say in today’s Epistle, "breathed out by God."

You are not wrong to say and believe that the Holy Bible is God’s inspired and authoritative Word. The problem is that you DO open yourself up to terrible temptation and serious danger if inspiration and authority are the ONLY things you believe concerning the Bible.

Many of your fellow Christians in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod have already fallen into that temptation and into that danger, and today they live spiritually impoverished lives because of it! Who knows? Perhaps my children and your children are being lured into the same direction.

Left by themselves, inspiration and authority might give you the mistaken impression that the Bible is primarily a source of information for you—authoritative information, to be sure; divinely inspired information, absolutely—but information nonetheless. Think of the pitfalls and disasters that await you when you think of the Bible primarily as your source of information:

Stained Glass Baptism Window

You will conclude, as many of your fellow Christians have already concluded, that you only need the information. Once you have learned your information in Confirmation, there is no longer any need for worship or Bible Study. You have the information that Jesus loves you and forgives you, so why bother with anything else?

This is why you can find people all around you who tell you they are Christian and say that they have Jesus in their heart, but whose lives give no impression at all that they are part of "the holy Christian church, the communion of saints."

And, if you think of the Bible as primarily information, you will begin to think of worship as primarily an information seminar.

And if the Bible is primarily information, and if you hear basically the same information each week as you pray the liturgy, worship will become drudgery to you. Worship will be like visiting an Alzheimer’s patient with whom you repeatedly have the same conversation. You will begin to think, "I know I need to be here in order to get information from God, but can’t I get it in a less repetitive way? Can’t you make worship more interesting?"

If you think of the Bible as primarily information, you will very likely underestimate the seriousness of your sin and of the death that is lurking inside of you. What would you think of the doctor who tells you that you will be cured of your headaches if you read about migraine medication? A migraine cannot be cured with information. You need a pill, a drug, a medicine to cure your migraine for you.

In the same way, the disease of your sin will not be treated and cured by the mere information—the authority and the inspiration—of the Bible. If the disease of your sin is to be treated and overcome, God’s Word (the Bible) must be a medication, a power, a force, a miracle that acts upon you.

In other words, if your sin is to be rightly treated you must take the pill, and not read just information about the pill.

To what can we compare the inspiration and authority of the Bible? The inspiration and authority of God’s Bible are like two people sitting together in the back of a taxi. They may be reputable, handsome and hardworking.

No matter how good those two people are as they sit together in the back of the taxi, they will go nowhere unless the cabbie gets in and drives his taxicab.

In the same way, the inspiration and authority of God’s Bible are good and faithful teachings that we must hold and believe and confess. By themselves, inspiration and authority go nowhere. They need a cabbie, and the cabbie is the POWER of God’s Word.

"What is this Holy Bible that I see in your church and in your home? How would you describe this book to me?" You would not be wrong if you answered such questions by saying that the Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God. But maybe those would not be the best terms for you to use as your "lead card," so to speak, or your first answer. The words inspired and authoritative will likely lead you to a conversation about information.

Rather than starting with the words "inspired" or "authoritative," point to today’s Epistle and tell people that the Bible is God’s breath upon you. "All Scripture is breathed out by God," Paul says.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

Tell people that God’s Word is not merely an account of where "God was breathing upon His apostles and prophets of Old," but the Bible is "God breathing" upon you and me and everyone who hears and reads these Words.

When the Word of God passes into people through their eyes or into their ears, a miracle inevitably takes place. The deaf begin hearing; the blind begin seeing; debtors get released from unimaginably enormous debts; poor people get fed; weak knees get strengthened; weariness is given rest; and prisoners are set free.

Every time the Word of God is read and heard, God is breathing life into you and into your loved ones in a manner very much like the way He first breathed life into Adam our first father. In Genesis 2:7 we read: "Then the LORD God… breathed into [the man’s] nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature."

Every letter on every page is nothing less than a whiff of life-giving air that you breathe in while your God exhales forgiveness and life for you.

Think of the comforts and the joys that await you when you look on God’s Bible, not primarily as your source of authority or information, but as God’s exhaling of the very air you breathe for eternal life:

Those words become medication, and it becomes impossible for any of God’s Words in His Bible to become "old hat" for you. God’s Bible becomes less about what you are able to learn and more about what you hear right then and there.

When you believe God’s Word is His here-and-now exhaling of life for you, worship stops being your obligation and it becomes your desire.

If your daily reading of God’s Bible, either individually or with your family, can be compared to a pill that soothes your headaches, then Sunday worship is nothing less than a full-relaxation treatment in a health spa. If your daily reading of God’s Word can be compared to a puff of air breathed into your lungs, then the liturgy you pray here with your fellow Christians is the full oxygen mask.

"All Scripture is breathed out by God." When you believe God’s Word is God breathing upon you, as Paul says in today’s Epistle, your place in this congregation becomes more than a matter of seeing your name written on a membership role and more than a matter of thinking that the pastor will be obliged to bury you when you die.

When you believe God’s Word is God breathing upon you, you become a living part of a living body which finds its life solely in the LORD God, Who "breathed into [the man’s] nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature" (Genesis 2:7).

When you believe that God’s Word is God breathing into you His breath of Life, then you will truly come to know in your heart that Christ Is Risen.

AMEN

Luther Rose

 

Christ Is Risen
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