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|BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz|
Nov 13, 2016 SERMON ARCHIVE
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.
The text for our meditation today is the epistle lesson for this Sunday, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13. There we read these words:
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyones bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.
We begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN
At the end of today's Epistle, St. Paul states, "As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good." Paul wrote those words to the Thessalonians because they were struggling with a problem. Some of the Christians among them had become lazy and were unwilling to work.
These fellow Christians reasoned to themselves, "Why should we labor and toil? Jesus is coming back soon. The end of all things is right around the corner, so we will just sit around and wait for our Lord's great arrival." In essence, they were using God's promises for an opportunity to sin
Paul condemned those who refused to do their own work. Note that Paul does not condemn the elderly, whose labors have ended and whose bodies can no longer do as much as they once could. He does not condemn the jobless or the injured or others who simply cannot work for the moment.
Paul does not condemn little children, either, since children are required to rely on others for their very existence. The problem in today's Epistle has to do with one specific situation-self-serving Christians in the Thessalonian congregation who were using the promise of Christ's return as an excuse for laziness.
Because these people had foolish ideas about the Last Day, they quit working; Because they quit working, they became a burden on their fellow Christians; Because their fellow Christians were feeling overwhelmed and disheartened on account of how these lazy Christians were treating them, Paul wrote:
We command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness. [these brothers are] not busy at work, but [they are] busybodies. Such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. "As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good."
If you set aside for the moment the "End Times laziness" that was afflicting the Thessalonian congregation, and widen the view of this Epistle, you will see that Paul speaks God's powerful Word of encouragement and comfort, not only to the Thessalonians, but also to you and to all who struggle with their fellow saints.
Many of the Thessalonian Christians were feeling spiritually worn out because their fellow Christians took advantage of them. And I will bet more than one of you here today have a pretty good idea how those exhausted Thessalonians were feeling. "As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good."
For example, these words apply to the Board of Education in this congregation, which is now working on finding new ways of contacting those families who do not bring their children to Sunday School class trying to encourage them to allow their children to hear about Jesus.
These words apply to the Board of Elders which is trying to make contact with so many families that have given up effort at coming to join the congregation in worship of the Lord and to receive His grace and mercy.
These words apply to the Board of Stewardship and Endowment as they struggle to encourage all members of the congregation to return a goodly portion of what God has blessed each member with so that the bills may be met and covered enabling the church to continue to provide a place for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be taught.
Yet, even as these Boards and others try to come up with new ideas, and as they struggle to reach out to people who dont seem to care, the Board members worry that no one will make use of their efforts anyway. God says to you today, "Do not grow weary in doing good."
These words also speak God's comfort to those who feel themselves tempted to think that they carry more responsibilities in the congregation than others carry-and that nobody notices their labors. God says to you today, "Do not grow weary in doing good."
To those of you who feel that you constantly give more than you receive; to you spouses who feel alone in your efforts to raise your children in the one true faith, because your husband or wife has no desire to worship; to those of you who have the long-term responsibilities of caring for an aging parent or a rebellious child; God says to you today, "Do not grow weary in doing good."
Do others routinely take advantage of your generosity? "Do not grow weary in doing good." Do others fail to jump quickly to your aid when you need help, regardless of how you have helped them in the past? "Do not grow weary in doing good." Do you feel that people in your own household seem to work against your best efforts? "Do not grow weary in doing good."
Do not become fainthearted and despondent in doing good. Do not stop doing good because you think your labors are futile and wasted
Because today's Epistle is actually a double-edged sword. When God says to you, "As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good," His Words both condemn you and they give you freedom; they call you to repentance and they also give you God's gift of faith; they speak God's condemning Law and they proclaim His comforting Gospel to you.
First the Law: When God says to you, "Do not grow weary in doing good," these words may be taken to mean, "Stop feeling sorry for yourself."
When God says this to you, it is just like your heavenly Father is asking you, "Do you really have it all that bad? Do you think that I cannot see all of your labors and your struggles? Are you sure you want to think of Me as unfaithful or forgetful, as if I don't know what is going on in your life? After you have spent your day serving those whom I have given you to serve, why should you look for thanks and praise? Shouldn't you just shrug your shoulders and say, "I am an unworthy servant; I have only done what was my duty"? (Luke 17:10)
That goes for you, Board of Education and Board of Elders and Board of Stewardship/ Endowment and all you other Boards. Who really cares if no one responds to your efforts to reach out and encourage others to return this year?
Well, of course we do care if that happens. But what really matters is that you serve God and this congregation, and that you continue to teach.
"Do not grow weary in doing good." That goes for you, Altar Guild, and Ushers and LWML members and Trustees and Harvest Dinner workers and Youth leaders and Congregational Officers, and everyone else who serves this congregation behind the scenes, as it were.
If you are serving your God, do you really want everyone to stand up and applaud? Even if this whole congregation should collapse around you and you should be the only one left doing the hard work of keeping this building's doors open, what of it? "Do not grow weary in doing good."
Yes, that also goes for you fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, and grown children who must now care for their own parents. Yes, you are under-appreciated. No, there is nothing to be done about it. Forget about how others around you are routinely failing. Focus exclusively on faithfully doing what you have been given to do. "Do not grow weary in doing good."
Beyond the scope of this congregation, God's Words in this Epistle also apply to my fellow pastors in the Missouri Synod, many of whom are feeling overwhelmed by the things that are happening in our beloved synod. More and more congregations seem to grow intolerant of the purely preached Word of God as they throw away their liturgies and dance off into false teachings of the church bodies around us.
Our Synodical leadership seems to have set aside Christian doctrine and teaching for the sake of fund raising efforts and evangel-gimmicks. But what did my fellow pastors expect when they entered the ministry, if not the suffering of the cross? "Do not grow weary in doing good."
But whenever God speaks His divine, condemning Law to you, the life-giving Gospel of forgiveness and life is never far behind. When God says to you, "As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good," His Words have a two-fold effect. These words may condemn you, but they also give you freedom and life; they undoubtedly call you to repentance, but they also pour into your ears God's miraculous gift of perseverance and faith. Here is how it happens:
First, God's Apostle Paul calls you brothers. "As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good." Obviously St. Paul does not call you this because you were born of the same woman as he was! You do not even share St. Paul's physical bloodline. But you do have one and the same heavenly Father. God has made you brothers with St. Paul and with all other Christians and with Christ Jesus Himself because God adopted you to be His child in Holy Baptism.
When St. Paul calls you brothers, it means that you have been miraculously born of God; that the very life and strength of God the Father dwells in you much the same way that my identity, my DNA, and my blood dwells also in my sons and daughter.
When St. Paul calls you brothers, he does not speak to you as if you are prisoners and slaves, but the name "brother" declares that you have been set free from the bondage to sin and the prison of death by the death and resurrection of your Brother Jesus Christ.
Then, after calling you brothers, the life-giving, strength-bestowing Gospel flows into you with the divine Words, "do not grow weary in doing good."
When God spoke the word, "Light," light sprang into existence by the power of His Word. When God said to Lazarus, "Come forth," the dead man exited the tomb by the power of the divine Word.
In exactly the same way, God says to you today, "Do not grow weary in doing good." As with Lazarus and as with the creation, these words, "Do not grow weary," give you the very thing they command. These words are what the prophet Isaiah calls the words that sustain the weary (Isaiah 50:4).
Indeed, God speaks His Words to you and through these Words, He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. As Isaiah says, "...they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."
Do not give up, and do not give in, dear saints. Remain faithful to your calling-mother or father, child, worker or employer, volunteer or paid, layperson or pastor. Look beyond the abuses you see all around you and look only at your unwearied Lord Jesus Christ who comes to you in His Word and in His Sacraments.
"Do not grow weary in doing good." God's powerful and indwelling Word shall continue to sustain you. It cannot fail.
Remember, Christ Is Risen. AMEN
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