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|BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz|
Nov 26, 2017 SERMON ARCHIVE
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 Gospel Lesson for today, Matthew 25:31-46. There we read:
But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.
"Then the King will say to those on His right, Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me. Then the righteous will answer Him, Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? The King will answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.
"Then He will also say to those on His left, Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me. Then they themselves also will answer, Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You? Then He will answer them, Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me. These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
We begin in Jesus name, AMEN
Some Christians find this Gospel a bit disconcerting because they firmly believe, on the basis of God's clear Words, that they are saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. After all, it is written: "All are justified by [God's] grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. for we hold that one is justified by faith apart from the works of the law" (Romans 3:22, 28).
"We know that a person is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified" (Galatians 2:16). "By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not the result of works" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Because of these Bible passages, today's Gospel can easily stick in the craw. After you have carefully mapped your minds to think in terms of faith alone and not in terms of your works, Jesus comes along and upsets the apple cart.
The King will say to those on His right, "Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me. . Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me." Then He will say to those on His left, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. . As you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me."
In order to understand, it would be very good if you could spend some time thinking about the way you think about God's gifts to you. Review what you believe about Baptism, about the Sacrament of the Altar, and about absolution and preaching.
What is Baptism? Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God's command and combined with God's Word (Small Catechism, Baptism I).
In other words, Baptism is common, everyday water that God Himself has purified and made holy through His Word, so that it might be for you a sin-cleansing and life-giving water. When you look at the water in the Baptismal font, all you see is water. Yet God has called this water "a washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5).
Let's run through it again: What is the Sacrament of the Altar? It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink (Small Catechism, Sacrament of the Altar, I).
In other words, the Sacrament of the Altar is common, everyday bread and wine that God Himself has purified and made holy through His Word, so that it might be for you a sin-cleansing and life-giving meal. When you look at the bread and wine on the altar, all you see is bread and wine. Yet your Lord Jesus Christ has called this bread and wine "My body. My blood" (Mark 14:22, 24).
Let's try this little line of thinking a third time, just to see what happens: What do you believe about preaching and absolution, which is also called the Office of the Keys? [You] believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they. absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself (Small Catechism, Office of the Keys, III).
In other words, preaching and absolution are common, everyday words-words that God Himself has purified and made holy through His Word, so that these words might be for you sin-cleansing and life-giving Words. When you hear your pastor declare to you, "Your sins are forgiven," all you hear is my human voice. Yet your Lord Jesus Christ has described my speaking forgiveness to you here on earth as a miracle that takes place also in heaven (Matthew 18:18).
In Hebrews 8:5 we read: See to it that you make everything according to the plan that was shown to you.
Today's Gospel points to your common, everyday actions as the basis on which you will be judged. These are the words of Jesus: Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me. Truly I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.
What you believe about Baptism and the Sacrament of the Altar, about preaching and absolution, you must also believe about your everyday actions and deeds. In other words, you must believe that your deeds are deeds that God Himself has purified and made holy through His Word.
Admit it: when you inventory your day-in-and-day-out actions toward your neighbor, it doesn't really look like all that much. You do not have a lot to show for your good intentions. However, your heavenly Father declares these same actions of yours to be good and holy works which you were "created in Christ Jesus" to do (Ephesians 2:10).
When you look at the things you do in your everyday lives, all you get to see is small potatoes. Yet your bodies are now "a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God."
When you look at your daily life, you see struggles and hardships; you see jealousy and anger; you see selfish and loveless acts toward your neighbor. In short, you see in yourself and in your actions nothing but sin.
God sees none of those things. God regards your everyday actions as precious and holy because you are "those sanctified in Christ Jesus... saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours" (1 Corinthians 1:2).
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
St. Paul says, "You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11). That makes you God's beloved sheep. Your eyes will then be opened on the Last Day and you may be surprised to learn all the wondrous things your God has done through you. You-like your Lord Jesus before you-you are now lambs "without blemish or spot" (1 Peter 1:19).
You are spotless lambs because all your sins have been forgiven-and all your actions declared good and holy-through the blood of Christ. The Last Day will bring you no fear, but only joy when Jesus says to you, "Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
Christ Is Risen
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