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

Feb 19, 2017  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 this morning is the Gospel Lesson for today, Matthew 5:38-48. There we read these words:

"You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

We begin in Jesus name, AMEN

Context is everything. You can change the meaning your words simply by changing the context in which those words are used. Here is a little exercise for you that will illustrate what I mean:

Choose someone in your life that you care about very deeply. Make it someone close, someone to whom you are intensely devoted, someone for whom you have deep and abiding feelings. Picture yourself saying three words to that person(or if you truly want to, turn to that person and say): "I love you." In this context of speaking to someone for whom you have deep feelings, the words "I love you" have a certain meaning for you and for that person.

Now change the context for those three little words. Now picture yourself saying, "I love you," to a plate of fried chicken, a pepperoni pizza, or a beef enchilada.

Because the context has changed, the meaning of the words "I love you" has likewise changed. The phrase "I love you" does not mean the same thing when spoken to your favorite food as it does when spoken to a close relative or a friend.

Sometimes, the context will completely change the impact a word or a phrase has on you. You can make that same word or phrase have directly the opposite impact of what it first had, simply by changing the context. Let’s try another exercise. We won’t use the three words "I love you" this time. This time we will use three stronger words, "go to hell."

Stained Glass Baptism Window

What sort of meaning or sentiment would I convey if I were flatly to say to some one, "Go to hell"? Obviously, the meaning of that phrase is very, very negative. The person who hears me speak such words might not respond terribly well. In this context, the words "go to hell" would help me to create anger or insult or injury or pain.

Place these same words into the right context, and they will not inflict any pain at all. Create the right context for the words "go to hell" and suddenly these words can help convey promise and consolation and peace.

For example, I might say, "Your God has acted for you so that you will not go to hell. Jesus’ blood and righteousness, given and shed for you, assure you that you will never go to hell." My three little words did not change. The context radically altered the impact and message I delivered with my three little words.

Always keep context in mind when you hear or read the Sermon on the Mount. Today’s Gospel comes from the Sermon on the Mount and this Gospel says to you in no uncertain terms, "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

"Be perfect." By themselves and taken out of their context, you have no defense against these Words. These Words make an impossible demand upon you—a demand that you know you have no chance of fulfilling.

"Be perfect." Outside of their context, these Words leave you with no hope. You might be able to fool yourself into thinking that you can make self-improvements toward perfection, but you would only be fooling yourself. Nobody who knows you is fooled in the least. We all know you well enough to know that you are not perfect and you won’t be anytime soon. You know the same about us.

"Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." By themselves and apart from their context these Words essentially say to you, "Go to hell." If that is not painful, I do not know what is.

Place these words back into the right context, and they will not inflict any pain at all. Keep these Words in their correct and original context, and suddenly convey to you promise and consolation and peace.

What is the context for "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect"? These Words are spoken to you by: Jesus, the Perfect Son of God, the One in whom there is no darkness, no sin, and no deceit. Jesus, the One who came to you, not demanding you to produce perfection, but giving His perfection to you. Jesus, the One who draws imperfect people to Himself while those who are confident in their own righteousness (Luke 18:9) get turned away. Jesus, the One who came, not to give you a new law, but to accomplish and fulfill for you every dot and every iota of the Law by His perfect life and sin-atoning death. Jesus, the One who does miraculous things simply by speaking His Words.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

And they brought to [Jesus] a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment… And looking up to heaven, [Jesus] sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." (Mark 7:32, 34). There is not a whole lot of difference between the Words that Jesus spoke to this man, "Be opened," and the Words that Jesus likewise speaks to you, "Be perfect."

Lazarus has got to be my favorite dead guy. Jesus spoke to a corpse that had already begun to stink. Jesus said to a dead body, "Come out" (John 11:43), and by the miraculous power of His Words, life entered into Lazarus’ dead body. In a similar way, Jesus says to you, "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

When Jesus speaks these Words to you, His divine perfection gains mastery over your insurmountable imperfection. Jesus’ perfection becomes your perfection in the same way that His life became Lazarus’ life, so that "the man who died came out [of the tomb]" (John 11:44).

"Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Do not think of Jesus’ Words as a requirement or a demand spoken upon you. Think of Jesus’ Words as an eye-opening, death-raising miracle that He is delivering to you right here, right now, by the speaking of His Words.

Jesus is not setting a bar for you, that you must muster the strength to hurdle. Jesus is giving a gift to you. When Jesus says to you, "Be perfect," think of Him wrapping a coat of perfection around you so that every bit of your imperfection is tucked away and hidden.

Think of Jesus giving you His perfection and righteousness like a new suit of cloths. Think of Him adjusting your tie or dusting off the shoulders when He steps back, takes a look, and says "Perfect. You remind Me of My father."

"Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Context is everything, Without the right context, Jesus’ Words in today’s Gospel send you straight to hell.

By keeping the right context squarely in place, these Words assure you beyond every reason for doubt, "Your God has acted for you so that you will not go to hell. Jesus’ blood and righteousness, given and shed for you, assure you that you will never go to hell."

Context is everything.

Christ is Risen.


Luther Rose


Christ Is Risen
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