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

Jun 25, 2017  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.

The text for our meditation today is the Gospel Lesson for the 2nd Sunday After Pentecost, Matthew 10:21-53. There we read these words:

21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. 24 "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. 26 "So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

WE begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN

Jesus says to His twelve disciples in today’s Gospel, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. … Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows."

Dear Christian friends.

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." These words mean that, while you think something is beautiful beyond description, I might think, "Ho-hum." You say you married the most beautiful girl in the world. You didn’t because I did.

My friend’s favorite car is the 1968 Ford Galaxy. I think he has been breathing exhaust fumes. He somehow missed the 1967 Pontiac GTO. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Like beauty, value and worth are also in the eye of the beholder.

I might think a baseball card is very valuable, and you might think it makes a good coaster for your drink. Nothing has any value, except for the value you assign to it. Nothing has any worth, except for what someone is willing to pay for it. Value and worth have to do with the way you look at the object, not with the object itself. Not even gold or silver have any value or worth unless you regard them as such.

Here is a rectangular piece of paper with the portrait of a man named Grant in its center and the number 50 at each corner. And I think everyone here can probably agree on a good value for this piece of paper. We consider this paper to be worth something because it takes time and effort to get one of these pieces of paper. The billionaires of the world might hold a different opinion. For them, this piece of paper might represent lunch money.

And how about the guy who has never heard of the United States of America? For him, this same piece of paper might be worth less than a paper towel. Its only value—its only worth—is found in the way someone looks at the paper. Value and worth are in the eye of the beholder. Value and worth play an important role in today’s Gospel.

Jesus says to His twelve disciples, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. … Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." Although Jesus said these Words to His twelve closest disciples, you should think of these Words as being spoken also to you.

Stained Glass Baptism Window

In other words, Jesus wants you to know that "you are of more value than many sparrows." There are two reasons why you can and should apply Jesus’ Words in today’s Gospel directly to yourself.

The first reason has to do with the way Jesus called and gathered these twelve men to be His disciples. Jesus called these men by His own grace and mercy. Jesus sought these men and hand- selected them and claimed them as His very own. Simply stated, these men became the followers of Jesus, not because they had acted, but because Jesus acted.

The Scriptures teach us to think much the same way about Baptism. In Baptism, Jesus called and gathered you to Himself, much like He called and gathered His twelve disciples, saying, "Follow Me" (e.g., Matthew 9:9). That is why God’s apostle Paul could address one of his letters to "those who are loved by God and called to be saints" (Romans 1:7).

Like the twelve disciples, you have become a follower of Jesus, not because you acted, but because Jesus acted. That is why the Apostle Peter wrote that you were ransomed, "not with perishable thing such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18).

In Baptism, Jesus sought you out and selected you to be His very own. That is why St. John says calls you "children of God who were born, not of blood not of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12).

There is a second reason why you can apply Jesus’ Words in today’s Gospel to yourself. It has to do with that great phrase Jesus used when He said, "Not one sparrow will fall to the ground apart from YOUR Father."

It is not customary for Jesus to say "your Father." Jesus usually prefers to say, "My Father," such as when He said, "All things have been committed to Me by My Father" (Matthew 11:27) and "Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother" (Matthew 12:50), and again, "Come, you who are blessed by My Father" (Matthew 25:34).

Jesus does not use the Words "My Father" here in today’s Gospel. Today Jesus says, "Your Father." With this phrase, Jesus is emphasizing the personal connection these twelve men have to their Father who is in heaven, a connection that has been made through the divine gift of faith.

In the same way, when did Jesus’ Father become YOUR Father? Where did you get that same, personal connection to the Father who is in heaven? In Baptism. Because of your Baptism, you can take the Words of Jesus in today’s Gospel for yourself. Jesus is speaking to His twelve disciples, but your Baptism allows you to think of your Lord looking past them and directly at you while He speaks.

These Words are your Words, and these Words are important Words: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. … Fear not, therefore; YOU are of more value than many sparrows." Certainly these must have been good and comforting Words to those first twelve disciples! These men were being sent out as prophets to the nation of Israel—and the prophets were rarely treated well.

Remember how Stephen declared, just prior to being stoned to death, "Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? They killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One" (Acts 7:52). Jesus had also warned these twelve, in just a few verses prior to today’s Gospel, "I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves" (Matthew 10:16). Not a happy thought for anyone!

But then Jesus fitted these men with the only defense they will need: "Not one sparrow will fall to the ground apart from your Father. … Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." Perhaps you can also see the goodness and the comfort of hearing these Words of Jesus within the context of your Baptism. None of us are apostles, but this is a strange world in which we live!

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

In public life, you always hear about how important people are—but that is only what you hear and rarely what you see. In reality, it is also very easy for people to get chewed up and spit out and left on the curb.

It has probably happened to you, and you have undoubtedly seen it happen to others. This sin-filled life makes it very easy to discount the worth of other people around you. The same sin-filled life makes it very easy to doubt and wonder about your own personal worth.

Do not worry about personal worth! Listen instead to the Words of Jesus and rejoice to know that value and worth are in the eye of the beholder! Find your worth—find your neighbor’s worth—not in what you see, but in what Jesus says: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. … Fear not, therefore; YOU are of more value than many sparrows."

What is your neighbor worth? I am referring to the neighbor to whom you are not speaking; whom you brush past in silence, because he offended you in some way that he probably does not know about. Jesus says that person is worth more than many sparrows. Is there any way you could change your opinion of that person? Perhaps also your treatment of that person?

After all, what is that person worth? That person is only worth what Someone is willing to pay for that person. The precious blood of Christ was poured out in payment for that person, which means that person is worth "more than many sparrows."

That same blood was shed for the forgiveness of that person’s sins, in the same way that the blood of Christ forgives and washes away all your sins. Maybe it is time for you to go ahead and forgive, too. Value and worth have to do with the way you look at the object, not with the object itself. You could dramatically increase your neighbor’s net worth simply by changing the way you look at your neighbor.

By the way, what are you worth? I am talking about those of you who are falling apart; those of you who spend all your energy with nothing to show for it; those of you who have your share of scars. Those of you who now sit in the shadows alone.

What are you worth? Those of you who operate like vending machines, constantly giving your family more than they can possibly know, and only getting kicked when you do not produce what is expected—what are you worth? You complainers, you mourners, you victims—what are you worth?

Nothing has any value, except for the value you assign to it. Nothing has any worth, except for what someone is willing to pay for it. Your Lord Jesus paid for you. Value and worth are in the eye of the beholder.

Your Lord Jesus is looking at you: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. … Fear not, therefore; YOU are of more value than many sparrows." That is how your Jesus looks at you. Maybe it is time for you to look at yourself this way, too.

Christ is Risen.

Luther Rose

 

Christ Is Risen
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