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

Jul 2, 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 this 3rd Sunday After Pentecost, Matthew 10:34-42. There we read these words:

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. "Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward."

We begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN

Dear Christian friends, Years ago, before video games, children would play a game called Blind Man’s Bluff. In this game, you wear a blindfold as you try to chase and catch one of the other players.

Meanwhile, other players call out your name and dodge your grasp and even hide in plain sight. There is no real danger to Blind Man’s Bluff. It may feel disconcerting to stagger blindly about, groping at the darkness, but your fellow players always made sure you did not fall or injure yourself.

You would finally win the game when you accidentally grabbed onto something. Do you remember playing? Perhaps we can use Blind Man’s Bluff to understand some of the more difficult things the Lord Jesus says and does. Perhaps we could even say Blind Man’s Bluff is our Lord’s favorite game. (I am using a figure of speech.)

For example: A woman once came to Jesus because her daughter was possessed by a demon. The woman was a Canaanite, someone who stood outside the ancient promises God had spoken to His people Israel. "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!" she prayed (Matthew 15:22). We read that "Jesus did not answer her a word" (Matthew 15:23). Jesus acted as if He was not interested in showing mercy.

It is almost as if Jesus blindfolded the woman and had begun a game of Blind Man’s Bluff, hiding in plain sight, so to speak. The woman kept grasping and reaching, persistently calling to Jesus, "Lord, help me" (Matthew 15:25).

Continuing the game, Jesus began to tease the woman: "It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs," He said (Matthew 15:26). When she heard Jesus’ Words, the woman lunged and grabbed onto Him, so to speak. The woman won His game of Blind Man’s Buff, as it were. "Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table," she said (Matthew 15:28).

With these words, the woman was speaking the truth that all people—not merely Israelites—but all people are included in God’s promises of forgiveness and life. We will talk of this Canaanite woman again on the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost.

Stained Glass Baptism Window

For today, why would Jesus play games with this woman? Why would Jesus dodge her request and not offer her God’s promises, as if He were playing Blind Man’s Buff with her? Jesus’ game had the effect of increasing this woman’s faith in the Words and promises of God.

It did not matter to her that Jesus seemed to blindfold her and dance away from her grasp. This woman knew that God had spoken, and that His Word must be fulfilled. Our Lord’s seemingly poor treatment of her could not deter her. His game only made her cling to the promises all the more.

By grasping the ancient promises, the woman was actually laying hold of Jesus. In so doing she won the game. "Woman," said the Lord, "great is your faith!"

Another time, Jesus played Blind Man’s Bluff, so to speak, with an official whose son had become ill. This man had traveled fifteen or twenty miles through a mountain area to come to Jesus.

Jesus immediately blindfolded the man, as it were, and began His game. Jesus made it sound like He did not wish to help the man, saying, "Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe" (John 4:48). Bear in mind that it was faith that had brought this man over the mountains in the first place! Faith also kept this man from being turned away by Jesus’ game.

When Jesus said, "Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe," the man blindly thrust out his hand and went for the win: "Sir, come before my child dies."

By playing Blind Man’s Bluff with this man, Jesus separated this man from those who had come to Jesus for the simple thrill of seeing a miracle. By playing His game, so to speak, Jesus pushed this man to see that the Words of God are the main thing; that the miracle is nothing apart from the Word; that the divine Word in the miracle is the power and the point and the purpose of the act. "Sir, come before my child dies."

And a Word from Jesus is all that was needed. Jesus said to him, "Go; your son shall live." The man believed the Word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way" (John 4:49-50).

Here we stand, knee-deep in today’s disconcerting Gospel. "Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me." No one enjoys hearing today’s Gospel because no one likes it when Jesus talks bad to them. "Whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me."

Unless you are still dead, you can surely feel the guilty weight of Jesus’ Words. "Whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me." Truer Words cannot be spoken!

Even before you heard today’s hammering Gospel, who among you would dare to think that he or she is worthy of Jesus? Not even John the Baptist considered himself worthy of the Christ (John 1:27) and yet Jesus said "among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John" (Matthew 11:11).

What should you do with these brutal and frightening Words? How will you survive their honesty?

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

Well, perhaps you can learn a little game theory from the Canaanite woman and the official whose son was ill. In the same way that He teased the woman with the promises of God, in the same way that He momentarily dodged the official’s grasping request, Jesus is likewise dancing around you in today’s Gospel.

Jesus repeatedly says, "not worthy of Me," but He does not say these Words because He wishes to drive you away. Jesus is teasing you with the truth. Jesus says, "not worthy of Me," because He wishes you to lunge toward the sound of His voice and grab onto Him and win His game of Blind Man’s Bluff.

Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.

Whenever you hear devastating Words such as these, think of that Canaanite woman. Jesus blindfolded her by speaking true Words to her—"It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs"—and the woman came right back at Jesus with equally true Words: "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table."

Play Blind Man’s Bluff with Jesus in the same way that this woman played! When Jesus blindfolds you and teases you by speaking true Words to you—"not worthy of Me"—you should come right back at Him with equally true words!

Say to Jesus, "You are correct, Lord! I am not worthy of You. But if You were the God of the Worthy, You would be a very lonely God. I know who You are! You are the God of the Unworthy. You are the Lover of the Loveless. You are the Physician of the Sick, the Forgiver of the Unforgivable, the Fullness of the Empty Ones and the Life of the Dead.

You did not come to save the righteous, but sinners. You did not come to be served, but to serve and give your life as a ransom, for me.. You did not come to take me down from a crystal shelf, Jesus. You came to gather me up from the manure pile.

I am totally unworthy of You, but MY worthiness has absolutely nothing to do with this conversation! Only You are worthy, and Your worthiness is more than enough for both You and for me. I do not even want my own worthiness, Lord, because if I have my worthiness I cannot have any of Yours!"

This is how you play Blind Man’s Bluff with Jesus. You let your Lord Jesus say whatever He wants to say—even when He talks bad to you. He is merely blindfolding and starting the game. He will dodge and tease and hide in plain sight.

Do not be afraid. There is no danger when you play Blind Man’s Buff with Jesus. It may feel disconcerting to stagger blindly about, groping at the darkness, but Jesus your fellow player will make sure you do not fall or injure yourself. He wants you to win the game. You win the game when you grab onto something.

Grab onto this. Christ is Risen

Luther Rose

 

Christ Is Risen
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