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 SERMON TEXT 
Tuesday, July 24 2012

Ephesians 2: 4-22

 

          For those of you who were not able to be with us last week, I am working on a sermon series that will take us to the end of August – working our way through Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus – otherwise known as the book of Ephesians.  You know that most weekends I preach on the Gospel reading, which this year come mostly from Mark’s gospel. 

           But I am setting aside the readings from Mark – focusing on the book of Ephesians – and selecting instead Gospel readings whose messages compliment each week’s readings from Ephesians. 

          So today is the second sermon in that series.  If you missed last week’s message – or if you want to review it again – and I’m sure you do – you can catch it on our church’s website – zionontheweb.com. 

          Our reading today from the second chapter of Ephesians contains a set of verses that I submit to you as being among my top ten favorite in all of Scripture.  I have included these verses in your bulletin so that you can refer to them as I talk.  So be prepared to do just that.  If you remember from last week, I said that the first three chapters of Ephesians are just dripping with grace.  Well, today’s reading is just that.  A study in grace.  

          So with all of that being said, I want to talk to you today about grace – and faith and works – and the role that each has to play in our daily walk with the Lord.

          Now – for those of us who call ourselves Lutheran Christians – these verses are a part of the foundation of our strongly held beliefs that it is by grace – in other words – God’s undeserved love and favor – by God’s grace we are saved through faith.  I’m referring now to Ephesians chapter 2, verses 8 and 9.

          “For 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, so that no one may boast.”

          Now I know there are a couple of – well I call them church words – words here that when I use them, I cannot take for granted that everyone understands what we in the church mean when we use them.  So let me unpack a few of these words. 

          I’ve already defined grace as “God’s undeserved love and favor.”  But when we go back to verses 4 and 5, we learn more about this amazing grace that God shows us.  Listen! 

           “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.”

          Folks – un-forgiven sin is a killer!  But here we have a picture of our loving, gracious God – reaching down to us – loving us – making us alive together with Christ – even when we were dead in our sins.  Quite frankly – that’s what sin is.  That’s what sin does.  Sin separates from God.  Sin kills. 

          Folks – does it seem to you – as it does to me – that we can do a lot – in fact we do do a lot of things – sometimes we even go out of our way to do some things – that separate us from God.  We can and we do.  Whenever we are self-centered.  Unloving.  Harshly or unfairly critical.  You name it – when the self is turned in on the self – those are the times that we have the capacity to give ourselves over to all kinds of sin – and quite frankly – we have been given the freedom to do just that.  We can exercise all kinds of freedom in ways that separate us from God. 

           But there is one thing we cannot do.  We cannot separate ourselves from God’s love.  We cannot keep God from loving us.  The book of Romans says that nothing – absolutely nothing – can separate us from the love and grace of God which are ours in Christ Jesus our Lord.

           That’s why I love these verses – 8 and 9 – of Ephesians chapter 2.  Because they speak so strongly about God’s grace.  But verses 4 and 5 are real treasures too!  Let me repeat them.  “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” 

          Don’t miss those two phrases that mean the same thing as grace.  Remember?  Dripping with grace here.  “Rich in mercy”, and “great love.”  By the way, I love that word mercy.  Mercy – you know the word mercy.  Mercy is what we get even though we don’t deserve it.  Again, all because of God’s grace.

          And all because of Jesus.  That’s why I chose John 3:16 for our Gospel reading. “God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

          You see, the truth is this: God is rich in mercy.  God has a great love for you and me.  But God needed a way to bring us who are already dead in our sins back to life again.  So he gives us Jesus – who, through his life – his death – and his resurrection – makes this new life that we now live – a very real thing.   

          Okay.  I’ve spent a lot of time talking about God’s love, mercy and grace.  But now let’s focus on that other church word – faith.  Let me just say that faith believes, faith receives, and faith trusts – that the promises of God really are for you. 

          Since faith believes – and faith receives – and faith trusts – can we say that it is faith that activates God’s grace in our lives?  I think it is enough to say that faith says “I accept the fact that I am accepted.”  Faith says, “I accept the work of Christ on the cross done on my behalf.”  Faiths says, “The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are for me!”   

          Okay?  Fair enough?  So we are saved by God’s grace through faith.  But now there’s that church word saved.  When this verse talks about being saved – it tells us that we are saved NOW – we are saved NOW from the penalty of our sins – through the forgiveness of our sins.  Remember what I told you last week about forgiveness?  When God forgives – God – what?  God Forgives.  That’s right.  Unlike my wife.  When I do something she doesn’t like, she forgives, but she doesn’t forget.

          So we are saved.  In other words we are given a guaranteed place in heaven.  We are saved from our sins – saved for eternal life – by God’s grace received through faith.

          These are important things for us to know.  I say this because there is always that question among Christians – even among us Lutherans – the question that asks, “So what role do good works play?  Do our good works contribute in any way to our being saved?”  Glad you asked.    

          As wonderful as verses 8 and 9 are – and I know that some of you are familiar with these verses – perhaps many of you even have them memorized.  But we often stop at verse 9, and neglect the very important verse 10 that states, “10For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

          So here’s the connection.  Listen!  Since we are saved by grace through faith – what we are given is a new understanding.  A new perception.  Verse 10 gives us this new understanding of the link between grace and faith and good works:

          For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

          Let me make this clear.  We are not saved by some combination of faith and works.  No.  However – we do the things that we do as Christ followers simply out of thanksgiving to God for all that God gives us – for all that God does for us. 

          Our reading today from the book of James makes this clear when it says, “Faith without works is dead.”  By God’s grace – received by faith – we are saved.  But it is our good works that reflect the fact that we are already saved – that we are loved – that we are accepted by God. 

          And isn’t that a wonderful thing!  Thank God that your salvation – thank God that my salvation – do not rely on the type – or the quality – or the number of good works that we do.  But since we were made for good works – when we do the things that we are called to do – essentially to show love towards God – to show love towards our neighbor – that we do these out of thanksgiving to God for the glory of God and for the benefit of others.

          A few weeks ago, I ran into one of our members who, quite frankly, I have not seen here at worship in several years.  And of course, I reminded her of that fact.  And her response was, “Well, I’m still a good person.  I’m not a bad person, I’m still a good person.”  And I reminded her that it’s not a matter of whether you’re a good person or a bad person.  It all depends on God’s grace. 

          Folks – just being a “good person” – whatever that means – isn’t going to cut it with God. The fact is, on our own – try as hard as we might – we can never do enough.  We can never be good enough.  

          And that’s why it all depends on grace.  Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift of grace – received by faith – which is only made possible through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

          Thanks be to God!                                                                                          

                                                                                                                        Amen
Posted by: AT 08:19 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, July 17 2012

Ephesians 1:3–14

          Today is the first of what I hope to be a series of talks on the book of Ephesians.  We’re going to be taking a break from Mark’s Gospel over the next 7 weeks in order to spend some time in this wonderful letter written by the Apostle Paul to the church at Ephesus. 

          Now – I have been to Ephesus two times in my worldly travels.  The first time was when I was 16 years old.   The second was some 15 years or so ago.  Today, the ancient city of Ephesus is a city of ruins, still under excavation.  In the time between my visits there, it was amazing to see how much excavation work had taken place in that roughly 25 year gap.

          Ephesus, in the time of the New Testament was a thriving commercial city on the coast of what is now Turkey.  The city became abandoned and fell into ruin as the shoreline of the Aegean Sea moved further west as silt from the Cayster River caused the shoreline to recede until now the city is some 8 Km away from the shore, no longer allowing ancient Ephesus to be a port city.

          But it is to this once thriving city that Paul wrote one of his letters – the letter that we know as Ephesians – or the Letter to the Ephesians. 

          In several of his other letters, Paul addressed specific issues and problems in the churches that he wrote to.  This is particularly true in his letters to the city at Corinth, and the area known as Galatia.  Ephesians is different.  We might say it is more universal in that it does not address specific issues unique to one place or another.  It deals with topics that are at the very core of what it means to be a Christian. 

          Ephesians can be divided into two almost equal segments.  In the first three chapters Paul lays out certain truths about Christianity that all of us need to pay attention to.  In the second three chapters he describes how Christians ought to live.  So the first half contains certain truths that state, “Here is what we believe,” and the second half gives some answers to the questions, “How then shall we live?”

          I want to suggest to you that the first three chapters are dripping with grace – in other words – God’s undeserved love and favor.  By grace, God forms us – his church – into a holy community.   By grace we are adopted as sons and daughters into this faith community.  All the while, Paul wants us to know that we have this grace as a gift because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

          The second half of this letter focuses then on what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.  It focuses more on lifestyle, choices and actions.  You can’t miss this transition between the first half and the second.  You can’t miss it.  Paul begins the second half of this letter with these words: “I therefore…beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” 

          What we will see when we get to the second half of this letter in a few weeks is that Paul is urging the church at Ephesus – and therefore also encouraging us – to move towards maturity.  In other words – Paul wants us to grow in Christ.  To become more and more like Christ in our thoughts – in our words – and in our actions.  Which – quite frankly – is a process.  And it is a process that I would hope all of us would be involved in.  And if not – well I just want you to know that it’s part of my job to encourage you to grow up – and to learn what Christ-likeness means – and then to actually put it into practice.

          So I don’t care how old you are – or how long you’ve been a Christian – you never outgrow your need to keep on growing – keep on learning – keep on becoming all that God wants you to be.  Because there is a real danger – a real danger – when followers of Jesus Christ get too comfortable.   It is possible to get too comfortable with this thing called faith. 

          So I guess a key question I could ask you today is, “How are you doing?   How are you doing in your walk with the Lord?  How have you changed – how have you grown – what difference has faith in Jesus Christ made in your life?  And as we go through the book of Ephesians together – I want you to keep asking yourself those kinds of questions.  And I hope that in the next few weeks you will see that your growth in Christ is going to happen most often when you are in the company of other Christians.

          And I would also ask you – I know some of you read your Bibles faithfully – some of you read it every day.  But let me encourage you to start reading the book of Ephesians over the next few weeks.  Whether you’re a regular reader of Scripture or not – crack this book open – and just read a chapter at a time – or perhaps a section at a time if your Bible shows those kinds of divisions.  But do read it – and if anyone has any questions about anything you read – I would be happy to do my best to address your questions.

          So – now that half my sermon has been taken up with background information – let’s get to today’s reading from Ephesians.  Ephesians chapter 1.

          There are a lot of things going on in chapter one, but I want to focus on one specific area.  I want to talk to you today about being part of God’s family.  And more specifically, I want to talk to you about how it is that you are a member of God’s family.

          By the way, did you know that none of us was born a Lutheran?  Even if your parents were Lutherans at the time of your birth, none of us was born a Lutheran.  You weren’t even born a Christian – even if you were born into a Christian family.  No.  But you were made a son – you were made a daughter – you were welcomed into God’s family in the waters of baptism. 

          But the language we use – and the language that Paul uses here in this first chapter of Ephesians is the language of adoption.  Listen:

5He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved (in other words, through Jesus).  7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8that he lavished on us.

          Now I know that some of you are adopted.  You were adopted by your parents.  You were chosen by your parents.  Likewise, some of you adopted the children you called your sons and your daughters.  Most of you know that Nancy and I have a daughter who came to us from Liberia, Africa when she was 15 years old some 28 years ago.  We did not officially adopt her, but we chose to be her parents – and we still are.  And her two daughters call us their white Grandma and Grandpa.  Any adoptive parent knows that this is something that you chose to do.

          And I think that that’s another great word to use to describe how God thinks about us.  God chose us.  God chose us for adoption as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ.

          Paul uses the concept of adoption in the legal sense.  You see, it was quite common in the Roman world for wealthy families who did not have sons to adopt one in order to have someone to inherit their property. Girls weren’t adopted in that time since, under Roman law, they could not inherit property. Girls – ladies – that’s just the way it was.  But it was a very special thing in the Roman world to be adopted.  And quite frankly – it still IS a special thing to be adopted today.

          Paul says that you and I have been adopted – welcomed into God’s family – through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And that’s why we can also say that – according to Romans chapter 6 – that through our baptism we receive the gift of adoption – as sons – as daughters – because according to Romans chapter 6, when we were baptized into Christ Jesus – we were baptized into his death, and therefore into his resurrection as well.

          Now the neat thing about adoption is that we are also heirs of every good thing God has. And what does God give us as heirs?  We inherit the gift of eternal life with God forever.  We inherit the gift of the abundant life in the here and now.  We inherit the gift of God’s grace – in other words – God’s undeserved love and favor.  I like how verse 8 here in chapter 1 describes it.  He lavished it on us.  When it comes to God’s grace – when it comes to God’s love – he lavishes it on us.  What a wonderful word that is, “lavishes”.  When’s the last time you lavished your love on someone.  When’s the last time someone lavished their love on you?

          So we were adopted.  We were chosen.  But there’s one last thing I want you to notice.  We were chosen for a purpose.  And not just to be the object of God’s love and grace – which He lavishes upon us – but to be holy and blameless – and here’s the key phrase – “in God’s eyes”. 

          Now, I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “Well that’s just dandy Randy.  I don’t think that word holy applies to me. If you only knew.”  Well, okay.  But let me tell you that maybe in your own eyes you’re not holy – or sometimes you don’t feel too holy.  And let me tell you – in my wife’s eyes – I’m not holy either.  But don’t miss that phrase – “In God’s eyes.”  In God’s eyes – you are holy.  Why?  Because one of the gifts of God’s grace – one of the benefits of being an heir of God’s riches – is the gift of forgiveness.  And when God forgives – God forgets.  Your sins are gone!  In God’s eyes you are without sin – and therefore you are – what?  Holy. 

          When we began this worship service, I declared to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins in the name of Jesus.  Did you believe that?  Did you?  And if your sins are forgiven then let me tell you – you are holy!  So how many holy people do we have in this room?  Every hand ought to go up. 

          You are holy because God has made you holy.  You are a son – you are a daughter of God.  Joint heirs with Christ.

          And if you’re still having trouble with that word holy – because you associate it with the word “perfect” and you know you’re not perfect – then let’s use the word “excellent.”

          As adopted sons and daughters of God, let us make it our aim to excel in faithfulness, generosity, in our worship and prayer life, and perhaps most importantly learning to excel in loving God and loving our neighbor – because we know that nothing else matters. May I suggest that we all learn what it means to work towards excellence – not perfection – but excellence in all things.

          God has given us His best.  Through the life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ – God has given us His best – and now calls us His adopted daughters and sons.  That we might become holy and blameless in His eyes.

          Welcome to the family.

                                                                                                    Amen

Posted by: AT 09:08 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, July 10 2012

II Corinthians 12:2-10

 

          Many times in Scripture it seems that we read things that are just the opposite of what we might think.  For instance, several times we read where Jesus says, “The last shall be first, and the first last.”  We are told that the meek – not the powerful – but the meek shall inherit the earth. 

           Then in today’s reading from 2 Corinthians, we find that the apostle Paul says something that doesn’t make a lot of sense.  He says, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

           I want to talk to you today about discovering God’s power.  The power of God that, quite frankly, is made perfect in our weaknesses. 

          So let me start by sharing with you a story.  It’s a story told by a Pastor Jim Moore in his book “Yes, Lord, I Have Sinned”, describes a time when he took a course in pastoral care as part of his pastoral training.  One day he was asked to visit a woman in the hospital who had lost her will to live.  She had no cards.  No flowers.  She sat all day in a darkened room. 

          Jim was terrified, and with good reason.   I know from my own pastoral care training at ECMC that it’s tough to speak to people in desperate situations.  Pastor Jim felt that he was too inexperienced, and that he wouldn’t know what to do.  His fear and nervousness affected his visit.

          First, he pushed the door open too hard and it slammed against the wall.  Next, he walked over and accidentally kicked the bed.  He stammered, stuttered and said all the wrong things in between long periods of embarrassed silence.  Finally, he tried to say a prayer, but even that didn’t come out right.  He left that woman’s room that day with tears in his eyes, ready to quit the ministry.  He felt ashamed that his patient had needed him, and he felt he had failed her.

          But, a few days later, Pastor Jim mustered up enough courage to return to this woman’s room.  What he discovered was that this same woman who had once lost the will to live, was now sitting up in bed writing letters.  Flowers and cards were everywhere.  She recognized him at once, and began thanking him over and over for this visit he had paid her.  

          Imagine Jim’s shock and surprise!  He was also confused because he knew he had botched that earlier visit, and confessed that fact to her.

           “But that’s just it,” she replied.  “I felt so sorry for you!  It was the first time I had felt anything but pity for myself in months.  And that little spark of compassion for you gave me the will to live!”

          How many of you have you have ever thought of your weaknesses and your failures and your stumblings and your blunders and your clumsiness as just possibly being blessings in disguise?  Huh?  Have you ever thought of that?  In our success oriented society, we don’t like to talk about our failures.  We don’t like to talk about our weaknesses.  And yet, they can often be blessings in disguise.

          Paul shares with us in our second reading that “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

          Now, does that sound strange to anyone?  How can being weak for Christ’s sake be a source of strength?  How can weaknesses be blessings in disguise?  Why does Paul boast of his weaknesses?

          We often think of Paul as a superstar.  A superstar Christian – certainly one of the greatest missionaries the church has ever known.  And certainly we owe a great deal to Paul for his writings and his missionary work in places like Palestine, and Turkey and Greece.  He was a great man.  And yes, we do think of him as a superstar.  But you know – Paul would have none of that.  He wrote to the church at Corinth and said,   

         “In order to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the                flesh....Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me,         but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you – for my power is made           perfect in weakness.”

          Paul realized that his weakness – his thorn in the flesh – and we have no idea what it was, but whatever it was – it was for him a source of strength.  And what that thorn in the flesh did for him was to teach him or cause him to learn to depend upon the Lord.  To learn to depend upon God in his weakness – in his pain.  And this helped him to grow in his faith.  When you rely on the Lord instead of yourself, it helps you to grow in your faith.  AND – according to Paul – his thorn in the flesh was actually used by God to reach others. 

          You know what this tells me?  It tells me that you don’t have to be perfect – you don’t have to be a superstar – in order to be used by God.  No matter what your gifts or talents are – and every follower of Jesus Christ has at least one gift or talent that is to be used in the work of the Kingdom – no matter what your weaknesses or your situation in life might be – God can use you in the work of the Kingdom.   

           Let me suggest that what Paul discovered was true for him is true for us as well.  God’s power is made perfect in weakness. 

          Let me share with you another story, this one told by Tony Campolo.  Tony was once asked to be a counselor in a junior high camp.  He says everybody ought to be a counselor at a junior high camp.  A junior high kid’s idea of having a good time, Tony says, is picking on other people.  “And in this particular case, at this particular camp, there was a little boy who was suffering from cerebral palsy.  His name was Billy.  And they picked on him.”

          As Billy walked across the camp, the other kids would line up and imitate his awkward movements.  Tony watched him one day as he was asking for directions. Not only was walking difficult, but so was talking.  “Which...way...is...the...craft...shop?” he stammered.  And the boys mimicked him in that same awful stammer.  “It’s...over...there...Billy.”  And then they laughed.  Tony was furious.  

          His furor reached a fever pitch on Thursday morning.  It was Billy’s turn to give devotions. Tony wondered what would happen, because his cabin group had appointed Billy to be the speaker.  Tony knew what their real agenda was.  They just wanted to get Billy up there to make fun of him. 

          As Billy dragged his way to the front, you could hear the giggles rolling over the crowd.  It took him almost five minutes to say seven words.  These were the words:

          “Jesus...loves...me...and...I...love...Jesus.”

          When Billy finished, there was dead silence.  Tony looked over his shoulder and saw junior high boys bawling – crying their eyes out – all over the place.  Literally, a revival broke out in that camp after hearing Billy share his love for Jesus. 

          Tony says that as he travels in many places – all over the world – he finds

missionaries and preachers who ask him, “Remember me?  I was converted at that junior high camp.”

          The counselors had tried everything to try to get those kids interested in Jesus.  They even brought in baseball stars whose batting averages had gone up since they had started praying.  But God chose not to use the superstars.  God chose a kid with cerebral palsy.

          Folks, you don’t have to be perfect or a superstar.  What does God say?  “My grace – my grace – is sufficient for you.” God’s grace is all we need.

          Let me share with you one last story.  In the 1800’s, the missionary David Livingstone penetrated so deeply into the African bush that no one knew where he was.  Henry Stanley was sent from England to search for Livingstone.  Stanley was able to make the trip thanks to a wealthy sponsor. 

          Before Stanley sailed for Africa, his benefactor met with him and said, “Go to the bank today and draw a thousand pounds in my name and buy your equipment.  When that money is gone, draw another thousand.  If need be, draw another.  I will not run out of money.  Draw as much as you need to do this work.”

          Folks, that’s the way God deals with us.  When you think that you have run out of resources.  When your strength is all dried up.  When a weakness or a failure has dragged you down, there is a source to whom we can turn.  God’s well of grace is an endless supply.

          And God offers it to you and to me for free.  For free!  The key to discovering God’s power in your life is to recognize your weakness – to admit your need for God.  Admit that you are a sinner.  Admit that you are in need of forgiveness.  Simply admit to God your need for God.  To turn to the Lord for grace – in other words – God’s undeserved love and favor.  That is where you will find God’s power in your life – through God’s undeserved love and favor.  God’s grace.

           Folks – I don’t care what your weaknesses or your failures are.  I don’t care.  Don’t care!  But I want you to know that God’s power is made perfect in weakness.

          God’s grace is all you need. 

                    God’s grace is sufficient for you. 

                                                                                          Amen

Posted by: AT 08:18 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, July 03 2012

Mark 5:21-43

 

How many of you remember Bishop Fulton J. Sheen?  You probably do if you’re older than I am.  Bishop Sheen had a popular, prime-time television program back in the 50's and early 60's.  His name and face were well-known by folks all across the country.

 

Another well-known television minister – Dr. Robert Schuller – tells about the time when Bishop Sheen spoke at Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral.  The bishop was mobbed by people who wanted to speak to him, to touch him, or receive some sort of blessing from him.  As Bishop Sheen made his way to his car, someone pressed a note into his hand.  It was from an elderly woman who had given up on life.  She needed prayer.

 

Bishop Sheen insisted that his driver take him to this woman’s house immediately.  She lived in a run-down trailer park.  Imagine this woman’s surprise when she opened the door and saw Bishop Fulton Sheen – one of the most famous men in the country – standing at her front door.  In her hour of need, he had set aside his busy schedule and important business to be with her.  Bishop Sheen talked with the woman, and prayed with her. [He touched her life,] and when he left, he commented, “Now she’s ready for living – in this life – and the next.”

 

Something like that is happening in our Gospel lesson today.  If you were with us last week, you learned that Jesus calmed a storm while in a boat in the middle of the sea.  Today we discover that Jesus has crossed over to the other side of the sea, and is just getting out of that boat, when lo and behold, on the shore, a huge crowd is gathering around him.  Seems like Jesus is always gathering a crowd –

– and one of the leaders of the local Synagogue

– a righteous Jew by the name of Jairus,

– comes to Jesus and falls at his feet and pleads with Jesus to come and heal his daughter who is near death.

 

“Lay your hands on her Jesus – just touch her Jesus – and she will be made well – and she will live.”  So Jesus walks with Jairus.  But on the way, as the crowds press in on Jesus, a woman who has suffered from some kind of bleeding disorder for twelve years

– comes up to Jesus and touches him

– she touches just the fringe of his garments

– and immediately she is made well.

– She is ready for living again.

Meanwhile, the daughter of Jairus has died.  But Jesus continues to walk with Jairus to his house.  And there – Jesus goes to where the little girl is – and he touches her.  Jesus takes the little girl by the hand, and says, “Little girl, get up.”  With a touch – just a touch of his hand – Jesus gives her life back to her again – and gives her back to her parents. 

 

With just a touch – in the first case a woman touches Jesus – in the second, Jesus touches a little girl by taking her by the hand – and gives all of them another chance at living.  They were all experiencing bumps in the road when Jesus comes to them and walks with them and touches their lives.  The woman – the little girl – as well as her parents – Jairus and...Mrs. Jairus – are ready for living again.

 

Folks I want to talk to you today about being ready – about being ready for lvieing.  In this life you and I will have bumps – when what we really want is to get over those bumps and to get on with the job of living, right?  Some of us have incredible bumps in our lives. 

– For some, it is the challenges that come from old age.

– For others, it is dealing with a rebellious child. 

– Perhaps it’s the loss of a job. 

– Some have trouble in school or at work. 

– Maybe it’s a relationship that is breaking apart.

– Perhaps it’s grieving the loss of a loved one.


– Or maybe it’s a debilitating or life-threatening illness. 

 

Folks, I’m here to tell you today that at those times, Jesus is the one who comes to us and walks with us and touches us in those areas – at those bumps in the road – where we need to be touched – and get us ready for living again.

 

Now – I wish I could say that when you turn to Jesus he’ll heal you of all that is wrong in your life – and take away all the bumps in the road.  But that would be irresponsible of me – or any preacher – to say that.   I can’t tell you why – sometimes Jesus heals – and sometimes he does not.  But I can tell you this – that Jesus walks with you in whatever it is that you’re going through. Not just for the moment.  But in order for us to see above and to move beyond and to rise above the bumps – in order to get us ready for living.

Jesus walked with the woman who touched his garments.  Jesus walked with Jairus to his home.  Jesus walked with Jairus and his wife into the room where their daughter lay dead. You might even say that as they stepped into that little girl’s room, that they walked into a life-changing situation.

 

Yes, Jesus walks with us and touches us and comes to us to turn our lives around.  And I have found in my life that this happens most often when I am with other Christians.  When Jesus walks with us, it is most often when other Christians are walking with us.  When Jesus touches us, it is most often through the touch of another Christian.

 

Jesus makes us ready for living, but not just for our own benefit.  Being a Christian is not an “It’s all about me” kind of thing.  It can never be all about me.  There are so many others that Jesus wants to touch.  And guess who he uses to touch those others?  That’s right.  You guessed it.  You and me folks.  In many ways, we are his hands.  We are his feet.  He touches others and walks with others though our hands.  Through our feet. Part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ is to reach out to those who are facing bumps in the road.  When we see someone in need – just a touch – just a word of encouragement – just a smile – can make the difference between hope and despair.

 


Making a difference?  You bet. That’s why I admire so much and give thanks to God for all of you who are actively making a difference in the lives of others.  Many of you are the hands and the feet of Jesus in ways that I am not aware of.  Helping a family member, or helping a neighbor or a friend. Well, we would expect that.  But how about serving the stranger? Serving in ways that I don’t know about, but that the Lord is certainly paying attention to. 

 

Then there are those things that we do together.  And I’m thinking of Habitat for Humanity; Stephen Ministry; bringing in food to stock the food pantry at Resurrection Lutheran Church in the inner city of Buffalo; Family Promise – a ministry to the temporarily homeless; and let’s not forgot our mission trips over the years to New Orleans, Chicago, Biloxi, and of course more recently, to Haiti. 

 

On page 2 of your Mission Minutes is an article that came to me just this week about how Christian high school seniors are coming to Buffalo to do home repairs in the neighborhood of Resurrection Lutheran Church on the East side of Buffalo.  The Resurrection folks call the neighborhood in which they serve the Resurrection Village.  You know, I like to joke that we send our kids to places like Chicago or Slidell Louisiana to make a difference.  Where do kids from other parts of the country go to?  Buffalo!  And you’ll notice it says in that article there are ways that we can get involved with this effort in the Resurrection Village. 

 

So whether it’s something we do as a group – or whether it’s something you do one on one with someone else – when you touch someone else in the name of Jesus – and the key phrase here is “in the name of Jesus” – you are making a difference! 

          Some years ago, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote these powerful words. Listen…

          “How do you measure success?
          To laugh often and much; (I think some of us don’t laugh nearly enough)
          To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
          To earn the appreciation of honest critics
          and endure the betrayal of false friends;
          To appreciate beauty;
          To find the best in others;
          To leave the world a bit better
          whether by a healthy child,
          a redeemed social condition,
          or a job well done;
          To know that even one life has
          breathed because you lived…
          that is to have succeeded.”

          There is nothing out of the ordinary in Emerson’s words – and yet these are very powerful words!  You don’t have to be extraordinary.  But let me suggest that the one thing that makes all of this possible – the one ingredient left out of Emerson’s list – is the gift of compassion.  The touch of Compassion. 

Jesus shows us what compassion looks like.  He made a difference in the lives of many people as he simply walked along.  With just a touch.  And by doing so, Jesus made them – makes us – ready for living. 

 

I want you to know that God has chosen to be in touch with you.  He says to you – says to us – “Get up!  Get up and get ready for living!  Get up!   I am walking with you – taking you through those bumps in the road.  Helping you to rise above them.  I have touched your life.  Now go and touch the life of someone else.” 

 

Just think of it!  What a joy it is to be touched by Jesus – to be touched by others – and then to pay it forward – just to reach out and touch others.  Our husbands.  Our wives.  Our kids.  Our friends.  Our neighbors.  And yes – people we don’t even know.   

 

Jesus comes to us and walks with us and touches us.  He gets us ready – ready for living.  In this life – and the next.   Amen

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Zion Lutheran Church
9535 Clarence Center Road

PO Box 235
Clarence Center, NY 14032
Phone: 716-741-2656
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