Sermon Pentecost 4 – July 10, 2011

July 11, 2011 at 9:38 am Leave a comment

One of the main problems with life in the Church today
Is that our culture is a culture of doing.
We are called to do constantly.
And that’s not unimportant.
If we were not called to do, then this sermon would not be being preached,
the music wouldn’t be played,
the house would not be open today for worship.
then houses would not be built for Habitat for Humanity,
the church wouldn’t offer free clothing for people,
and we wouldn’t open our doors to the homeless through Family Promise.
We wouldn’t have trips for our youth
and we wouldn’t have gifts for the needy at Christmas
and supplies for the Shepherd of the Street.

The official “brand-mark” of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
is “God’s work; our hands.”
as a description of who we are called to be.
As a description of what we do when we reach out to others,
it’s not a bad one.
As a summary of the Gospel, it is woefully incomplete and dreadful.
In a noisy culture, in a culture obsessed with what people are doing,
in a culture that absolutely will not stop to hear what God is saying,
to say “God’s work, our hands” turns the church simply into a volunteer organization
like the Elk’s Club or the Kiwanis or the Rotary.
Again, these are necessary and worthy causes,
but they are not the Gospel.
And God did not promise “Built on a Rock the Elks will stand.”

Our three texts today have nothing to do with our doing.
They have everything to do with what God is doing,
and more specifically with God’s speech.
The only thing we have to “do,” if you will, is listen to what He says.
And we’re not good at that.

The three lessons from Holy Scripture,
God’s Word spoken and written for our hearing and learning,
that we have today are filled with references to God’s speech and action.
In the first lesson, Isaiah speaks of the Word of God which falls upon the earth
as do the showers of rain, or considering the recent weather we’ve had,
as did the showers of rain.
The resulting blessings are like the sprouting of the vegetation
which give seed to the sower and bread to the eater.
Notice who is the actor in this passage.
We are not encouraged to act, but to be receptive to God’s action.
There is no way we can bring forth on our own,
but instead we may and must wait upon God to speak to us.

In the second reading, Paul makes the astounding statement
that in spite of what we heard last week that sin still dwells in the bodies of believers,
there is no condemnation of that sin for those who are in Christ Jesus.
An astounding statement – a word which demands no prior deed
except the prior deed done by Jesus Christ.
Though we are beset by sin, the Spirit which has been given to us
dwells in us and directs our minds away from the inclination to sin
and towards God’s will.
Though we may fall, we may get up again and continue to set the mind
on the Spirit of life and peace.
And this is not our doing, but the doing of the Spirit within us.

In the Gospel lesson, Jesus speaks of himself and his evangelists as those who spread the Word,
the Word of salvation and forgiveness,
and speaks of the different results within people,
those who forget and those who fall away,
those for whom the word is choked by riches and the cares of the world,
and those lives who are good soil, and produce richly.
Now at last, there seems to be something we can do!
Defend ourselves from the evil one, deepen our rootedness in the Word,
eliminate the cares of the world that keep us from being who God wants us to be!
And yet, given what we have heard of the power of the evil one,
given the cares of the world that beset us day by day,
which try as we may we cannot escape,
given the attempts we have made to become better people and failed,
what is there to do but to listen and let the words sink into our ears
until by the power of the Spirit they are firmly affixed into our hearts.
Listen again and again to God’s Word that says it is not about you,
it is about God – what God speaks, what God commands, what God promises?
“There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
What a glorious promise, one that we can only receive by hearing.

God’s work, our hands? Fair enough.
But how about God’s Word, our ears;
or better yet, God’s Spirit, our hearts.
For the more we listen; the more we hear and receive God’s Word,
made incarnate for us in Jesus Christ,
and spread abroad by the Church Sunday after Sunday, day after day,
the Spirit will more deeply root us in the Word
and protect us from our enemies
and put those cares and troubles of the world in their places.
And yes, we will be set to our tasks in God’s kingdom,
using our words and deeds to accomplish God’s work.
But listen first and always.
Let these words sink into your ears, and embrace the hope they bring you:
“My word will not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
“The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.”
Listen, and by the power of the Spirit believe and trust that these promises are for you,
and let God take care of the cares and the thorns and the evil one.
Be still, and know that God is God
and that he will be our stronghold and our rock and our deliverer,
to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen

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