Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sermon for November 12-13, 2011, 21st Sunday After Trinity

November 12-13, 2011
Trinity 21
John 4:46-54

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” Why should we? Why should we believe and risk playing the fool without signs and wonders? What good is faith if it does not deliver? If it does not cause mountains to jump into the sea should it not at least make the chicken pocks go away? Where are the flames that lit upon the apostles’ heads? Where is Gideon’s fleece dry when the ground is wet? Where is the towering column of fire and of smoke? Why were these signs and wonders given to them while we are rebuked? Why must our sons die in Capernaum instead of drinking wine in Cana?Publish Post

The nobleman had left his dying boy to bring home a miracle worker. That took some faith, some latent hope, some burning ember of belief that Jesus could help. But the miracle worker who turned water into wine would not go with him. He would not leave Cana. The nobleman’s authority was not enough to command Him and only earned him a rebuke. It must have seemed as though the faith and hope, the desperate prayers from Capernaum to Cana, had all been in vain.

Jesus would have surely failed the seminary. In the face of such desperation He dares to preach the Law. He sees that faith is still lacking, still imperfect, and He will not pretend that it is good enough, that He is impressed. He will not be winsome or polite. He will not be patient or seemingly even kind. He will not meet felt needs. He sees into the man’s heart by the man’s words. He rebukes. He brings faith to its knees. He makes the father come to full desperation and forget his nobility. Then He commands: “Go your way” and all he adds is “Your son lives.” But what does that mean to a father full of fear? Does it mean that his son lives in heaven? Does it mean he lives right now but will die within the hour? Or does it mean, does he dare to hope, that the fever has left him? The nobleman is not told. Nothing is explained. No promise is made. It is not “Your son will live.” It is a simple declaration in the present tense: “Your son lives.” That is it. Nothing more. Take that and go on your way.

Miracle of miracles: that mysterious sentence changed the nobleman. He had tried to command Jesus. He did not ask. He commanded: “Come down before my child dies.” But Jesus said: “Your son lives” and everything changed. It was not the nobleman who believed. It was the man, the father of the son. His nobility was stripped away. John had called him a Basilikos, that is royalty, or a nobleman. But after Jesus says: “Your son lives” it is not the Basilikos, the nobleman, who be levied. It was the anthropos, the man, who believed. The Word of Jesus changed him. He went on his way. He obeyed and believed as a simple man, stripped of pretensions, no longer glorying in his faith, no longer making demands of God, but resting in the Word of Jesus. He still doesn’t know just what it means, but Jesus said it and that is good enough. This is how faith lives between Cana and Capernaum without signs or wonders.

He was not the first parent to get a son back from the dead. The widows in Nain and Zarephath had experienced this miracle as well. The Syro-Phonecian woman got her daughter back from demons. Abraham, too, got Isaac back from the mountain and Issac got Joseph back from brotherly murder. God provides. He always does. But most significantly Our Father in heaven got His Son back from the dead. When it was finished He gave up His spirit and went the heaven. That Son didn’t have to die. He didn’t have to be forsaken by the Father and feel the hatred of the mob burning in His hands and feet. He didn’t have to - except that His love demanded it. He Himself said that it was necessary. Love drove Him to the cross. It was necessary. Love desired to drive off the fever in Capernaum and change water into wine in Cana. Love demanded death to put death to rest, so that Jesus could stand in the upper room and pronounce peace upon the Church and establish the Ministry of reconciliation. The Father lost the Son on the cross. He turned Him over to the devil and set Him to endure the tortures of Hell. And there was no where for Him to turn, no ram caught in the thicket, no miracle worker to seek, no prayer left to be said. He was alone. When it was finished He committed His Body to rest in the grave for three days, but not His soul. His soul did not delay. He went straight to the Father. He went to heaven and told Our Father what He told the nobleman: Your Son lives. The Sacrifice is complete. The Father’s wrath has been appeased. Hell has lost its claim. God’s good will has been restored.

Jesus lives. Go on your way this dying, autumn day. Take this with you: Your Son lives. Not the one that has come from your loins, not the one who calls you “Dad” or “Mom.” A different Son, a Son more fully yours than those temporarily placed into your care. Your Son lives - even if you are yet a child or never had a child. For this Son is your Son but you are not His father or mother. He is the Son given to you in the waters of Holy Baptism. He is placed upon your tongue in the Holy Communion. You are His and He is yours. He is your Son even as His Father and His Spirit are your Father and your Spirit. He has caused Himself to become your Lamb, slain for your transgressions and raised for your justification. You’ve come this day to modern day Cana, not where water is turned into wine, but where wine carries the Blood of Christ and makes glad the hearts of men like the hearts of men have never been. You’ve got your miracle and sign. It is the Body and Blood Jesus. Be thus strengthened and encouraged and then go on your way. Go back to Capernaum and the workaday world. Your Son lives. So will your children. So will you. Jesus lives. This is enough for faith. It will see you through.

In + Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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