08 October 2011

A Wonderful Homily by Pr. Sawyer for this Sunday

Trinity16-11
 
Here’s a catechetical question for you, dear Children of Light.
We hear of the resurrections of the sons of the Widow of Zarephath this morning and of the Widow of Nain.
The question is: Are these First Article Gifts or Third?
 
This isn’t an obscure question. It should be fundamental to us.
It should occupy our thoughts and speaking, that it may determine our choices and our living, especially for the sake of our children.
 
The Widow of Zarephath had a son. We heard how the Word of the Lord rescued them both.
 
But the really big deal about last Sunday’s Old Testament reading was not that the bread and oil did not run out and that her son and she did not kick the bucket when they thought they would.
 
That was a FIRST Article Gift. The THIRD Article Gift was the main thing, namely, that God gave her the Holy Spirit so that she believed His Word and lived according to it.
 
The FIRST Article Gifts of bread that kept feeding them and oil that didn’t run out, even those point us toward the SECOND Article Gifts of life and salvation in God’s Son, Christ Jesus, Who is our Daily and Eternal Bread of Life Come Down from Heaven, in Whom we have the Unending Oil of Gladness.
 
Why do I ask about and speak of this today? Because what the Lord GAVE the woman and her son last Sunday, we hear Him TAKE AWAY this morning!
 
After this, the son of the woman became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath in him.
 
If it was baffling that God should send the prophet to a poor woman to feed, who was about to die, how much more baffling that, having saved them, God would then permit her son to die!
It baffles the woman, and that breaking of sticks moment I mentioned last Sunday finally comes for her, doesn’t it?
“What have you against me, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son?”
 
It’s a bitter accusation from a woman grief-stricken.
She feels as if she’s being punished for her sin.
 
Ever feel that way? Why is this happening to me? What have I done? This isn’t fair! Why should I even bother coming to church or being a Christian, when THIS is how God treats me?!
 
What has changed for this woman? She still has the Word and Ministry of God in her midst. She has only lost her son!
 
Dear Christian, this is a hard question, but an important one.
Is that son a FIRST Article Gift or a Second or Third one?
 
Before I answer, let me be clear. First Article Gifts are gifts from GOD! They are GOOD Gifts, as are all gifts that come down from the Father of Lights. They enrich our lives and are meant for us to cherish. Body and soul, eyes, ears, and all of my members, my reason and all of my senses . . .Clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have.
 
The widow’s son was a wonderful First Article Gift.
 
Would this woman have rather had the Word and Ministry of God or her son? You know the answer to that!
 
Our love of First Article Gifts is powerful. Look how we pursue them over the Word of God!
 
We are talking of the First Commandment, aren’t we? Having no other gods, and so we should fear, love and trust in GOD above all things!
 
But that’s hard when God is in the house and He lets your little boy die, isn’t it? It’s hard when being a Christian doesn’t mean that you have all your earthly needs taken care of as you want. You still have money problems, job problems, people problems. You still have health concerns. Nothing seems to be getting any better – and by that we mean FIRST Article things!
 
SECOND and THIRD Article things never fail us!
 
In Christ, you will always have a God Who loves you!
You have a God and Father Who gave you His Son!
You have that Son Who laid His life down for you!
You have the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation in the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus!
You have Him seated at the right hand of the Father interceding for you and the promise that He will come again to take you home!
 
You also have the Holy Spirit Who not only CALLED you by the Gospel and enlightened you with His Gifts of Water and Word, but Who constantly IS CALLING you – with the whole Church – through the Ministry of Word and Sacrament and KEEPING you with Jesus Christ in the One True Faith. By that Holy Spirit, you have the forgiveness of sins and the promise of the resurrection of the body when Christ comes again in glory!
 
So, are the resurrections we hear of this morning – the raising of the sons of the Widows of Zarephath and Nain – are they First Article Gifts or Third? They are First Article Gifts, aren’t they? God is caring for these women by returning their sons to them, but He doesn’t do that for everyone. He didn’t do that for every grieving mother even back then! Mary did not have HER Son returned to her to help around the house in Joseph’s absence, as the Widow of Nain got her son back. Mary would have her Son returned in the Resurrection of Easter! But not to help around the house, but to help HER in HIS House, through Word and Sacrament! Christ’s resurrection is Eternal!
 
The boys of Zarephath and Nain still await that resurrection, along with their widowed mothers, who had their boys returned for a little while, to comfort and care for them, before they were all laid down into the grave until Christ comes again. SECOND and THIRD Article Gifts sustain them even now!
Do you see? First Article Gifts wear out. Second and Third do not!
 
I say this, because of the danger we all face of letting go Second and Third Article Gifts for the sake of the First.
 
Maybe we have to work on Sundays. Maybe we tell the boss it’s OK. We don’t mind. We need money. We think we can do without the Word and Ministry of Christ. Nothing bad happens when we do without it, but when we have no money? No gas, no this or that, no fun with friends. No food! We’ll DIE without money!
 
Dear Christian, you’ll die even WITH money!
 
Steve Jobs had money. Lots of it! He still died. He also had a pastor once. A Lutheran Church Missouri Synod pastor, who taught him, confirmed him, communed him at God’s altar. What happened? Nothing earth-shaking. We see it all the time. His parents saw a First Article Gift in him, and they nurtured it. Maybe there were special camps they sent him to. The best schools. Whatever his First Article needs were, they provided. And that’s not bad! GOD’S the one who provided him his genius and raw talent, even his success! But not so that Second and Third Article Gifts are ignored! Not so that First Article Gifts leave us dying with money, fame, a world that heralds our passing, but with no pastor to bury us a Child of Light who lived – and died – in communion with Christ!
 
Dear parents, what are you willing to provide YOUR children at the expense of God’s Second and Third Article Gifts? What would you be willing the world have through YOUR child’s genius, talent, accomplishments, success – at the expense of having no pastor to bury him or her as a Child of Light?
 
Christ didn’t die and rise, baptize, absolve and feed us so that we are lost in our pursuit of First Article Gifts. He provides His Second and Third Article Gifts so we are preserved and provided for especially when First Article Gifts finally fail. They will.
 
SOME Things will never fail, dear Christian, and THESE God provides to keep you and yours in the One True Faith – unto life everlasting! And they will!
 
In Jesus’ Name, Amen
 

10 comments:

David Garner said...

So typical of him to preach the same homily over and over and over and over and over and over.







But it is a REALLY good homily, isn't it?

Unknown said...

Certainly Martin Luther never intended to limit the gifts we receive from the Most Holy Trinity when he wrote of them in his explanation to the three articles of the Creed. To say that, “First Article Gifts wear out. Second and Third do not!” is absurd. Luther writes that, among other things, God the Father Almighty has given me a soul. Does this wear out?

Luther intended the explanation of the Creed to be an explanation of the Creed, not a method of categorizing God’s gifts.

Luther lists the various gifts we receive from God in order to show why we should be thankful, not so that we could engage in meaningless talk about what gifts are better, and which are worse. He certainly did not intend to limit specific gifts to particular Persons of the Holy Trinity, except where Scripture tells us about them. The whole purpose of this sermon is to give us more reasons for feeling guilty than we had before. Did we thank God more intensely for Art. 2 & 3, then we did for 1? Well, if we didn’t we don’t really appreciate the value of God’s gifts, do we?

When we pray to our Father in Heaven, “thy Kingdom come”, does He answer with a gift which wears out or lasts forever? When we pray, “Thy will be done”, is this will limited to temporal things. Who (Colossians 1: 13) “… has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins?” Does this Article 1 gift from God the Father wear out?

This should “… occupy our thoughts and speaking, that it may determine our choices and our living, especially for the sake of our children?” Spare me! 1 Cor. 2: 12 “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. 13 And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. 14 Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God's Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else's scrutiny. 16 ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” Is this Article 1, 2, or 3?

I am thinking about Max Lieberman again. Not only because of what was written, but because everyone seems to think it is priceless. The gifts that do not fail would be meaningless if we had not first received the gifts that fail. This is what happens when we forget what the Gospel is and its centrality in the life of the Church. Just because we say that Jesus died for your sins does not mean we have proclaimed the Gospel.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

William Weedon said...

Amazing. I think you missed what Pr. Sawyer was inviting us into entirely. "And your heavenly Father knows you need them all, but seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these will be added to you as well.". Seek them first.

Unknown said...

No. That part was pretty clear. But, as I recall Elijah did not say that to the Widow of Zarephath, nor did our Lord say it to the Widow of Nain. Our Lord emptied Himself to relieve the suffering of others even before He suffered for us on the cross. He did not tell her, “Listen, get over it. This is a First Article thing that you should just let go if you are serious about wanting to get to heaven.” Instead He had compassion for her and said, “Do not weep.” Do you think that our Lord thought badly of her because she did not stop weeping then, but only after He had resurrected her son?

The Gospel teaches that if one of His children forgets about the things of the Kingdom when grief seems unbearable, our Lord will not condemn that child, but He will pour the balm of His consolation into his heart through the Holy Spirit so that he will be able to face life again, and even to rejoice, and to continue to seek the things of the Kingdom. Now that is the Gospel! Amazing indeed!

And whoever robs us of this Gospel is like the steward to whom his entire debt was forgiven, and who then grabs his parishioner by the throat and says, “No relief for you, fellow. You desired a First Article gift.”

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

William Weedon said...

But George, I'm not sure how you EVER got that from Pr. Sawyer's sermon. I think you're hearing in it something he never said. It's interesting to me that David Garner who used to be his parishioner, found it to be a really good homily. As one who sat and listened to Pr. Sawyer, he didn't hear in it what you heard. As one who is just blessed to read Pr. Sawyer's work when he posts it, I didn't hear what you heard. I heard absolutely nothing about the Lord condemning one of his dear children for aching over the first article gift that was taken away. Who can condemn Job for mourning his children? Or the countless Jobs that suffer that heart-wrenching moment - which our dear Luther himself knew?

Unknown said...

Dear Rev. Weedon: My last try. You write, “I heard absolutely nothing about the Lord condemning one of his dear children for aching over the first article gift that was taken away.” Quite clearly I did not either. The words are still on the posting. Please copy them and post them to see if I ever wrote that. My point was clearly that our Lord would NOI and DID NOT do that. But here is what Rev. Sawyer writes, “Would this woman have rather had the Word and Ministry of God or her son? You know the answer to that! Our love of First Article Gifts is powerful. Look how we pursue them over the Word of God! We are talking of the First Commandment, aren’t we? Having no other gods, and so we should fear, love and trust in GOD above all things!” So he is condemning the widow for grieving over her son. He is, of course right, in the sense that, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” But our Lord had too much compassion to say that to the widow who had just lost her son. She would come to this understanding later.

This whole discussion is without merit to begin with, since Martin Luther’s explanation of the Creed was never intended as a source for setting the values for various gifts, nor should it be. Here is what Luther said according to the Table Talks, “The highest and most precious treasure we receive of God is, that we can speak, hear, see, &c.; but how few acknowledge these as God's special gifts, much less give God thanks for them.” All First Article! But I would not build a hierarchy of values on this.

The whole idea of categorizing gifts from the different persons of the Trinity is only valid where Scripture tells us specifics, as “in the night He was betrayed”, or “He (the Comforter) will lead you into all truth.” But that all of the Father’s gifts are temporal while those of the Son and Holy Spirit are eternal is simply absurd.

Rev. Sawyer wrote about Steve Jobs and his parents. Steve was apparently confirmed in an LCMS church. It isn’t clear to me whether Rev Sawyer says that Jobs died outside of the faith, or simply that he was buried without a pastor. Nevertheless, from that follows, ”Dear parents, what are you willing to provide YOUR children at the expense of God’s Second and Third Article Gifts? What would you be willing the world have through YOUR child’s genius, talent, accomplishments, success – at the expense of having no pastor to bury him or her as a Child of Light?” Is it what the parents do, even after Confirmation, that determines whether a person is or is not a child of God? Isn’t this laying on the guilt a little heavily where it does not belong? Does a person at some point become responsible for his own sins? Was a member of the Elect ever prevented from reaching Paradise because his parents chose First Article gifts for him?

I cannot find any justification for someone blaming a widow for wanting her child alive. Can you? Our Lord had the right to do that, but He chose to be
compassionate. I cannot understand how someone can trivialize such suffering by then referring to “our” pursuits of First Articles gifts as if these could possibly be compared to the loss of a child. “Maybe we have to work on Sundays. Maybe we tell the boss it’s OK. We don’t mind. We need money. We think we can do without the Word and Ministry of Christ. Nothing bad happens when we do without it, but when we have no money? No gas, no this or that, no fun with friends. No food! We’ll DIE without money!”

I think I have answered your questions. My problem is that I hang on to every word of a sermon, not just the general sense of it.

Basta.

Peace and Joy!
George

William Weedon said...

Basta for me too. Except for the closing words of the sermon:

SOME Things will never fail, dear Christian, and THESE God provides to keep you and yours in the One True Faith – unto life everlasting! And they will!

Wishing you all the best, George!

--helen said...

What has changed for this woman? She still has the Word and Ministry of God in her midst. She has only lost her son!

I dearly hope Pr. Sawyer had no mother in his congregation that morning who "had only lost her son".

David Garner said...

Wow. I'd prefer to let Pastor Sawyer speak for himself regarding what he said. I'll offer only this, in nearly 5 years under his wing, I have never heard him say anything that would fairly be characterized as "condemning" or "blaming" another for something he would first acknowledge that he himself does.

Pastor Sawyer likes to take our own little foibles and weaknesses and use them as examples of how none of us live up to God's expectations. He uses himself and his own sins a lot in this regard. I seriously doubt he was in any way trying to minimize the suffering of the woman over losing her son. It seemed to me to be an example of how fast we all lose sight of the great mercy of God. And given how that particular story ends, it seems a fitting example.

David Garner said...

I should be clear, since my prior comment is poorly tensed (as in, present), I have not been a parishioner of Pastor Sawyer for going on 6 years now. He is a good friend, though, and we speak frequently. I'm pretty comfortable with the assessment that he was not trying to pick on the poor Widow of Zarephath except to use her as an example of what we all do with regard to the gifts of God over and against the things of the world.