would anyone want to be a Lutheran?
Because we get to sing the most wonderful hymns ("Comfort, Comfort" "Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding" "On Jordan's Bank" and "Hark the Glad Sound!"), celebrate a joyous liturgy, and hear preaching like this.
St. Paul Lutheran Church
The Third Sunday of Advent
December 14/15, 2013+
St. Matthew 11:2-10
The Rev. BT Ball
When things don’t go well it is then that the questions come. The question asked by John disciples then makes sense - is Jesus the coming one or should they be looking for someone else? When there is hardship, suffering, death – is He the one, should you look for another? Should you be looking for someone else? Who else could there possibly be? Not John, things were not going well - for all his preaching resulted with him in prison and then with his head on a platter. So he won’t do. There are plenty of prophets out there today – but the shine comes off of them pretty quickly. Around for a while, powerful sermons, but eventually scandal or some other foolishness brings them down. Forget other prophets then, should you turn to yourself and your own devices? Pull yourself up, be all you can be? Subscribe to Self magazine, read self-help books? Be self-sufficient? Self is the problem to begin with, remember the hardship, the trouble, much of that is self-imposed. No one makes you drink too much. No one forces you to click to the websites that degrade you and your marriage. No one compels you to speak in harsh words. No one is making you horde all your money. And certainly no one is keeping you from hearing the Word of God. Sin is the problem, and that is deep in the self. It is the fallen nature of all children of Adam. It is the sin-sick self that is the source of trouble: yours and others. It is why they hurt you, it is why you hurt them. It is really the source of all the trouble, the rebellious, idolatrous self. It is the sinful self that is source of sickness and disease, of hardship and suffering and should then be recipient of the just reward - death.
And so what questioning disciples need is not self-help, but the help that only Jesus can provide. What is needed is the works of Christ and to hear of them. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers and cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And there are more works to come. John prepared the way, he pointed to the comfort that is given by them – the works, the self-sacrifice of Jesus. The sinless Lamb of God gives himself into the hands of sinful men, who mock and beat and spit and scourge and crucify him. These are the works of Christ. A spotless perfect death, the glorious resurrection from the dead, a triumphant return to his Father’s right hand, the sending of the Holy Spirit; all this for you and for your salvation from sin and death and from the self. All this to create a new and right spirit within you by the forgiveness of your sins.
It is the work of Christ that is needed that gives answer to the question of seeking. All of Christ’s work is directed toward the forgiveness of your sins. This is what John led the way in preaching. It was promised of him at his birth by his father Zechariah, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” St. Luke 1:76-79
The way of peace is the way of Jesus. His way is His suffering and death for you; giving His life for you. There is no one else to go looking for. There is no need to look within your heart to make things right. No need to try and boost up self-esteem, or to try and gain self-sufficiency. All that is needed comes from Christ, who has made you His own, redeemed you by His blood, and by His spirit, sanctifies and keeps you in the one true faith. You are not a reed swaying in the wind. When the hardship, the trouble, the heartache, the sadness, the grief of this life come and even the guilt comes as you consider your sins, what you have are the works of Christ, and his Words, and His promises, His Body, His Blood, His death, His life. Himself. He is the Coming one, who has come to bring comfort to His people. There is no one else to go looking for. Amen