Sunday, September 11, 2011

Be Opened!

Dear People of Trinity,

If you would like to hear the sermon preached at Trinity Lutheran Church in Layton, Utah for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity, "Be Opened!" click on this MP3 audio link. The audio includes the Hymn of the Day, LSB #545, "Word of God, Come Down to Earth." The sermon begins at the 2:30 mark.

Have a great week in Christ as He has commanded heaven to "Be Opened!" to you.

A servant of the Word and His folk,
Pastor Hering

Here is the preaching manuscript if you prefer to read along or read instead. Thanks to Rev. Dean Kavouras (Pastor at Christ Lutheran Church, Cleveland; Chaplain Cleveland Emergency Services and FBI - Cleveland Division) for his 9/11 observations.

Dear people of Trinity,

Some will never forget what they were doing on September 11, 2011, and for others (like me) it was all a blur. Certainly, as Americans, our lives have never been the same.

And yet, as Christians, we have never known another way and will not know any other way until our Lord comes again.

Matthew 24:6-8: And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

As Americans today we want and need to remember the many who died and their survivors who suffered such great loss—that these men and women are among God’s gifts to us, as is our country and our laws, by which we live in relative peace and security even in these times of economic uncertainty.

As Christians we want and need to remember the One who died that we might live. Remember not just as some mental exercise or emotional experience, but as an ongoing work of our Lord by which He unites us to Him in a state of forgiveness that surrounds us with the very kingdom of heaven and all its hosts of angels to protect us from the evil one, and saints who rejoice with us in singing thanks and praise to God in Christ Jesus.

As Americans today we want and need to know that we will always respond when our people are threatened—and we want the world to be reminded of that as well.

As Christians we want and need to know our Lord is here to respond to our needs of daily bread for the body and the bread of life to sustain our faith—and our neighbors and indeed the world needs us to bring those things to them as well.

As Americans today we want and need to pay tribute to those who answered that call 10 years ago, who ran into the peril as everyone else was running out.

As Christians we want and need to give thanks to the One Who not only provided those that answered the call on 9/11/2001, but who has saved us from an eternity of 9/11 infernos and continues to walk with us through and protect us in the Valley of the Shadow of death.

As Americans we want and need to be ever vigilant and remember 9/11 was no one day deal, no mere random incident, but the work of those who want to see us gone.

As Christians we want and need to be ever vigilant and remember the evil one still prowls around like a hungry lion seeking whom He may devour.

As Americans we want and need the hope of gaining, by God’s gracious blessing, a degree of closure if possible, and the power to move forward if we can.

As Christians we want and need the hope of gaining, by God’s gracious blessing, an ultimate victory over death and the grave and attaining eternal life in the kingdom of heaven.

We heard last week, the Lord lifts up the lowly and only the lowly to give them this forever victory and kingdom. Now, as we remember 9/11/2001, God reminds us that as great a country as the United States is, it is not forever. And while we always should give thanks to Him for our nation and pray for our leaders and those who serve to protect us at home and abroad, we have an infinitely more desperate need and greater nation to which we belong.

This need is fulfilled and this nation of heaven is constituted for us only in Christ’s holy Christian church. Like 9/11 this no one day deal. Just like we, as Americans, need continual protection from our enemies abroad and even from our own selves within.

So our dear Lord provides it through the preaching and sacraments of His Word by which He continues to protect us and keep us in His kingdom of heaven until He comes again on the Last Day to give us that kingdom in the flesh.

And because this kingdom and protection of God comes to us only by the Word, we have the same need and want as the deaf mute of our Gospel text today.

TEXT: Mark 7:31–37 31[Jesus] returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.”

Last week the tax collector and little Kaden showed us how the Lord lifts up the lowly and only the lowly. Now today, 9/11, our Gospel not only shows us the healing of one deaf and mute 2000 years ago, but speaks God’s Word to us today so that our sinful Ears, Mouths, Hearts, and even heaven itself “Be opened” to us now.

A sinner cannot come to know or believe in God by his own free will any more than a deaf man can will himself to hear. And just as Jesus used His fingers and saliva to open up a deaf man’s ears and loose his tongue, so He uses earthly means of the preached Word and Sacraments to open up dead hearts and loose tongues to confess sins and faith.

Because our flesh is attacked by the evil one and we are enclosed by the world every minute of every day, the “Be opened!” command and touch of our Lord is something that we continue to need until the day we leave this sinful flesh behind in the grave. So our risen and ascended Lord sends the Holy Spirit to deliver the proclamation by which Jesus touches our flesh every Sabbath and whenever and wherever the Word of forgiveness of sins in Him and His name is delivered and received in faith.

Dear people of Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ is touching your ears, your tongues, and your hearts today and commanding them to, “Be opened!” so that “you [are able to] confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, [and] be saved.”

He is also commanding the kingdom of heaven to, “Be opened!” and giving you eternal life by forgiving you all your sins --in the name of the Father ,and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

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