Trinity 16, 2016
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
How does God interact with you?
How does He speak to you?
How do you know what God wants?
What is God’s will for your life?
And are you sure?
These questions all have simple answers, but we turn them into a kind of torture of the soul.
God interacts with you according to His Word. You don’t get special feelings from God. You don’t, even every now and again, get a divine hunch. God speaks to us by His Word alone.
And how do you know what God wants?
You don’t have to guess. He tells us: the good and gracious will of God is done whenever He breaks and hinders the evil plans and purposes of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come.
That is, God’s will is the forgiveness of sins in Christ for all.
If He hasn’t spoken on the matter, you are free.
Am I sure? Yes, of course.
God doesn’t speak to us in feelings.
God doesn’t speak to us by accident.
“In many and various ways God spoke to the people of old by the prophets. But now, in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1).
We are so very prone to find and put meaning in meaningless things. And we are so very prone to lose and ignore the truth when the truth is right in front of our nose.
What I mean is this:
Today, the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity, has as the gospel reading, Luke 7:11-17, where Jesus raises a woman’s son.
In the Three Year lectionary, this year, Sunday, June 5 was the Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 5, according to that lectionary, where Luke 7:11-17 is read.
June 4 was the day my brother died.
And June 5, in the Lutheran church in Sikeston, Jesus raised the woman’s son.
It’s tempting to think that such things are divinely given, that, in an extraordinary way, God is speaking directly to us.
So that you hear me rightly, make sure you hear what I’m saying: God does speak to us. He speaks to us through the proclamation of His Word. But He didn’t pull divine strings and schedule Proper 5 to coincide with my brother’s death.
I say that for two reasons:
One, we don’t confirm God’s existence or His will or His love by searching for and finding coincidences. That’s present day sign-seeking. You want to convince yourself that God is speaking to you in extraordinary ways, so every little coincidence is evidence that God is doing something.
That’s not faith.
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is not wanting and getting a sign that makes you feel better about where you are in life.
And two, it’s unnecessary. You don’t need signs. Signs, Jesus says, are what an evil and adulterous generation seeks after.
One of the best theological arguments for following a lectionary, any lectionary, is that God’s Word is always relevant. It always speaks to us, because it’s always speaking to sinners. The Law is always being spoken to those who rejoice in their sins. The Gospel is always being spoken to those who confess their sins and repent. Whatever you read in the Bible, whatever you study, whatever it is, it’s relevant, because it teaches you something about God and His Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit who’s at work in the Word proclaimed. As we studied recently, that’s how you read the Old Testament: as a collection of books that teach Jesus.
So, for June 5th of this year, any verse in the Bible, any lesson, that talks about the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection, eternal life, Baptism, repentance, or faith would’ve been perfectly on point. And since that’s all the Bible deals with, the story of our salvation in Christ, God was not, on June 5th, speaking in an extraordinary way.
He was speaking in a very ordinary way. His ordinary way. And that’s good. But we don’t like it.
We love when Jesus raises the widow’s son, “Young man, I say to you, arise” (Luke 7:14). We love that Jesus gives the son back to his mother (cf. Luke 17:15). We even hear Jesus say to the widow, “Do not weep” (Luke 17:13), and we wish He would say such a thing to us, in our grief, during our worst days.
If God can speak to us in extraordinary ways, if He pulls divine strings to get a fresh message to us, but He occasionally chooses not to, that must mean He wants you to feel terrible (or He’s not omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. See, that’s the philosophical Problem of Evil, again).
Or—perhaps—God spoke in many and various ways to the people of old. And now He has spoken to us by His Word.
When Jesus raises the widow’s son, it’s no promise that your son won’t die. It’s certainly not a promise that your son, who has died, will get back up prior to the resurrection.
We know what the resurrection is, but, until then, we know what death is, too.
We like it, in the Bible, when God deals with His people in peculiar ways. We like the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel, the talking donkey in Numbers. We remember the bronze serpent, the den of lions, the fiery furnace, Goliath, and Jesus raising the widow’s son.
Why doesn’t He do that anymore? Why do we have to sit and listen to yet another sermon when God, Himself, could show us.
We all want that from time to time. But to want that, to want the extraordinary, you have to ignore the love that God has given simply, the love that He has plainly shown.
“God [has shown] his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
You need nothing more.
No one has ever needed anything more than that.
In fact, that’s all that we preach: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:22-23).
I know church marquees can be really cheesy, but I saw one in college that I thought was great: “God doesn’t choose the qualified. He qualifies the chosen.”
I like that.
And I think the other side of that marquee should read, “God doesn’t speak to us on accident. He has spoken to us by His Son.”
You don’t have to wonder if God is speaking, you don’t have to wonder where He speaks, you don’t have to guess or worry or struggle or decide. You only have to hear. And believe.
God Himself interacts with you by means of ordinary things. Water, Word, Bread, Wine, and sinful, stubborn pastors.
God speaks to you, not through your stomach, not through dreams, not by the wind, or that feeling you get sometimes which may or may not be gas, God speaks to you through His Word.
And for your comfort, for the comfort of the whole word, God makes it very plain what He wants for us all:
Jesus shows us God’s will in raising the dead: God desires not our death but our life. Man was created to live with God not die with the devil.
And so that you would live forever, in perfect joy and peace, sins forgiven, God sent His Son into our flesh to bear our sin and be our savior.
Jesus bloody sacrifice and death forgives your sins and the sins of the whole world. Hear these words and believe them. That’s what God wants of you.
Of that we can be perfectly sure.
“God has visited His people” (Luke 7:16).
Not in many and various ways…
In the one Man, Jesus Christ, God has visited His people and redeemed them.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!