S-1303 3SIL/3B 3/11/12 Hymns: (O) #5; (S) #333; L.S #18; #57; #8 SOD (C) #354
Text: Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; John 2:13-22
Theme: “A Letter of Instruction” (1 Cor. 1:22-25) 3rd of sermon series “Letters For Lent”
Question: “Are you easily instructed?” Armour, SD.
In the name Jesus, Amen! The text for the 3rd Sunday in Lent is the Epistle Lesson. “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:22-25).
Saints in Christ, the sermon theme for today is: “A Letter of Instruction.” With that in mind, I share with you this Chinese proverb: “Give me a fish and feed me for a day, teach me to fish and feed me for a life-time.” It is vitally important for us as Christians to be taught, not only to fish to feed ourselves and family, but more significantly, to be taught the Truth of Scriptures that feeds us for eternity.
The problem is we are a people who are not well versed in the Bible, its meaning and what it is that we believe, teach and confess as Lutheran Christians. I would venture to say that many of you can’t give a clear distinction between our church body and other Lutheran bodies. Many don’t know what the Catholics believe and why we don’t commune at their table. Many can’t clearly explain why we practice the very loving and Biblical doctrine of close communion; why we don’t have women pastors; why our liturgy is so important; and why we are different in our teachings from other Christian denominations.
Let me tell you, that in the middle of the 19th Century, the founding fathers of our church body decided to be aloof, arrogant, separate, distant, excluded and so haughty that they didn’t want anyone to be part of their church body or come to the Lord’s Table. These German Lutherans didn’t want to associate with anyone and keep the sweet message of the Gospel just for themselves. That is why they decided to practice close communion. PAUSE.
If you believe what I just told you about our founding fathers, then I have some ocean-side property for sale. (Smile).
Often times, we don’t know the truth, nor do we want to be instructed to learn the truth. At times we make things up pretending we know it all. I share this story with you to make my point clear.
In the early 1900, a lively looking attendant stood on the rear platform of a sleeping-car in the Pennsylvania station when a fussy and grumpy old man clambered up the steps. He stopped at the door, puffed for a moment, and then turned to the young man in uniform. “Porter,” he said. “I’m going to St. Louis, to the Fair. I want to be well taken care of. I pay for it. Do you understand?” “Yes, sir, but—” The old man started up again, “Never mind any ‘buts.’ You listen to what I say. Keep the train boys away from me. Dust me off whenever I want you to. Give me an extra blanket, and if there is any one in the bunk above me put him in another room. I want you to—”
The attendant said, “But sir—”. The old man once again silenced him saying, “Young man, when I’m giving instructions I prefer to do the talking myself. You do as I say. Here is $5.00. I don’t want anyone to bother me. Not a word sir, you understand?” The train was starting to leave. The attendant pocketed the bill with a smile and swung himself to the ground. “All right, boss!” he shouted. “You can do the talking if you want to. I’m terribly sorry you wouldn’t let me tell you—but I am not going on that train.” PAUSE.
How often do we find ourselves like this grumpy old man doing the speaking but not willing to listen to others? Certainly, we don’t want to be instructed. And the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. We don’t want to be taught, because our hearts are sinful and want to be the master of our destination.
But it is during Lent that we realize that we need a Savior. It is during Lent that we see our falling sinful nature. It is during Lent that we understand how terrible sin is and what it does for us as it pushes us away from our holy God.
I want all of you to do an exercise as I instruct you. Take two fingers like this. First, God is God and the second, we are not. That was the way it was in the Garden of Eden until sin came into the picture and now the fingers are inverted. Now I am God and He is not. That is the definition of sin, all sin. I will be in control, not God. I will live my life according to my way, not God’s. I will be boss, not God. Repentance is bringing the fingers back to their original position, and of course, only God the Holy Spirit can bring about that change. God is still God and I am not.
That is what we have in the text before us today. Even the people at the time of St. Paul, had it all mixed up and were not willing to be instructed. That is what He told them: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
Indeed, the Jews demand sign and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles. The cross is an instrument of healing but only to those who believe its message. The cross is the bridge that connects redeemed people with a holy God. The cross is the message that brings about forgiveness and peace between God and man by the Man Jesus Christ. To many it is nothing but showing a weak Savior who died at the hands of Roman soldiers. To many it is an embarrassment. To many it is nothing but foolishness.
Everything that we teach, believe and confess flows from the cross and the empty tomb. Everything that we carry out in this house of worship is based on Jesus’ life and His living Word. People may not believe it, but we do. People may not understand it, but we have the Holy Spirit to help us gain His wisdom. People may not like it and neither do we, but for us to grow in the knowledge and grace of God, we need Him in our life. (Go back to the hand sign again). It is during Lent that we come to our senses. During Lent we acknowledge our sinfulness and seek His forgiveness. During Lent the Holy Spirit helps us let God be God and me be me. During Lent we walk with Jesus, see Him bruised and bloodied for our sake. During Lent we, by the power of the Holy Spirit, learn more and more of what it is that He has done to free us from the devil’s strong hold.
What a privilege to know that our wisdom, our smarts is nothing but foolishness in the sight of God. What a privilege that we have the written Word of God, to read it and be instructed by it. What a privilege to know that the Letter of Instruction from Paul is one that will draw us to a closer walk with Jesus. What a blessing to be here and be instructed in those things that lead to eternal life.
As we are instructed we learn. As we learn we become instructors. We are blessed, honored and privileged to be in the Lord’s house so that we become Letters of instructions to those around us. The Holy Spirit makes you a teacher of His blessed Word so that you can speak with confidence about what it is that saves us, what it is that draws us to Him and what it is that separates us from Him.
Today, I encourage you and implore you in the name of the loving Savior, who died and rose for you to be that kind of letter. Study His Word, learn His Word and grow through His Word and then teach it to your family, friend and neighbor.
May we be faithful in being willing to be instructed in His truth and teachers of this truth? Amen.
Now the peace…
SOLI DEO GLORIA