Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mark 9:30-37 Pentecost 19

A truly great person is someone who puts the needs of others first. 
This is something we both do and don’t understand.  A woman at one of our Lutheran churches in Tennessee received the good news that she was pregnant, and then the bad news that she had cancer.  The doctors told her that they would have to start chemo therapy immediately to save her life, but that would also mean that she would have to have an abortion.  She told the doctors that the chemo would start after the baby was born.  I don’t know yet if she will live or not.  We understand the greatness of that mother’s self-sacrifice.  
Christ was going to give up his life too, for many more than just one, and his death would save us from death forever.  We understand the greatness of that, at least in part.  But when he was telling his disciples about it, they didn’t understand. They too busy trying to make themselves look great. As they were arguing, Jesus started talking about his powerlessness and humility.  “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.”
What was all this talk about death, they must have wondered.  Was   Jesus just having a bad day?
Later, when they arrived at a house in Capernaum, Jesus asked them what they had been talking about along the way.  He knew.  And they felt that their prideful boasting along the way had been wrong, so they didn’t say anything.  Their thoughts about greatness were so different from God’s thoughts.  
It happens to us, too.  Sure, sometimes we understand the greatness of putting others first, but a lot of times we don’t.  When feelings are hurt, whose are more important—yours, or the other person’s?  When money gets tight, who gets cut out of the budget—yourself and the things you like, or your God who asks you to thank him with your offerings?  If we don’t at least get a warm fuzzy feeling from making the sacrifice, we might not do it.
Jesus teaches us true greatness in the Kingdom of God.  True greatness is humility, because it takes humility to truly understand what Christ’s sacrifice means for you, and it takes humility to truly be able to serve others.  Hear his words from the Gospel of Mark:
They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.”  But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.   They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?”  But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
 He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them,  “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
Mark 9:30-37

True Greatness in God’s Kingdom

1.  True greatness for the disciples
When the disciples were all wrapped up in their discussion of being the greatest, they were not ready to understand what Jesus was telling them.  Each was trying to prove why he deserved to have a powerful position in God’s kingdom.  Then, when Jesus tried to tell them about his suffering and death, they were confused.  They didn’t understand why he had to die, and we hear that they were afraid to ask him.  They were trying to prove that they were great, and no one wanted to be exposed as the fool who didn’t understand.  They kept their mouths shut, and so their pride prevented them from understanding how Jesus’ death would be the greatest and most powerful act of his kingdom.  Their pride stopped them from understanding, so they could not be truly great in God’s kingdom at that time.
Then Jesus showed them how unreachable true greatness was for them, if they were going to be such proud, self-seeking disciples.   He said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”  Now how is a person supposed to do that, if he has to be concerned about making himself great in the kingdom of God?  Jesus could put other’s first, because he was the Son of God, and no one was going to say he didn’t belong in heaven.  But, apparently, the felt they had to prove why they belonged with Jesus and why they deserved a position of honor.  At the time, they were too preoccupied with themselves to be concerned with the needs of others.  At the time, they couldn’t be truly great.
Jesus took a little child in his arms, and showed his disciples what true greatness in God’s kingdom looks like.  That little child was great, so great that anyone who welcomed him would be welcoming Jesus himself.  That makes this little child someone very important in God’s kingdom—like an ambassador maybe.  If you welcome an ambassador who is sent by a king, it is like you are welcoming the king himself.
What made the little child so great?  He didn’t have anything to offer Jesus.  He couldn’t do any great service.  He couldn’t offer any great advice.  He hadn’t done any miracles by Jesus’ power.  He hadn’t even left everything to follow Jesus, like the disciples had.  He was simply there, believing that Jesus loved him, only because Jesus said so.  That humble attitude made him truly great in the Kingdom of God.
If the disciples would be humble, like that child, they would be truly great in God’s eyes too.  They wouldn’t be worried about their position.  In humility, they would be able to admit their faults and failures, and understand that Jesus would die to save them, even though they weren’t the perfect disciples.  In fact, he would die because they weren’t perfect, because they were sinners.  They would know that God loves and honors them not because of anything they had done, but simply because of what Jesus has done for them.  Then, since they wouldn’t have to worry about themselves, they would be able to be concerned with serving others. 
True greatness in the kingdom of God is humility, because it takes humility to truly understand what Christ’s sacrifice means for you, and it takes humility to truly be able to serve others.  Let’s think about how important that same childlike humility is for your greatness in the kingdom of God.

2.    True greatness for you
When you are young, humility means that you don’t have to worry about being good enough.  Its ok if you are not the coolest kid in school, or not the smartest.  You don’t need to be the best athlete to be a valuable person.  Hopefully your parents will think you are valuable just for who you are—but if not, you don’t even have to prove yourself to your parents.  You have Jesus, who takes you in his arms and tells you that you are great.  If you will be humble enough to admit that you have faults, then you will know that Jesus loves you, even though you are not perfect, and even if you haven’t done anything special for him.  He loved you enough to die for you, to take away your sins.  You don’t have to prove that you are worth his effort.  He died for you, just the way you are, with all your sins and faults and failures.
Now, if you know how great you are to Jesus, you don’t have to worry about making yourself look great.  You don’t need to join in the gossip.  You don’t need to cut someone else down to make yourself look better.  You can stand up for those people and protect them, even though it might mean that everyone will make fun of you.  It doesn’t matter, because you are great in God’s sight.
When you grow older, get a job, and maybe get married and have a family of your own, you still don’t have to prove yourself.  You don’t have to be the perfect parent, the perfect spouse, or the perfect worker.  Humility means that don’t have to be right all the time.  If you are willing to confess your sins and admit your faults and failures, you will understand how greatly Jesus loves you.  Yes, you should know better, but you don’t.  Yes, you should do better, but you don’t.  Still, he loves you just like he did when you were a child, because his love for you is not based on anything you do for him.  He just plain loves you, and he gave himself up on the cross to save you from your sins.  He did that even though he knew what all your faults and failures would be.
Now, if you know how great you are to Jesus, you don’t have to worry about making yourself look great.  At work or in the home, when someone fires a few harsh criticisms your way, you can respond with patience and gentleness, instead of firing back and making the problem worse.  You can forget about your own hurt feelings and concern yourself with the other person’s feelings, because you don’t need to justify yourself.  Your greatness is secure.  You are great in God’s sight in spite of your faults and failures, because of Jesus.
Because you are great in God’s sight, you can make sacrifices when your work and family life conflict.  When you absolutely need to be at work, it’s ok, because you don’t need to be the perfect parent and spouse to be great in God’s sight.  But also, when you need to be at home, its ok to give up a certain promotion or not work so many overtime hours, because you don’t need to be the perfect worker.  Yes, your career could be better if you spent all your time at work, and your family life could be better if you spent all your time at home, but you can’t do both, and you don’t have to.  You don’t have to be perfect.  Confess your sins, admit your faults and failures, because Jesus loved and died for the man who is not the perfect husband, father, or worker.  He loved and died for the woman who is not the perfect wife, mother, and worker.  Now since you don’t have to justify yourself in the things you do, you are free to be concerned about the needs of your spouse or children, and do what is best for them—whether that means you need to stay at work for them, or be at home for them.
When you get old, humility means that you don’t have to be the perfect wise old sage, whom everyone listens to and appreciates.  And you don’t have to have the abilities that you used to have in order to be a valuable person.  Jesus loves you and died for you, even if you can’t do anything special for him right now.  He died to save you, just the way you are, even with all the faults and failures of your whole life. 
Now, if you know how great you are to Jesus, you don’t have to worry about making yourself look great.  Think about how Jesus also was not valued nearly as much as he ought to have been.  His words, too, fell on deaf ears far too often.  And yet, he gave his life for all of us, even the ones who did not listen.   You can give yourself up for people who don’t value you and don’t listen to you too, because you are already great in God’s sight.   You don’t need to be the voice of authority.  You don’t need people to be persuaded by what you say just because you say so, no matter how much younger than you they are.  You can give up all that greatness for yourself, and give yourself to others.  Be the quiet voice of reason, tactfully and patiently leading others to see what you see.  After all, you already have all the greatness you need.  With all your faults and failures, Jesus puts his arms around you and calls you great.

Humility and greatness go hand in hand in God’s kingdom.  You need humility to understand that it is not your own goodness that caused God to love you.  He just did, and he proved it when he died to save you on the cross.   You need humility to let go of yourself now, because you are already great in God’s sight.  In humility, put yourself last and others first.  It’s Christ’s sacrifice of himself for your salvation, and your sacrifice of yourself for the needs of others.  This is true greatness in God’s kingdom.  Amen.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Isaiah 50:4-10 Pentecost 17

Pentecost 17                                                     September 23, 2012
Isaiah 50:4-10

Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must take up his cross and follow me.  His point was that your Christian life is going to be like carrying a cross.  It will sometimes be painful, so painful that you want to give up.  It may look like there is no one on your side, and you may perhaps even feel like God himself is not helping you.  At times like that, life can seem very dark.
When you’re walking in the dark, it’s always good to know that someone is with you. Christ is with us, and he has been there before.  He experienced pain.  He knew the pain of disappointment, because all of his work amounted to so few followers.  He knew the pain of being abandoned by all, even those closest to him.  He felt the physical pain of the beatings, the thorns, and the nails.  Then he felt the pain of knowing that God had left him too.
Through the prophet Isaiah, Jesus gives us some insight into what he was thinking when he suffered, and an encouragement for us in our suffering.  Now, since Jesus is God, he must know everything, but he talks as if he had learned something from his suffering.  I think this is what he meant: He has experienced what we suffer, and now it isn’t just that he knows how to help us.  He knows from experience.  When you are suffering, if someone tries to sympathize or offer advice, you might think, ‘He doesn’t even know what I am going through.’”  A person might have even thought that God doesn’t understand, because God hasn’t suffered like we do.  He is God.  He doesn’t suffer.  Now, in Jesus, we see that God has suffered.  He has experienced it, and he knows how to help. This is his advice to you when you walk in darkness: Trust in God.

The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.  He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.
The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back.  I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.  Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced.  Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.  He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me?  Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me!  It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me. Who is he that will condemn me?  They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up.  Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant?
Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.
Isaiah 50:4-10

When you walk in darkness, trust in God.

1.  How do you know that God will vindicate you?
Maybe we should back up a step first—do you even want God to vindicate you?  It sounds painful.  What does it mean?  The meaning in Webster’s dictionary that comes closest to what is meant here is this: “to provide justification or defense.“  So, yes, we want God to vindicate us when we suffer.  We want him to prove that we have not deserved this difficult life.
When Christ was suffering, he put his hope in God, and God vindicated him.  God raised him from the dead, proving that he had not deserved to suffer and die.  Romans 1:4 says that “he was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead.”
Now if Christ trusted that God would vindicate him, and God came through for him, we should too.  But it isn’t as simple as that.  Of course Christ could trust that God would vindicate him.  He never actually did anything wrong.  We do.  We have sinned against God and man.  There are always reasons why we deserve the difficult, disappointing life we get.
When you find yourself mired in the disappointment of things not working out the way you hoped, you have to ask yourself if you maybe didn’t deserve it.  Have you been the best parent you could be?  Have you been selfless and patient, loving but firm?  Have you done what God would do, if he were in your place?  Or if the disappointment is that you are not the person you want to be, could it be your fault, because you have not obeyed God and your parents?  When you are at school, on the sports field, or in your career, have you been as faithful and energetic as you should be, or have you been lazy with your time and talents?  Have you carried your faith with you to your school, to your sports, or to your career?  If you haven’t done that and done it perfectly, why would you deserve God’s blessing?  When you are frustrated that the nations politicians are destroying Christian values, you have to ask yourself how faithfully you have fought for those same values.  How well have you even taught those values to your children?  If you have failed there, then you have no right to complain about what God is letting the rest of the country do.  On top of all that, when your life is dark you may doubt whether or not God even cares to help.  We may scoff at the idea of praying, because in the darkness of our troubles prayer doesn’t seem to help. We are the ones whose faithfulness and good nature should be in doubt, not God’s.  He is not the one who is sinful.  Now if, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, we have already written him off as a God who doesn’t care, we would have to ask why in the world he would ever help us?
Christ has felt our pain.  He knew the pain of disappointment.  Everyone was disappointed in him.  He was not the Savior they wanted him to be.  They wanted a king to rule in power.  He came to serve us by his suffering and death.  For all of his work, so few believed, and so few followed.   Christ knew the pain of being abandoned.  Even those who followed him left him when he needed them most, when he was suffering in the Garden.  His friend Judas betrayed him.  Even God left him all alone to suffer on the cross.  Christ knew every pain that we feel, and it was worse for him.  He truly did nothing to deserve it.  Through all of that, he trusted in God and God vindicated him.  God proved that Christ deserved none of it, because he raised him from the dead.  Now his advice to you is this: “Trust in God.” 
Trust in God, because Christ was not suffering for his own sins.  He didn’t have any.  He was suffering to take away yours.  Like John the Baptist said, he is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  It isn’t that you don’t sin anymore.  It’s that he has taken your sins away from God’s sight.  Believe this, and when God looks at you he will not see sin anymore.  Trust in God, because Christ has taken away your sins.  Though you may struggle and suffer as a Christian, God will vindicate you.

2. But how will you bear up under your suffering?
It seems like too much for you to take.  You don’t know how your faith will hold firm when it just looks so much like God doesn’t actually care.  How can you believe that your sins are forgiven when it looks like God is so far away?  Christ’s advice is this: Trust in God, because it was God’s will that Christ suffer first and then enter into glory.  For the Christian who follows Christ, God’s will leads down the same road.  First the suffering; then the glory of eternal life in heaven.
As Christians we suffer and struggle with our old sinful nature.  As I said before, Christ has taken our sins out of God’s sight, but we still struggle with the desire to sin more.  Many times we look and feel so helpless to resist the temptations to commit the same old sins.  We might feel like being a Christian has made no difference in our lives.  Remember Christ, who looked so helpless to resist what sinful men did to him.  God showed his power, though, when he raised Christ from the dead.  God will show the powerful change he has begun in you too, when he raises you from the dead.  You will be perfect, and you will never sin again.  For now, struggle and suffer patiently when you are tempted, and trust that God will vindicate you.  In the resurrection, he will show how true it is that your sins have been taken from you.
As Christians, we struggle with the futility of our lives.  All our efforts seem to accomplish so little sometimes. Where is the glory of being a Christian and having God on our side?  Remember Christ, whose efforts during his life seemed to accomplish so little.  So few followed.  We don’t see it that way, though.  To us, it is glorious.  When his life of seeming futility was over, God revealed the glory in it all.  His life and death are the payment for our sins, and not only for ours, but for the sins of the world. His advice to you is “trust in God,” because in the end it will be worth it.  You are accomplishing something great and glorious.  Every day that you live, God is displaying his grace in you and in everything that you do.  You are part of his masterpiece.  After this life of struggle and suffering is over, you will see how glorious your life really is.
As Christians, we struggle with persecution.  When we do carry our faith out into our lives as we should, we are going to catch some hostility because of it.  Where is God to defend us?  Why doesn’t he open up the heavens and tell everyone to start believing? That would shut them up.  Remember that Christ, too, was persecuted.  They crucified him because they did not accept him.  But he was also vindicated—God the Father appointed him to be judge over all creation, and he will return to judge all who have not believed in him.  God will vindicate you too.  When Christ returns to judge, those who persecute us will be judged.  Jesus said, “Whoever rejects you, rejects me.”  Trust in God, and stand up for your faith, because glory is waiting for you after your suffering.  Jesus also said, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, him will I acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”
As Christians, the last struggle we have is our own mortality.  We grow old and weak.  Everyone else leaves, and it may seem that God has forgotten you too.  Some people may eventually say it is time to ‘die with dignity,’ but since you are a Christian you must wait patiently for God to take you.  And so you wait, but the days drag on.  Where is the glory of being a Christian?  How will God vindicate you here?  Remember Christ.  He too, had to drink the cup God gave him to the last drop.  He might have wished that it had ended sooner, but it was not God’s will.  But after he had done all that God asked, then he was glorified as Savior and King in his resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven.  His advice to you is this: Trust God, that when this is all over and you have lived every day that he has asked you to live, you will be richly rewarded.

Everything that we suffer, Christ suffered too, and his suffering encourages us to press on.  Through his suffering he trusted in God to vindicate him, and God did.  God the Father showed everyone that Christ did not deserve his suffering when he raised Christ from the dead.  He will do the same for us, because in Christ we do not deserve our suffering either.  Christ’s suffering took our sins away.  God sees Christ in us, and he considers us to be holy with him.  Even though you suffer now, trust that God will stand by you.  We will be raised from the dead just like Jesus was, and given glory in heaven.  Just like Jesus, when you walk in darkness, trust in God.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mark 7:31-37 Pentecost 16

Hopeless—the deaf man in the Gospel must have felt hopeless.  He couldn’t communicate with anyone.  He couldn’t understand what they were saying, and they couldn’t understand him.  In that day before hearing aids and sign language and braille, this man was all alone, and he could see no hope for improvement.
I think, at least a little, we can all identify with this man.  You’ve all experienced hopelessness.  The world we live in is not the “very good” world that God created in the beginning.  Awful things happen in this world.  Awful people live here.  There are awful, self-centered thoughts in our own hearts.
You must remember the hopeless feeling you felt as you saw what awful sinful people had done on September 11, 2001.  There was nothing you could do to help while the towers fell and people died.
This last week I saw hopelessness downtown.  I was there for jury duty, and during my lunch in the park I saw all of these helpless homeless people sitting in the shade of the park.   Perhaps only a few feet away some of the wealthiest people in society were walking past or stopping to eat their lunch.  They didn’t seem to notice the poor.  I suppose they felt like there was nothing they could do to help.   I wonder how the homeless people felt—they looked like they felt hopeless. 
It seems that the older a person gets, the more you find personal troubles that make you feel hopeless.  It may be that you feel yourself losing your mind, losing your eyesight or hearing, or losing your health in general.  You can’t stop what is happening.  It makes you feel hopeless.  You go to the doctors, and some of the things they do seem to help for a while.  But in time your health goes from bad to worse, and there is nothing the doctors can do to stop that.  After all, as they say, you’re not getting any younger.
The man in the Gospel who felt so hopeless because he could not hear and could hardly talk finally found a doctor who could truly help him.

Jesus is the Doctor Who Can Truly Help

I invite you to see this story from the deaf man’s perspective.  This man who had been deaf and could not talk probably was used to everyone ignoring him because of his problem.  He was used to the frustration of trying to communicate when no one could understand what he was trying to say.  He probably had tried going to doctors, but they had not been able to help him.  Now, on this one day that Mark tells us about, some people, probably his family, brought him with them.  He didn’t know where they were going, but he could tell they were excited.  They brought him up to a man in the middle of a crowd of people.  The whole crowd was excited.  The people who brought him there said something to the important man, and this important man took him off to the side by himself.  The man put his fingers into the deaf man’s ears—he knew and he cared about what was wrong.  He spit—the deaf man had seen other doctors use spit when they were trying to heal him.  So this important man must be a doctor, and he was going to try to heal his ears.  The doctor touched the deaf man’s tongue—he was going to fix that problem too.  The doctor looked up to heaven and the deaf man understood that this doctor was going to use the power of God to heal him.  The divine doctor took a deep breath and said something—and the deaf man noticed that the doctor had said something because his chest heaved with a great sigh and he could easily read the word on the doctor’s lips, “Ephphatha.”  Instantly the deaf man could hear perfectly again, and his tongue could speak perfectly.  He knew exactly how it had happened too—this was no coincidence.  There was no fancy medicine involved.  The doctor had done this deliberately, and he had done it by the power of God and the power in the words of his mouth.   He knew that this was no ordinary doctor, and he would find out that this was Jesus.
Still, that man in the gospel would lose his hearing again and his ability to speak, when he would grow old like we all do and finally die.  Like all of us, he had a deeper problem.  I hope he learned to trust Jesus to cure his real problem too, just like he had cured the symptoms.  The powerful Word of Jesus our Doctor helps because he cures the symptoms and the real problem.
1.  His Word Cures the Symptoms.
In the Gospel reading we see Jesus, the doctor who can help. 
God never intended for us to get sick.  He created our bodies to function perfectly, and never grow old, but sin has ruined it.  All of our sickness and old age are symptoms of the sin inside of us that has ruined us.  But God can fix it.  Jesus is God, and he came to earth to save you. 
He can take away all your troubles.  He can restore your lost vision and lost hearing.  If you lose a part of your body he can give that back to you.  He can give you back the mind that you feel slipping away.  With the power of his word he made a deaf man hear, and he did it so well that this man could speak perfectly right away, without having to learn how to talk again like we might have expected.  He did it all by the power of his word, because he is God, and what he says happens.
We see that Jesus wants to help you.  You may feel no special reason for God’s attention, but there was no special reason why Jesus would help this deaf man either.  He was not a Jew.  He lived in the Decapolis.  Jesus had just explained to a non-Jewish woman that he had been sent to the Jews, and was under no obligation to help people like her who were not Jews.  But Jesus did help that woman, and he helped this man too.  God cares about all people, and he cares about all of our sufferings.  Jesus wants to help you.
In fact, he commanded us to pray to him when we are sick or in trouble, because he cares and he wants to help.  Through the words of James he tells us,
13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.   (James 5:13-16)

Perhaps God will choose to relieve your suffering now, or perhaps he will not.  We do know that in the end he will take away all our suffering.  He is preparing a place for us in heaven, and he will return to take us there.  He gives us a glimpse of that place in Revelation 22, where he describes the city of heaven.  In this city there is a river flowing from the throne of God, and that river gives eternal life to all who live there.  By the river there is a tree of life, and we hear that its leaves are for the healing of the nations.   You aren’t going to have any of those things that make you feel hopeless.  We will all be healed in heaven.
Now if Jesus, the doctor who can help, is going to get us to heaven, he is going to need to fix the bigger problem that we all have—our sinfulness.   He could heal all our diseases and give you your youth back today, but you would still have to die one day because of sin.  It is the fate of all sinful people who live on this sinful world.  We must die.  As God said in the Bible, “The soul that sins is the one that will die.” And “the wages of sin is death.”  All of your sicknesses and troubles are only symptoms of the real problem. Without the healing that Jesus gives, this would be the most hopeless problem of all.  As much as you try to get rid of your greed and selfishness, your anger, malice, lust, and laziness, your sinful heart finds a way to push those sins to the surface again.  We are hopeless to do anything to get rid of our sinfulness. 
2.  Jesus is the doctor who cures our real problem.
Jesus takes away the guilt of our sin, and he gives us the medicine of eternal life.  He has been doing it here this morning.  Open your bulletins and see where Jesus has been healing you.
We begin on page two with the Invocation, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Those words remind us of the baptism we received, and by that baptism God gave us the right to consider ourselves children of God, and to expect that God will forgive our sins and bring us to heaven. Martin Luther wrote about Baptism in the Catechism, “Baptism works forgiveness of sin, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.”  And it does this because the powerful word of Jesus our doctor has said that this should happen.  In Mark 16 Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”  When we come to worship, we begin by remembering our baptism, because that is where Jesus gave us healing for our real problem, the problem of our sins.
After the Invocation we confess our sins, and then hear the pastor tell us that our sins are forgiven.  When the pastor tells you that your sins are forgiven, he says this is the word of Christ.  “Hear the Word of Christ through his called servant: I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  Christ commanded us to forgive sins.  He said in John 20:23, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven,” so when you hear the pastor say those words it is just as true as if Christ himself would tell you that your sins are forgiven.  The powerful command of Jesus our doctor opened the blind man’s eyes, and the same word has commanded that our sins be forgiven. 
On page 3 we pray for Jesus to have mercy on us and heal all the troubles that sin brings into this world and our lives.  We praise him for coming to earth to save us from all of these troubles with the song the angels sang to welcome him at his birth—All glory be to God on high!  In Latin it’s Gloria in Excelsis Deo!  Glory to God in the Highest!
On pages 5,6, and 7 we heard the Word of God tell us about Jesus as our doctor who heals the distress that sin causes in our lives.
Later in the service we will receive the body and blood that our Lord gave on the cross to heal our souls and give us eternal life.  As we anticipate the eternal life that he gives us in the Lord’s Supper, we sing the Holy Holy Holy.  Look at the words in verse two on page 10:  “Hosanna in the hightest! How truly blest is he who in God’s name is coming to set his people free!  He comes to bring salvation, and with his blood outpoured, deliver us from bondage—Hosanna, mighty Lord!”  On page 12 in Lamb of God we sing because Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and he takes away our sin when we receive the Lord’s Supper.
Throughout our worship service, we see Jesus our doctor at work healing our sin and giving us the medicine for eternal life.

Keep in mind that Jesus your doctor most of all wants to bring you to eternal life in heaven.   He wants to heal the real problem of your sin.  Now he may heal the symptoms of your sin also…he might take away your suffering.  You can pray for it.  But if he doesn’t, don’t lose faith.  That is just Jesus being a good doctor for you.  A good doctor knows that if he takes away all of your pain, you might end up worse than before.  You might stop taking the medicine.  You might try to do too much before you have recovered, and injure yourself worse.  You might become dependent on the painkiller.  That’s why they don’t give you narcotics for everything that hurts.  Jesus is a good doctor for you, and he knows that you need some pain in your life to remind you of what is really wrong with you.  You have a sinful heart that is causing all that pain, and you need Jesus your doctor to save you.  You need to keep taking the medicine he gives his Word, the medicine he gave you in your baptism, and what he gives every time you take the Lord’s Supper.  That is medicine for your real problem, your sin.  It gives you forgiveness and eternal life.   Come to your doctor for the healing he gives—yes, for all your problems, but mostly for the real problem—your sins.  Jesus is the Doctor who does truly help.  Amen.