Preaching to the saints of the Lutheran Church at Christ-Elkhart and Faith-Hugoton in Kansas since February 8, 2015. All sermons prior to that date were preached either at Trinity Lutheran Church-Layton or First Lutheran Church-Tooele, Utah.
Nice guys finish last. You need look no further than Calvary, where the nicest Guy of them all, the One who played by all the rules and fulfilled all the Law for us, the Son of God and Son of Man suffered the persecution and taunts of the not so nice, and even the eternal punishment of our sins as He was forsaken by the Father and left to die.
But, wait! He rose from death, hell, and the grave, didn’t He? When He said, “It is finished,” He wasn’t finishing last. He was finishing first! For us, for every sinner.
To hear the entire sermon as it was preached to the saints at Christ Lutheran-Elkhart, KS for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, "Friend, Move Up Higher," click on the audio link provided above. The sermon begins at 8:28.
Graphic: "Jesus Heals on the Sabbath," church icon.
For those of you who prefer to read or read along while listening, the preaching manuscript the preaching manuscript follows below. .
Nota Bene: Sermons are meant to be heard. Bullet points in the manuscript are explained and filled out during the preaching, so you will need to listen to the audio file to get the full message.
TEXT: “. . . go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:10-11
Dearly beloved people of God,
Nice guys finish last.
I don’t need to tell you that. You see it and live it every day.
Very likely you’ll go home today and watch a contest or two or three--or even more if you have the NFL package and PIP--where the winner, the guy or team that finishes first, is often the one who can bend and push the rules to the limit; break the rules in such a way as to not get caught; or who simply doesn’t care, figures they can’t catch you every time, and even if they did they’ll become numb to it after a while and won’t want to disturb the flow of the game.
You’ll watch the news, read the paper, or listen to the radio and hear about another corporate fat cat who broke the law, took a slap on the wrist, and walked away with a multi-million dollar severance package; or a violent criminal who raped or murdered somebody only to get off on a legal technicality; or a politician who sold his vote or other favors to the highest bidder, or cheated on his taxes, but keeps getting re-elected anyway and is raking in book royalties and donations to boot; or another one of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, or law enforcement officers ambushed by folks who simply don’t play by the rules.
You go to work, bust your butt for and take abuse from your employer, coworkers, clients, customers and the slougher takes home an equal or bigger paycheck, the customer files a complaint on you and gets a freebie, and the boss makes ten times your wage off of your work. You go to school and see cheaters often do prosper; athletes get preferential treatment and inflated grades; some of the nastiest guys get the hottest girls, or the trampiest girls get the hottest guys. You love your spouse and family, your boyfriend or girlfriend, you watch out for and help your buddies and sacrifice for their welfare and one day you find out they are cheating on you or have dumped you. Heck, even at church you look around and feel like you are finishing last while other churches seem to be flourishing. Maybe being nice, doing what is right, playing by the rules, and living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God isn’t such a great idea after all. I mean even Jesus broke the rules. It’s right in our Gospel lesson today. You read it to us pastor.
1One Sabbath, when [Jesus] went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. 2And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. 3And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” 4But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. 5And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” 6And they could not reply to these things.
Why? Because they just didn’t get it. Nor did they want to. You see, they were all about taking the best seat and taking heaven by storm.
What Jesus is showing them and teaching us is that the Commandments given by God are for the benefit and service of His people. And he said to them, . . . "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath." Mark 2:25-28
Our Father in heaven didn’t speak these commands and set these laws in place as chores to earn our keep or rules of the game to win entrance to heaven. They were made for the continuing sustenance and nurture of the crown of His creation, the people He created in His image as we live in service to one another.
That sure does sound good, doesn’t it. But try living that way in the real world, right? Live for the benefit of your neighbor. Follow the rules so you don’t hurt or harm anybody. Oh, yeah, then break a rule to try to help somebody and see where that lands you. Sounds like a ticket to jail or the bottom of the stuff happens pile.
And everybody knows you have to go after anything if you really expect to get it. If you want success, you can’t worry about being nice or following the rules all the time. You have to make it happen and take your place in the world. You can’t even get to heaven without pleasing God and making His Gospel and Church more appealing to people than the bare words of the Bible and the canned worship of the liturgy.
Yeah, nice guys finish last. You need look no further than Calvary, where the nicest Man of them all, the One who played by all the rules and fulfilled all the Law for us, suffered the persecution and taunts of the not so nice, and even the eternal punishment of our sins as He was forsaken by the Father and left to die.
Oh, wait! That’s right. He rose from death, hell, and the grave, didn’t He? When He said, “It is finished,” He wasn’t finishing last. He was finishing first! And now that He has ascended to the right hand of His Father in heaven, He is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Revelation 1:5
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, . . . For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Colossians 1:17-20
You have that peace through His blood, dear people of Faith in Christ. You have been baptized into His fullness to dwell in the body of His church where you are reconciled to Him to be at peace with His Father in heaven, and yours.
Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” Good question. If the Sabbath is not for healing, then what is it for? The Sabbath is not about what we do for God, but what He does for us to heal us and make us holy.
89 Indeed, we Christians ought always to keep such a holy day and be occupied with nothing but holy things. This means we should daily be engaged with God’s Word and carry it in our hearts and upon our lips [Psalm 119:11–13]. . . .91 God’s Word is the true “holy thing above all holy things. Yes, it is the only one we Christians know and have. . . . By the Word even all the saints themselves were sanctified [1 Corinthians 6:11]. 92 Whenever God’s Word is taught, preached, heard, read, or meditated upon, then the person, day, and work are sanctified. This is not because of the outward work, but because of the Word, which makes saints of us all. Therefore, I constantly say that all our life and work must be guided by God’s Word, if it is to be God-pleasing or holy. Where this is done, this commandment is in force and being fulfilled. [Luther’s Large Catechism Explanation to the Third Commandment]
By our being healed of our spiritual disease of sin and lack of faith, we are strengthened in a healthy faith by which we in turn help our neighbors find healing, strength, and faith for their lives. Here, in our vocations and lives with one another in this fallen world, we are content to sit in the lowest place, as we serve our neighbors—yes, even the ones who break all the rules and take advantage of us. Meanwhile, here in Christ’s church, through the plain Word of God proclaimed and heard and confessed and sung together in the historic liturgy along with all the saints who have gone before us, heaven comes to earth and we are able to come to the table of His wedding feast every Lord’s day, and on other holy days, and even whenever you might desire and ask for it just as it. [AC XXIV.34] Here, at His feast of Word and Sacrament, your Savior and King of kings is your host who forgives you all of your sins and is indeed even today saying to you, “Friend, move up higher”--in the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit--Amen.
Insofar as this sermon is a true proclamation of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, it belongs to Him and His Church. Therefore its use is free to all who deem it worthy and beneficial.
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