Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
When I was a child, my friends and I had a game. The challenge was to answer this question: If you had to lose one of the five senses, which of them would you choose? Sight, hearing, smell, taste or touch? Many times, the first responses were sight or hearing, but the others are important too.
Why do we need five senses? To cross the street, sight and hearing help us avoid danger. In the darkness of a house without light, we can direct our steps by the ear, also by touch and perhaps smell. Taste and smell can warn us of something bad to drink or eat.
Another purpose for the five senses is communication. We need sight to see changes in the faces of others; movements of the eyes and lips. We also communicate by the posture of the body. Human language is a very complex sound system and its development is a mystery for scientists. The dogs communicate their emotions by "Bow wow! "and other simple sounds. The birds also communicate by their songs where the food is or their availability to be a couple. But, human language is unique.
We need the touch to feel a hand in our or a hug, the taste to feel a kiss. We also communicate through smell. The smell of coffee or the arepas in the morning mean it's time to wake up and have breakfast.
With the five senses, we understand the beauty of creation. The beauty of flowers consists of their colors and smells. The beauty of birds are found in their feathers and songs.
As I told you in last Sunday's sermon, God by nature does not have a visible form. He is spirit, without physical limits. God is everywhere at the same time. If God does not have a visible form, if He is invisible, how can we know God?
Up to a point, we can know God by His creation. Amid the beauty of nature we find order, a design. Where there is a design there is a Designer. But, normally, we do not see the face of God, we do not hear His voice. In the beginning, says the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden and listened to His voice. But, because of their disobedience, they lost the good relationshipwith God and now because of the legacy of sin, we can not sense the presence of God directly.
However, for God everything is possible. so in Genesis, God appeared to Abraham in the form of a man for a while. Some of the prophets heard the voice of God audibly.
In addition, according to the letter to the Hebrews, "God, having spoken many times and in many ways in times past to the fathers by the prophets, in these last days has spoken to us by the Son." In Jesus Christ, God was incarnated as a man and walked among the people, preaching the Word of God. In our text for today, with a deaf-mute who could not hear his words, He put his fingers in his ears, and spitting, touched his tongue, and raising his eyes to the sky, He moaned, and said: "Ephata" ; which means: Be open.
Then Jesus, after rising from the dead, went up to heaven, but told His disciples that He would be with them, even though only two or three were gathered in his name.
We have the testimony of the life and work of Jesus Christ in the Holy Scriptures. Its authors wrote them by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the Lord commanded the public proclamation of this written Word of God. Through the Scriptures we can know who Jesus Christ is.
The Lord also instituted the sacraments. This word is not found in the Bible. Sacramentum is a Latin word, not Greek or Hebrew. In the beginning it meant a public and solemn act, for instance, when a soldier in the Roman army swore allegiance to the emperor. Later on, the church applied this word to some phenomena found in the New Testament.
In the Lutheran Church, we recognize two sacraments, baptism and Holy Communion. In both cases, the Lord himself instituted and commanded everyone to receive them with the promises of forgiveness of sin and eternal life linked with a visible element as means of grace. Only baptism and Holy Communion meet this definition.
The Roman Catholic Church also recognizes baptism and Holy Communion. But it also says marriage, confirmation, confession, ordination and extreme unction are sacraments. This is a mistake.
Marriage was instituted by God, but He did not command it for the salvation of all. Someone can be saved without getting married. Marriage belongs to the order of creation, not to the order of redemption. As Christians, we want to thank God and ask for His blessing on our relationship in a service in the church, but the Lord did not institute an ecclesiastical rite for marriage and marriage in the church does not deliver a better spiritual state than the marriage of non-believers.
Nor did he institute a rite of confirmation. We receive all the promises of God, our adoption as children in the family of God in baptism. The rite of confirmation is useful to recognize people who are ready to receive the sacrament, because St. Paul warned us that those who receive the sacrament must have the capacity to examine their consciences and discern the blood and body of Christ to receive the blessing, not condemnation.
Our liturgy has two parts: the service of the Word and the service of the Holy Supper. The first part is the preaching of the Word and our response of faith in the praises, prayers and offering. Preaching is for all who can hear. The service of the Holy Supper is for those who are baptized, who acknowledge their sins and want to receive the body and blood of Christ in faith. This is the mass, because Mass means farewell. In the first centuries of the church, after the service of the Word, the pastor said goodbye to those who were not members of the church and the doors were closed. To distinguish those who are ready to receive the sacrament for the first time, we retain the confirmation service, but it is not instituted by the Lord, it has no visible element and it is not a means of grace.
Nor is ordination a means of grace. . The Lord instituted the pastoral office, but he did not command it for all and it is not necessary for salvation. Extreme unction is derived from James 5: 14-15, but its purpose is to ask for the recovery of the sick. It is not necessary for salvation.
Confession and absolution, public or private, is necessary to approach God in prayer and receive the Lordís supper. Some Lutheran authors speak of confession as a sacrament, and we include it with the explanation of the sacraments in the Small Catechism. But, it does not have a visible element.
In the preaching of the Word and confession and absolution, God touches our ears. In them we hear the voice of Jesus. In baptism and the Lord's Supper, God touches each one of us in all five senses. As sinners, we are deaf and blind, we have no sense of the presence of God. But as Jesus touched the ears and lips of the deaf and stuttering, God communicates with everyone in a way that we understand and the blind see and the deaf hear. In the Word and the sacraments we have the assurance of God's love, the promise of eternal life and the peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.
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