Preached to the saints at Trinity Lutheran Church of Layton, Utah.
Three Lessons from Life and Good News from God's Word
TEXT: The word of the LORD came to me, saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
"Ah, Sovereign LORD," I said, "I do not know how to speak; I am only a child."
But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD.
Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "Now, I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant." Jeremiah 1:4-10
Today I would like to talk to you about three lessons I've learned from life. I know, I know I can see your eyes rolling back in your heads, here comes some pious pep talk about how he's learned that when life gives you lemons you can either walk around like a sourpuss or you can seize the opportunity and make lemonade. No this is not going to be "Chicken Soup for the Lutheran Soul." And although I have been known to be somewhat sarcastic on occasion, I'm really not trying to sound like Mark Twain. Finally, though these three things may remind you a bit of Eeyore, Disney's depressed donkey in the Winnie the Pooh cartoons, I am not telling you these things because I think we have sunk to the bottom and there's nowhere to go but down.
That said, here goes, three lessons I've learned from life -
1. There is no such thing as a free gift. Someone always pays. Either there is a string attached for which we must look out or if not, the cost is accounted for somewhere - ask any CPA or MBA.
2. Far more people have died climbing mountains than from fear of heights. Now I don't have the documentation for this, but I can tell you that at least a couple of times every year since I've been here, I have read in the newspaper, heard on the radio or seen on the TV news of someone who has fallen, ridden a bike or driven a 4 x 4 off the edge of a cliff here on the Wasatch Front to their sudden and premature demise. Now this is a terrible thing, and some of you may even know someone to whom this has happened, maybe you have had a close encounter of your own, but in the nine and a half years I have been blest to live in the beautiful state of Utah with its majestic mountains, indeed in all my natural born life, I have not once come across a report of person who has died from a fear of heights.
3. Never, ever trust a man who says, "trust me." The man who says trust me always has a smile on his face and usually a hand in your pocket. Guaranteed, this man is trying to sell you something that can't stand on its own merit. Otherwise why would he ask you to trust him instead of examining the goods.
Okay, maybe I am a bit of a Mark Twain wannabe. I certainly envy the mane of hair he had into his old age. But please bear with me and hear me out on these lessons. I really do mean what I say. Let's examine them in reverse order as they apply to the church in general and we 21st Century Lutherans in particular:
3. Never, ever trust a man who says, "trust me." Caesar had his Brutus. Samson had Delilah. Adam and Eve had the serpent. Even Jesus had his Judas. The temptation is to find someone we like, and maybe even more, who we think likes us. Someone who tells us what we want to hear and makes us feel good.
* These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the LORD's instruction. They say to the seers, "See no more visions!" and to the prophets, "Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!" Isaiah 30:9-11 *
2. Far more people have died climbing mountains than from fear of heights. The self deprecating Lutheran lament goes, "you're probably in a Lutheran church if the back rows fill up first." The temptation is to think that if we're not on the mountaintop we are not in heaven. And so the implication is that sitting in the back is a sign of little faith. But perhaps it is more a holy fear that we are in the very presence of our Lord.
* The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. Proverbs 1:7 *
1. There is no such thing as a free gift. The Lord's Supper conveys to us that the most remarkable thing about salvation is NOT that it is free to us, but that God paid such a high price to redeem us sinners.
* " In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding."* Ephesians 1:7-8 *
God sent Jeremiah in our O.T. lesson with these words: *"Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD.*
God sent Jesus in the Gospel lesson and look what happened: * "All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff."
Luke 4:28-29 *
God sends pastors to His church today with this charge:
* "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourageŚwith great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry."
2 Timothy 4:2-5 *
God sends you into the world where, * "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." Matthew 10:21-22 *
The Three lessons we learn from Life, all are centered in, and bring us back to, the fact that it is Jesus Christ in whom alone we have Life. These lessons are not "Chicken Soup for the Lutheran Soul," they are not sarcastic quips, they are certainly not depressing Eeyorisms. Rather they are the Good News of salvation in Christ through the forgiveness of sins unto eternal life:
1. Never trust a man who says trust me -- unless that man is the Son of God:
* "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me." John 14:1 *
2. Far more people have died climbing mountains than from fear of heights:
* "Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low." Isaiah 40:4 *
*"For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."* Matthew 23:12 *
3. There is no such thing as a free gift - even God's grace carried a heavy price, one you could never hope to pay, though it is freely given to you:
* "You are not your own; you were bought at a price." 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 *
These three lessons mean you belong to God and always have -- even when you knew it not. For He has always known you and wants you to be saved unto eternal life with Him.
What could be more comforting than these lessons and the Words of Jeremiah for us today?
* "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart." *
And what could be more assuring than Jesus' invitation to the Kingdom of Grace purchased at the price of His very life and delivered to you in Holy Baptism?
* "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world." Matthew 25:34 *
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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