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Homily Trinity 8

by steeh ~ July 11th, 2008

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

You know the old saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.”

Likewise, you know that this little saying is entirely untrue. Words can hurt, and do hurt, in many ways, and at many levels. Words can even bring you eternal harm, as Jesus warned in today’s Gospel:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”

A prophet is one who is sent by God to speaks God’s Word. A false prophet speaks his own word, yet claims that it comes from God, as God said in today’s Old Testament reading:

“I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. …. Do not listen to them. They make you worthless; they speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord.”

St. Paul speaks the same warning in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles:

“After my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. … men will rise up speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.”

Words can hurt; though not because they are harsh or hurt your feelings. In fact, they may be hurtful precisely because they are sweet and seductive and soothing to those want confirmation of evil. Jesus said, “These wolves disguise themselves in sheep’s clothing.” They are harmless in appearance, and soft to the touch and easy on the ear, because they withhold the full counsel of God’s Word – they modify it, they tailor it make God’s Word a comfortable word, as God said through His prophet Jeremiah:

“They continually say to those who despise Me, ‘The Lord has said, “You shall have peace”’; and to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, ‘No evil shall come upon you.’” … “Behold, a whirlwind of the Lord has gone forth in fury—a violent whirlwind! It will fall violently on the head of the wicked.”

Those who practice evil must be warned, not comforted, nor deceived, as Satan deceived Eve when he said to her,

“God says you will die if you eat this fruit; you will not die; in fact, this fruit will make you like God.”

That’s where it all began, and nothing has changed. There is nothing new under the sun. Satan continues to send his prophets of deception and deceit to confuse, if possible, even the elect children of God.

The flip side, then, of the warning to “Beware of false prophets” is the command: “Find a true prophet, and stick to him like glue”. It is eternally import that you have a faithful pastor; not so important that he is entertaining or exciting. The faithful and true Word is what counts, for by His Word, God promises that He Himself enters in to your heart and soul, body and mind and saves you from eternal death and condemnation. This is your life and your salvation, as Jesus said,

“Whoever hears these sayings of Mind, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock; the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.”

Or as St. Paul said:

“I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes.” (Ro 1) So now, brethren, I commend you to God and the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20) “Faith by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, but how can they hear unless they have a preacher, and how can have a preacher, unless one is sent to them.” (Romans 10)

You can’t hear or believe unless God sends you a faithful preacher, that you hear, and believing, have eternal life. You can’t have the fruit of a garden unless you plant, tend and keep it. You can’t have God’s life in you unless He sends workers to plant, tend it and keep it, faithfully. This is God’s economy for your sake. For your sake and your salvation, He has established the Office of the Holy Ministry: the Office of Planting, Feeding and Serving; the Office of Word-Carrier and Deliverer.

This is also the reason the Church has preserved this wonderful old liturgy. The liturgy is a great teacher of God’s Word. Just look at all the Scripture references in your hymnal that tell you where the different parts of our service come from in God’s Word. The liturgy is kind of an insurance policy of sorts. Even when the pastor doesn’t deliver the full counsel of God’s Word to you, the liturgy does.

You also have your catechism; what a great treasure of God’s Word! The Ten Commandments, the First Chief Part, cannot be sugarcoated. “You shall have no other gods. You love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and your neighbor as yourself.” The commandments call us to the holy life of the holy God and show us our failure to be His holy children. It is not pleasant to see your sin, but like a good doctor who tells you that you have a tumor, the commandments show you that you need a cure for your sickness of sin.

And the second chief part of the catechism, the Apostle’s Creed, proclaims your help and your salvation in the God of love, the God of mercy, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the God who made you and all things, the God who gave His life on the cross to pay your sins, the God who died and rose to give His life that death cannot overcome. This is the God who comes to you now by Word and Sacrament, and pours His forgiveness, life and salvation into you by Baptism, preaching, absolution and supper – the cure for your sickness is the blood of Jesus. This, your catechism teaches and preaches faithfully. Read, mark and inwardly digest that old catechism every day, and you will be protected against false prophets who teach another gospel that is no gospel.

There’s another old saying, but this one is true: “You are what you eat.” If you eat nothing but cream puffs every day, that’s what you soon will be, and sick to boot. But if you stick with the basics, the plain old ordinary grains and fruits and vegetables, with a cream puff thrown in every once in a while, your body will say, “Thank you.” You may not chosen the most fun and exciting diet, but you have chosen the one that nourishes and sustains.

So it is with the Word. It’s not about the preacher, how charismatic or charming he might be, it’s about the food he gives you, the plain old grains and fruits and vegetables. On this rock Christ builds His Church, and the gates of hell shall not overcome it.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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