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Trinity 21 – John 4:46-54

by pastorjuhl ~ October 21st, 2010

With inspiration and gratitude to Blessed Martin Franzmann. Soli Deo Gloria!

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

Solomon says in Proverbs 25 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Language brings tears of joy or sadness, brings satisfaction or turmoil, and also brings forgiveness or condemnation. Emily Dickinson once said of poetry: “I don’t know what poetry is, but when I read something and I feel as though the top of my head has been blown off, I know that’s poetry.” Poetry is not alone when it comes to blowing off heads with words.

Consider the words of the friend of the centurion in Luke chapter seven. Jesus went to heal the centurion’s servant, but the centurion’s friends stopped Him along the way. Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. Talk about getting the top of your head blown off! What amazing faith on the part of the centurion. Jesus doesn’t need to be there. Say the word and it is done.

Compare the centurion’s faith with that of the nobleman in John chapter four. One thing both men have in common is that both have sick people in Capernaum. That’s where the comparisons end. The nobleman pleads with Jesus to come and heal his son who was sick to the point of death. Instead of marching to the sickbed, Jesus says unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.

Jesus is talking to you as well as to the nobleman. Language has the power to blow the top of your head off. Language also can be toothless, lacking bite as well as bang. Words can be powerful to some while pointless to others. Election Day is a little over a week away. You’re probably tired of all the words persuading you to vote for a particular candidate. Political bulk mail is thrown away. Radio and television commercials bring a click of the remote or the turn of the dial. Candidates say a lot of things, but much of it seems empty. Once the winner gets to Springfield or Washington, what they say and what they do are two completely different things.

Not so with Jesus Christ. What He says and what He does happens exactly as He says and does. Nevertheless, to your eyes and ears it’s the same old-same old. Jesus walks around the countryside preaching, teaching, and healing. Jesus tells off the authorities and hangs with tax collectors and sinners. Hands laid on heads, spittle in ears, breath in eyes, yada, yada, yada. You’ve seen and heard it all before. Christ’s actions and words are as comfortable as old leather. Jesus has become predictable.

The words Jesus speaks to you are Spirit and Truth. They chasten and they heal. They bind and they loosen. For you, however, they have become rote. “I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto you etc.” “Create in me a clean etc.” “O Christ, Thou Lamb of etc.” “Amen etc.” No wonder Christians gripe about church being the same-old, same-old. Perhaps those Christians, perhaps you, have forgotten not only the power of the Living Word, but also what goes with the power of a word fitly spoken by the Son of God.

When you forget what a word means, you go to the dictionary to look them up. When you forget that the Word of Christ dwells in you richly, perhaps it’s time to go back to the basic vocabulary you learned in Sunday School and in Luther’s Small Catechism. Those Biblical accounts you learned week after week, as well as the agonizing memorization of the Six Chief Parts of the Catechism, can grow too comfortable that you take for granted churchly vocabulary. A trip to the dictionary of the Christian faith, back to the Bible basics, teaches you so much about what is taken for granted that you could have the top of your head blown off.

That’s just about what happens to the poor nobleman whose son is about to die. The next thing he tells Jesus is Sir, come down before my child dies! The nobleman moves from a specific request, heal my son, to a general request: just be there! Then comes the cranial explosion: Go your way; your son lives. Jesus speaks these words at the seventh hour of the day, 1:00 P.M. When the nobleman returns home, he discovers that 1:00 P.M. was the time when the fever left the nobleman’s son. Kaboom!

Today’s Gospel is a great place to re-learn churchly language. An even better place to start is at the very beginning of the heavens and the earth. There’s a reason why the creation account is today’s Old Testament reading. God speaks the word and what He speaks comes into existence. There are no book of spells, no top hats and wands. There are no raw materials lying about in a primordial soup. There is God and His Word and His Spirit hovering over the face of the waters. God opens His mouth, so to speak, and there it is, just as He said it.

The Psalmist writes O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. Granted you are not Jeremiah, whose mouth played host to God’s finger in order that Jeremiah could receive the words to speak. You are not Isaiah, whose lips were touched by a burning coal to cleanse his mouth to speak the Word of the Lord. You are His creation, His good thing. Though your faith may be as small as a mustard seed, the Lord still calls you His precious child. Almighty God thinks so much of you that He called you by the Gospel, enlightened you with His gifts, sanctified and now keeps you holy through the Word He speaks to you in His holy Church. Before He spoke the Word that created the heavens and the earth, He knew you. He elected you out of pure grace to be covered in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. When Jesus hangs on the cross to blot out your sin, He was thinking of your sin, your death, and your unrighteousness. Willingly He suffers, dies, and rises from the dead for you.

Today’s Introit, a selection from Psalm 119, says turn away the reproach that I dread, for Your just decrees are good. Behold, I long for Your precepts; in Your righteousness give me life! The nobleman could have walked home with Jesus’ chastisement in his pocket. No signs and no wonders equal death for his son. The nobleman pleads for Christ’s presence. Instead of walking home with Jesus, he walks home with six words that changed not only his life, but also the life of his whole family. When the nobleman returned home and discovered his son was alive and well, he himself believed, and his whole household. The top of his head was blown off, and it was good.

Jesus speaks a fitly spoken Word to you again today. This Word is more than apples of gold in settings of silver. His Word to you today is all you have to hang on to eternity. Signs and wonders like Baptism, Absolution, and the Supper all have one thing in common that makes them do what they do. They have the Word of Christ with them that bestows what He says they bestow. The Words that surround them in the Divine Service are almost exclusively drawn from Scripture. This you know thanks to the Scripture references in Lutheran Service Book. You go home today with a Word in your pocket and then some. You go home today with Jesus Christ dwelling in you richly. You go home today clothed in the armor of God, prepared for the battle against the old evil foe. You go home forgiven, restored, fed, clothed, protected, and at peace with God and one another. You go home with a hole in your head where Christ lovingly blows off your top, takes out your sin, puts in His righteousness, and then patches it with care only to do the same thing all over again next week.

Though great our sins, yet greater still
Is God’s abundant favor;
His hand of mercy never will
Abandon us, nor waver (LSB 607:5).

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

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