Saint Athanasius Lutheran Church in Vienna, Virginia is a parish in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church and a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Worship at St. Athanasius is according to the historical Liturgy of the Church. Services at St. Athanasius are not designed for entertainment or sensation, but to prepare broken repentant sinners to receive these gifts of Word and Sacrament, and to know the truth of the incomparable riches of the grace showered on us by our gracious and loving Heavenly Father. In this weekly podcast, we present the sermons preached by our pastor, Reverend James Douthwaite.
Our Good and Gracious Shepherd
Israel was again at the border of the Promised Land. They could see it. They could almost touch it. They would, soon. The last time they were here, 40 years before this, they didn't. They didn't trust the Lord, didn't believe Him. But Moses had another concern as well. For he was about to die. And so he asked the Lord to appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.
Well done, good and faithful servant. Welcome home! He heard the words. He opened his eyes. It was light. And warm. There were the prophets he'd just been thinking about -- Jeremiah, Isaiah, Moses, and Amos. The life he preached he was now in. What had happened? And one day, just as John's headless body will rise, so will yours. Whole, complete, perfect, and glorious. Because Jesus rose. And baptized into His death, you are also baptized into His resurrection. So come and receive His body, and His life. Come receive the forgiveness of your sins. Come receive and know that -- like John -- there is nothing in all creation that can now separate you from His love.
It was time to give the apostle Paul a gift. So Paul was caught up into the third heaven. Next, he says, this man was caught up into paradise. And then, Paul says, because he had seen and heard these things, the Lord gives him his gift -- a thorn in the flesh. Not much of a gift! So, uh... no thank you, God. Please take it away, take it back. The point is what the Lord tells Paul next: My gift to you wasn't a mistake and I'm not taking it back. My grace, My gift, is sufficient for you. That is, it is of service to you. It is good for you. Your weakness is My power.
The first time I heard the word triage was when I was young and watching the TV show M*A*S*H -- a show about doctors and nurses during the Korean War. Ambulances full of wounded soldiers would come into the hospital compound and the doctors had to triage them -- determine who got treated first. Doctors and nurses still do this today, which you know if you've ever been to the Emergency Room at the hospital. If your problem isn't acute or life-threatening, you'll probably have to wait your turn. Well, Jesus seemed to get His triage wrong today. And people were frequently telling Jesus He wasn't doing it right. Well, turns out, both on the cross and in this account, Jesus knew exactly what He was doing.
Learning about Immanuel
Disciples are learners. So it was with the twelve. So it is with us. They were not disciples, and we are not disciples, because of what we know, but rather because we need to learn. And grow. And we have much to learn. The disciples were learning, who Jesus was. Teacher, healer, cleanser. And next: forgiver! Did they have faith? Of course they had faith! They had faith in God, and they had faith in Jesus. But they were learning to bring those two together. To have faith in Jesus as God. God in the flesh, come into His creation, to save it. To save them. To save us. To save all. Which we, too, are still learning.
His Seed, His Kingdom, His Growth
Have you ever planted a seed and hoped it didn't grow? That's ridiculous, right? So it is with God and His Word. He wants those seeds that are planted by His pastors preaching His Word and by His people speaking His Word to grow and to bear fruit in the hearts and lives of those who hear. But how that happens, and when, and where, and how much, and how big, that is out of our control. And out of our understanding. So we are called to TRUST, to HUMILITY, and to PATIENCE. That it's God's seed, God's kingdom, and God's growth, not ours. That Word is living, active, and powerful. And working. We may not know how. We may not understand. But your Father in heaven does.