Sermon for the 3d Sunday After Pentecost
Eric Carlson – Resurrection Lutheran Church
Matthew 9:9-26
5 June 2005

Grace to you and Peace, from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Risen Christ, Amen!

It happens each year about this time – the Virginia Synod Assembly in Roanoke.  Our Pastors join all the other 255 Pastors in the Virginia synod, along with the lay delegations from the 163 congregations in our synod.  Most all of those 163 congregations have laity in the pulpit today – all hopefully giving short sermons!

Often – in congregational life -- we forget that we are but a small part of the huge Body of Christ on earth.  Our synod in Virginia is part of the ELCA with nearly 5,000,000 baptized members in over 10,000 congregations.  And the ELCA joins the 66,000,000 Lutherans worldwide in the 2.1 Billion member Body of Christ on earth.

The focus of our worship this Sunday is on our Witness and our Service as Ambassadors of the Risen Christ on earth -- carrying out our Lord’s great commission, to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Holy Trinity. 

Christendom now accounts for 1/3 of the world’s population.  Judaism accounts for ¼ of one percent of the world.  How strange and very radical – how miraculous -- that the teachings of an obscure 1st century rabbi – teachings that run counter to the ideas of the world -- would be spread throughout the world.  Is humanity alone responsible for this phenomenon?   

Our existential mission here at Resurrection – the reason we exist – tracks with the mission of the ELCA…

Our Mission:

"Marked with the cross of Christ forever, we are claimed, gathered, and sent -- for the sake of the world."

Jesus makes things happen…

 through our response… to His call. 

About 2 years ago, we started our “Awakening” program.  Out of that effort, we the people of Resurrection crafted our vision for this congregation:

Our Vision:

"Resurrection Lutheran Church is a Christ-centered family of believers, so deeply and confidently rooted in the Gospel of God's grace, that we are free to give our lives joyfully in witness and service to those whom God has brought into our lives: within our congregation, our community, and our world."

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus calls the apostle Matthew – known also in the other synoptics as Levi the Son of Alphaeus.   What is Matthew’s response?  He gets up and follows the call!  Invites Jesus to his home and throws a party for him with all his tax collecting buddies and other assorted sinners of the day.  Mercy for the sake of this world of sinners of ours!

 

And then let me read those verses omitted from today’s reading for you… Matthew 9:14-17:

 

14Then John's disciples came and asked him, "How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?"

    15Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.

    16"No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."

How very radical – this new wine – the Word -- that we all drink.  Poured by God into new wineskins – for the sake of the world.  Picture this crowd of disciples and sinners following Jesus to learn who he is.

 

The Gospel continues with a leader whose child has died, yet by faith in this rabbi the father knows Jesus can bring her to life!  The crowd presses and follows as they walk to the house where the child lays dead. 

 

Along the way a woman presses in to touch the fringe of our Lord’s shawl – full of deep meaning – to be healed…and by her faith in response to God’s call, she is healed.  Take heart daughter; your faith has made you well!

 

On to the house where the child has died Jesus raises her to life again!  And word of this shocking good news spreads throughout the district!

 

Jesus makes things happen…

 through our response… to His call! 

 

 

Today as we take up the offering, each of us will have the opportunity to answer God’s call.  With love and trust in God, we physically bring to the altar our pledges to answer the call of Jesus to follow him in witness and service for the sake of the world.  

 

Don’t let your exercise of faith be limited to worship on Sunday.  Be bold!  Be strong!  By your faith, bring others closer to God.  Let your light shine before others in the workplace, in the marketplace, wherever you go – that through your faith others may come to know Christ, to know the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings.

 

The inheritance of the world comes not to us by the law, but through the righteousness of our faith -- by our answering God’s call in love and trust – a call to grow as ambassadors of Christ to this broken world.

 

In so doing, we join all the saints in following Christ. 

 

What ever became of Matthew and all his sinful buddies?  They all died.

 

Whatever happened to the woman who was healed?  She died.

 

Whatever happened to the little girl brought back to life?  She died.

 

No one gets out alive!  But this life is not a trap – it is a portal to eternity.  We pay attention to Jesus because He is risen!  By his death he defeated death and He comes to us from our future that we too may have eternal life!

 

Do not pass up opportunities to witness and serve.  Even so simple a thing as passing on advice to others – when done using sacred language – is an opportunity to witness and serve.  How many of us give advice to others?  Is this not a daily opportunity for withess?

 

Witness this letter written by Thomas Jefferson the year before his death – asked to give some advice to the young son of a friend…

 

“This letter will, to you, be as one from the dead. The writer will be in the grave before you can weigh its counsels. Your affectionate and excellent father has requested that I would address to you something which might possibly have a favorable influence on the course of life you have to run, and I too, as a namesake, feel an interest in that course. Few words will be necessary, with good dispositions on your part. Adore God. Reverence and cherish your parents. Love your neighbor as yourself, and your country more than yourself. Be just. Be true. Murmur not at the ways of Providence. So shall the life into which you have entered, be the portal to one of eternal and ineffable bliss. And if to the dead it is permitted to care for the things of this world, every action of your life will be under my regard. Farewell.”

 

 

Thomas Jefferson – former ambassador of America to France – ambassador of the Risen Christ!

 

May the Peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and our minds in the Risen Christ Jesus!