THE 4TH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY AD 2018
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Deuteronomy 18:15-20 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die. ’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.
1 Corinthians 8:1-13Now concerning food offered to idols:we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so- called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
Mark 1:21-28 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are— the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
“It’s a grey area.” That’s the answer that I got back when I asked, “When can I start driving again?” I left the question on my surgeon’s office answering machine. And that’s the answer his assistant gave me. “It’s a grey area." Before I left the hospital a physiotherapist said that our insurance companies would only cover us according to what our surgeon said. But according to his assistant my surgeon doesn’t say. He never told me not to drive. In fact I never saw him - not since my appointment with him back in September. I assume I had the surgery because I have the scars and I felt like a guy who’d been through open heart surgery when I woke up in the ICU a little over a week ago mumbling something about a Mack truck.
So can I drive? It’s a grey area? My surgeon’s nurse practitioner told the assistant “I could go ahead anytime now” when she asked her. The assistant though, said its a grey area because there’s a law in Ontario that says that you can’t drive for 6 weeks after heart surgery. The book though, that the hospital gave me, says that when you’ve had heart surgery the way that I had it - through an incision in the side, you can begin driving around 2 weeks after surgery.
So can I drive? Is the law from the time when every heart surgery involved cutting open the whole chest? And so, as the assistant said making it difficult to shoulder check properly until the breast bone had healed? Is it because most heart surgeries are done after a heart attack or some other major heart problem? And you want to make sure that’s all ok before you get behind the wheel. I don’t know. It’s a grey area. Because no one can or wants to speak with authority - which leaves me not knowing what to believe or do.
A common problem in our world today. One that people like Mr. Trump are highlighting with his Fake News awards. Which might seem ridiculous to some - those who believe the fake news anyway. Fake or not? Who knows? In a world where all authority has been questioned to the point that no one actually wants to speak with it anymore … where everything is a grey area …it’s hard to know. How can you know what’s what in a world where truth is determined by personal opinion … where the words “I think” are the trump card that ends any discussion or question about what is or is not, because who is anyone else to question what I think or believe? In such a world who am I to question or judge what someone else believes? What’s right for them is right for them, isn’t it? While what’s right for me is right for me? The rest is all fake news - for me anyway. Which it very well could be. It’s all a grey area or as one ELCIC pastor used to tell my sister “It’s all a mystery.” Really?
The Devil of course, as the originator of the “grey area” and the first fake news reporter, delights in all of this. Our culture and its way of thinking is infused with his undercutting of the truth. Believing the lie “Did God really say” always leads to “did anyone really say.” If you lose God and His truth you lose all truth because He is truth’s only source. If God can’t be trusted then no one can be trusted. If He can’t be believed then no one can be believed. When you reject God and His truth you lose all authority because all authority flows from Him. Just as a rejection of all authority ultimately leads to a rejection of God, because you can’t reject all authority without rejecting the One who gives it. All this leaves us living exactly where the Devil wants us - in the grey area surrounded by fake news, where the Light cannot be seen or known, where the truth is always followed by a question mark and no one can or will speak with authority.
Even, sadly some within the Church, who living in this culture can’t help but be affected by it, will say, “it’s all a mystery or whom am I to Judge or each man has his own path to God.” Yes, sadly even some in the Church, some like you and me, might hesitate to confess clearly and boldly that Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone is the way, the truth and the life, because it might offend someone. Or we might hesitate to call sin sin because who are we to judge? Or to say plainly and clearly that the Lord God created the world out of nothing in six days because no “intelligent” person believes that anymore?
Yes, perhaps even you and I at times might question God’s things in our heads as if they actually were things that we can pass judgement on, as if we could decide to believe them or not, rather than simply accept them as things that are. Are they real because I believe them or do I believe them simply because they are real. Does their reality give birth to my belief? Or does my belief give birth to their reality? Is there a sun because I believe it? Or do I believe it because there is one?
In the grey area surrounded by fake news, that’s exactly where Satan wants us, beloved, because that’s where He can tear us away from God’s truth … where He can erode our faith and rob us of our peace. In the grey area is where he can lead us to question God’s fatherhood to us - whether or not He really has made us or sustains us day to day … whether or not every moment of our lives is really under His control … whether or not every breath, every heartbeat, is in His hands. In the grey area is where he can lead us to wonder about the Son’s life and death for us. Are my sins really forgiven? Are they truly washed away by my Saviour’s blood?
Am I truly righteous and perfect in God’s eyes? Despite all my faults and failures … despite all my questions and doubts? Does the life of Christ really count for mine? Is eternal life really mine? Is heaven where I’m really headed? In the grey area, yes, that’s where he can make me question my life as a child of God. Is faith something I feel? Is it something I decide to have? Or is it the Holy Spirit’s gift to me - something He creates and works in me? Is a holy life something I can make for myself or is it too something that the Spirit gives to me … creates in me … works in me?
Authority. That’s what we need, beloved, someone to speak with authority. We need someone who can spell it out for us in black and white. We need someone who can dispel all the fake news with the real facts . We need someone who can silence Satan and all His lies so that we might know and live in the truth. That Someone is who we see today in Capernaum’s synagogue, teaching with authority - “Truly, truly I say to you.” That’s who we hear today in this place, teaching with authority - “Truly, truly I say to you.” He is the Word made flesh, the Truth Incarnate, the One from whom all authority in heaven and on earth flows because it has been given to Him by His Father.
The demons cry out as soon as they hear Him because they know who He is, they recognize His authority. They know He is the Truth that overthrows all their father’s lies. They know that He is the power that overcomes all their tyranny. They know that He is the love that overwhelms all their hate. They know Him and He silences them so that you might know Him too - as the One who comes to speak with authority in your life.
“God is your Father”, He says today, “He created you, knit you together in your mother’s womb. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. He recorded all the days of your life before one of them came to be. Every moment of each of them is in His hands. I am your Saviour He says, I have lived for you and died for you. Everyone of your sins is covered by my blood. My life is your life and my death is your death. Receive the Holy Spirit, I send Him to you with my Word. He comes that you might believe and in believing have life.”
“None of this is up for discussion,” He says, “none of if it subject to question. It simply is because I the Word say that it is … It is truth and it is true for you.” That’s it … beloved … in plain and simple black and white. No gray area to be found. No fake news. Just the authoritative truth for you, that I proclaim to you today, with all the authority of the One who sent me to bring it to you! In the name of Jesus! Amen.