THE 18TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST AD 2018
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
The Lord made it known to me and I knew;
then you showed me their deeds.
But I was like a gentle lamb
led to the slaughter.
I did not know it was against me
they devised schemes, saying,
“Let us destroy the tree with its fruit,
let us cut him off from the land of the living,
that his name be remembered no more.”
But, O Lord of hosts, who judges righteously,
who tests the heart and the mind,
let me see your vengeance upon them,
for to you have I committed my cause.
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double- minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.
And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.
And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me. The Lord has done no less for us this morning, beloved. In fact, He has doubled the lesson, by taking not one but two such little children and putting them in our midst. He has taken two such little ones into His arms and claimed them as His own. He has done this and far more today, as He has shared His life, death and resurrection with Sawyer and Griffin in the waters of Holy Baptism to cleanse them from all sin and give them a new birth as children of God.
He has clearly shown us this day that they are in Him and He is in them. They are one with Him and He is one with them. HE has lifted them up from their lowly place in this world … the lowly place that they inherited from father Adam through their parents … the lowly place in sin that threw us down from our place at the crown of creation to struggle in the dust that we were created from and doomed to return to in death. Joining Himself to them, Jesus has lifted them up from that place that ever leaves us looking upward - striving and struggling to reach the place that we fell from long ago.
Sawyer and Griffin are not famous, although you might question that on any given Sunday when everyone here vies to get a chance to hold one of them for the Service. I’m happy to see that you know how to share, because I never know who’s going to be bringing them to the altar to be blessed. Treasured, yes, by their Mom and Dad and family, treasured here too, but not in the eyes of the world, no. They don’t even have their own facebook pages, let alone numerous followers. No one is hanging on their latest tweet on Twitter. No instagram accounts with likes or loves … hearts or happy faces. Popular? Around here, yes, but they don’t yet have a gang of friends hanging around just waiting for them to come out and play. No one is picking them first for their team. No, not yet anyway.
No, these two little ones are by no stretch of the imagination the greatest by the measure of the world. But Jesus holds them in His arms today and declares them to be the greatest in the kingdom of God. Why? Not because they are so cute and innocent. By no means. Cute? Yes, they’re that without question. But innocent? Not in themselves. No, they stand under the same judgement as all. Conceived and born in sin, their flesh will live in it. They, like all others, will go astray like sheep. They too, will be tempted to seek their own greatness, as Adam and Eve were tempted into doing in Eden.
They too, will struggle with that sibling rivalry that affects all the children of man. Jealousy, envy, spite, yes, they’ll all be there, because the seeds of them lie planted within them right now. All that it will take is a little time and the right conditions for those seeds to sprout and grow and bear their noxious fruit … fruit that will poison them and others with its bitter taste. We can all vouch for it, can we not? Wanting to be the greatest, or at least not the last, is there from the playroom to the schoolyard … from the classroom to the workplace … from our own homes to the Lord’s house. We might not want to be ahead of everyone else, but boy, watch out if we feel like we’re being put after everyone else.
Innocent? No. As none are. Not one. And yet the Son of God does not lie when He holds them up before you and declares them to be the greatest. How then? Because He has united His life with theirs. They are great because He is great. They are treasured because He is treasured. They are first because He is first. They matter because He matters. They are precious because He is precious. All that is His He has given to them - His place … His glory. He has shared it all with them in their baptism into Him this day. Just as surely as He has taken all that was theirs as His own and carried it on to pay for it all in the Baptism that He fulfilled for them in His blood on the cross.
Great? Yes, even greatest. In themselves? No. But in and through Jesus all is theirs. If they try to find it in themselves, they will only be left ever chasing after it and never finding it. Trying to find it in themselves will cause them to follow the rest of sinful flesh and strive with all that they’ve got to get ahead of others. Trying to find it in themselves will ever leave them comparing themselves to others and resenting what they lack. But finding their value in Christ and resting in it they will know true peace. And they will be set free to take the lowly place with Jesus … the humble place … the last place … confident in the truth that He makes them first.
Through little Sawyer and Griffin the Lord wants to deepen you in this truth, beloved. All that He holds up before your eyes today as He has taken them in His arms, you see, is also true for each and every one of you. That you may have no doubt about it but believe He comes to you in His flesh and blood today to renew, confirm and deepen you in this Baptismal reality. “One with me,” He says to you as He places His flesh into your mouth. “One with me” He confirms as He bids you to sip from the cup. “One with me in all that I have done as I am one with you in all that you have done. One with me that you might be the greatest as I was one with you as I became the least.”
I made your shame my shame so that my glory could be your glory. I made your sin my sin so that my righteousness could be your righteousness. I made all your unfinished work, all your neglected duties, all your failings, mine, so that all that I have done well, all my perfect, finished work could be yours. All that was yours I made mine. I took the last place … the least place that was yours by birth and that you have kept yourself in by what you have done and left undone, so that I might lift you up out of it. I owned that place in all of its fullness on Calvary. I was despised for you. I was disdained and dismissed for you. I was rejected for you. So that you might be loved, treasured and accepted in me.
“Look here,” the Lord Jesus calls out to each of you. "Look here to me and know your true value … your true place. Look to me when you think that you’ve got nothing left to offer because you are growing old and weak. Look to me when you feel forgotten by family and friends because they are too busy or don’t seem to be able to make time for you. Look to me when you feel like life is or has passed you by. Look to me when you feel like others are so much more gifted than you. Look to me when you’re tempted to compare yourself with others. Look to me when you feel like you’re being put after everyone else. Look here to me, and know the truth about where you really stand, about how precious, treasured and valuable your are. And I will set you free in love to serve Me in others as I in love have served you. Amen.