THE 4TH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY AD 2019
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
 Then I said, "Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth."  But the Lord said to me,
"Do not say, 'I am only a youth';
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
 Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the Lord."
 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me,
"Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant."
1 Cor. 12:31-13:13
But earnestly desire the higher gifts.
And I will show you a still more excellent way.
[13:1] If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath,  and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.  And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice,  "Ha! 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 when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm.  And they were all amazed and said to one another, "What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!"  And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.
 And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon's house. Now Simon's mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf.  And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them.
 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them.  And demons also came out of many, crying, "You are the Son of God!" But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.
 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them,  but he said to them, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose."  And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
A word war, that’s what I feel like I’m in the middle of whenever I turn on the Radio these days. Well, either a word war or a war on words, which perhaps is the same thing when you get right down to it. Whether it’s the politics south of the border or those up here, it seems people are ever going at it with words - over words. He said, she said, or they say.
There’s press conferences and “leaks”. There are all the “twits” on Twitter, sorry, I know that that’s supposed to be “tweets”, but nonetheless, this whole Twitter business seems to bring out the inner twit in many, and not just the U.S. President, despite what the CBC might say. But before I get dragged into it all myself with my thoughts on our publicly funded national radio station, let’s move on.
Yes, a word war or a war on words or over them anyway. Again, much of the action taking place on the good old CBC. Really, as a Lutheran who doesn’t hold to the idea of purgatory, I wonder why I make myself suffer through so much of this stuff. Christ and Christ alone has gotten me free and clear into heaven when my earthly journey is done. It’s not like I need to try and pay now with suffering to get myself in the door a little quicker later on.
As a Pastor, though, I do need to know what’s going on in the world where God’s people are called to live. I, and for that matter you, can’t simply close ourselves off from it all, even though that might be really tempting and perhaps even necessary now and then for healthy break from it. No, I don’t really want to hear about this whole business of couples not “gendering” their children, or in other words not recognizing him or her as a him or her, but rather, as a “they” until the child decides later on what “they” want to be.
I’m just waiting for the news that putting your child in a pretty dress is considered child abuse, unless of course he is male, or putting a baby in blue or pink is an offence against common decency, or at least something that only ignorant bigots like me would do. I’d also rather not hear that the States of New York and Indiana have just adopted laws, that call the ending of a baby’s life up to the moment of delivery an “abortion”, rather than calling it what it always was, and is - murder. No, I’d rather not hear about such horrors, and much less know that that’s the case as well, here in “the true North strong and free.”
A word war or a war on words, yes, and as I’ve just said, there are real casualties in it, innocent lives being sacrificed, collateral damage to the so-called “rights” of others. Yes, a word war or a war on words and I’d rather be far away from it all, but as a Pastor and a Child of God I’ve been called up to the front lines of this battle and asked to take a place in it’s trenches. Am I up to the task? No. My trust is and must be in the One who has called me up to this place, that He will supply all that I need, that He will be my strength and my shield in it all, and in fact actually be the One battling through me.
The sight of young David standing with sling in hand and his five smooth stones in his pouch before Goliath, and Gideon with his torch and pot before the hordes of Midian, and blinded Sampson with his hands resting on the pillars of the pagan temple, filled with God’s mocking foes, all are a great encouragement to me, as they should be to each and everyone of you. The One who is with us is far greater than the one who stands against us. God’s people have proven that again and again throughout the ages.
The deepest depths of the truth of who has the upper hand in it all is set before our eyes in Capernaum this day. Here, the Word made flesh wades into the thick of battle against the foe, with us and for us. He leads the charge before our eyes, overthrowing every enemy before Him - tearing them down into silence with the authoritative Word, that God the Father has placed in His mouth. He not only holds the field against every power that opposes Him, but clears it of them, so that He alone is left standing on it in victory.
As He does this before your eyes in this place today, He is waging battle against those powers that assault you. By showing you the authority that He has as the Christ, over every power of the enemy, He plucks them up and tears them down before you, as He strips their weapons from them. He displays His power before you to give you courage to resist them, firm in your faith in Him. He manifests His glorious might, so that you may not doubt but believe that they must flee before you in His name. And flee they do today, as He gives you the courage to engage them in Him.
Yes, there’s been a word war or a war on words going on ever since the liar came to Eden and asked Eve, “Did God really say?” There’s no question who is the one behind the many hurtful and harmful things that people say or tweet about each other, as there’s no question of who is trying to unmake and tear apart God’s beautiful creation, by moving it further and further away from being into unbeing, by bringing into question such realities, that God made, and makes us, male and female. And you don’t need to dig too deep to find the one who was a murderer from the start behind the lie that ending a child’s life is not murder, as long as you don’t want him or her.
Wearying? Yes, it can all be rather wearying, but we mustn’t be deceived about who is winning, beloved. No, we must not be. Capernaum leaves us in no doubt about that today. The Son of God, the Holy One of the Father, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, has the Word in His mouth that has authority and power like no other teaching. All other words and voices must and will fall silent before it. It is this Word that He has put in my mouth today for you, that through hearing it He might by His Spirit put it in your hearts and so in your mouths also.
This Word is the Good News of the Kingdom of God. It’s a Word of love, that overthrows every word of hate. It’s a Word of forgiveness, that overthrows every word of condemnation. It’s a Word of life, that tears down every word of death. That this Word will be victorious in your lives and in the world against the lies of the enemy, is made plain by the One who stands before you in His risen flesh and blood this morning. That He has fought this battle for you is proven by the nail marks in His hands and feet and the spear wound in His side. That He was victorious in it, is evident from His empty tomb. That His victory is your victory is left without doubt, as He gives you His flesh and blood to eat and drink.
A word war or a war on words, yes, whether you’re listening to the CBC or not, that’s what we’re in the midst of, beloved, but the Son of God, as the very Word made flesh, will have the last and victorious Word in it, and so perk up your ears and listen to Him as He speaks over you today, “Forgiven. Alive. Holy. Mine. Beloved. Forever.” Amen.