What Do YOU Read

Greetings all.

Looking through here you can find my sermon from this week…July 14th, 2013. The text is from Luke 10:25-37…You can read the sermon here…pardon all the weird punctuation and indications to pause…that’s how I write out my manuscripts.

You can also listen to the sermon here.
http://soundcloud.com/revdalen/what-do-you-read-7-14-2013

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…Amen

Well, it’s been a week…Over the course of this week I have met many of you, and in several of those meetings I’ve heard “Oh Pastor, you must be a runner…We’ve seen you out running in the morning.” Well, yes, it’s true. I am a runner.

I started running about 2 years ago…and when I first started, I think I could run about a quarter of a mile before I was ready to keel over from exhaustion…but like all those trainers and motivators continue to tell us…practice does help. Gradually over the course of about 9 months, I built up my ability to the point where I could run a 5k non stop…and a few months later, I ran my first…and honestly to date…only…official race.

I have to admit, that first race wet my appetite, and as I’ve continued running, I’ve started to set my sights a little higher. At this point, I’ve run 10k’s…unofficially of course…a few times…I’m proud of those accomplishments, but there’s this little needle in my head that says “Come on…go big or go home.” And typically that needle gets really pointy when I’m walking through a parking lot and see a car with one of those stickers that says 26.2…I’m sure you’ve seen them. It’s the trophy that a runner is awarded when they complete a marathon…needless to say…I don’t have that sticker…not yet anyway.

But I do know several people that do…and when I’ve asked them about the experience…what it’s like…how hard it is…things of that nature…the response has always been the same…We can’t really describe it…you’ve just got to experience it for yourself. Until you’ve forced your legs over every step of those 26.2 miles, you just can’t understand the accomplishment.

Now on one hand, I guess that makes sense. There are certainly experiences that we as individuals just can’t really wrap our heads around without actually doing it ourselves…I get that…but I’m a runner…I’ve run 6.2 miles before…I’ve experienced that so shouldn’t it be the same to run 26.2? The same…only…longer? (pause) I guess until I finally commit, and train…and then go out there and earn my 26.2 sticker…I won’t know will I?

Life is like that, isn’t it? I think back over my lifetime…and I think about the experiences that I never really understood prior to…actually experiencing them. I remember the first time I flew in an airplane when I was 19…I remember seeing the Rocky Mountains for the first time when I was 22…A few years later, I remember seeing the Atlantic Ocean for the first time along with my son Jack, who was only 8 months old at the time…I’d heard about all these things…but I never really understood them…until I experienced them. (pause)

And speaking of Jack…that makes me think about a picture that I have sitting on my desk.  It’s a picture of him when he was about 18 months old…big enough to walk around on his own. The picture is taken from behind him as he’s standing in the parking lot of an apple orchard. You can tell from his body language that he’s just taking all of this in. All sorts of new sights and sounds…all new to this little bitty guy…and that’s how young children experience the world isn’t it? Everything is new to them…everything is an opportunity to expand their understanding of the world that they live in. (pause)

Now, perhaps you are wondering just what the heck I’m talking about.  Perhaps some of you sitting out there today…are thinking Pastor, you are not making a bit of sense so far…let’s get to the point.  Maybe you’ve been expecting a certain type of sermon ever since you sat down and looked at the back of the bulletin to see that today’s Gospel reading is the Good Samaritan…arguably the most well-known and familiar parable in the entire Bible…You all know the story itself…I probably didn’t even need to read it…a man gets beat up and robbed…the two guys that we expect to stop and help him flat out ignore him…and then the unexpected Samaritan…the foreigner that normally wouldn’t even bother crossing cultural lines stops and helps…then goes above and beyond to provide care for the hurt man.

You probably all know the application of that story as well. I don’t really need to explain it…Jesus is calling us to be a neighbor…and not just for those people that we tend to think of as our neighbors…those people that are just like us…but also to the unexpected person…and we need to be open to those times when we are seeking help and it comes from the unexpected source…the unexpected individual.

If you’re thinking that…I’d say you are pretty much spot on…and perhaps you’re thinking…yep, we got it Pastor…say amen and sit down. (pause)

Well, I’m not gonna sit down quite yet…because, like normal…the word of God is doing that whole living and active thing…and I think there’s a little bit more to focus on besides just the obvious…I think there’s a little more here for us to…experience…today…so at this point, just put the Good Samaritan out of your head…We could even pretend that we never heard that part of the story…and let’s back up to the first part…the part of this story that often gets glossed over as we rush towards the familiar.

Did anyone catch just why Jesus started telling this story in the first place?  He’s in a sort of debate, with an individual that we can only assume is a bit of a bigwig…Our translations tend to call him a lawyer…but he’s not exactly the type of lawyer that we’re all familiar with in this day and age…Rather, it would be a little bit better to simply call him an expert in the law…and specifically the Old Testament law…you know…that really lengthy list of rules found in Deuteronomy.  This guy has spent his life studying it…probably knows it backwards and forwards…and is familiar enough with it to know that it’s really complicated.

At this point in the lawyer’s life, he’s certainly lost the innocent curiosity of youth. I think we all tend to lose that after awhile don’t we? The natural curiosity to experience everything new and exciting becomes mundane…and I think we tend to become a little more analytical…and we start to wonder if there aren’t some shortcuts.

It would seem that’s where our lawyer is when he encounters Jesus in today’s story. This expert in the law stands up and asks the question “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (pause) Now, on one hand, at least he’s got the right goal in mind…eternal life? That’s a good start for the guy…but the way he comes at the question reveals the lack of true understanding. “What must I do?”  We could rephrase it, “Hey Jesus…wanna give me a checklist? I’m not getting any younger here and I wanna make sure I’ve got my ducks in a row…so what’s the minimum…what do I need to pay attention to?” (pause)

Now here’s the part that I really like…Jesus…seems to get the tiniest bit snarky with his reply…What is written in the law? What do YOU…read there? He might as well be saying…look dude…you know the LAW just as good as I do…so what are you asking me for?

But the conversation continues…and we see by Jesus’ continued responses, that the man is on the right track…Love the Lord with all your heart and soul and strength and mind…and love your neighbor as yourself…and surprisingly enough…this correct answer…is in fact found in the law…and I realize that as good Lutherans…we might get just a little nervous at that idea.

NOT LAW…GRACE!!! We hear the law as a reminder that we are flawed and that we can’t do it on our own…and then we hear the gospel that by the grace of God, Jesus has saved us from our sin…that’s how we inherit eternal life…that’s our experience. (pause)

And if you are thinking that right now…kudo’s, I completely agree…and I think Jesus agree’s as well…so why is he asking this guy what the law says?  Well, have you ever tried to love God with all your heart…or with all your strength…or all your mind…get’s a little tough it…right in the middle of all that love for God…that all encompassing, every atom of your being love…something else crosses your mind…something else catches your attention…might be something as simple as getting caught up in the fact that you’re hungry and it’s lunch time…or maybe you get caught up in worrying that the paycheck isn’t quite stretching to the end of the month anymore…or maybe the desire to watch the football game overshadows the opportunity to spend a little time with your maker…could be anything…all I’m saying is that in our lives, it’s really easy for God to slip to the back burner…

And once that happens, guess what…that Law that Jesus agreed with…was just broken…and we have fallen short of the glory of God…and eternal life…has just gone out of reach….and that my friends, is where Jesus comes in. We talked about that a moment ago…salvation from our sins through Christ which is only by the grace of God. 

We are given something that we did not…and CAN NOT…earn…there is nothing that we can do to inherit eternal life…and that is where the lawyer’s understanding and reliance on the law…is falling short for him.  There is no divine checklist for us to work our way through…but that being said…the lawyer did stumble across a grain of wisdom in what we would call his foolish question…did you catch it?

He says the word…inherit…Anyone here ever inherited anything? You didn’t earn did you? It was given to you by someone else…it’s a gift that you aren’t entitled to…but it’s given to you anyway…and that is exactly how we come to find the eternal life that the lawyer asks about…we inherit it, through Christ, from God. There is no other way but by Christ alone.

Now all that being said, I need to come back around to something. Just why did Jesus ask the question “What is written in the law? What do YOU read there?” (pause) Because the lawyer needed to experience the answer to the true question for himself…and I believe that we all share that need.  Jesus meets each and every one of us where we are. For this man, he met him in his own experience of the Law…and he pointed out the need for God’s grace within it. 

Likewise, we each need to experience the grace of God for ourselves…no one can relate this experience for you…no one can make you understand it by simply telling you the story…we can only point to the place where Jesus is…and my friends that is in the scriptures themselves.

The Bible is the largest best seller in the world…there are tons of them all over the place…and Jesus is telling us in this story to open it up and experience it for ourselves…it’s not always easy…not everything in that book is easy to wrap our head’s around…but the message of God’s love for the world…the message that He loves us so much that he is willing to sacrifice his own son in order to bridge that gap that we cannot cross…that message…is there…waiting for us to open it up…and experience it for ourselves.

You don’t need someone else to do it for you. You have direct access to the Word of God…and so I ask you…What do YOU…read there? Amen

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