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Twenty-first Sunday After Trinity
October 21, 2018 A+D (edited from 2016)
St. John 4:46-54
In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
When Our Lord speaks, His Word accomplishes what pleases Him, and it prospers in the thing for which He sends it (Is 55.11).
Our Lord does not speak in vain, that is, uselessly, producing no result. He does not speak simply to hear Himself talk, or because He doesn’t know what else to do. He doesn’t ramble on hoping somewhere to find meaningful words. He doesn’t speak hoping that anything He says, or maybe His tone alone, might be comforting and consoling. That’s what we do many times when we’re in an awkward spot and don’t know what else to do.
But every word that proceeds from Our Lord’s mouth is purposeful, well spoken, and unbendable. Every word He says is the right word for the right time. His EVERY word perfectly fits the situation to which He speaks it and is what needs to be said.
That is the true power of Our Lord’s Word. Not just that His Word can make or change things, which it can. But the true power of our Lord’s Word is that He speaks the right word at the right time, and what He says is precisely what we need to hear and what He wants to say. Our Lord’s Word is always right on target and is always timely.
And yet we find ourselves resisting it and even abandoning it. When we feel oppressed by Satan, the world, and our sinful nature, we are tempted to fall back on our own thoughts, words, and expressions. We know better than this, but apparent temporary amnesia, we think that our thoughts must be God’s thoughts and our ways must be God’s ways, and even that our words must be God’s Words because that’s what we want, or what we think we need. And if we even stop to consider God’s Word in the face of temptation, we convince ourselves that His Word doesn’t mean what it says it means, that there’s wiggle room, or that it can be worked around, or brought into conformity with what we want to do. This is what sin does—it doubts God’s Word, and even assigns other meaning to it. And so we do not take up and put on the whole armor of God. We leave ourselves open to the attacks of the devil. We do not discipline our flesh to read and hear His Word as we should. Instead, we allow all manner of “real life” to get in the way. We allow our weak, lazy flesh to push it off for another day, and we even teach our children to do that as well.
The result is not only that we do not receive the full comfort and peace that Our Lord gives, but that we are also exposed to the wiles of the devil. When the fiery darts of the wicked one come against us, we have no defense. And when our minds and hearts trouble us, there is nothing to alleviate and calm our fears. For there is nothing that can truly resist the penetrating accusations of the devil, nothing that can truly shield us from temptation, and nothing that can truly overcome the crosses we bear outside of the truth and righteousness that Our Lord speaks.
When He says to the nobleman in Capernaum, “Go your way; your son lives,” these are good words, and it is so. It is appropriately powerful and efficacious. When He says to those brought for Baptism, “Ephphatha!”, “that is be opened,” it is good, and it is so. When He says to you, “Your sins are forgiven,” it is good, and it is so. And when our Lord says to you, “Suffer this cross for a little while,” although it feels difficult, it is also good, because those who both hear and trust in the Lord’s Word are “like Mount Zion which cannot be moved but abides forever” (Ps 125.1). And those who both wait on the Lord’s Word and pin all their hopes to it “shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Is 40.31). Your Lord knows the struggles that you are facing today. He knows how overcome you are by your sins and temptations. He knows how you suffer under the load of other peoples’ sins. He knows how grief can come upon you unaware. He is not a God far away, but a God near at hand. That’s why He continues to speak to you in the Scriptures, in the Divine Service, in the consolation of the brethren.
This true and sturdy reliance in Our Lord’s Word is what the nobleman exemplifies in today’s Gospel. With wings like eagles, he flies to the Lord Jesus. Why? Because he had heard and believed what the crowds said about Him. Because he hopes that the Lord will heal his son. And our Lord Jesus does not disappoint him or dash his hope. Our Lord never turns away those who call to Him in faith—even weak faith. He never dashes the hopes of those who seek Him. Not once, not with the Nobleman, and also not with you.
In fact, what Our Lord does is turn the nobleman’s hopes—however weak or misguided—into a certain confidence. “Behold, I have longed after thy PRECEPTS: quicken me in thy righteousness.” (Ps. 119:40; Introit). That is the prayer of the nobleman as he returns home. And that is also your prayer. For your souls are also often weak and fainting as you wait for the Lord’s salvation. And in your weakness, you try to take matters into your own hands. You try to think and work it out for yourselves, and in so doing, you no longer hope in the Lord’s Word but in whatever word that makes sense to you or gives you temporary comfort.
Let us instead follow the example of this believing father. Instead of turning into ourselves, let us seek the Lord’s Word so we may hear and take to heart what He says. It is good to have faith in times of sickness and distress and to come to the Divine Service in confidence, because the Lord says that He is with you always, even to the close of the age (Matt. 28:20).
This is the Word clearly spoken and preached to you, the Word that absolves you, the Word that baptized you, the Word that feeds and nourishes you in the Lord’s Supper. The Word makes you children of God; the Word strengthens your feeble knees and fearful hearts. The Lord is with you to the close of the age.
Here at the Holy Supper is where we are to seek the Lord’s Word, visibly present. For here He speaks it clearly, perfectly, most surely, most truly for you. And here, at the Lord’s Supper, every word Our Lord says is the right word for the right time. No matter what last week threw at you or what next week threatens, your Lord speaks a kind word to you now. “This is my Body.” His every word perfectly fits your situation, and is what needs to be said. “This is my Blood.”
Thus we pray in faith with King David: “You, Lord God, know Your servant. For Your word’s sake, and according to Your own heart, You have done all these great things…. And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant.” By your goodness let your Church remain forever in the godliness of Your Word; and by your grace and protection keep us in it against all adversities and by your grace and power, let us serve You in good works that flow from this faith. (2 Sam 7).
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.