Monday, January 16, 2012

What Can Neighbors Do For Each Other?

Second Sunday after Epiphany, January 15, Year of Our + Lord 2012
St. John and Trinity Lutheran Churches, Fairview and Sidney, Montana 
John 1:43-51

We’ve seen a lot of this the past 9 days.  We have seen a great deal of good done, between and for neighbors, these last 9 days.  We have seen family and friends surround and bear up the family of Sherry Arnold as they struggle with this great tragedy.  We have seen the broader community come out, long time residents, and new comers, to search for Sherry.  We have seen people come together to support and to pray and to hold each other, that we might carry on.  We’ve seen a lot of good done for neighbors, in these last nine days.  A lot of good done in response to great evil, to a great evil that was always out there, but not so much here.  And maybe in our memory, not like this.  A great evil that has taken a friend and a sister in Christ.  A great evil who has shaken all of us and our community.  We have turned to God in prayer and supplication and in song.  But we have not seen the one thing we most wanted, we have not received our sister back.  

The one text from Scripture that seems obvious this morning is the Good Samaritan, because that text is all about neighbors.  “Who is my neighbor?” the Pharisee asks Jesus.  So Jesus tells us and him about the Good Samaritan.  You know the story.  You know the story about the man going up from Jericho to Jerusalem, who was struck down by robbers, beaten and left on the side of the road.  You know about the priest, who, for what  reasons we are not exactly told, but we suspect because he did not want to get involved, he did not want to be made unclean by this potentially dead person, this priest passes by on the other side.  And the Levite too, the building trustee of the temple, going to Jerusalem as well, he couldn’t be unclean, so he also passes by on the other side.  But then a Samaritan.  You remember who the Samaritans are, the Samaritans are hated, the Samaritans are, for the Jews, those half breed cousins that we don’t like to talk about.  The Samaritan comes down the road and sees the man lying on the side of the road, and he goes to him.  And he washes his wounds with oil and wine and he binds up his wounds, and he puts him on his donkey and he carries him to the inn, and he pays for his care in the inn until that day when he can return and continue to care in person for the man who was left on the side of the road.  

We have prayed and we have wanted the Good Samaritan to come to our the rescue, to bind us up, to wash us clean, and most of all to deliver our sister to us.  And He has, just not in the way that we expect, and not in the way that we have wanted. 

Because Jesus our Good Samaritan has come to our rescue  by becoming the victim, as well as the one who rescues us.   He was the only one who could rescue us, for as we should always have known, but certainly know now, we cannot overcome the evil that is in this world.  We cannot overcome what’s wrong with us.  He is the only one, for He is God Himself.  God alone can save.  Jesus is the only one who could save us by swallowing up suffering in his own body, becoming the Son of Mary so that He could bear her sins and your sins and my sins.  Only Jesus could come and rescue us.  

By her faith, by Christ’s Baptism, given to Sherry at this font, by His  Holy Body and Blood, by His precious word, Sherry was  joined to Christ, and Christ has always been joined to Sherry, and so Jesus has always been with her, and is always with her, and is with her now.  And He continues to come.  Not always as we wish, with the healing of physical and emotional wounds, not always with rescue from the evils of this world, but always with us, coming with eternal healing, coming with the oil of salvation, coming with the new wine of the heavenly kingdom.  He comes with the healing that He purchased when He became the one abandoned, struck down and left.  He came to become sin for us, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.  Covered by Him, forgiven by Him, clothed by Him, we poor sinners have been called righteous and holy in the sight of God our Father.  

And so now as saints of God we can do more as neighbors. We can give of our time, lives, possessions, as we seen so many people do these last nine days, because we know Who our true treasure is.  We know that all the things of this world that we have we‘ve received from Him, and that none of them can compare to the life and the joy and the glory and the honor that is ours in Christ, seated at God’s right hand, right now.  We can do more as neighbors, because we can love, as He has first loved us.  Pouring out His life that we might be His own, we now can pour out our love for our neighbors.  We can care for people, we can reach out to people, and we, like Philip, can tell our Nathanaels about Jesus. 

Philip is called by Jesus, and goes to his friend Nathanael and says “Come and see this one, the one promised from of old in the Scriptures, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.  
     Nathanael is skeptical.  Nathanael is skeptical, because he probably knows Nazareth and he knows his scripture and he not sure  know why we should expect a savior from Nazareth.  But Jesus, born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth, is the One.  Philip knows it, so he just says to Nathanael, “Come and see.  Come and see.”  

Can anything good come from the horrible events we have suffered through these last nine days?  Yes.  Many good things have already come from these horrible events, acts of love between neighbors.  And more than anything else, Christ and His Word have been in our midst.   Our community Has been speaking the truth of Christ, hearing the truth of Christ, praying in the Name of Christ.  It has been my profound privilege to be with the families and hear them confess the faith that I could hardly speak.  Confessing Christ crucified and resurrected, even as they reeled in pain, even as they cried out, “Why God?”      

So good has and will continue to come, because of the  One Good Man who came from Nazareth, calling disciples to Himself, the Son of God, who is also the Son of Mary, our Savior Jesus Christ.  

We have always known in our minds, we have always known from Scripture, we have always known from the news that presses in upon us from all around the world, we have always known that evil is real.  And we even know that evil is real because of who we are as sinners.  But now we know, perhaps like never before.  Now perhaps we know in our gut that evil is real.  

And so now is even more the time to know and receive and yes, rejoice, in the One Savior Jesus Christ, who has swallowed up evil in His own body, and taken away the sins of the world.  In Jesus Christ Sherry, and you, and all who trust already have the victory.  You have a seat at the heavenly feast, there’s a chair waiting for you there. You have the promise that every tear will be wiped from your eyes. 

So love one another.  Love one another because you are loved.  Love one another because you can, in Christ.  Love one another, and by that, then, you will not give in to evil.  You will not give in to doubts and to anger and to hatred, and the what ifs.  “What if I…”  Love one another and be loved by Christ, and know that all these what ifs and all these doubts and all these questions are attacks from Satan, who wants to destroy your faith in the one who died and rose and lives on high for you. Know that these are attacks from Satan, and do not succumb, do not give in.  Because there is no need; Jesus has conquered.  All of your sins are washed away in His blood.  Every evil thing that can happen to us in this life, He has already gone through, and He is even with you in the midst.  Despite what has happened, despite the questions we have, know this: the devil is on a short leash.   He cannot touch you.  Yes, bad things will happen.  Bad things will happen to you and to me,   horrible things have happened here.  But Satan has not defeated Sherry, for Christ Jesus is with her and she is with Him. 

So Feed on His Word.  Receive the foretaste of the feast to come.  Rest in His peace.  And the God of peace, who raised Jesus Christ from the dead, will give you faith and strength to carry on.  The Peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.    God is faithful, He will do it.  Amen. 

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