The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: Galatians 5:25-6:10
In Christ Jesus, who gives us rest from our heaviest burden of sin, so that all other burdens carried by faith in Him feel easy and light (Mat. 11:28-30), dear fellow redeemed:
“I love you. You love me. We’re a happy family.” You probably recognize those words from a popular kids show featuring a large purple and green dinosaur. Impressionable preschoolers loved to watch and sing along. They thought Barney was nice and fun, and they believed that he cared about them. His song taught them that since he loved them and they loved him, they were one big happy family. The message was memorable for its simplicity. But it takes more than mutual love to make a family.
So what does make a family? As you can imagine, the definition of “family” has become less definite in recent years. The traditional definition of family is: “The group comprising a husband and wife and their dependent children, constituting a fundamental unit in the organization of society” (Webster’s 1913 Dictionary). Other definitions of family are less specific, less concrete, more like the Barney definition. At the same time that society is moving the boundaries of what a family is, we see less stability in home life and much more brokenness. A passing love or a vague commitment do not make a family.
Family requires more; it calls for “blood, sweat, and tears.” Family begins when a man leaves his father and mother and holds fast to his wife. Here two different bloodlines are brought together. A man and woman are joined in marriage and become “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). More often than not, the union of husband and wife brings about children. The mother’s blood provides nutrients to the growing baby in her womb. And then the baby is born to be loved and cared for by its parents.
But parenting is not easy; it requires more than a little “sweat equity.” There are diapers to change, illnesses and injuries to tend to, attitudes to adjust, and crises to manage. The mother especially feels the pressure of showing the children they are loved, and the father feels the pressure of providing for them. Because of the fall into sin, God told Adam and Eve that there would be pain in family life. Parents and children would struggle along until they returned to dust (Gen. 3:16-19).
So there would also be tears. Tears when family problems are beyond our power or ability to fix. Tears when families are divided by disagreements and conflicts. Tears when spouses and parents and children breathe their last. But there are happy tears too. Tears of joy for birthdays and big accomplishments and renewed health and the expansion of the family circle. Family is more than “I love you. You love me.” Family is a gift from God formed and forged through blood, sweat, and tears.
The spiritual family of God was also brought about through blood, sweat, and tears, but not our own. Our adoption into God’s family was made possible by the sacrifice of God’s Son in our place. As His death approached, He cried for the people who rejected Him as Savior (Luk. 19:41-44). “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!” He said (v. 42). Later that week as He knelt in earnest prayer to His Father, He shook in agony, “and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luk. 22:44).
Then He went to the cross carrying the sins of all people. Blood dripped from the stripes of His scourging and from the gouges made by the crown of thorns. Then it ran from His hands and feet as the nails were driven into the cross. His tears, His sweat, and His blood were all for sinners. He did all the work, all the heavy lifting, to win our salvation. Nothing was left undone. “It is finished!” He said before breathing His last (Joh. 19:30).
His death brought us life. It was the ultimate sacrifice. He died so that all sinners would be reconciled to God. He died to make atonement for every sin. He died so we could have a share in eternal life. All who believe in Him by the power of the Holy Spirit are joined to Him. We are covered in His righteousness and cleansed by His blood. “[I]n Christ Jesus [we] are all sons of God, through faith” (Gal. 3:26).
We did not get ourselves into God’s family any more than a baby gets himself conceived. We were reborn spiritually in Holy Baptism by the power of the Holy Spirit (Joh. 3:5). Because God does the work, all have equal standing in His family. One is not greater or less than another. God does not play favorites. We are equally loved and forgiven according to His tremendous grace.
That means there is no reason for conceit or self-centeredness in the family of God. We believers should ask ourselves, “What good things do we have that God did not give us? What is the source of our abilities and strength and wealth? What is it that enables our faithfulness to the Lord?” The answer is that God does all these things. But we love to take credit for them. If I am successful, I want to accept the glory for it. If I have a good reputation and a clean record, I am eager to pat myself on the back.
On the flip side, it is oh so easy to point out the failures of others. “If only they got their act together like we have. If only they stopped complaining and started working!” We like to compare ourselves with others because it makes us feel better about ourselves. Seeing a life in shambles gets us thinking we have it all together. Focusing on their mistakes helps us forget about our own.
But such comparison does not put our righteousness and faithfulness on display. It shows our sin. Our sin causes us to look down on others, to think we are better than they are, to gloat about their spiritual stumbling. This is not how Jesus, our Brother-in-the-Flesh, treated us. He looked with mercy upon us, joined us in the depths of our darkness, and shouldered the burden of our sin.
He calls us to do the same for the brothers and sisters in our spiritual family. When a fellow believer sins, our job is not to gossip about it. It’s not to shun him. Our job is to speak the Word of reconciliation to him, to share the love of Christ who paid for all sin. In this way, the wounded soul may be restored “in a spirit of gentleness,” and the bleeding in the body of Christ can be stopped.
We extend grace toward others because the time will come—and probably quite often—that we will need grace extended toward us. St. Paul writes that everyone has his own load to bear. The devil and his fellow demons have special temptations ready for each one of us. They know how to tempt our sinful flesh to anger or worry or pride or selfishness. None of us can claim to have come through these temptations unscathed, to think that we have lived consistently righteous lives. Again, the text says, “if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
So we members of the family of God are the walking wounded. We are the spiritually sick. We are weaker than we want to admit. Recognizing this about ourselves makes it much easier to see the help that our spiritual brothers and sisters need. They are as we are. They struggle as we struggle. They suffer as we suffer. They need mercy and help and forgiveness just like we do. So Paul writes, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
In His family, God gives the young to care for the elderly, and the elderly to encourage the young. He gives some to be good listeners and some for wise advice. He gives some to be generous and charitable with their means and others to give of their time. He gives pastors to teach and pray for His people, and His people to support and pray for their pastor.
By ourselves, each one of us is weak and vulnerable to all sorts of attacks. This is why the devil loves to try to divide the family of God, to turn us against one another, to drive us all apart. But God’s Word is the glue that holds us together. The Word of His Law exposes our conceit and pride. And the Word of His Gospel brings us forgiveness for those sins and relief from our burdens.
As we together look to Jesus in faith, we find in Him an inexhaustible storehouse of grace. Through the message of His perfect life lived for us, His holy death to save us, and His resurrection to secure the victory, we find healing when we have been wronged, help when we are hurting, and comfort in our pain. By His Word of grace, The Lord Keeps His Family Together.
Even though each of us is imperfect and weak, He promises to work powerful blessings through us for the people He brings into our lives. Whatever blood, sweat, and tears are required for our spiritual family or our physical one, His grace gives us the strength to carry on even when the job is hard. He helps us “do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
When a burden feels too heavy for us, it is not too heavy for Him. He will carry it—and us—through every difficulty we face and will bring us safely to His heavenly kingdom.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
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(picture from “Jesus Traveling” by James Tissot, 1836-1902)
The Second Sunday after Epiphany – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: St. John 2:1-11
In Christ Jesus, the Bridegroom of the Church, who provides all that is needed for the eternal wedding feast, dear fellow redeemed:
Most of the things we do on any given day will not be remembered for long. We wouldn’t expect them to be. There is nothing too impressive about logging hours at work and taking care of duties at home. These are things that most everyone does. But there are certain events and happenings that people recognize as “history in the making.” This could be witnessing the home team win the championship. Or it could be having a visit from someone famous or receiving an award for a job well done. Moments like these are not soon forgotten.
A memorable time in the lives of many people is the day of their wedding. So much planning and preparation goes into that day—the guest list, the service, the reception hall, the clothing, the flowers, the decorations, the photographer. It all comes together in one grand event and culminates in a shared promise: “Will you have this woman to be your wedded wife? …I will.” “Will you have this man to be your wedded husband? …I will.” It is not an event that receives much notice in the world. But for the newly married couple, it is life-changing. Their history, which before this was tied most closely to their families, is now tied most closely to their spouse.
More often than not, the bride and groom feel great optimism on their wedding day. They are uniting with the person they love the most. Whatever the future holds, whether good or bad, they will meet it together, hand in hand. Their love will conquer all. No challenge or obstacle will affect them. It will only make them stronger and deepen their love toward each other. They cannot imagine what could ever pull them apart.
But no matter how much time and money are spent to make the wedding day a “perfect” day, that day is followed by another and another. The feelings of elation that came with their union as husband and wife begin to dissipate. They come down out of the clouds and face the challenges that have gone from theoretical to actual.
Before long, they experience the strain that sin puts on marriage. They learn things about each other they did not know before and are not sure they like. They find it difficult to resolve their problems and communicate effectively. Over time, husband and wife might withdraw from each other and seek answers or happiness in places that make their problems much, much worse. How could something that starts so well, go so wrong?
Let’s go back to how a marriage starts. As much as people worry about taking care of all the little details of the wedding day, one major thing often escapes their notice. They forget about one very important guest – the only guest that can make the day what it should be and deliver the kind of happy marriage that the bride and bridegroom desire.
A wedding and a marriage without Jesus is a union that must rely on two people who are thoroughly flawed. It must rely on their imperfect promises, their imperfect love, their imperfect commitment. Some of these marriages last, but many do not. On the other hand, a marriage founded on Christ and sustained by Christ is not easily broken. Then the power source to keep a marriage going does not come from inside a person, from the heart or from the will. The power source comes from the outside, from Jesus through His Word and Sacraments. The most important question for a man and a woman to ask as they prepare for their marriage is: Will Jesus be present?
Jesus was present at a wedding in the town of Cana some ten miles north of his hometown of Nazareth. The fact that He and His mother were invited along with Jesus’ disciples, indicates that this was the wedding of a relative or close friend. Jesus was certainly welcome, but He hardly stood out among the guests. At this time He had done no miracles. There was no excitement about Him like there would be later. But Mary seemed to be expecting this to change. When she learned that the wine for the banquet had run out, she immediately told her Son about it. “Woman, what does this have to do with Me?” He asked. “My hour has not yet come.” Undaunted, she directed the servants to “Do whatever He tells you.”
Meanwhile, the lack of wine threatened to cast a cloud over a joyous occasion. What could end a wedding celebration faster than the closing of the bar? As unfortunate as this was, it does not seem like a situation that required divine action. But Jesus thought otherwise. He showed that small problems are just as important to Him as big ones. He determined that this wedding banquet was the right place to begin to manifest His glory.
Now imagine that you were one of those servants standing at attention that day. What would you have been thinking when Jesus asked you to “Fill the jars with water”? You probably wouldn’t know what to think, except that you would be pretty sure this would do nothing to solve the wine problem. Still you would do as you were told. But when you were asked to “draw some out and take it to the master of the feast,” you would have imagined that this was a waste of time, and it might even get you in trouble. What could you say when the master of the feast asked you to explain why you bothered him to taste some water!
This is how it seems to people when we tell them that every marriage needs Jesus. What good can He do? How can He help my strained relationship? I need real solutions, not religion! But we shouldn’t sell Jesus short. He knows something about marriage. In fact, He is the one who created it. When the LORD took Adam’s rib and made a woman from it to be his helper, that was the institution of marriage. The last part of Genesis 2 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (v. 24).
“They shall become one flesh”—that is how God sees a husband and wife, as one. And from the marital union of man and woman comes children who are the physical manifestation of this oneness. The union of marriage is so sacred in God’s sight, that He wants it to endure until death parts it. Jesus said, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mt. 19:6).
Now we know that God permits divorce in cases of unfaithfulness or desertion. But nowhere in Scripture does God permit divorce simply because feelings have changed, or because husband and wife don’t love each other like they used to, or because they just can’t work through their differences. These excuses are not godly; they come from selfishness and pride. Just think if Jesus said, “I would love to have people with Me in heaven, but we just aren’t getting along. I’m just not seeing them step up like they are supposed to. If they change their behavior, then maybe I’ll change my mind.”
Jesus did not wait for us to show love to Him; He loved us even when we had wandered far away in sin. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27). Jesus did that for you and me when we deserved the exact opposite. We deserved the silent treatment from God, and for Him to do to us as we had done to Him. Instead He gave and loved and sacrificed, so that we could become something different than we were, so that we could be cleansed of our sins and stand in holiness before God.
The servants could never have imagined that the water in those stone jars would become fine wine. In the same way there are many who don’t think their marital problems can be fixed. Why even try? It would just be a waste of time. Jesus does not agree. He says, “For all things are possible with God” (Mk. 10:27). He made of water what no one thought He could, and He can do the same with a marriage, turning a sour situation into fine wine. The question is, are husband and wife humble enough, as the servants were, to draw out some water from the jar? Are they humble enough to listen to what God says in His Word? Are they ready to acknowledge their own sins and not the shortcomings of the other? This is a difficult task, but it is not impossible.
Not only is it possible, we know that God wants it. No matter what our station is in life, the Lord wants us repent of our sins and humbly hear His Word. What kind of people would we be if we knew all that God has done for us in Christ, but then live like it never even happened? We would be like servants who witnessed water becoming wine, but then ignored the man who made it happen. For their part, the disciples of Jesus believed in Him. They recognized “history in the making,” and knew that God had kept His commitment and promise to His people to send them a Savior.
God always keeps His promises. He promises to bless marriage. He promises to bless the hearing and keeping of His Word. He promises to bless those who bow before Him with broken and contrite hearts. He can fill an empty cup and make it overflow with sweet spiritual drink, so that thirst is quenched and the spirit rejuvenated. The Lord will not fail to do this because He Loves His Imperfect Bride and forgives all of her sins.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
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(picture is from a work by a 10th century monk)
The Ninth Sunday after Trinity – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: St. Luke 16:1-9
In Christ Jesus, who redeemed us not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, dear fellow redeemed:
One of the chapters of Greek mythology contains the story of King Midas. He was a very wealthy king, wealthier than any other. But he was not satisfied with his great riches. He wanted more. One day, a visitor promised to give him whatever he wished. So the king said, “I wish that everything I touch turns into gold!” The next morning, he woke up and touched his blankets. They turned to gold. He ran through the house, and everything he touched turned into pure gold. What good fortune!
All that running around made him hungry and thirsty, so he ordered food and drink to be brought to him. But as soon as he touched those things, they also turned to gold. King Midas began to realize that his gift was not everything he thought. Instead of excitement, he was now afraid and sad. When his daughter heard him weeping, she came to console him. But when they embraced, even she turned into gold. What a terrible mistake he had made!
The king was certain that gold would make him happy. Now he was willing to give all the gold in the world if it could bring back his daughter and allow him to eat and drink again. After all, what good is gold to someone who is alone? And what can gold do for someone who is about to die? King Midas learned a hard lesson about valuables. He had taken for granted what was really most valuable to him, and he found that the thing he most coveted was ultimately worthless.
What Do You Value Most? I think this list of valuables applies to many here and in this order: 1) Faith, 2) Family, 3) Friends, 4) Fortune, and 5) Fame. You know that faith in Jesus saves, and without Jesus there is no hope, so that has to be number one. No one knows you as well and supports you in this life like your family and then your friends. You may not aspire to a large fortune, but you want to be comfortable. And if you should be recognized by others for your good efforts, that would be welcome fame. Faith, family, friends, fortune, fame.
But if that list of valuables is accurate, shouldn’t this be reflected in our priorities? So if faith in Jesus is truly what we value most, won’t it be our primary focus to retain and strengthen that faith? And how is that done? Romans 10:17, “[F]aith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Jesus says that His disciples abide in His Word (Jn. 8:31), and pay attention to everything He has spoken (Mt. 28:20). This is not just a one-day-a-week thing, but an every day priority. The Word of God must take precedence over anything else we are involved in. Work should not take the place of the Word, or sports, or any other leisure activity.
Neither should “family time” take the place of hearing and learning God’s Word. Better that family time is an opportunity to hear and learn the Word together. Nothing binds a family closer together than a common faith in Christ, and nothing strains a family more than the absence of Jesus and His Word. But as much as we say that family is a priority, often we neglect family almost as much as our faith. As parents, we can get so caught up in our work and hobbies that we really are not that involved in our children’s lives. Or maybe we can find time to spend with friends, but we can’t seem to find time to be at home.
And what about the friends who need us, but we can’t find time for them either. They wear us out with their constant troubles. They seem to take from us more than they give. We decide that we need to be around people who aren’t so needy. Then we wonder where they are when we have a crisis.
At the end of our list is fortune and fame. We want to be wealthy and well-liked, so much so that these valuables often occupy our time and energy above all else. But they are the least important. Jesus lumps these things under “unrighteous wealth.” The word used in Greek is “mammon”—“the mammon of unrighteousness.” He is not saying that it is a sin to have money and possessions. But it is a sin to value them above all else, and to think that they can offer us everything we need. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1Tim. 6:9-10).
The mammon of this world is just that, “of this world.” It cannot go with us into eternity. It must stay here. It would have no value in heaven or in hell anyway. But mammon is all that this world knows. As the saying goes, “Money makes the world go round.” This is the attitude we see in the manager in Jesus’ parable. First of all, he was mishandling his master’s possessions. We do not know exactly how. Was he failing to do what his master hired him for? Was he skimming a bit off the top? Was he simply lazy? It is not as though the man was incapable. When he was about to become unemployed, he sprang into action. He summoned those who had debts and reduced what they owed. He did this not because he felt any special concern for them. His concern was for himself and his own well-being. This is what motivated him. He did not want to have to dig or beg, so instead he weaseled his way into the good graces of others.
When his master found out, what did he have to say? He was probably happy to get rid of this worthless worker, but he also commended him—praised him—for his shrewdness. This dishonest manager had figured out how to avoid a future that was not to his liking. His actions were not ethical; they were not right. But that is not the point of Jesus’ parable. His point is that “the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” So this parable is not really about the wicked practices of “the sons of this world,” of unbelievers. It is about how “the sons of light,” how believers in Christ, should operate.
What we can learn from unbelievers is shrewdness. Think how far they are willing to go to gain and build up and protect their riches. They have an insatiable drive for the things they value most, even though they know that these things will not last. If they have such a focus and drive on getting what they will eventually lose, isn’t it true that we should have an even sharper focus on what will last forever? But we are reluctant to go there. Because we like what this world has to offer. Our flesh is weak, even though our spirit is willing (Mt. 26:41).
God knows it. This is why He sent His Son to take on flesh. Your flesh was far too weak to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” and “your neighbor as yourself” (Mk. 12:30,31). But Jesus ignored every worldly temptation. He was not distracted by temporal riches; His focus was on winning eternal riches for you. “[F]or the joy that was set before him—the joy of saving sinners—[he] endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2). Your debt of misplaced priorities and of greed was greater than you could ever pay. But Jesus says to you, “Take your bill and write ‘redeemed.’” “Take your bill and write ‘forgiven.’”
You owe nothing to God because of your sin. The debt is paid in Christ. But He does expect you to use the gifts He has given to you shrewdly and wisely. As far as earthly goods go, He has given some more and some less. He intends that you use what you have for food, clothing, and home. But you know that life is “more than food,” and the body is “more than clothing” (Mt. 6:25). Those things eventually pass away. But the Gospel is eternal. Salvation through Christ is eternal. There is nothing more valuable than these gifts from God.
If you could with your earthly means purchase someone’s salvation, you would do it, wouldn’t you? Of course you cannot do this. But you can set aside a portion of what God has given you to promote the preaching of the Word. You can assist the poor and needy and share with them the hope you have in Christ. You can support mission work in our country and around the world. You can purchase Bibles or other good devotional materials for use in your own home or to share with friends. In these ways, through such sacrifices of love, you will be doing what Jesus says in today’s text, “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.”
God has given you the responsibility of managing countless blessings for your own good and for the good of others. He knows well where you have been wasteful and squandered His wealth, and where you have been selfish and greedy. But that does not stop Him from continuing to give and give more. He loves you. The job is still yours. Your management will not be taken away from you. Worldly riches can only satisfy for awhile as King Midas learned, but the treasures of God endure into eternity.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
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The Second Sunday after Epiphany – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: St. John 1:1-11
In Christ Jesus, who invites us to feast with Him here through Word and Sacrament and to join Him forever at the wedding banquet in heaven, dear fellow redeemed:
One of the most difficult decisions to make in planning for a wedding is deciding who to invite. Typically, there is a limit of how many can fit either in the church or the reception hall. And it is not just the bride and groom who choose the guests. Both sets of parents have opinions (often strong ones) about this too. Everything has to be done fairly. This matter of the guest list has caused many brides and bridegrooms to wonder why they ever wanted a big wedding in the first place.
But for all the friends and family that do get invited to a wedding, there is one guest—a very important guest—who is often overlooked. I am sure you have been to such weddings and noticed this problem. Sometimes you even went expecting Him to be there, but He was nowhere to be found. Sadly, many weddings, and marriages too, lack the presence of Jesus. This is a terrible omission; it is a considerable offense. There would be no marriage in the first place if not for the Lord.
When Adam was the lone human on the earth, God took one of his ribs and made it into a woman. God gave them to each other as husband and wife. This was the institution of marriage, which no vote by the people or action by judges can alter. But this perfect marriage did not stay perfect for long. Adam failed to protect his wife from the devil’s temptation, and Eve by her actions failed to honor both her husband and her God. Together Adam and Eve fell into sin. They felt shame. Their perfectly complementary union became contentious. This was not the end of marriage, but now it was tainted and troubled.
Adam and Eve no longer had a picture of perfect love in each other. But God gave them hope, hope in His only Son. This holy Son came to be one with us, to unite Himself with the sinful human race. He looked upon an unfaithful bride, selfish, stained, and He said to her, “I will,” and then He did. There is no way to rightly understand God’s purpose for marriage without first understanding His love for us in Christ. Jesus is the key to marriage and its only sure foundation. This is why it is so fitting that He was a guest at the wedding at Cana, the setting for His first miracle.
We do not have any special details about the bride and bridegroom in Cana. We do not know if Mary and Jesus were related to one of them or just acquaintances. What is certain is that this couple did not truly appreciate who was on their guest list that day. As pious Jews, they would have believed that the LORD was looking upon them with favor, and blessing them on their wedding day. But they had no idea that God was present in the flesh! His presence there tells us something. It tells us that He approves of marriage. If it were a sinful institution, He would not have participated in it, and He certainly would not have prolonged the celebration by turning water into wine.
He chose a wedding as the setting for His first miracle. He began His miraculous work where society begins—in the home. All authority comes from the home. This is what we learn from the Fourth Commandment, which is listed first among the Commandments in the second table of God’s law. The home is the foundation for all other estates. When family is healthy and strong, so is society; when family is weak and fractured, society is too. This shows us that if we really want to change the world, the place to begin is not an online discussion group or a vote at the polling station. The most significant way to have an impact on the world is to love the members of your family and share the Word of God with them.
If your children or spouse, siblings or parents, would think it strange to see you having a devotion at home, that would be a clear sign that your guest list is incomplete. You see, Jesus has a place in your life, or should have a place in your life, outside the walls of the church. In the common table prayer, you invite Jesus to be your guest in your home, but do you really mean it? Would Jesus be welcome to stop by your house anytime, or would there only be certain visiting hours? You would like Him to come by when your home is peaceful and well-kept, when there are plenty of smiles and hugs to go around. But what about when you are yelling at your kids or siblings, or giving your spouse or your parents the silent treatment? Would Jesus be welcome then?
Or suppose Jesus was in your home. Would any place be off limits to Him, not because of clutter, but because you have something to hide? Could He look anywhere except that box under your bed, anywhere but the hard drive on your computer or the history on your smartphone? Would you rather He did not look too closely at your credit card statement or your tax return? As often as our lips say that Jesus is a welcome guest, our hearts do not always agree. And that is all the more reason for Jesus to come.
Jesus is the Bridegroom whose union with His bride cleanses her. You are that bride because you are part of the Church, which is Christ’s body. Jesus gave Himself up for your sins. He died on the cross out of love for you. The gifts that He won for you were showered upon you at your baptism. The Apostle Paul writes, “Christ loved the church—which is all believers in Him—and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27). There may have been many people in attendance at your baptism, but it was the presence of the Triune God that made it such a special, life-changing event. At your baptism, God turned your stony heart of sin into a lively heart of faith (Ez. 36:25-26). He changed you just as surely as He changed the water into wine at Cana.
So why is it that you still sin? Why are you reluctant at times for Jesus to be your guest? It is because of your old Adam, the part of you that wants to have its own way, that demands love from others but will hardly offer love itself. Your old Adam causes you to act sinfully toward others and give in to temptation. And just like the first Adam, your sinful nature makes you want to hide from God when you sin and to try to cover up the wrongs you have done. But the Lord knows. Nothing can be hidden from God. This is why He stands at the door of your heart, knocking. Jesus says, “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20). Jesus is talking about repentance (v. 19). He wants us to drag our sins into His light, not hide them in the darkness. He wants us to stop pointing fingers at others and take a good look at ourselves.
And when Jesus finds us with “a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart” (Ps. 51:17), this is what He does with it: He washes it clean. He heals it. He forgives every offense, every transgression. He forgives the sins of your household, the sins of husband against wife and wife against husband, the sins of parents against children and children against parents, and all your sins. He forgives your short temper, your harsh words, your lies, your selfish behavior. Your Bridegroom is committed to you; He will not give up on you so easily. He loves His bride the Church with a love far greater than her collective sins.
When you pray for Jesus to come, you can be certain that He will, because He promises to. He promises to come to you through His Word to free you from your guilt, which is so easy to store up but so impossible to carry. He comes when, like Mary, you worry that the good things of God seem to be running out. He produces blessing after blessing, so that your cup overflows with His grace. He fills you with His forgiveness and life, which make the finest wines of this earth taste little better than watered-down Kool-Aid.
Whoever prays, “Come, Lord Jesus, Be Our Guest,” with faith in His promises, will certainly enjoy His presence. And they will hear Him say in reply, “Come, dear bride, and be My guest. Let Me serve you. I have good gifts for you, blessings that will not run out. The marriage feast has begun, and your place is reserved. Come, for everything is now ready” (Lk. 14:17).
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