Jesus Teaches About True Treasure

Pentecost 11, 2016 Bunker Hill, Luke 12:13-21

Luke 12:21, That is how it is with the man who piles up treasure for himself and remains a pauper in the sight of God.

Sometime ago there was an article in the newspapers about a street called “Easy Street” in Huron, South Dakota.  It seemed, however, that “Easy Street” was difficult to find because the signs had been stolen two years in a row.  “Incidentally,” the article concluded, “no one lives on the street.”

This morning Jesus teaching us, not how to find “Easy Street,” but about the cost and the benefits of following him to “Cross road.”  Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, where the cross looms; where he will lay his head down in a borrowed tomb; and in three days emerge from that cocoon to reclaim the glory that was his before he was born of Mary’s womb.

He is preparing us for living in this world under God’s rule.  The cause for rejoicing is that our names are written in heaven.  In his visit to the home of Martha and Mary, he showed that the right way to receive him and to serve him is to listen to him; to allow him to first serve us.  Furthermore, he teaches us how to speak with our heavenly Father.  His Father’s name is holy. We are to us his name in praise and thanksgiving for giving us our daily living and forgiving our daily sins.

Jesus is teaching his disciples in the midst of swarming crowds; so restive they are trampling one another.  The religious leaders are fiercely assailing him, plying him with questions, laying snares to catch him and use his own words against him.  If Jesus can teach his first disciples in those kind of conditions, he can certainly teach us in the sometimes chaotic world in which we live.

Don’t worry, he tells us, about those who might persecute you.  That’s all the power they have. God will take care of us.   He takes care of the sparrow does he not?  Stay true to the good news of Christ which the Holy Spirit brings into our life.  Don’t worry, the Holy Spirit will give us the words we need when called upon to confess his name.  Jesus is teaching about living in His kingdom, while we are still on earth when, suddenly he is interrupted.

Out of the madding crowd comes the voice of one who has other things on his mind than the kingdom of God.  He has a pressing issue.  We shouldn’t consider that unusual.  Any of us here this morning might have something weighing on our mind which has nothing to do with what I’m talking about in this sermon. The man who interrupted Jesus has lost his father; and he believes his brother hasn’t dealt fairly in dividing the estate.  He wants Jesus, the Teacher, help him get a fairer share of the inheritance.  We all know families where dividing the possessions etc. has left division and animosity in its wake.   The thought of the psalmist, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity,” suffers from conflict between family members.

However, Jesus, who will one day come in power and glory to judge the living and the dead at the end of time, refuses to get involved in this family squabble. He sees greed, covetousness. Instead, Jesus uses this interruption to teach us to direct our attention not to the accumulation of treasures here on earth but set our minds on things that are above.  Where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  That is where our life, our true life, is hid with Christ in God. We have an inheritance of every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.  This inheritance has been intended for us since before God spoke “Let there be” for the first time as he brought the creation into being.  More than that our inheritance is sealed, guaranteed, with the Holy Spirit is a down payment. It’s in a trust until Christ returns when we shall appear with him in glory and receive in all its fullness which has been promised from before the ages began.  Now Jesus was heading toward Jerusalem and the cross to gain our life and salvation so that we would look beyond grubbing out a life here and live our life with an eye on our true and eternal future.  It’s true, heaven is our home.

Of course that is easier said than carried out in our life. So while teaching us to how to find the true “Easy Street, located in heaven, Jesus tells a very down to earth story about a successful farmer.   I asked my younger brother, Wayne, to read Jesus parable of the greedy farmer who though wise in the ways of agribusiness; nevertheless, was declared a fool by God. In the bible a fool is one who does not believe in God.  The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”  My brother wrote in part, “How we deal with abundance can be a big stumbling block for Christians.  Fighting our human nature and following what God would want us to do.”

My brother thought, the farmer had good soil, and a stretch of good weather.  He had planted his seeds at the right time and had little pressure from pests.  Because of superior farming practices this was not his first good crop.  Indeed, the harvest was so bountiful that his storage facilities were going to be filled to overflowing. What to do?  Ah, he said to himself, tear down the old and build new and bigger granaries.  Now, at last he had it made.  He could retire and finally enjoy life.  His future was secure. He could take it easy.  He could finally do all the things he had been putting off.

Isn’t that what we try to do?  To have enough invested etc. so we can live out our life in security? That the farmer had achieved his goal wasn’t the problem.  Why shouldn’t he gain some long term benefit from all his hard work and good sense of succeeding in agribusiness?  Why shouldn’t he be able to eat, drink and be merry?  But Solomon cautions us in our Old Testament lesson, for a person “To eat and drink and experience pleasure in return for his labors, this does not come from any good in a person: it comes from God.”  Ah, there it is.  Solomon continues, “For apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?”

The problem comes in life when we do not take God into account, when God is good for Sunday but ignored Monday through Saturday.  Jesus has taught us to pray “Father, holy be your name, let your kingdom come.  Father, you give us our daily bread; You forgive our sins; you save us in the time of testing.”  But the farmer prayed,” I” and spoke of “mine.”  I, will do this with my produce, my barns, my grain.  I will say to myself.  He didn’t have anything to say to God, nor an ear with which to listen to God.  The psalmist called us to “Acknowledge that the Lord is God; he made us and we are his, his own people.”  That didn’t come into play for the farmer. Therefore, he was a fool.  When he sold his grain, his house and yard would be filled with treasures for his enjoyment and everyone else to see.  But he had no treasure stored up in heaven. Martin Luther writes, “Through the Gospel we have been given a treasure which is not goods and gold, power and honor, joy and happiness of this world, and not even life on this earth, but hope.  In this treasure we are baptized.”  The farmer had no hope, beyond that which he could see and touch.   And that night God required him to surrender his life. All that he had accumulated here on earth would belong to someone else and eventually turn to rust and dust just as the farmer would someday.”

However, would you like to live on “Easy Street?”  You won’t find it on “Cross Road”, then look up and you are home.


Jesus Friends in Bethany


Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived in Bethany, near Jerusalem.  Jesus had a special bond of love and friendship with this family of disciples.  A couple of weeks ago we read of Jesus’ visit in which Martha busied herself preparing a meal for their friend, but Mary spent her time listening to Jesus as he taught.  He was such a familiar friend, perhaps even regarded as one of the family, that Martha felt free to criticize Jesus for not sending Mary out to the kitchen.  But Jesus thought lunch could wait until he was finished feeding Mary the good news of God’s Kingdom, the bread of life.

On another occasion, when their brother Lazarus had died, it was Martha who came out to meet Jesus when he arrived at last.  Jesus had indicated a reluctance to rush to Bethany when he first heard his friend was Ill.  As a pastor I wonder how that would fly in a congregation if I told the family that I’d be there after their loved one died.   Jesus had something larger in mind than visiting a sick friend.  He was the resurrection and life, as he told Martha.  He had come to demonstrate his power even over death.  Thus with tears in his eyes he went to the tomb and called to Lazarus to come out.

Ironically, Lazarus’ resurrection was the last straw for Jesus opponents.  They sought to return Lazarus to his grave and soon via his arrest trial and crucifixion they would provide the opportunity for Jesus to demonstrate his own power over his own death.

When we sing, “What a friend We have in Jesus,” we need to be aware that Jesus may show his friendship in surprising ways.

The Gospel Treasure


This coming Sunday Jesus tells the parable of the “Barn Man,” whose bumper crop led him to believe that at last he had enough stored away to have a long life of pleasure enjoying his treasure.

Furthermore, after the last two weeks of political conventions I need some refreshing news to lift me above the grinding that is inflicted upon my life.

In a 1531 sermon he said,

Through the Gospel we have been given a treasure which is not goods and gold, power and honor, joy and happiness of this world, and not even life on this earth, but hope, even a living and blessed hope, which will enliven us into life and blessedness in body and soul, perfectly and eternally.  To this treasure the Gospel calls us, and in this treasure we are baptized.  Therefore, let us live this earthly life bearing in mind that we shall leave it behind, and let us stretch out after that blessed hope as “toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ” and seek after it and await it at all times.

Titus 2:13, Looking for the blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.


Relax in the Lord


Last Friday in our morning bible class we got into a discussion about Homosexuality.  I pointed the group to page 1910 in the Lutheran Study Bible which I thought handled it well.  In Romans Chapter 1, Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome.  The Romans prided themselves on not advocating homosexuality as the Greeks did.  They felt this led to the downfall of the Greeks.  While acknowledging that God did not create nor intend for people to be attracted to the same sex, Paul goes on to list a large number of other sins in which the Romans were involved which are listed in verses 29-30.

God doesn’t show partiality.  All who have sinned will also perish; therefore, be careful whom you judge, because in doing so you condemn yourselves.

During our discussion the interim pastor joined the class and spoke of the struggle that some people have with homosexuality and also dealing with people, whoever they may be and whatever their sin, in a pastoral manner.

The class never did come to conclusion on how we deal with homosexuality, since many of us have gay neighbors who are fine and upstanding citizens.  Furthermore, Christ died for everyone, not just those whom we might like to deem worthy of his salvation.

As the class time came to a close, John, a retired lawyer and judge said, “I can finally breathe.”  That reminded me that in the midst of heavy discussions we need to remember to breathe.  Then this morning I came across the following  exercise in regard to relaxing.

Breathe in to a count of five (J-e-s-u-s).  Hold your breath to a count of six (C-h-r-i-s-t). Exhale to a count of seven (T-h-e- L-o-r-d).  Do this as many times as needed to relax.

I’ll have to try and remember that exercise.

Lord Teach us to Prayer

Pentecost 10, 2016, Bunker Hill Luke 11:1-13

When our daughter, Sarah, was in the third grade, she fell from a small tree in a neighbor’s yard breaking both bones in one arm at the wrist and at the elbow.  Bob Reinhardt, my partner pastor, came to the hospital to be with us.  As the hospital personnel hurried Sarah into surgery, Bob reached down, touched her and said, “God go with you.” In four words, Bob spoke a prayer, a blessing, and a promise.

One day when Jesus finished praying, His disciples asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.”  In answer to their request he taught them the Lord’s Prayer.  How simple, powerful, and packed with meaning and surprises is the version that Luke presents. “Father, hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.  And lead us not into temptation.”  This morning we also request, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
When Bill Moyer was an assistant to President Lyndon Johnson, he was invited to the family room of the White House for a meal one evening.  Since Moyer is an ordained Baptist preacher, the President asked him to return thanks.  As he was praying, the President said, “Bill, I can’t hear you.  Speak up!”  Moyer responded, “I am not speaking to you, Mr. President.” Prayer is God centered.  Prayer is talking with God.  But prayer is also more than our talking.  Mother Teresa was once asked what she did when she prayed.  “I listen,” she said.  Prayer is not about how we can influence God, but about entering the heart of God and letting God lead us.  That requires listening.

I think of Lois, a member of a former congregation I served.  Her whole family looks to her for guidance.  Often things happen when she prays, or she receives insight into how to advise those whose lives are troubled.  Lois would never accept the acclamation that she is a Prayer Warrior or a Prayer Champion.  Lois is often both awed and mystified by this gift.  She carries out this ministry of prayer with a sense of great responsibility and humility. Veit Dietrich, a friend of Martin Luther wrote that he daily spent at least three hours in prayer. Yet, Luther said of himself, “Praying comes close to being the most difficult of all works, therefore I do not claim to be a master in this task.”

Nevertheless, we are all able to talk with our Father who has rooted our lives in Christ Jesus.  In Christ, our Father cleared away all obstacles that might hinder our approach.  He invites us to not only call upon him in the day of trouble, but even in the mundane every day affairs of life.

We come to a Father who cares and loves his children.  We come to him not as champions and warriors but as beggars and beseechers.  We come like the friend who knocked on his neighbor’s door at midnight wanting, of all things, three loaves of bread, for a famished friend who arrived from a journey.  We are bold enough to come to him with the most trivial and even audacious requests.  For we have a Father who dared to not withhold even his own Son, the bread of life, but sent Him to die on the cross for us.  Jesus’ cross is the key that opens the way to mercy and grace.

When we come before our Father we are doing what Jesus did throughout his time on earth.  Jesus prayed at life’s most hectic and distracting moments.  He prayed when he was baptized, before he chose the twelve, At the Transfiguration, as he prepared to face Jerusalem, and when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross.  He and the Father were in frequent and fervent communication.

The disciples asked “Teach US to pray.”  Jesus taught them, “When YOU pray, say.” When we pray, we pray not just for ourselves but for each other and indeed for the whole church and the whole world.  Thus we prayed in the Collect,   “Teach us to pray that our petitions may be pleasing before You.”

Jesus would also teach us that our Father has no equal in the entire universe.  Though our Father is completely approachable, we do so in reverence.  We pray, “Holy be your name.”  This petition corresponds to the 2nd commandment, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord, your God.”  When we use his name to curse we are abusing his name, which is above every name.   When we say, “We’ll pray about that.”  Does the performance follow the promise?  If not then we are, as Luther explains, “deceiving by his name.”  Giving the impression of piety without practicing piety is not letting the Father’s name be holy in our lives.

Furthermore, we pray for the Father’s kingdom to come.  Seminary professor, Jeff Gibbs points out that we are actually praying for the kinging of God.  “Your kinging come.”  We pray that God would break in to our world and govern.  He has already done so in Jesus Christ.  John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah sang at his son’s birth, “God has visited and redeemed his people.”  He has bought us back from sin, death and the Evil one.  The Father raised up a son from the house of David who brought us salvation from all that keeps us separated from our Father.  Instead of judging and punishing us as the disobedient children we are, he laid the judgment on his son.  In Christ, he shows us the mercy he had promised through the ages.  One day Jesus, in whom all the fullness of God dwells bodily, will return in glory to take us to live with him in the eternal realm where we will ever be in communication with God and ever eat at the banquet with him who is the bread of life.

You see, Christ does not separate our spiritual needs from our material needs.  They are intertwined.  We not only need to know from whom our bread of life comes.  We also need to recognize who is the source of the bread of our sandwiches.  Included in the prayer is the need that the earth would produce these basic daily needs without which we cannot live.  Even as we are taking the bread of life at communion, the wafers of bread we receive in our hands is bread that started in wheat fields which were recently harvested.

Jesus also teaches us to pray for another daily need, the forgiveness of our sins. On the cross we find Jesus in prayer, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  The Father nailed the record of our debt to that cross thereby canceling the lien that God held against our life.     Though we sin daily he continues to forgive us assuming that, as his people, we are forgiving everyone who is in debt to us.  We are praying that we will be the model of what we are asking for.

Finally, we pray for spiritual protection.  However, like being forgiven by God goes hand in hand with forgiving everyone indebted to us, so requesting spiritual protection is accompanied with asking God to help us avoid the times and places of temptation.  We can’t throw ourselves into situations where we are surrounded by that which appeals to our weaknesses and then blame God for our failure.  However, in the daily to and fro of living we will be confronted by testings.  Leaning on God, provides the power to overcome that which faces us, and when we do succumb, provides release when we miss what God would have us do.

At the very end of our Gospel lesson Jesus promises one very important gift which the Father will give us.  That is the Holy Spirit, who will carry our prayer thoughts, words and sighs, to the Father.  Thus when we pray, as imperfect as our prayers may be, the Holy Spirit reshapes our prayers and presents them to the Father in accordance with His will.

Thus today we ask,  O Lord, continue to teach us to pray. Amen.









Mary Magdalene


She is often listed first among the women who were with Jesus.  She was the first to see Jesus alive on that first Easter morning.  She came to Jesus’ tomb while it was still dark and saw the stone rolled away from the tomb.  In some panic, she ran back to inform Peter and John that someone had vandalized the tomb and taken Jesus’ body.  She returned to the grave with Peter and John and after they left she remained behind.  She went back for another look and saw two angels, whom she questioned as to Jesus whereabouts.  They had asked why she was weeping.  Then she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but like the disciples on the way to Emmaus later in the day, she didn’t recognize him.

Jesus asked her, as he had asked those who came to arrest him only days earlier, “Whom are you seeking?”  At his arrest, when Jesus “I am He,” the henchmen fell to the ground.  On Sunday morning Jesus simply said, “Mary.”  She also fell to the ground, because Jesus told her not to cling to him.  At Jesus word, she became the first evangelist of the resurrection.  She went and announced to the disciples she had seen the Lord.

Traditionally, Mary is associated with the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’s feet in the Pharisees home.  There is no biblical basis for her being identified as a prostitute.  Nor was she Mary, Marth’s sister.  Bernard of Clairvaux, with good reason called her, “the apostle to the apostles.’

LSB hymn 855,

We sing Your praise for Mary,

Who came at Easter dawn

To look for Jesus’ body

And found her Lord was gone.

But, as with joy she saw Him

In resurrection Light,

May we by faith behold Him,

The Day who ends our night!

Praying with My Whole Heart


Psalm 138:1, I give thanks, o Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise.

Praying with my whole heart, in our day, has come to mean “with real feeling.”  Some avoid using written prayers believing that making up a prayer out of one’s own mind is truly allowing the Holy Spirit to work.  For some prayer becomes an exercise in generating the proper sentiments within themselves.  Some have stop praying because their hearts are “no longer in it.”  They don’t feel sincere.  It has become common to associate sincerity with spontaneity.

Patrick Henry Reardon in his book “Christ in the Psalms,” writes, “When we speak of prayer ‘from the heart’ we mean from the core of ourselves, the center of decision and resolve, a region vastly deeper than our emotions.”

Prayer is a decision to turn our self toward God, to seek out God and to direct our prayers toward him. Trying to find sincerity within ourselves takes our attention off God and places it on ourselves.

The Psalmist writes, “I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.”

The true temple of God is Jesus Christ our Lord.  The name for which we give thanks is Jesus, who, came in the fullness of God’s time to redeem those under the law.

The psalmist concludes, “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.”

Prayer: Lord I give thanks to you with my whole heart for in Jesus Christ you have glorified your name.  When I call, you answer.  You are my strength though I am weak.  Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe.  You stretched forth your hand on the cross.  Make good your saving purpose in me and strengthen my trust in the saving work of your hands.  In Jesus name.

Prayer Alliterations


Poverty in prayer – Teach us Lord.

Privilege of Prayer – Thank you, Lord.

Presence of God in our Prayer – Hear us, Lord.

Practice Private Prayer – The Father knows.

Practice Public Prayer – Let it not be for publicity.

Perfect Prayer – Proper Prayer – The Holy Spirit will perfect it.

Persist in Prayer – Ask, Knock, Seek.

Petitions in Prayer – Whatsoever you need.

Praise in Prayer – God is God, Alleluia.

Prayer Power – The power is God’s.

A Place for Prayer – Any place, Any time.

Martha and Mary


The more I dig into the simple story of Martha and Mary the more I see.

Becky called attention to the difference between the two sisters.  Martha was a doer.  Mary was a dreamer.

An older woman in the Sunday morning bible class remembered how she was the one at home to get the work done when growing up.  Her sister spent much her time playing the piano, she became a good pianist.

Martha was the outgoing one, Mary was the quiet one.

Martha ran the household. It was her house.  She strove to be the perfect hostess, which would be expected; greeting Jesus with a double kiss on the cheeks, offering water for Jesus to wash his feet; giving him some olive oil to moisten his skin after a day in the hot and drying sun.  However, in her preparations she became overwrought with the burden of everything that needed to be done.  Someone in the Bible class suggested she should have asked a few of her friends to help. However, she was a good Lutheran who could handle it by herself. No help needed.

This story followed immediately after Jesus tells the Lawyer to “Go and do likewise” emulating the Samaritan in his parable. Yet going and doing may become overwhelming.  This story emphasizes sitting and not doing, but listening.  Thus Mary had chosen the best part.

Jesus had been out among the villages proclaiming the kingdom of God.  He had sent out seventy or seventy of his followers on a mission trip.  They carried on his ministry.  As they returned he told them that whoever heard you was hearing me and was also hearing the Father.  The key to the kingdom was someone going and doing which resulted in others sitting and listening.

The story of Martha and Mary is left open ended as is Jesus encounter with the Lawyer.  Will the Lawyer listen to Jesus and go and do likewise?  Will Martha sit down and allow herself to be calmed by Jesus’ teaching?  Will Mary suggest to Jesus that she needs to go help her sister?

Open ended stories always give us a chance to finish the story in our own life.  How will we respond?


Come, Lord Jesus

Pentecost 9, 2016, Bunker Hill, Luke 10:38-42

Luke 10: Martha welcomed (Jesus) into her home.  She had a sister by the name of Mary who continually sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His word.  But Martha was worried about all she had to do for them.

We just finished singing the table prayer, ”Come Lord Jesus…”  Let the pastor announce at a church function prior to eating, “Let us join in the common table prayer” and we Lutherans have no need to ask, “What prayer is that?”  No, we fall right in with hands folded and heads bowed “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed.” We get in line, fill our plates from a large selection of these gifts of God, grab some utensils, and balancing a styrophone cup of beverage we make our way to a familiar table, sit down and dig in.  And between the meal and the desserts we enjoy conversation with one another. But what about Jesus, whom we have invited to join us?  Is he the forgotten guest?  Before we take another forkful of potato salad, let’s go back to that “common table prayer.”

There is nothing common about that prayer.  Like any prayer, praying for rain for instance, once a prayer is loosed it’s all up to God from there.  In fact, we do well to be prepared for the unexpected, in things pertaining to God.  In this prayer, we are inviting the Lord Jesus Christ join us as we enjoy the blessings of God’s gifts. We are inviting the only-begotten Son of God…who took on human flesh by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary…was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried…and in fulfilment of the scriptures rose three days later, ascended into heaven…and will come again with glory to judge both the living and dead.   We are inviting God of God and Light of Light who participated in the creation of the universe to sit on a folding chair and eat off paper plate with plastic forks and spoons.

We ask in an advent hymn, “How (do we) welcome you aright?”   That’s a good question as we turn to our Gospel lesson, “And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.” Martha was honored to invite her Lord into her home as we would be. But then what?  She busied herself with being a good hostess.  Nothing was more important than showing proper hospitality.   The problem is that she, like us, ignored her guest. The danger of inviting Jesus to be our guest and then ignoring him, is that when we are caught up in the whirlwind of activity in our life, when we become as discombobulated as Martha, we can end up asking, as she did, “Lord, do you not care…that I’m doing all this by myself?” “Lord, why are you ignoring me.”  From Martha’s point of view she had good reason to be worried about many things.  When she looked outside there were the twelve disciples, and the seventy others who had just returned from a mission trip and some women whom Jesus had healed and others who helped support the group.  Maybe a hundred people milling around outside her door.

When we invite God to be our guest, He is known to bring a surprise or two with him.   The word “welcome” carries the idea of “surprise.” Consider Abraham and Sarah.  God had promised Abraham he would make him a great nation and all the nations of the earth would be blessed through his descendants; specifically, through one descendant whom we and Martha invite to join us at our meals.  When we encounter them this morning in the first reading, Abraham is 100 years old and his wife 90. What do they have to show for all of God’s promises?  Not one child of their own.  Sarah describes herself as worn out and her husband old.  However, one day Abraham wakes up from his afternoon snooze, looks up and notices three men standing in front of him.  According to established custom, he welcomed them and promised them a morsel of bread which turned out to be enough food to feed a regiment. Talk about Martha being busy.   But Abraham didn’t neglect his guests, but like a good host he stood nearby in the shade of a tree ready to serve their every need.  After they had eaten, “The Lord…”  Yes, Abraham and Sarah had welcomed the Lord himself into their midst.     The Lord promised that when, “I return in a year, your wife shall have a son.”  Sarah listening from inside the tent laughed.  Who wouldn’t?  But by chapter 21 of Genesis we learn Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham.”  Surprise!

Remember, Zacchaeus, the wealthy tax collector, who because of his small stature climbed up in a tree to see Jesus as he passed through Jericho? Jesus was welcomed into his house with joy, while others who counted themselves more worthy of a visit were insulted. Jesus made a surprising announcement that for this sinner, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he is also a son of Abraham.” For Jesus came to seek and save the lost, not those who were busy making themselves worthy.

And after his resurrection, Jesus met with two disciples going to Emmaus.   He accepted their invitation to be their guest.  While they ate supper, surprise, they discovered that it had been Jesus with whom they had walked and talked all afternoon as he opened the scriptures for them.

There is something called a “host and hostess” gift to show appreciation for an invitation to dinner or barbecue.  Jesus was not remiss in remembering to bring a hostess gift as he entered Martha’s house.  Martha was too worried about how to feed a hundred people to receive Jesus’ gift.   But Mary, Martha’s sister, decided it was more important to receive the gift that Jesus brought.  When Martha became overwrought with all her doing, Jesus tried to get Martha, to take the time to receive the hostess gift which he had brought with him.  “Martha sit down, stop doing.”  What was this surprising gift?  The same one Jesus had been giving the cities and villages through which he passed. He brought the gift of the kingdom of God with him.  Peace and salvation for all people.  In fact, that’s why Jesus came into the world, to visit us as our guest and give us that same gift.  Salvation for all of the times we have invited him to be our guest and then promptly forgot about him.  Salvation from all the times we enjoy the blessing of his gifts and failed to thank him.  Salvation, from the business of our life, going from day to day without a thought but often filled with anxiety and worry about many things.

And now he says to us this morning, “Come my brothers and sisters be my guest.  Sit down along with Mary and listen and then go and do.  Do you realize that the word listen contains the word ‘silent’?  Listen to my word and trust me that I have made you holy and blameless for the day when I return as judge.  Let it be a lamp to your feet and a light to your path as you seek to live your life in me.   Come, be a guest at my supper laid out on the altar, which I have prepared for you.  Come and eat and you will discover once again, that I am visiting you in the bread and wine of holy communion.  Come, whether you are a Martha or a Mary, an Abraham or a Sarah, a Zacchaeus up a tree in your life, or disciples walking down the road of life wondering.  Come, and when you leave, my ever present peace will be with you always.  My face will always shine upon you.  Let these gifts of mine surprise you in the ways they carry my blessing to you.