Sermon for September 1, 2013

Sermon for Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Sept. 1, 2013

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  Hebrews 13:1-8

Sermon Theme:  “The Same Yesterday and Today and Forever”

(Sources:  Brokhof, Series C, Workbook; Emphasis Online Illustrations; original ideas; Concordia Journal, Summer 2013; Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 23, Part 4, Series C.)

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

 I like the story told by the Krammers son.  When they got home from Church and Sunday School one Sunday, the dad asked Junior what he had learned in Sunday School that morning.

“Well, the boy said with excitement, Mrs. Fitzpatrick told us the story from Exodus about how the Israelites came to the Red Sea!   He paused for a moment and continued, The Hebrews pumped up their inflatable boats so they could escape from the soldiers of the Pharaoh.”

Dad, with a quizzical look, asked Junior if this was really how the teacher told the story in the class.  To which the boy replied, “If I told it the way she did, you would never believe it!

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, says our sermon text.  Our faith journey, however, is not always the same.  Of ten our faith falters as we face a mountain to climb, a Red Sea to cross, or a dark valley filled with the shades of dark night.  In such moments, how refreshing it is to know that Jesus Christ’s love for is always the same although each of us may see the stories of the Bible a little differently.

Today we are living in a period of confusion.  There is a breakdown in moral standards.  Things that once shocked us and we abhorred are done today as a normal way of life.  We are often confused:  we do not know whether to resist or go along with the new morality.

Today we are also living in a world of one international tragedy after the other, — first, Haiti, Chile, Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Egypt, Mexico, Syria, and others.  In addition, we are still reeling from natural disasters of a few years ago, — New Orleans, tsunami aftermaths, raging forest fires, etc.  Many folks are without jobs; many deserted kids are in need of foster parents; children go to bed hungry in many parts of the world.

Mother Teresa said it so well, when she said, “Never has the world had a greater need for love than in our day.  People are hungry for love.  We don’t have time to stop and smile at each other.  We are all in such a hurry!  Pray.  Ask for the necessary grace.  Pray to be able to understand how much Jesus loved us, so that you can love others.”

In this sad, tragic, crazy, mixed-up world, human beings are desperately in need of guidelines.  Our sermon text from Hebrews gives us five basic guidelines for right living:  Show hospitality.  Help the unfortunate.  Honor marriage.  Be content with your possessions.  Have faith and lean upon the Savior who never changes.

First, Show hospitality.  Not just to our friends, but our text says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”  Holy Scripture actually tells us that offering hospitality is a spiritual gift, which means that all people have the gift of hospitality to a certain extent, but some people have it to an extraordinary degree.

In every church, there have always been a few people who serve God faithfully in the kitchen, preparing food, serving dinners to grieving families following funerals, giving pies to newly arrived pastors, making coffee for fellowship hour, and generally making people feel at home.

As I said, it’s a spiritual gift that some folks have to an extraordinary extent.  One pastor told about a Wednesday night church dinner at his church.  A disheveled “street person” came in to eat.  An elderly member, an old grandmother, got up, offered the homeless woman a place at the table and a plate of food.  The grandmother then sat down beside the woman, sharing conversation with her while the two ate.

Our text actually says that showing hospitality is one way of offering up a sacrifice of doing good and sharing what we have.  Back when our epistle was written, this meant opening up your home because motels were wretched places which could have been named The Horrible Inn, Discomfort Inn, or Leaky Roof Inn.

But today, as there are plenty good motels for travelers, we can show hospitality in other ways.  One congregation in St. Louis takes up a monthly collection of canned goods and other grocery items for Concordia Seminary’s food bank.  Students struggling to pay bills while preparing to be pastors and deaconesses are able to have free shopping days because of the hospitality of the members of that church.

Second.  Help the unfortunate.  Our text mentions specifically helping those who are in prison and those who are mistreated.  Here’s what the text says:  “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.  We have a member of our church who is in prison, and some of you are kind enough to send him Christmas cards and Easter cards.  It’s not always possible to help somebody who is being mistreated without involving law enforcement people.

Sometimes we can do this in simple ways.  Once I was in line waiting to order food, and the person taking orders ignored a black man and asked me what I wanted, — to which I replied, pointing to the black man, “He was here before I was.”

Third, honor marriage.  Our text says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”  In today’s permissive, “anything goes,” society, that may be hard to do if you let the world’s behavior influence you.  Just think about it, though, if someone else jumped into a vat of boiling grease, would you do it, too?

Fourth, be content with your possessions.  Our text says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”  Here, as in other similar texts, Scripture says “love” of money.  People often misquote Scripture by saying that “money is the root of all evil.”  But it is actually the “love” of money that is the root of all evil, not money per se.  The “love” of money would suggest that it has become a god for that person.

I’m sure you have all heard the story about Louis B. Mayer, the founder of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) film studios, who seems to have had a passionate love of money.  When a friend of his tried to persuade him to give money to a charity by telling him, “You can’t take it with you,” Mayer shouted in indignation, “If I can’t take it with me, I won’t go!”  Got news for you, Mr. Mayer!

Fifth, and most important.   Have faith in and lean upon the Savior who never changes.  Our text says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  People change, but our Lord and Savior does not.

The way a true believer feels about his Lord and Savior is sort of the way a child feels about his parents.  When the child goes somewhere with Mom or Dad, he knows he will be safe.  Whether it’s a trip to the grocery store or a family vacation to a strange city, he has perfect faith in his parents to protect him and take care of him, so he knows nothing bad is going to happen.  Even when we are older, there is something comforting about our parents.  “Mom and Dad are here, my child, it’s OK, nothing’s going to hurt you.”

The comparison works up to a point.  Parents are not invincible.  Parents can’t protect you from everything.  Parents grow old and die.  But Jesus is invincible.  Jesus can and does protect us from everything.  Jesus is infinite, eternal.  Jesus never changes.

His love for us is constant.  His love continues even when we sin, rebel, and make a mess of our lives.  He forgives, restores and redeems.  His teachings never change.  His truth is eternal.  His principles do not change with each generation.  His position is ever the same.  Always and forevermore, He is God’s Son and our Savior.  As the Gradual for today concludes, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”  Amen.