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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Oct 18, 2020  SERMON TEXT

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, AMEN

The text for our meditation today is the Gospel Lesson for this 20th Sunday After Pentecost, Matthew 22:15-22. There we read these words:

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

We begin in Jesus’ name, AMEN

In today's Gospel, the Pharisees were up to no good whey they "laid plans to trap [Jesus] in His words." They were irritated at Jesus' words. They chafed under His calls for their repentance and His condemnations when they refused to believe. Of course, there is more than one way to commit such wickedness.

Many Christians who fall prey to what is popularly called "the prosperity Gospel." They wrongly believe that, because they are called co-heirs with Christ, sons and daughters of the heavenly King, God wants them to be wealthy in this life. About them St. James says, "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people!"

People try to trap God in His words when they reason to themselves, "God accepts all people. Therefore it does not matter how I shall live, or whether I shall concern myself with the commandments or with hearing His Word. I will just do as I please, no matter what His Word says.” To such people Jesus will at last say, "Depart from Me, you cursed ones" (Matthew 25:41).

But just as surely as there are sinful ways of trying to trap God in His words, evidenced in today's Gospel, so also is there a good and pious way-a God-pleasing way-of trapping Him in His words. That which angers God with those who hate Him is the same thing He loves from you. He wants you to "trap Him in His words."

Consider the example of the Canaanite woman whose daughter was demon-possessed (Matthew 15:21-28). When she begged Jesus to heal her daughter, Jesus acted in a seemingly cold and distant manner. He did not answer her a single word, even though she persistently begged and cried out to Him. When He did respond, His words struck the woman like a slap on the cheek: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs" (Matthew 15:24, 26).

Stained Glass Baptism Window

But this woman trapped Jesus in His words, trapping Him in a way that He loves to be trapped. She had heard the Word of the Lord. She knew that the God of Israel was also the Savior of the Nations.

And so she sprang His own words upon Him: "Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table" (Matthew 15:27). By means of such tenacious faith, our Lord was taken captive and held to His promise. The woman trapped Jesus in His words, with the blessed result that her Lord said to her, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted" (Matthew 15:28).

So it is with you, dear friends. Jesus made the same promise to you as He spoke to the Canaanite woman. When you suffer loneliness and doubt, trap Jesus in His words! You heard me right. Trap Jesus in His Words!

Insist to Him, "Lord, You have promised me that You would never leave me or forsake me. You swore to me on the day of my Baptism that You made me Your beloved child. Be with me in this hour of darkness, according to Your Word and promise. Do for me that which You have promised: comfort me, sustain me, guard me, preserve the gift of faith you gave me.”

When you feel yourself tempted and overcome, trap Jesus in His words! Hold His words before His own face, persistently crying out to Him as the Canaanite woman cried out to Him. "Lord, You have made Yourself my Shepherd and Keeper. Guard me, now, against the temptations that assail me. Strengthen me against the deceptive voices that tempt me and taunt me. Make my heart a stone wall against such things, for You have called Yourself my Refuge and Strength, my ever- present help in trouble."

When you doubt whether such a sinner as you can actually be forgiven by God, again trap Jesus in His words! Point to Baptism, point to Holy Communion, point to the Word that has been preached to you. Grasp the forgiveness that Jesus has provided for you by His suffering and death. Make good and frequent use of these things, continually reminding your God that once He speaks His promises, His faithfulness prevents Him from ever retracting them again.

When your last hour comes, and when doubt of your heavenly future rises in your throat, most earnestly trap Jesus in His words! "I do not belong to myself, O Lord! I do not belong to sin, to death, or to the devil! I belong to you! You purchased me with the blood of Jesus Christ. You made me your own precious possession. You spoke to me. Now fulfill that which You said You would do."

With such entrapments as these, dear friends, your God is most pleased!

Dr. Martin Luther said, "In this manner God is conquered, with faith that does not leave off, is not wearied, and does not cease but presses and urges on" (Luther, AE 6, p. 139). By such tenacity and faith your Lord is taken captive and conquered and pressed into His answer. Thus it shall be granted to you, even as you believe. "The Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap [Jesus] in His words."

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

There is another good and healthy thing you must learn from this wicked example in today's Gospel. The Pharisees not only wanted to trap Jesus in His words, but they gathered together and took counsel with one another as to how best they may trap Him.

So it must be with you. This is how the Church on earth must live. This is how all her members must live. You must resolve together, deliberate together, consider together how you may piously and faithfully trap your God in His words.

As you know, Luther called this "the consolation of the brethren" (Smalcald Articles). The Scriptures call upon you to "encourage one another and build each other up" (1 Thessalonians 5:11), to "spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24), to "comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

Take counsel together, dear friends, as to how you may trap God in His Words. You don't do this by telling your neighbor to "dig deep" or to "pull himself up by his bootstraps."

You don't do this by patting him on the head and telling him "You're okay and I'm okay."

You don't do this by ignoring your neighbor and his need, or by hiding your need from your neighbor.

You do this by sticking your neighbor's face into the Word and promise of God. You do this by insisting to each other that your God may indeed be trusted. You do this by requiring one another to trap Jesus in His words.

After a long day of work, a father wants very much to lean back into his chair and put his feet up for a while. His child may come to him and say, "Daddy, let's go play ball." The father will wave the child off, telling him to wait for another time.

But the child insists, "Daddy, you promised." And on the value of the promise he had spoken to his child, the father pulls himself to his feet, takes up his baseball glove, and goes outside with his child.

Your Father in heaven is by no means weary and self-centered, as we human fathers are. How much more will He allow Himself to be held to His promises, for your sake and because He loves you! This is a good thing, that you "trap Him in His words."

It is good, because Christ Is Risen.

Luther Rose
Christ Is Risen
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