Monday, October 25, 2021

Seeing Like Blind Bartimaeus

[Below is both the message from yesterday's worship with the people and friends of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio and a video of the entire service. Have a good week. God bless you.]

Mark 10:46-52
The Gospel writers--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John--tell us that Jesus, during His earthly ministry, brought sight to several blind people. 

Jesus loved doing that. We can only speculate as to why. 

One possible reason Jesus loved to give sight to the blind is that, despite the fact that God performed miraculous signs through them, no Old Testament prophet ever was used by God to restore sight to blinded people. By giving sight to the blind, Jesus was signaling to a disbelieving world that, in Him, they see far more than a prophet dependent on God. In Jesus, they see--we see--God Himself.

Another reason Jesus may have loved giving sight to blind people is that blindness is nearly impossible for medical science to overcome, especially among those born blind. The inborn underdevelopment of the optic nerve during pregnancy, called optic nerve hypoplasia, is one of the three top causes of visual impairment in children. It still cannot be cured. When Jesus restored sight to people blind from the womb, He rewired their bodies, demonstrating that, as God the Son, He has power over everything. The man whose sight Jesus restores in chapter 9 of John’s Gospel exults, “Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind!” (John 9:32)

Of course, there’s another kind of blindness. Physical blindness is a result of the human condition of sin, not, as Jesus says elsewhere because the person born blind or struck blind has sinned and God is punishing them. God is no monster. The condition of sin, of alienation from God and from the life that only God can give though, is at the bottom of all our woes: sinful thoughts and actions, disease, deterioration, death, discord, war, greed, sexual immorality, and so on. The condition of sin into which we all are born is also the ultimate reason for what we might call spiritual blindness: an unwillingness to trust God as God, a desire to push ourselves forward while pushing others down, a hard-heartedness toward God and others.

Today’s Gospel lesson, Mark 10:46-52, comes at the end of a section of Mark’s gospel in which Jesus has spent a lot of time talking about what it means to be His disciple--one who trusts in and follows Him--and telling the disciples what’s going to happen to Him in Jerusalem. He will go to a cross for our sin there and be raised by the Father. Throughout the section, the disciples seem blind to what Jesus shows them. Told that in the Kingdom of God, the last will be first and the first will be last, the disciples still argue over which of them is the greatest, and James and John ask if they can’t be Jesus’ right-hand men, lording it over the rest of the disciples, once, as they think will happen, Jesus becomes an earthly king.

And then, outside of Jericho, heading for Jerusalem, Mark tells us: “As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging.”

Earlier in Mark’s book, when a rich man came to Jesus asking about eternal life, Mark didn't mention the rich man’s name. But he names  Bartimaeus. The name means son of Timaeus or son of honor. We don’t associate being a beggar with honor. But in those days, if you weren’t able-bodied, you were expected to beg to earn your keep and the people of God were expected to give to any beggars they encountered. Still, beggars didn’t enjoy exalted social positions. But Mark takes the time to tell us the name of Bartimaeus for an important reason, I think: God knows your name. God cares about you as an individual. God is concerned for your concerns and needs!

You matter to God even when the world tries to tell you that you’re nobody. By faith, Bartimaeus saw, despite his low position, that he mattered to God. He knew too, could see better than others despite being blind, Who Jesus is. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Bartimaeus shouts. (Mark 10:47) It’s interesting what Bartimaeus says here. In the Greek in which Mark wrote his gospel, the phrase Bartimaeus uses is, “Kyrie, Elieson,” “Lord, have mercy,” a phrase that often comes up in our worship. When we cry for mercy from God, we’re asking for every good thing that God might give to us, asking God not to give us the bad we deserve as human beings. In crying out for mercy, Bartimaeus was saying, “I’m no better than the rest of the human race, Lord. I’m a sinner. But, Jesus, I see that You are good. Help me!”

What happens next is predictable, I suppose. Often, when I ask God for His mercy, certain of His goodness and love, it seems that the devil, the world, and my sinful self are quick to say, “Be quiet, Mark! Who are you to ask for the help of the perfect God of the universe?” That’s what happens to Bartimaeus. The crowd around Jesus condemns him and tells him to be quiet. A sinful world and the sin inside of us want to tell us when we think to approach the God we know in Jesus for mercy, “Stay in your place! You’re not important enough, rich enough, powerful enough, learned enough, beautiful enough to bother God.” But Bartimaeus, despite his blindness, sees Jesus through the eyes of faith. So, he shouts out again, “Son of David [a title reflecting Bartimaeus’ awareness that Jesus is the Messiah], have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:48)

Jesus instructs His disciples to call Bartimaeus to Him and then asks the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51) Is that not the most remarkable question imaginable! Here’s Jesus, God in the flesh, on His way to suffering and the cross. But He stops for a nobody that the world wants to hush and asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” A woman once told me, “I never ask God for things. I suppose He has plenty of other things to do.” She was like the crowd around Bartimaeus. They thought that Jesus was too great to be bothered with Bartimaeus. But Bartimaeus sees that because of Jesus’ divine and perfect greatness, He’s willing to stop everything to hear everyone’s cry for mercy: from that of the tiniest child with her bedtime prayers to the most celebrated billionaire in need of God’s forgiveness.

Bartimaeus tells Jesus, ““Rabbi, I want to see.” (Mark 10:51) When giving sight to blind people elsewhere, Jesus did things like make mud with His spittle and put the compound on their eyes. With another, He pressed His fingers onto the blind person’s eyes. But here we’re told: “‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.” (Mark 10:52) Without flash, pop, or even a press release, Jesus acceded to the request of a blind man who already saw clearly with eyes of faith that Jesus is our God and Savior!

We know that God doesn’t answer all of our prayers exactly the way we would like. As I reminded the church council this past week, if miracles were constant, we wouldn’t call them miracles; we would call them ordinaries. But through the eyes of faith in the crucified and risen Jesus, we, like Bartimaeus, can see something very clearly: God intends that the last word over our lives won’t be sin or death. God means for the last word He speaks over us while we live and when we die is this: His mercy. The healing of Bartimaeus and Jesus’ death on the cross shake us from our spiritual blindness and make us see that to all who trust in Jesus, His mercy will always and eternally more than meet our need; His grace will trump our sin; His resurrection will overcome our death. Before he ever saw Jesus, Bartimaeus believed in Jesus. May we, before that day when we encounter Him face to face in eternity, see Jesus with the eyes of faith too. Amen

[The painting, Christ and Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52), is by the Bulgarian artist, Julia Stankova. You can view a gallery of her work here.]

Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Old Testament Book of Genesis, Part 18

I neglected to post the YouTube video of part eighteen of our study of Genesis from this past Tuesday night. Here it is.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Jesus is Our Sabbath Rest

[Here's the message from this past Sunday's worship services with the people and friends of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. Have a good week!]

Hebrews 4:1-16
Today, the preacher speaking in our second lesson, Hebrews 4:1-13, pleads with Christians not to miss out on the Sabbath rest God has in mind for us

When he talks about Sabbath rest, he’s not referring to a particular day of the week. The early Church realized that Jesus’ death and resurrection meant that every day is meant to be a day of sabbath rest for those who believe in Jesus. Not a day without work perhaps, but a day of Sabbath rest.

The apostle Paul lamented over Christians who thought they had to keep the Jewish calendar to be saved from sin and death. “You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!” Paul tells them. “I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.” The Christians to whom Paul wrote missed the whole point of Sabbath rest. 

The Small Catechism tells us what this Sabbath rest is about when it explains the Third Commandment--”Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”--like this: “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise His Word and the preaching of it, but acknowledge it as holy, and gladly hear and learn it.” 

For the Christian, Sabbath rest isn’t about a day; it’s about a relationship of trust in Jesus, God the Son, created by God’s Word under which we daily stand. It’s the rest in which we can live, whether we're working or resting, in hard times or easy, in sickness or in health, because we live under the lordship of Jesus and the authority of His Word.

Now, all of this should be obvious to we disciples of Jesus. It’s the Word of God, after all, that proclaims the truth about our need for a Savior and about Jesus being that Savior that brings us salvation from sin, death, and futile living. 

The Law in this Word convicts us for our sin and the Gospel in this Word convinces us that even we, sinners though we all are, are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. 

More than that, it’s this Word and not we or our decisions or our good works, but this Word alone, that creates just such faith in Jesus. As the Bible says, “...​​faith comes from hearing the message [that is, the Gospel message about Jesus, crucified and risen], and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

When speaking of Sabbath rest, we might as well use the words like peace or calm, rather than rest. It's to be ours all the time. 

So, why is it that our days can seem like disconnected chains of chaos and demands, uncertainty and questions and deadline? 

Why do we often feel far from God? 

And what difference does it make if we live in God’s Sabbath rest anyway?

The New Testament book of Hebrews is a sermon by an unknown preacher, given to Jewish Christians in about 70 AD. Since Jesus’ death and resurrection about forty years earlier, the Gospel message had been proclaimed throughout the Roman Empire. Christian faith, with its proclamation of Jesus as “the Lord” and “the Son of God,” among other names, was seen by some Roman authorities as treason. That’s because the ways Christians described Jesus were the ways that Romans described their emperors. 

The Roman government hoped to divide the early Church by promising Jewish Christians that if they renounced faith in Christ, their persecution would end. Remember that in this very year, 70 AD, the Romans overran the Jewish rebellion in the holy land, destroying the temple in Jerusalem and ending the nation of Israel forever. To the Jewish Christians, the Roman offer had to be tempting. But the preacher in Hebrews pleads with his fellow Jews not to turn away from Christ. To turn from Christ is to turn from Yahweh, from God Who has entered our world in human flesh and become the perfect once-and-for-all-sacrifice for sin that renders the old Jewish rites of Sabbath and sacrifice null and void and sets us free, through faith in Christ, to live in God’s sabbath rest now and in eternity!

In our lesson, the preacher asks his fellow Jewish Christians not to make the same mistake their ancestors made in the wilderness between Egypt and the promised land some 1600-years earlier. He says that the promise God made to the ancestors of sabbath rest in the land God would give them still existed for them...and it exists for us today, not in a faraway land, but in our everyday lives. He writes: “...since the promise of entering [God’s] rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.” (Hebrews 4:1-2) 

The “good news” for those ancient Hebrews had been rest in God’s kingdom in Palestine. 

The good news that comes to us in Jesus is vastly superior: peace and oneness with God, rest in His grace, His acceptance of us despite our sins and imperfections, the assurance that, no matter what, as we live in the faith Jesus, we will live in His peace, His rest.

Jesus told the first disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) This sabbath rest, this constant peace even amid chaos, is ours when standing under God’s Word, we believe in Jesus

A troubled woman approached me. Her marriage was difficult. Nothing seemed to go right. I asked her if she’d tried reading some of God’s Word and praying a bit each day. “I don’t think I have the faith to do that,” she told me. “Try it anyway,” I suggested. A few weeks later, she told me, “I took your suggestion. Things haven’t changed that much. But I’m more at peace.” You see what happened. First, she stood under God’s Word and, through it, He helped her believe in Jesus, Who then poured Himself and His peace into her life. That is sabbath rest.

When the first generation of Israelites to be freed from slavery in Egypt turned their back on God and His promises, it took the form, first of idolatry and syncretism--that’s the mixing of faith in God with belief in other deities, including our favorite god, us. It also displayed itself in an unwillingness to hear God’s Word, trust in His promises, or follow the leadership of Moses. Moses’ faith even fell short. Moses and the first generation didn’t believe at critical times during the wilderness wanderings and so, didn’t enter the promised rest. As Psalm 95, which the preacher in our second lesson cites, says, God decided, “[t]hey shall never enter my rest…” (Hebrews 4:3)

But, the preacher reminds us that “Now we who have believed enter that rest…” Hebrews 4:3) This is our good news. Jesus has slipped the bonds of death so that He can fill us with life, eternal life when we trust in Him. He gives us Sabbath rest.

What chaos and temptations are you facing today? 

Is something pushing you away from God at work or at school? 

Are you being tempted by some sin, some violation of the ten commandments, in your personal life? 

Are you accosted by demands and challenges in your family life--a sick loved one, a disagreement, worry over money, concern for a child? 

We have all faced and often daily face such chaos. But there is good news for us! In Hebrews 4:15, the preacher says of Jesus: “...we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” 

Jesus has already conquered our chaos and promises sabbath rest to those who stand under His Word and trust in Him not only in eternity but today. “Today,” our second lesson tells us, “if you hear his voice [in His Word], do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:15) 

Be open to Jesus and His Word. 

Let Jesus and His Word give you the peace of God that passes all understanding. 

Jesus is your Sabbath rest. Rest in Him. Even now. Amen

Friday, October 15, 2021

Cost Benefit Analysis

Here, belatedly, you'll find last Sunday's worship service with the people and friends of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio, as well as the text the message that day. I hope that you find it helpful.

Mark 10:17-22
The incident recounted in today’s Gospel lesson, Mark 10:17-22, in which a wealthy man asks Jesus about eternal life, is among the saddest events in Jesus’ entire earthly ministry. 

Mark says that Jesus, God in the flesh, “who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth,” (1 Timothy 2:4) is Himself saddened by the conversation. 

And, we learn that this man who came to Jesus to understand how he could have eternal life, walks away from Jesus, filled with sorrow. 

And yet our lesson shows us that we can have an eternity with God. 

The question is whether we’re willing to receive the gift of Christ and the eternal life He brings.

In today’s lesson, a man runs up to Jesus, kneels before Him, and asks, “Good teacher,...what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17) 

Here is a man who wants eternal life with God. But Jesus sees that the man is muddled by the ways this world ordinarily operates and by his own particular sin. Rather than taking the man and his assumptions head-on, Jesus decides to meet the man where he is.

“Why do you call me good?” [Jesus asks] “No one is good—except God alone.” (Mark 10:18) If the man is calling Jesus good because he knows Jesus is God, he’s on his way to knowing the way to eternal life.  But, Jesus is saying, if the man is throwing out an honorary title to prove himself worthy of eternal life, he needs to save his breath.

Jesus then says, “You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.” 

Since you’re so interested in earning eternal life, Jesus is saying, you know about God’s moral standards. He then lists commandments four through eight of the Ten Commandments, all drawn from the second table, which addresses how we are to relate to our neighbors. He doesn’t mention the ninth and tenth commandments. Nor does He mention any of the commandments in the first table, the first through third commandments, which address our relationship with God. 

But the commandments Jesus does mention should be sufficient for what Jesus wants to accomplish in citing them. He wants this man who thinks he can earn the inheritance of eternal life to look into the moral Law of God as he might look in a mirror.

I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the less I like looking at a mirror. (And I never was that keen on it!) Sometimes when I pass my reflection, I’m startled and wonder, “Who is that old man?” 

To look into the mirror of God’s Law and see what it shows about us is even more startling. 

The apostle Paul, quoting the Old Testament psalms, says: “There is no one righteous, not even one…” 

And God was including me when He observed in Genesis, that “every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood…” (Genesis 8:21) 

Speaking for myself, I know that I’m a sinner from birth, a sinner by inclination, and a sinner not only in my actions, but also in my thoughts and desires. 

Whenever God holds up the mirror of His Law before us, He wants to drive us to be like the repentant tax collector in Jesus’ parable, who cried, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (Luke 18:13) 

God wants to lead us to such prayers because it’s only in seeing the truth about our sinful nature that we understand, first of all, as sinners, we could never be good enough or do enough good to earn eternal life. 

God also wants us to see that Jesus, God the Son, is our righteousness, the One Whose death and resurrection makes all who repent and believe in Him fit for eternal life. As Saint Paul says, Jesus is “our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:30)

But it’s really true that “we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.” 

It’s also true that we each have particular sins that can enslave us and prevent us from seeing our need of Jesus for eternal life. 

After Jesus held up the mirror of God’s moral Law to the man wanting eternal life, the man says with self-satisfaction: “Teacher...all these I have kept since I was a boy.” (Mark 10:22) 

Maybe the man actually thinks he’s never done anything wrong. But even if that were so, it wouldn’t account for the wrong he’s thought or the wrong he’s felt. No, he, just like you and me, needs the Savior Jesus.

Even now, Mark tells us, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” (Mark 10:21) 

Friends, that’s precisely Jesus’ attitude toward you. Although our sin is the reason that Jesus had to die on the cross, bearing the punishment for our sinful nature, Jesus still loves us. 

He died for us because He thinks you and I are worth saving! 

It’s at this point in their conversation that Jesus decides to drill down to this man’s favorite sin, his idolatry of wealth. Sell off all your assets, Jesus tells the man, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow Me. 

You see, you can outwardly appear like a disciple of the God we know in Jesus, but still be turned away from God, filled with raging and selfish sinfulness. This man would never be free to take eternal life from Jesus until he let go of the thing he relied on more than God.

Money, of course, isn’t the only god we may need to turn from to receive eternal life with God. A colleague of mine told me about counseling with a couple having problems because the husband insisted on looking at pornography. “It’s harmless fun,” the man insisted. “It’s adultery and idolatry,” the pastor said. The marriage ended when the man decided he wanted porn more than he wanted the married life with his wife that God had gifted him. 

Are there things you love in this life that threaten your eternal life with God? Could it be money or security, good looks or good times? Whatever it may be, Jesus can set you free, eternally free.

Verse 22, at the end of our lesson tells us, “​​At this [Jesus’ suggestion] the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” 

The man knew what he was giving up. He knew that he was turning his back on the greatest gift anyone could ever receive: forgiveness and eternal life with God. 

“Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,” is a promise we have from Jesus. (John 11:25) 

Jesus also says, “...whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:24) 

And Jesus promises that “the one who stands firm [in trusting in Him] to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13)

Eternal life with God is an inheritance that we cannot earn and do not have to earn. 

All the earning has already been done by Jesus Himself. 

He earned it when He died on the cross. 

Our call is to, each day, turn from the dead and dying things of this world and turn to Him for life. 

Do a simple cost/benefit analysis: Which lasts longer, a comfortably sinful life here in this world for seven, eight, or nine decades, or a life of love and righteousness with God for eternity? 

Turn to Jesus. Today and every day. Amen

Friday, October 08, 2021

Aren't We Blessed?

Here you'll find the video of this past Sunday's modern worship service with the people and friends of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. Below it is the text of the message presented there.

Genesis 2:18-25

The word alone first appears in the English language some seven hundred years ago, around 1300 AD. It’s actually a contraction of two Old English words, all ana or all one. It means, totally one. To be alone is to be completely and totally by oneself.

Our first lesson for this morning, Genesis 2:18-25, begins with God saying, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) 

There are people who might dispute that. There are parents with young children who might think they’d like nothing better than being alone. The same might be true of anyone being daily accosted by customers, bosses, teachers, deadlines, competitors. Relationships bring demands, disagreements, jangling telephones, interrupting texts and emails, people in need, distractions. We all reach a point when we say, “I wish I could have just five minutes by myself!”

Even Jesus, God the Son, knew the pressure of relationships and the need for downtime. The Gospels record Jesus going off to quiet places. 

But when Jesus did that, He never sought to be completely on His own. He reached up to commune with God the Father. Jesus wanted the One to Whom He had the closest connection, the One Who understood Him the most. 

For everlasting eons, in the mystery of eternity, where there is no time and no space, the one God in three Persons--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--had never known what it was like to be alone. Within the one God, there has always existed oneness, companionship, love, empathy. 

When God the Son, Jesus, volunteered to enter His creation as a baby born at Bethlehem in order to die and rise to free you and me and the whole cosmos from sin, death, and darkness, it was the first time the Son had been separated from the Father and the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus knew what it meant to be totally alone in a roomful of people. He went off to quiet places because He needed fellowship with those who shared His nature as God.

God declares that it’s not good for Adam to be alone because man is the only one of God’s creatures created “in the image of God.” Without someone who shares this unique and privileged position in the universe to accompany him through life, Adam is alone. God understands the joy of being in relationship with those of one’s own kind. So, out of love for Adam, God declares, “I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

There has been a lot of destructive mischief made of these words. In deciding to create a helper for Adam, God is not creating an assistant to Adam to whom the man can bark out orders. The word translated as help or helper from the Hebrew in which the Old Testament was written is ezer. In the Bible this word is usually not applied to subordinates. It’s a word most often used of God Himself. “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield,” Psalm 33:20 says, for example. When Moses named one of his sons, he called the child Eliezer, meaning God helps. During His earthly ministry, Jesus used the equivalent of this word to talk about God the Holy Spirit: “...I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:16-17)

So, after no member of the animal kingdom was found who could assuage Adam’s aloneness, God performed the first surgery. He put Adam to sleep and opened up Adam’s side and took a portion of Adam’s body to make the woman. Adam declares: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” (Genesis 2:23) 

Adam is doing a little wordplay here. One word for man in Hebrew is ish; Adam calls the woman ishshah. By the way he identifies the woman, Adam is saying, “This is the one to whom I am connected. I am not alone anymore.” In Genesis 2:24, Moses, the author of Genesis, comments“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” 

In other words, God establishes marriages and families so that we will not be alone. 

But this passage is about much more than marriages and families. It encompasses God’s plan for the entire human race: men, women, married, unmarried, widowed. Everyone. 

That’s because the oneness, the connection, each of us needs cannot be fully encompassed in marriages or friendships alone. We are all meant for relationship...with God and with others.

The first casualty of the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, which happened shortly after the events recorded in our first lesson, was ruptured relationships. Adam blamed God and the woman for his sin. The woman blamed the serpent. 

When sin entered the human picture, every human stood alone in their own sin and their own death. Sin leaves us each profoundly alone, each of us striving to “be like God” and to prove ourselves to the world and, in some cases, to God. 

Many people picture hell as a place where the rowdy will party for eternity. But the Bible teaches that hell will be a place of intense loneliness in which those who spurn Christ’s call to repentance and faith grit their teeth in everlasting agony and regret. 

It is not good for any of us to be alone. 

That’s why the two tables of the Ten Commandments, God’s fundamental moral law, are summarized by Jesus in the Great Commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…[and] Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-40) 

But you may have noticed something. Even when we earnestly try to love God and love others, we, our sinful natures, our judgmental attitudes, our competitive streaks, and our constant teetering between feeling inferior at some moments and superior in others, get in our way. We find it so impossible to get over ourselves that we, just like Adam and Eve, in our own power, can’t love as we’re commanded to love. 

Eternal separation from God and from others would be our ultimate destiny were it not for God helping us.

When, about twenty or thirty years after Jesus’ resurrection, the apostle Paul talked about Adam and Eve and marriage, he saw their story as a foreshadowing of a set of relationships God wants all people to have. Adam once exulted that Eve was bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh. In their oneness, Adam was saying, his body belonged to Eve, and Eve’s body belonged to him; they were one. And while this is meant to be expressed sexually in and only in marriage, Paul says it points to the oneness with God and others that’s ours through Christ and His Church. In Ephesians 5:30, after talking about the oneness intended for husbands and wives, Paul says that marriage is a like the lives of Christians with Christ and fellow disciples; “we are members of His body,” Paul says. The connection is to be so close and so intimate among those of us who confess Christ in the Church that, “[i]f one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)

On the cross, Jesus bore the weight of our aloneness and alienation from God. “My God, My God,” He cried, “why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46) But when the Father raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 2:24), Jesus, because He is not only truly God, but also truly human, bridged the chasm between God and us. He paid the penalty for our sin and has become for us “the Way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) He has prepared a place in eternity with God for all who repent for their sin and trust Him as their Lord and God. Not only that, He promises all who turn to Him in faith, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

And He does even more for us. 

You’ve heard me tell the story before of the little boy who was afraid of the dark and kept asking his father to come sleep with him. When the dad explained that even if he or the boy’s mom weren’t in his room, God was. “I know,” the little boy said, “but I want someone with skin on him.” 

Jesus is God with skin on Him and He understands what it is to be alone. To assure us that He will never leave us nor forsake us, He gives two incredible gifts. 

One is the Holy Spirit, Who will guide those who pay heed to God’s Word and partake of the Sacraments, that Jesus will never leave us. 

The other is His Church, the people with skin on them who are part of this congregation and every congregation in which a people being transformed and saved by God’s Word can confess that Jesus is Lord!

It isn’t good for us to be alone. 

For many, this will, in part, mean that God blesses us with the gift of marriage and family, what Martin Luther called “the little Church.” 

But for all in whom God’s Word and Spirit creates faith in the crucified and risen Jesus, it means that through life’s joys and sorrows and into eternity itself, we are part of a single family with God as our Father and fellow disciples as our sisters and brothers

Aren’t we blessed? Amen