O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Word of Power
Word of Power
Based on Luke 4:31-44
Preached on February 3, 2013
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Fellow baptized saints, have ya ever been to sea matey? Last weekend I was in Victoria B.C. judging a Naval skills competition, part of which took me aboard one of our Canadian warships. We didn't sail very far, just out of one harbour and into another, but the experience was enough to remind me of the stark realities of the sea-going life. There is only one real rule onboard ship. Do what the captain says. The captain has full authority. The sound of his voice is enough to make a grown man tremble. And as we were approaching the jetty in Victoria harbour this rule became so real you could feel it. Our approach was a tight fit. There were two fifty-foot gas tanks sticking out awkwardly into our "parking spot", a mere ten feet away. One tiny mistake and our ship could collide with those tanks and send us all to meet the Lord. And that is why there is only one rule onboard ship. It is the captain's ship. It is his job to protect her, and whatever He says must take place and it must take place NOW. But this story is to be continued in a moment...
In our Gospel reading this morning, we hear about Jesus teaching in the synagogue. We hear "they were astonished at His teaching, for His Word possessed authority." Now, I don't know about you, but I am not astonished very easily. How much authority did His Word have that the people were astonished? As much as a Navy captain? As much as a man who makes other men tremble? More. Immeasurably more. The authority of Jesus' Word was so astonishing that it was even being recognized by the unclean spirits. Not only were the people taking notice of His Word, the demons were starting to shake at its sound. "Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are - the Holy One of God."
This Jesus is quite the captain. His Word is so powerful, even these unsuspecting demons cannot mistake it for anything else. They are terrified. They know their kingdom is coming to an end, that their power over humanity stands no chance against the Word of the Holy One. They're not concerned about that. They are afraid He has come to destroy them. To completely annihilate them. Their fear is so great they cry out in surprise. Ha!
Now, can you imagine for a moment if the word of my Navy captain had that kind of power and authority? You can almost picture the gas tanks changing into a cartoon at the sound of his voice, apologizing for being in the way of our approach, and tiptoeing out of the way so as not to be erased from existence.
How powerful is this Word of Christ? Astonishingly powerful. So powerful that it accomplishes whatever it says. "Be silent and come out of him!" And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. Your captain has a Word that makes your most powerful enemies quiet. Your captain speaks a Word that makes evil flee. Your captain is the very Word of God, the source from which comes all power and authority in all creation. When He so much as says something, it happens. That is the power of Christ's Word.
His calm exchange with the demons is just the beginning of your His approach. There are other enemies and obstacles that threaten the people on His ship, and He speaks them away one after another. Whether it's the fever that threatens Peter's mother-in-law, or all the other sick in the city who were brought to Him at sunset, Jesus stands over them and rebukes their illness. He tells the illness to go away. His Word pushes it away from those in His care. He wants to get His ship and those aboard safely to the jetty, and nothing is going to stand in His way. Not sin, not death, not even the devil himself.
But what about you and me? Have we recognized the power of God's Word this week? Have we marvelled at what it accomplishes and trembled at the extent of its authority, or have the demons shown us up? Have even the evil spirits held God's Word in a more honoured position than us? Oh what worthless wretches that we are! We haven't marvelled at God's Word every day, we probably haven't even read it. We haven't trembled at its power and authority, much less thought about it. We certainly haven't revered it as highly as the demons, for out of fear they willingly and publicly declared that Jesus is the Holy One of God, but we would never do that, we are more afraid of what people would think of us, and how they would treat us. If this were simply a matter of justice, all of us should be destroyed for the way we casually treat God's Holy Word. If God only dealt in judgment, His powerful Word would destroy us.
But that is the astonishing thing about His teaching. Christ also comes with a Word of mercy. He comes with a Word of comfort. You need not fear destruction, for He plans to do this approach alone. An approach that doesn't lead to a jetty, but up onto a lonely hill and a wooden cross. Someone must be destroyed for the casual way we treat God's Word. And that someone is your captain, the very Holy One of God. His entire approach to Calvary, rebuking demons and illness, is so that you may be certain about one thing: He does this for you. He suffers for you. He dies for you. You will make it safely to the jetty, because your captain has gone down with the ship. The powerful Word of God died in your place, because you constantly mistreat Him. No wonder the people were astonished.
Powerful, yet merciful. The Word of Christ has not changed. He speaks the same Word with the same power to you today. You heard your captain speak words of mercy to David only moments ago. He said, "I baptize you in the Name of the Father of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Words He has spoken to all of you. By Word and water He has washed clean the dirty way you treat His Word. By Word and water He has told the Evil One to be silent and come out of you. By Word and water He has rebuked the fever of your sin, drowning your old dead self, and raising a new living self within you, one with a new nature whose name is Christ the Lord. And just like David, none of this happened because you prepared yourself. None of this happened because you made the right choice. None of this happened because you learned the right things. But because the powerful Word of God declares it to be so. Because whenever your captain so much as says something, it happens.
Powerful, yet merciful. Even when the Evil One fills your mind with doubts and sorrows, when He haunts you with thoughts of death and loss, sickness and heartache, Christ has a Word of comfort for you. An everlasting Word of safety and rest. "Take, eat. This is my body given for you. Take, drink. This is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of all of your sins." Christ brings Himself to you in the most reassuring of ways. He pours His own blood into your mouth, that you may taste and see that He will always protect you. That you may marvel at His Word, tremble at His presence and receive the fullness of His sacrifice in your very own mouth. That no matter how scary death may seem, no matter how empty loss may feel, no matter how painful, no matter how difficult this broken life may get - He knows it, He feels it, and He has joined Himself to you in it. You and He will always be together. He is bringing you safely to the jetty, His heaven, it is entirely in His hands. If this were any other word, we would not believe it, but it is the Word of the Holy One of God. It is Christ's Word, so it must be so. You are forgiven by the true blood of Christ.
In an eerie silence our ship slid past the fuel tanks. Every eye was fixed on the giant tubes of death, as what seemed like minutes crawled by. Then we heard it. The voice of our captain. "Throw for One!" The first line tied us tightly to the jetty. We made it. Our captain had brought us safely to the jetty. All I can remember thinking was, let's get out of here, I don't want to be the one backing her out.
Christ has already died and rose. It is accomplished. We are in the final seconds of the approach. That first line is waiting to be thrown as the jetty inches closer and closer. Do not lose hope now, for the captain is about to say that final word. "Throw for One!" It has been a stressful sail, but the destination will be totally worth it. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr