Saturday, October 10, 2009

God's Good Word

Here are my notes for tomorrow's preaching. To see the scripture's it's based on see Tuesday's post God Is Not Nice. I will split the preaching time with Eloise Ponsford, a member of our church who works with Wycliffe Bible Translators.

It is so good that things are not as they seem. If things were as they seem to be, death would have the last word and the strong and the rich would always win.

But we have a different Word, a Truth—The Truth which has come to us—the Truth that pushes us to a higher law—a law of justice and kindness—and a good news Word of saving grace.

This Word of God is not something that has been invented by people.
  • What is it that would drive Amos to leave home and put himself in danger, standing in plain view and threatening the powerful people of his time with the destruction of God? They were sinning against God by not caring for the poor. Amos dared to say that in their faces out loud. What would bring him to do that? It’s God at Work through His Word.
  • What is it that would bring Jesus to point out the one weakness of the man in our gospel lesson… verse 21… “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing. Go, sell what you own, give the money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, then come, follow me.”

    Verse 22: “When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.”
What we have in the Bible is NOT a human Word—it has been written down by humans—but it’s not from us.

This is GOD’s Word.

It comes straight from God’s own heart to our hearts
—it is a love letter from God
—but not a love letter that lets us be.

God’s Word pushes us, challenges us,
—last week about family life
—this week about wealth and poverty…

God’s Word makes us debate and question things,
and, in the end, it drives us to the Living Word, to Jesus Christ his glorious cross—where he makes a way, where he makes impossible salvation available for free.

We who are part of the Lutheran family uphold God’s Word as the authoritative source of our faith and our life.
When we debate things in church we go back to the Bible.

We don’t simply look for verses here and there—the Bible is complicated and it argues with itself.
As Lutherans we are taught to go first to the New Testament—even more specifically, we go to the cross, to what Jesus has done for sinners, making it possible for sinners to get through the eye of that needle—making it possible for we who ARE rich…
and if your family owns a car you’re in the top 10 percent of the world’s wealthy…
through Jesus sacrifice on the cross even me, and you, can enter that wonderful promised kingdom of God.

This is neither wishful thinking nor something that comes naturally. It’s God’s Word, so, the it is challenging and sharp…
…but guide a child or a spiritual seeker to the gospel story,
guide them to how Jesus welcomed the weak and shamed the powerful,
and these ancient words ring true.
They speak with God’s own heart.
Indeed, the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any sword, piercing until it judges the thoughts and intentions of our hearts—and we are laid bare to the eyes of God.

Professional religious people like me, however, we sometimes take away the sharp edge of God’s Word.
Sometimes we are afraid…
sometimes we are afraid that letting God’s Word shock the people…
sometimes we might be afraid that those who pay our salaries will go away like he did…
That’s one reason that for many years we clergy made it illegal to translate the Bible… better keep it in Latin and just give it to the professionals… too complex… too dangerous if you can read it for yourself…

So, today, you should thank God for Bible translators and support their work.

One champion of Bible translation was John Wycliffe. He came from a big family, left home at 15 and became a Christian radical.

He used scriptures like Amos and teachings like Jesus to say that the church shouldn’t be in control of the government and that Christians should usually be poor.

You can’t trust professional religious people to teach you the truth… that was Wycliffe’s belief… they are too connected with the rich and powerful people to be that honest…

so, he said, we need to go back to the Bible…

But in order for the God’s Word to work on your minds and hearts, it needs to be in your own language—the language of your heart…

That was dangerous, of course, because the Bible is always a threat to those of us in power. In 1408 the church and state made it illegal to translate the Bible…

Wycliffe was declared “a stiff-necked heretic and under the ban of the Church.” His books were burned and, after John Wycliffe died, his his body was dug up in 1428, burned, and the ashes thrown away.

The Word of God, however, translated so you can read it for yourself—so the good news of Jesus can speak to your sinful heart—the Word of God continues to be translated into your language.

That way you don’t need to depend on me.

…Here's where I'll turn it over to Eloise... Come to church at 8:30 or 11:00 so you can hear what she has to say! If you miss that, she'll also be with us at church on Wednesday evening...

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