nullEpiphany 6, 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 17, 2019
Jeremiah 17:5-8, 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, Luke 6:17-26

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itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

When I go for a walk around here I encounter thousands of big, tall trees.  On my vicarage year in high desert of Eastern Oregon, when I went for a walk there were trees in town, but once I got out of town there were no more trees; just sagebrush and other low shrubs.  Why is that?  Why is there a giant oak tree right here next to the church, but there are no giant oak trees in the desert?

It is a pretty simple reason.  Water.

This Oak tree has unlimited access to water.  The water table is just under the basement floor of the church.  This tree has grown that big in 70 years.  But in the desert there is nothing by short, twisted sagebrush.  The difference is water.

Spiritually, there are those who are like the tall oak tree and there are those who are like short twisted sagebrush.  What is the difference?  The object of belief.  What does the person believe in?  Sometimes we talk about believers and unbelievers, but everyone is a believer.  Everyone believes in something.  But it matters eternally what you believe in.  It makes the difference between a tall strong tree and a weak twisted shrub.

There are many who trust in themselves and other people.  Many look to politicians to save them and bring them joy.  Others look to celebrities; movie stars, YouTubers, and sports heroes.  They make these people the object of their hope and trust.  Many people trust in themselves; their own strength; their own intelligence; their own abilities.

Jeremiah 17:5 (ESV) 5 Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.[1]  Cursed.  People that trust in man are cursed.  They are lost…forever.  They will spend eternity separated from God in the torments of hell.  Life trusting in man is a dry life.  It is a dry life when you seek after peace and fulfillment in man.

            The object of your belief makes all the difference.  Do you believe in yourself, or do you believe in the Lord?  Where are your roots?  Are your roots in the dry desert sand of trusting in man, or are your roots in the living water of the truth of Jesus Christ?

“Jeremiah 17:7 (ESV) 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.”[2]  The Lord God is the source of true peace and strength.  When you trust in the Lord you are like a tree planted by water and you can endure the storms of life.  And there are a lot of storms.

Life in the world is hard.  There is a lot of trouble.  The doctor makes you come back in to hear the test results in person.  The boss calls you to her office and there is a security guard standing there with an empty box.  Your child is struggling and you cannot fix it for them.  You are caught up in an addictive bad habit and you struggle to find the strength to break free.  Your relationships are full of conflict.  The pain and suffering of getting older just gets worse and worse.  Life is hard.  There are a lot of storms that blow through your life.  Some have already come and some are still brewing out there waiting to strike.  In this life you will not always be happy, but in Christ you can always have joy.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 (ESV) 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. 8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”[3]

The object of your belief makes all the difference.  Do you believe in yourself, or do you believe in the Lord?  Where are your roots?  Are your roots in the dry desert sand of trusting in man, or are your roots in the living water of the truth of Jesus Christ?

You are a baptized child of God gathered here today to hear the Good News of forgiveness of sins and to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.  Your roots are in the living water of Jesus Christ.  You believe in the truth of Jesus.  Each week you proclaim the object of your belief over and over in the Divine Service.  And this means that this life is not all that there is.

You declare in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in…the resurrection of the dead.”  You declare in the Nicene Creed, “I look for the resurrection of the dead.”  The truth is that because Jesus rose from the dead, you will rise from the dead.

You declare the truth that, in Christ, death does not have the victory.  You confess that because Jesus rose from the dead, you too will rise from the dead on the last day.  You speak the truth, that as painful as death is; as final as death appears, Jesus defeats death.  Our Epistle lesson today gives a beautifully concise description of this truth.  1 Corinthians 15:16-20 (ESV) 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.[4]

Jesus rose from the dead as the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  Death will not have the final victory.  On the last day Jesus will return and the cemetery will be emptied.  It will be a resurrection garden.

The truth is that you are a baptized child of God planted by the water of the truth of Jesus’ resurrection.  God has made a promise to you in the blood of Jesus.  You are connected to Christ.  You have the living water of His Word and His Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.  You can get through the storms of life and remain fruitful and alive in Christ Jesus.

Stay connected to Jesus.  Remain in the Body of Christ, the Church, and keep the object of your belief the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Know that you will be raised from the dead on the last day.  You are planted by the water; what a great place to be; strong in the Lord able to withstand the storms of life.  But not everyone is pleased with this.

The devil knows the power of being planted where you can access the living water of the truth of Jesus Christ.  The devil wants to uproot you from the place where you are well-watered and move you to the desert.  The devil whispers lies to convince you that you will be just fine in an arid environment away from the waters of the truth of Jesus; away from the Word of God, and the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.  “You don’t need to go to church.  You are just fine by yourself.  You have better things to do.  You’re busy.  Sunday is your day to relax.  Besides, those people and that pastor can be so annoying.  You don’t belong there.  Come out to the desert where life is easy.”  The devil really wants to convince you that you don’t need to hear the Word of God.  You don’t need to receive forgiveness of sins.  You don’t need to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.  You don’t need to be planted by the water.  But remember, the devil trying convince you that you don’t need the Church is like telling a tree that it doesn’t really need water.  “Don’t worry little tree, you will be just fine here in the dry, warm sand.”  And for those who leave the church, for a while it feels like everything is fine but they are slowly drying up and the joy of salvation found in trusting in Christ Jesus is being replaced by a growing trust in man.

Reject the sales pitch for a desert home.  Reject any pull to move you from the living waters of Christ to the parched lands of trust in man.  Reject the devil and all his works and all his ways.

Trust in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Keep the Lord Jesus as the object of your belief.  Gather as the Church.  Stay planted by the water.  Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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