Sermon — Pr. Karl Weber — Actions and the Gospel
Text: Jn 16:23-33
Sixth Sunday after Easter / Confirmation Sunday, May 5, 2013
Thank you. Thank you parents for allowing me the privilege to assist you in teaching your children God’s Word through Confirmation. You know as well as I, that God has given parents the responsibly of teaching the Scriptures and Catechism to their children—not the pastor, Sunday School teachers, or others; but parents the responsibly of teaching their children God’s Word. Allow me to read from Deut 6.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise (Dt 6:5-7, 11:13-21)
Martin Luther picks this Biblical theme up when he opens all six chief parts with these introductory words found six times in the Catechism.
As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.
That being said, I truly thank you parents, for allowing me to assist you. Your children, all of them, are a joy, a blessing, and truth be known, teaching confirmation class is the highlight of my week. I always learn from the troops, and, you never know what you’ll be discussing in class. Zach, Hannah, Emma, Gunner, “Dr.” Dorow, also known as Cole, Jedidiah, Kyle and Kimberly, you guys have blessed me these last two years, and, each and every one of you are truly a gift from Jesus.
In class we go through the Catechism section, memory work, workbook assignments, try to sing a hymn. Invariably the kids ask questions from things they have heard or seen on the news, in school, or from their peers. The topics always fall into three categories which I call, the drugs, sex, and rock n’ roll categories. And we talk about this pointing them Christ as he speaks to us in his Word.
Being a disciple of Jesus will allow you to carry a cross in this life. When you follow Jesus there will be tribulation, struggle and difficulty. In our Gospel reading for today Jesus is speaking to the disciples on Maundy Thursday and our Lord speaks in a mysterious manner.
“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” Huh? Come again? Well, yeah, that’s just the point. Jesus will come again. He’s going away, and they won’t see him. Then he’ll come again, and they will see him. But it does sound like a bit of a riddle, doesn’t it? … “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.”
In our text Jesus is assuring them that even though things will seem grim … that would not be the end of the story. … There’s another “little while” coming, and then again they will see Jesus once more. It’s the resurrection Jesus is referring to … . After Christ’s crucifixion and burial on Friday, it would be only a little while—on Sunday—until they will see him again, with their own eyes. … Jesus resurrected and alive, restored to the disciples’ sight on Sunday. All within a few days. A little while, and a little while. [endnote 1]
Today we don’t see Jesus with our eyes. But that doesn’t mean he is absent having left us. Though not seen he is here, present, with us, right now. He hides himself, if you will, behind masks. And these masks are the subject of Confirmation Class, Sunday School, and Bible Study. In the mask of his Word Jesus dwells and speaks to us. In and through the mask of water Jesus gives us the birth from above. In the mask of bread and wine we eat and drink Jesus’ very body and blood which hung on Calvary to forgive our sins.
But there is also another way people see Jesus as he hides himself behind a mask. It is through you and me, through our actions. We’ve all heard the saying, actions speak louder than words, how true, how true.
I don’t know if there are any movie aficionadas here in the pew. But a most wonderful movie is “Jackie Robinson 42.” I would heartily recommend it. I am thinking of the scene when “The Bums,” as the Dodgers were affectionately called back then, were playing in Cincinnati. Being on the Mason Dixon line the racism was intense.
There is a scene at a pre-game infield practice at Crosley Field (at that time it was the home of the Cincinnati Reds). The Dodgers are on the field. The camera zooms in on a father and son behind the third base line. The boy is cheering on his team. But then he looks up and hears his dad saying horrible racial things. And the boy joins his dad in a most sinful stream of verbal evil.
Then, short stop Pee Wee Reese, who was captain of the team, went over to Robinson, engaged him in conversation, and put his arm around his shoulder in a gesture of support which silenced the crowd. Reese says of his racist fans and family who lived in northern Kentucky, “I need them to know who I am.”
So, you see actions speak louder than words. But you knew that already. To say actions speak louder than words is just another way of saying, “Good works speak louder than words.” That is what we talk about continually in Confirmation class and what we need to be reminded about throughout our Christian life.
Think of the action done by Pee Wee Reese. Or, say you help an elderly person at the grocery store in Henning take their groceries and load them in the car. That is beautiful. Robinson’s manager, Branch Rickey played by Harrison Ford does his good work integrating baseball with Robinson.
But for whom and for what person are these good works done?
- For what purpose, whose glory did Pee Wee Reese do his beautiful good work?
- Perhaps an individual helps the elderly with groceries, simply because, well, because that person is nice.
- With the Dodger Manager, Blanche Rickey it is a little more complicated. In the movie we learn on the surface it is about money because money is what baseball is all about, and money isn’t black or white, it is green. Later we learn Branch Rickey does his good work to right a racial injustice he was powerless to stop years earlier.
There are all fine motives and these good works are to be commended, encouraged, lifted up, and the more such good works we have in life the better life is.
But for the Christian something is missing, or, should be missing. What is it? Look at the life of the apostles and that of Jesus. They did lots of good works—we call them miracles. But was that all? Or, did something accompany their good works? Jesus and the apostles never left the good works simply hang out there. They gave reason, they witnessed as to why they did these good works. They gave witness to Jesus Christ and the life he offers us in Holy Baptism which flows from his suffering on the cross in our place.
‘Tis true that actions speak louder than words. But guess what? The gospel speaks louder than actions, the gospel speaks louder than good works. Blanche Rickey, Robinson’s manager was really a good guy. How would eternity have been impacted and the Book of Life if Rickey had said something like, “I do this for you Robinson, because Jesus has done just the same thing for me, for you, for the world.” The Gospel impacts eternity and speaks louder than actions. When the elderly person profusely thanks you for your help in the parking lot in Henning how could the Book of Life be altered should you say something like, “You are welcome ma’m give me the thanks and Jesus Christ the glory.”
Receive a person’s thanks, and encourage that individual then to give glory to Jesus. After all, Jesus does work through means, through your hands, generous wallets, rolled up sleeves, patient listening over a cup of coffee, and a gentle smile. To not accept a person’s thanks is invariably to say that Jesus was not working through you, and, of course you don’t want to say that.
The Gospel speaks louder than actions, and actions speak louder than words. And so in Confirmation Class we continually talk about good works, actions, which saves the day in this life, but even more so we talked about the Gospel where Jesus’ blood was shed to pay the penalty for our sins. It is this good work that Jesus did for us, this act of service, which saves souls for eternity, and impacts this life for the better.
Good works, actions give us a platform to be heard when we share the Gospel. Bridges of love, kindness, generous servant actions melt thick walls of resentment and lower towering walls of bitterness much like warm weather melts and lowers piles of snow, so that the ears of hearts are opened to hear the good news of salvation, won as a free gift, through Jesus’ good works for us.
Major League Baseball and its participating clubs have retired various uniform numbers over the course of time, ensuring that those numbers will always be associated with particular players or managers of note.
- Babe Ruth’s number “3” is retired.
- Number 24 is retired by the Giants to honor Willie Mays.
- In 1997 number “34” was retired for … Kirby Pucket.
- Number “8” in 2001 for Cal Ripken of the Orioles.
- Stan Musial “34” by the Cardinals.
Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. But in the movie I learned something unique. In 1997, Major League Baseball “universally” retired his uniform number, 42, across all major league teams; he was the first pro athlete in any sport to be so honored.
There are many Christian symbols that are associated with different church bodies, or saints who have gone before us. But it is the cross which has been universally used, “retired” if you will, to remind us of the great love Jesus has for you and me. And this is what I always point my confirmation students to.
 Charlie Henrickson, “A Little While” (Sermon on John 16:12-22, by Pr. Charles Henrickson),” Brothers’ John Steadfast, April 28th, 2013, http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=29416