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Sermon 6-30-19

Third Sunday after Pentecost Luke 9:51-62

 

Dear Heavenly Father, we often try to adjust Jesus’ teachings to follow him to our expectations, when it is our lives that require change and transformation. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, help us to hear his Word with open hearts and minds, and grant us courage to follow him with greater faith and commitment. This we ask in Jesus’ holy name. Amen.

 

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem.

 

When you turn your back on someone, it means that you want nothing more to do with them; you don’t want to even look at them or listen to them. But if you set your face toward someone, that’s quite different. You try to interact with them; you stay in touch with them. To set your face toward something can also mean you are focused on reaching a goal.

 

Today, Jesus sets His face to go to Jerusalem; for in Jerusalem He will reach His goal - to be crucified on a cross. It means that He is determined to go there; nothing will stop Him.

But it also means that Jesus --the face of God is turned toward us. Jesus did not turn away and leave us in our sin, but instead turned toward us to be our Savior. Our God is seeking us, looking at us, interacting with us, caring for us, coming for us, and dying for us.

This is our God who did not turn His back on Adam and Eve, but called for them—turned toward them and promised them a Savior. God repeated His promise to Abraham. God used Moses sending him to Egypt to set His people free from their slavery. God did not turn His back on His people when they rebelled against Him time and time again in the wilderness, but continued to lead them to the Promised Land. God continues to send His messengers, His prophets, to His people, to call them from their sin and to trust in Him alone.

This is who God is, and always will be. The one and only God who does not turn His back, does not forget His promises, and has set His face - in grace - toward you-- to be your God, your Savior.

 

There are times in life when God seems to be a million miles away; when it seems as if your prayers go unheard and unanswered; when everything is going wrong for you and right for everyone else; when the pain and heartache and confusion and struggles seem like they will never end.

 

It seems as if the wicked have grown mighty and the faithful have melted away. So we respond in despair and fear. Unbelief takes over, thinking that God will not act and out future is uncertain.

In those times of doubt, the evil wants us to believe God is unreliable, unfaithful, inconsistent, and uncertain. It is we who change from one day to the next. It is we who waver in our determination, and whose promises are nothing more than empty words. It is we who put our hands to the plow—we start with good intentions, and then we look back. It is we who run away and hide in caves of despair and hopelessness - not God. And yet, how often do we accuse God of our sin?

 

So how does God respond to this? Thanks be to God that he does not reject us, but sets His face to go to Jerusalem—to take our sin to the cross, proving His faithfulness to us again and again and again. For He is determined to be not just any God, but to be your God, your Savior.

 

That’s why Jesus scolded James and John when they wanted to destroy the Samaritans. They didn’t understand that Jesus came to take the punishment Himself. No matter who you are or what you have been, Jesus comes to you demonstrating His love and His faithfulness—freely giving His forgiveness and life.

 

Jesus is still sending messengers to prepare His way-- to preach repentance and forgiveness; to call all people from the entanglements of this world and the empty promises of sin. You were born from above in Holy Baptism as God’s very own. Filled with His Holy Spirit He sustains you with His Word of forgiveness and the means of grace.

 

The face of our LORD is toward you—focused on you. Not as a divine policeman, watching for you to break the law! But toward you as the Good Shepherd - to guard you from danger, to bring you back when you wander, to forgive you, and to keep you; allowing the fruit of the Spirit to grow in you.

 

For as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.

What God has done in the past, He will do now and in the future.

His faithfulness to others is His faithfulness to you.

In setting His face toward Jerusalem, He has set His face toward you--to give Himself for you that you’ll never be forsaken, never be alone, and that your face be always set toward Him who is your God, your life, your Savior, your all.