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You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

February 22nd, 2006
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Great sermon by Pastor Cwirla

Mark 2:1-12 / 7 Epiphany B / 19 February 2006 / Holy Trinity-Hacienda Heights

In Nomine Iesu

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The crowd was huge, filling the little
house to overflowing.  Jesus was in town.  The people flocked to hear
him.  All kinds of people – the curious, the devout, the skeptical, the
religious.  They were all there, packed into a little house, spilling
out onto the street.  And Jesus did what Jesus always does – He
preached the Word.

Four men came to the house.  They were
carrying their paralyzed friend on a pallet, a kind of flat board with
handles.  No motorized wheelchairs back then.  No handicapped access.
No way to push through the crowd to Jesus.  They decide to dig through
the roof and lower the man on his pallet down with a rope to the feet
of Jesus.  Imagine being the owner of the house.  Mark says that Jesus
“came home.”  Perhaps it was back to Peter’s mother-in-law.  You invite
Jesus to your home, next thing you know the whole town is in your
living room and some strangers are digging a hole through your roof.
It takes all the romance out of “house church,” doesn’t it?

Jesus
is impressed.  He sees their faith, their stop-at-nothing, determined
trust in Him, that He could do something for their paralyzed friend.
He does a surprising thing, an outrageous thing, something He hadn’t
done before.  He says to the man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  He
absolves him.

Do you think that’s what the four friends had in
mind when they carried their paralyzed buddy to Capernaum and dug
through the roof and lowered their friend to Jesus?  Is what what they
had in mind?  An absolution?  “Your sins are forgiven?”  No, they were
thinking healing, miracle.  They were expecting Jesus to lay His hands
on their friend and say the healing word and their friend was going to
walk home.  Or perhaps climb up to the roof and help them fix the hole.

What
did you expect when you came to this house today?  A miracle perhaps?
Answers to your problems?  Peace in your life?  Success?  Happiness?
What did you hear?  What did Jesus say to you?  “I forgive you all of
your sins.”  Scandalous, outrageous.

“Blasphemous!” say the
religious types, the teachers of the Torah.  Who does this Jesus think
He is?  God?  Only God can talk like that.  Only God can forgive sins.

Absolution
is an outrage to our religious sensibilities.  That’s why a lot of
so-called “progressive churches” have stopped using it in their
services.  You don’t hear confession and absolution talk anymore. 
People say, “That’s no way to start a service.  What a downer.  Admit
that your a sinner.  And then some guy in a bathrobe says, ‘I forgive
you all of your sins.  What’s up with that?”

“Cheap grace” goes
the religious protest.  Forgiveness can’t be that easy.  You have to
earn it, right?  Repent.  Change.  Promise to be good.  What did the
paralyzed man do?  He did nothing.  He was carried by others on a
board, lowered to Jesus.  St. Mark doesn’t record a word from the
paralyzed man.  Could he talk?  No prayer, no confession, no promises.
He wasn’t even there to be forgiven; he was there for Jesus to fix his
legs.

That man is a perfect picture of each of us.  Spiritually
paralyzed, unable to move one little step in a Godward direction.  We
have to be brought to Jesus, as babies brought to Baptism.  We are
paralyzed in sin and death.  There is nothing more paralyzing than
death, is there?  We can’t move.  Sinful by nature, sinful in thought,
word, and deed.  Unable to free ourselves.  Can you say to a paralyzed
man, “You need to get yourself to a doctor, son?”  No more can you say
to a sinner, “You need to get yourself to Jesus.  You need to give your
heart to Jesus.  You need to decide to follow Jesus.”  Nonsense.  The
dead are paralyzed.

I have a little problem with the English
translation in our liturgy that has me say, “Lift up your hearts,” and
you reply, “We lift them up to the Lord.”  Lots of lifting going.
Lifting those hearts up to heaven.  Feel the burn.  Liturgical
aerobics.  The Latin simply said, Sursum corda.  “Heart up.”  And the
people said, Habemus ad Dominum.  “We have them to Lord.”  No lifting.
Just open, empty hearts waiting like the paralyzed man on his mat
looking up into the eyes of Jesus.

“You were dead in sin.”  Not
kind of sick, dead.  Not sort of limplng, paralyzed.  Laid out.  Dead.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made
us alive with Christ even when we were dead in trespasses – it is by
grace (gift, undeserved kindness) that you have been saved.”  (Eph
2:1,4)

“Your sins are forgiven.”  Literally, “your sins are
loosed.”  The chains have fallen off.  The weight on your shoulders is
lifted.  Your sins are Jesus’ burden now.  You can’t have them
anymore.  They’re His, and He died with them.  Those are words of
freedom and life.  They lift you out of the paralysis of sin and death
and set you on your feet.  If all that Jesus had done for the paralyzed
man that day was say, “Your sins are forgiven,” that would have been
more than enough.  Remember what the Catechism says:  “Where there is
forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.”  Everything you
need is in those absolving words of Jesus.

Jesus knew the
scandal of those words.  He knew what people were whispering in the
back rows of the crowd.  He knew what those religious experts were
muttering under their breath.  “Who can forgive sin except God alone.”

Jesus addresses them.  “Which is easier to say to a paralyzed
man:  “Your sins are forgiven,” or “Arise and take your pallet and go
home”?  So which is easier?  You’d say, “Well, forgiveness because all
you have to do is say words, right?”  Oh yeah?  Try it next time
someone sins against you, and you pray the Our Father, “forgive us our
sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”  To forgive isn’t easy.
It cost Jesus His life on a cross, His blood shed for the sin of
world.  Absolution doesn’t come cheaply.  It’s free to us, costly to
Jesus.  And so for that matter are the words, “Arise and walk.”  Those
words too cost Jesus His life, who bore our sicknesses and sin in His
own body. 

They are both for God alone to say.  That’s right.
And Jesus, standing in the middle of that crowded house with the hole
in the roof, is God in human flesh, the Word Incarnate, whose words are
Spirit and life.  The God who said through the prophet Isaiah:

“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”  (Is 43:25)

Jesus
looks down at the paralyzed man lying there on his board and says, “I
say to you, arise, take your mat, go to your house.”  Jesus’ words do
what they say and say what they do.  The man arose and immediately
(everything is “immediately” in Mark) he took his pallet and in full
view of a whole house full of people walked out.  And the people were
astonished and glorified God.  “We’ve never seen anything like this.”

If
we could talk to that crowd, we might say, “You ain’t seen nothing
yet.”  You think that was something?  Watch when Jesus dies on a cross
and rises from the dead three days later.  That’s how the world will
know for certain that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive
sins.  He got up and walked out of His tomb three days after He died to
pay for your sins.

In many ways this house is like that house
where Jesus raised the paralytic.  Perhaps not quite so crowded, though
we can always hope.  And we don’t have to cut through the roof to get
to Jesus.  He’s accessible to each of you in the water of Baptism, in
the words of forgiveness, in the Supper of His Body and Blood, in the
preached Word which has the authority of Jesus, the Son of God, who
died and rose from the dead.

Nowhere else can you see water be a
Baptism, a new birth, a washing of sin.  Nowhere else can you see a man
forgiving sin with the authority of Christ.  Nowhere else can you eat
bread that is the Body of Jesus and drink wine that is His blood.
Nowhere else but in the church that is gathered by the Spirit, the
congregation which is open to heaven.

It took four men to bring
that paralyzed man to Jesus, to dig through the roof, to lower him on a
rope.  Four faithful men.  Do you know what we call that?  Evangelism.
Mission work.  Bringing the sin-paralyzed to Jesus, bringing them to
the house where Jesus is.  They won’t come on their own.  They can’t.
They’re paralyzed.  They can’t come to Jesus.  They have to be brought
by those who have been given ears to hear, mouths to speak, legs to go,
arms to carry.  That’s the church scattered in mission, bringing the
sin-paralyzed to Jesus so that they too might hear those loosing words,
“Your sins are forgiven.”

What Jesus did for that paralyzed man,
He does for you gathered here today.  He forgives your sin.  And on the
Last Day, by that same Word and authority, He will raise you from your
grave.  You ain’t seen nothing yet.  Now you must hear it, and believe
it.

In the name of Jesus,
Amen

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Categories: Lutheran sermons
  1. Paul T. McCain
    February 23rd, 2006 at 11:03 | #1

    I received this feedback from a member of my e-mail list and am posting here and offering Pastor Cwirla the chance to respond to it. I think the discussion of this point would be helpful.
    Why is every sermon that Pastor Cwirla preaches about the liturgy?!!! I am
    growing incredibly weary of this slavish liturgical preaching! Are we really
    to suppose that every single thing that Christ said and did has to do with
    the Divine Service and/or the Sacraments?

  2. revcwirla
    February 23rd, 2006 at 11:47 | #2

    Great observation. I take it as a high compliment.
    Since this is in a comment section, I’ll give a short answer:
    Everything that Jesus said and did is being said and done for you in the preached Word and the Sacraments (ie, the Divine Service). Otherwise, you simply have an historic narrative with no present “for you” application.
    In the sermon above, what is the point of the Gospel text except that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sin? And where is that authority of the Son of Man to forgive sin exercised on earth today for you? In Holy Absolution.

  3. February 23rd, 2006 at 14:46 | #3

    What else are you given to preach on, Pastor Cwirla? (1 Cor. 11:23). Paul says what He received from the Lord, He passed onto the Corinthians. What does He pass on? The Words of Institution (the Liturgy)!

  4. February 23rd, 2006 at 16:39 | #4

    Here’s a pertinent quote from a famous preacher on the parallel text from Matthew:
    “It is also the evil spirit’s doing that we find ourselves dead in the water spiritually; otherwise our hearts would be joyful and comforted. For think what it would mean if we rightly and truly believed that what Christ here says to the man sick with palsy, he is saying to you and to me every day in baptism, in absolution, and in public preaching, that I must not mistakenly think that God is angry and ungracious toward me. Shouldn’t that cause me to stand on my head with joy? Wouldn’t that make everything sweet as sugar, pure as gold, sheer everlasting life? The fact that this doesn’t happen for us proves that the “old Adam” and the devil drag us away from faith and the Word.” (Martin Luther, Sermon for the 19th Sunday after Trinity) quoted from “The House Postils,” Eugene Klug, tr. (Baker, 1996), vol 3, p. 82
    Luther here makes the same point. What Christ did for the paralyzed man, He does for us through Baptism and Absolution. In fact, you might say that every miracle of Christ, including resurrection from the dead, is worked for us through the Word and the Sacraments.

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