E100 – October 1, 2017

“The Word Did Everything”- John 1:1-5,14

Pentecost 17 – October 1, 2017



Introduction: Ineffective words

“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times.”


Have you ever used that phrase? Sure you have. Anyone that has kids has probably used that phrase… well, a thousand times. Has anyone ever said that to you? Probably… because maybe you didn’t really listen the first 999 times.


What phrases would you be referring to? Look both ways before you cross the street. Don’t talk with your mouth full. What else? (Ask for other examples.)


Sometimes our words are not very effective, especially when talking to children and pets—and just maybe, sometimes talking to our spouse. Unfortunately, our words can be very effective when we don’t want them to be, when we say something hurtful, or tell a lie or share a bit of gossip. Or maybe when we quietly reveal something that’s supposed to be secret and it’s overheard. You know… “I can keep a secret… it’s just the people I tell that can’t.” Those kinds of hurtful words have an impact on those who hear them, and we can’t call them back. We can’t undo them. Once they’re out of our mouths, the damage is done. It’s kind of like that story of a boy who lied. His dad told him to put feathers on the doorsteps of ten neighbours. Then he asked them to go gather them again. When the boy went back the feathers were no longer there. They blew away. That’s what happens with our words. They blow away and we can’t get them back. We can be very good at “using our words” in all the wrong ways.


  1. God’s effective words

When God uses his words, those words always have an impact, a strong impact. His words always, without fail, accomplish what he wills, what he intends. He called the universe into existence with his words. Unlike an artist who must have paint or canvas or stone and chisel to create, God created with his Word. He spoke and light appeared. He spoke and dry land appeared, and the waters were gathered into the oceans. He spoke and the sun, moon and stars appeared in space. Scripture tells us, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, God compares his words to rain and snow. The rain and snow fall and water the earth, just as God intends, and the crops grow. The rain and snow do what they are supposed to do. They do what God sends them to do. His Word is like that. It accomplishes the purpose for which God sends it.


  1. The effective Word made Flesh

Jesus, the Word, who was and is God, was also sent by the Father to accomplish his purpose, to carry out his will. Jesus did exactly what he was sent here to do, to take our sins onto himself. Long ago, when Adam and Eve disobeyed their Creator and ate the fruit forbidden to them, God spoke his word to them, “You shall surely die.” Initially it had been a word of warning: “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” After they had disobeyed God, the warning turned into reality and a curse: “Dust you are and to dust you will return.” That same word speaks to us in our sin and disobedience, “The wages of sin is death.” That means that every one of our sins brings with it the payment of death. All of our sins, all of those misspoken words, all of those intentionally hurtful words, every bit of gossip, every hurtful thought and action, every secret betrayed, the hate, envy and greed – they all deserve separation from God – eternal death. But they all, every one of them, were borne in Jesus’ own body on the cross. For our sins, Jesus – the Word made flesh – suffered the penalty of death decreed by the Word of God. The Word accomplished all that the Father sent him to do. Then, according to God’s plan and purpose, on the third day after Jesus’ death, God raised his Son to life, exalting him and giving him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. God also gave Jesus authority. A common impression that people had of Jesus’ ministry was that he spoke and taught as one who had authority – a Word of authority. In conjunction with His healing of a paralytic, He forgave the man’s sins to show that He had authority on earth to forgive sins. Just before he ascended back to heaven, Jesus said to His disciples that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Him. Authority in heaven… because, as God, that was His home.


  1. God’s Word still has authority… over sin

The Word of God, the message of God, still has authority. It still accomplishes what it is sent out to do. We now know the Gospel Word, the good news of Jesus. It is a living Word that creates faith by the power of the Spirit. The Gospel is a Word that brings life, just as surely as the rain and snow bring new life and growth to the plants and trees and crops. We have been born anew through the Word of God, born again of water and the Word in Holy Baptism. Because of what Jesus has done for you, God with his Word declares you not guilty of the multitude of sins which have plagued your life from its beginning until now. God speaks through Scripture, through a pastor’s word of absolution, through the forgiving words of your brothers and sisters in Christ, and through the body and blood of Jesus in the bread and wine of Holy Communion. God says for the sake of his Son that your sins are forgiven. What God says, happens. His Word still and always accomplished what it is sent out to do. Your sins are forgiven, cast so far from God’s sight it is as though those sins have been lost forever in the depths of the ocean. Oh, and that’s a Biblical image… not mine. But I have a personal illustration about it.


Twenty five years ago Deanna and I took a winter vacation from freezing cold Winnipeg to blazing hot Jamaica. I think it was our second morning there, and we hired one of the local hotel fellows to take us out on the Caribbean for a sailboat ride. When he was going to flip the sail from one side of the boat to the other, he would tell us to duck as the sail went over our heads. But one time the wind surprised him and blew the sail across the boat without any of us being ready. So, as the sail flipped in the wind, it struck both Deanna and me, sending us into the water, and the sail ended up flat on the water. We both were submersed for a second or two. In fact I think Deanna landed on me, so I went farther under, but we had life jackets on so we bobbed back up to the surface. As I came back up, Deanna asked me, “Where are your glasses?” I felt my face with both hands and they weren’t there, which meant that they were floating toward the bottom of the 20 foot depth of the Caribbean, to become coral reef, or maybe to aid a fish with poor eyesight. Our sailor dove down to see if he could find them, but underwater currents could have taken them in any direction. So, my glasses were lost forever in the depths of the sea, just like our sins have been cast into the depths of the ocean by a loving and gracious God.


  1. The righteous will live by faith

Five hundred years ago, a German monk named Martin Luther wrestled with this living and active Word of God. He was trying to make sense of Romans 1:17, which read “In the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith, from first to last, just as it is written: ‘the righteous will live by faith.’” Luther wondered, “What does the written Word mean when it speaks of ’the righteousness of God’”? Does it mean that he is the righteous God who punishes sinners, who sends to hell those who don’t measure up to his righteousness? In his struggle with the Word, Luther, guided by the Holy Spirit, came to understand that the righteousness of God, that is a right relationship with God, was a gift of God to unrighteous sinners. It was a gift of grace, God’s undeserved favor for sinners that comes to us because of Jesus’ innocent suffering and death on the cross. The righteousness of God is a gift for all who believe in Jesus, a gift that is free for us because the price was paid in full by the Savior’s blood. It is a gift received by faith, by trust in the Word, trusting that God means what He says, and gives what He promises.


About 20 years before Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, the Italian artist Michelangelo carved the Pieta, the beautiful marble statue of Mary holding the body of the dead Christ across her lap. In the hands of the brilliant young artist, the carved marble took on the appearance of living flesh, but when the finished statue was put on display, Michelangelo overheard a visitor give credit for his masterpiece to another artist! Rightly outraged, and unwilling to see his work attributed to someone else, Michelangelo took up his chisel again and carved some words in Latin onto the sash across Mary’s chest. “Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine, made this.” It was the only work he ever signed.


  1. The Word did EVERYTHING!

Martin Luther certainly could have taken credit for the events of the Reformation. He struggled to find a merciful God as he wrestled with the language and grammar of Holy Scripture. His 95 theses against indulgences found a popular audience and got the angry attention of church leadership. The reformer’s writing, teaching and preaching spread the message of the Gospel across Europe. But Luther himself did not take credit for the events of the Reformation or for the rediscovered truth that we are justified only by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.


In a sermon preached at Wittenberg in 1522, Luther said he did nothing, but the Word of God did everything.


“In short, I will preach it, teach it, write it, but I will constrain no one by force, for faith must come freely without compulsion. Take myself as an example. I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept [cf. Mark 4:26–29], or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything. Had I desired to foment trouble, I could have brought great bloodshed upon Germany; indeed, I could have started such a game that even the emperor would not have been safe. But what would it have been? Mere fool’s play. I did nothing; I let the Word do its work.”


The Word did everything—in the events of the Reformation and in our salvation. As with Michelangelo’s statue, the words that rightly give credit—and all glory and honor—for our salvation might be engraved across each new life in Christ: “The Son of God, the Word made flesh, made this!” We can trust the Word of God. We can trust that living Word that promises forgiveness and life to us through faith in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.


Words from our epistle reading today, from 1 Peter 1:25, became a motto of the Reformation. In Latin the phrase is Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum. The initials of that motto, VDMA, were sewn onto clothing, flags and banners and etched into swords and even into the armor of war horses. In English the words are: “The Word of the Lord endures forever.” What is that word of the Lord? What is that eternally enduring Word, the Word from God that we can trust? The apostle Peter answers for us: “This word is the good news that was preached to you.” And that good news is that in Jesus Christ we receive the righteousness, the forgiveness, the salvation, that is from God. The Word did everything. Amen.

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