20th Sunday aft. Pentecost
Our Savior Lutheran Church
Pagosa Springs, Colorado
October 13, 1996
(Atacama Desert - a place of desolation. Independence Pass - a place of refreshment. The wildlife of Independence Pass cannot be transported to the Atacama Desert because they would most certainly die for lack of food and water. Yet in our world today, many are the people who do not know Christ who are attempting to feed in a spritual desert as barren as the Atacama Desert Trying to find refreshment where there is none to be had. Trying to live on a diet that can and will lead only to death. They are grazing in a land of desolation.)
CHRISTLESS PEOPLE ATTEMPT TO SPIRITUALLY NOURISH THEMSELVES IN A PLACE OF BARREN DESOLATION. (Mt. 9:6-37)
Many attempt to feed everywhere, but find no food and no life.
These are not "bad" people...They are hungry for spiritual life.
We have been where they are.
The compassion of Christ ought to be our compassion too.
Many run from one "religious" source to another -- all with a message of fear, not comfort.
Hinduism: "Be good enough and the next life will be better for you."
Islam: "Work hard for Allah, and he will honor you in the next life."
Buddhism: "Follow the eight-fold path of self-discipline and become perfectly enlightened."
Many others with different words, but the same meaning: You must save yourself.
These are messages without comfort or peace, only doubt about one's own performance.
They bring people to a place of spiritual desolation.
The nourishment they offer is an illusion leading to death, yet millions trudge to these spiritual Atacama Deserts seeking hope and life and find none.
Although many seek a deeper spiritual life, they will obtain only God's judgment. (Ez. 34:16b)(Rom. 1:20-24)
Just because people are religious doesn't mean they have God's favor.
Every form to make ourselves better than we are is a form of human arrogance which denies the work of Christ.
That's what "Self-righteousness" means - To make one's self righteous.
JESUS CHRIST HAS COME TO ALL PEOPLE, IN ALL PLACES OF DESOLATION TO GIVE TRUE LIFE. (Ez. 34:11-12, 16a)
Jesus removes the curse of judgment against us for our shallow attempt to save ourselves.
God is not hoping to "smack" those who disbelieve in His Son, He is the one doing the seeking!
He is not desirious that any should be lost. (I Pt. 3:9)
It what this overwhelming love that prompted the sending of Jesus into this world...this hopeless place where desolation reigned.
Christ is the exclusive answer to all spiritual questions!
ILLUS: Religion without Christ is like trying to pack for a long trip without a suit case...There's a lot of stuff, but nothing to hold it together.
Jesus Christ is the singular oasis of spiritual nourishment which contradicts all other religions of human invention.
Jesus bring life: (Heb. 7:25, 27)
It is Jesus who brings life through His life of sinless perfection.
It is Jesus who brings life through the complete forgiveness of all our sins on Calvary's cross.
It is Jesus who brings life through His victory over death and sin with His resurrection from the dead.
What about you? In what is your hope?
Are you tired of wondering if you're going to be OK when you die?
Are you tired of looking for peace and comfort in your life and finding none?
Are you tired to trying to please an unpleasable God with your imperfect life?
Then know beyond all doubt, that the Great, Good Shepherd is looking for you!
He brings life in all the fullness you desire.
He brings real, not illusory, nourishment in His Word and in the Sacraments of His Church.
Come, feed on the peace and riches of God!
As beautiful as this protrait is, it is a portrate that is still being painted by the Creator.
God's Kingdom is not yet complete...More will be yet drawn to Him.
The Church is the paintbrush by which God's canvas is drawn.
The tools of the Church are His Word, baptism and the Lord's Supper.
NOW, WE ARE THE ONES WHO ARE CALLED TO INTRODUCE THE HUNGRY TO THE GOOD SHEPHERD.
Who knows the millions upon millions that have been touched by the Church of Jesus Christ?
How many hospitals? How many homes for the elderly? How many hungry mouths have been fed in the name of Christ?
How many blankets have been given that have warmed cold people.
These are the hands of Christ ministering with compassion and with Word of life which is Christ Jesus!
ILLUS: In "It's a Wonderful Life" a man was given the opportunity to see what his community would be like had he not been there. We might ask a similiar question: What would this world be like without Christ? What hope would there be? What rescue from desolation could be found?
Why are we still here since Christ has claimed us as His own?
Why doesn't the Lord simply take us to heaven and be done with it?
Precisely because we are called to lead the scattered and the hungry to Him.
Precisely because we have this sacred work to do.
Our faith is not simply something we have, about which we should feel good, it is a call to arms in the cause of Christ.
The equipping of Word and Sacrament is for a purpose.
Being ambassadors for Christ IS that purpose.
Perhaps it would help us to keep in mind that mental picture of the Atacama Desert and then to remember the millions upon millions of people who have been blood-bought by Christ who are vainly seeking nourishment where there is none. Then, perhaps, we should ask ourselves an honest question, "Will I continue to graze in the pasture, verdant with the blessings of Christ and not tell thosw whom we see in the places of spiritual desolation about the beauty and riches of the Good Shepherd?" God grant us the courage to speak, the kindness of a helping hand and the wisdom to use both in His name. Amen.
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