In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
People the world over think of God like genie in a bottle. Rub him just the right way and get your magic wishes. Pray the right way. Do the right actions. Or believe the right things and you can get goodies from God. This is patently false.
Whether you are compassionate as a parent or not you try to give your kids what they need. And you delight in giving them more than they need because you love your kids. But wisdom also says don’t give them everything they want. Teach them how to work, how to earn, how to succeed, how to love and treat others decently. You can’t do that by coddling them, by doing everything for them, or by handing them whatever they want whenever they want it. That will just produce spoiled brats.
And so God, your gracious Father in wisdom gives you what you need, when you need it. He raise you up like a parent training you in His ways to trust in Him, and to follow Him. He is a Father giving out good gifts in love. Not a genie in a bottle.
But God doesn’t work that way. He’s not a trained lion. Doing tricks on command. He’s not subject to your rules. He will always break your rules. He is only subject to the limits He places on Himself.
But the Pharisees had made a science out of figuring out just what they had to do to get what they wanted from God. Or so they thought. But here was God. Not God the Father, God the Son. God in the flesh. Standing in front of them. They couldn’t control Him. They couldn’t shut Him up. They couldn’t outwit Him or put Him in a bottle.
So they tried to sideline Him. They tried to trap Him in His words so that they didn’t have to listen to Him or believe in Him. And nothing has changed. Our world, and our own flesh, still wants to sideline Jesus. To trap Him and His followers in His words. So that we can write Him off, and not have to deal with Him at all. You’ve heard it said, “Jesus was about love and acceptance so who are we, who are you to judge anyone?” Oh clever pharisees. So quick to point the finger and issue judgements of “judgemental”, so that you can “trap” Him who will judge the living and the dead in His own words and thus escape His judgement.
For He whom David called Lord is not merely flesh of your flesh and bone of your bone, but Lord of heaven and earth, come in your flesh so that your enemies who want to separate you from your Father’s love might be trampled down under His feet. For on His cross where His own feet were pierced He danced the bloody dance that killed sin. There He cast out Satan’s power over all by spilling the blood that causes sin to be passed over on the earth. Freeing you from the fear of death.
For now, blessed are the dead who dies in the Lord. (Revelations 14:13) For the Father has put death under His Son’s feet (Matthew 22:44). It is under His Son’s control. Death is now a doorway to the Father through faith in His Son.
For those who are baptized into His name call upon Him in prayer and praise in every time and place where His name calls people to faith in Him. And that calling to faith in Him calls you to be a saint. For it declares you holy. It confirms you in the Holy Christian faith. It enriches your understanding of Him and yourself as His person. It enriches your speech toward others, peppering it with His hope, mercy, and grace. It sustains you guiltless till He comes again. Not because your actions are blameless, but because He calls you and declares you “not guilty.”
For God is a Father. A loving Father. Whose Son made His dad proud by doing His Father’s will. By crushing down Satan under His feet (Matthew 22:44; Genesis 3:15; Romans 16:20; Malachi 4:3). Giving us fellowship, participation, in Himself (1 Corinthians 1:9), by eating and drinking God’s Son into you (1 Corinthians 10:16). Which unites you to God’s Son. Making you His Son. Giving you His love and faithfulness.
No need for genies. For you are in His Son, His only Son whom He loves. And God is faithful.
In +Jesus name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON