Epiphany 5 B 2021
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savor Jesus Christ. Amen.
God is not a vending machine. One does not put in a dollar in the machine and then get to make a selection from God’s divine vending machine.
Unfortunately, this is precisely the way false gods are worshipped. The prophets of Baal thought that the longer they prayer, and the harder they prayed, the more that they would be heard by Baal.
And, when they did not receive an answer for their prayer, they would often cut themselves in the hope of getting the false god to have compassion on them and hear their prayer.
If that did not work, they would offer an animal sacrifice as way to win the favor of the gods. And if animal sacrifices did not work, they might even sacrifice their children. The point being, if you wanted a god to answer your prayer, then you had to offer a sacrifice that was worthy enough.
Atheists today use a similar misunderstanding of God as a argument that there is no God. They say, “I prayed to God and God did not give me what I wanted, so there is no God.” But God is not a vending machine, regardless of how people think of God.
In our text today, we heard that the whole city had gathered at the door of the house where Jesus was staying. The people gathered there because the people wanted healing, and the people wanted the illnesses and diseases they were inflicted with gone.
The text tells us that Jesus did heal many that day, however the text also informs us that Jesus came to preach. And so as more and more people came to Him to be healed, Jesus decided to depart from them and go on to the next town.
Even though Jesus could have healed everyone who came to Him that day, Jesus did the more important thing – Jesus preached. The text informs us that Jesus said to His disciples “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.”
And the Good News is this… “Preaching is better than healing.” Yes, healing does lead to a longer life in this sinful world but preaching leads to eternal life in God’s Heavenly Kingdom.
And yet, how often do we pray for preaching? I have yet to hear someone ask me to pray for them so they might have the opportunity to hear more sermons. And I do not think anyone here this morning prayed this morning that I might preach an extra-long sermon. Especially on Super Bowl Sunday.
Yet, people ask me all the time to pray for health and healing. In our bulletin today we have a list of people who have asked for prayers. And that is a good thing. It is indeed right and salutary that we pray for the poor, the sick, the dying, the lonely, the grief-stricken, the repentant sinner, those making important decisions, people in conflict, family members, our nation, the world, and a whole other list of concerns and situations that we face each, and every day.
But it is also true that we need to hear the Word of God on a regular basis. For, it is through the Word that we discover God’s will for our lives. And it through God’s Word that we hear the law which convicts us of our sin and brings us to repentance.
And it is through God’s Word that we are introduced to the Gospel that creates trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of sin and receive the Good news of reconciliation that is possible between us and God and each other.
And it is through the proclamation of God’s Word that we hear that God’s Redeeming Activity is done not because of anything that we do but is a gift given to us freely out of God’s love and concern for us without any merit or worthiness in us.
Unlike a vending machine, what God gives to us is not His response to what we have given to Him but the other way around. God gives to us first.
God gives us the forgiveness of sin, so that we can forgive others. God gives us eternal life, so that we do not cling to the things of this earth. God bestows upon us His love, grace, mercy, and truth so that we are not forever trapped in sin.
My friends, there is nothing better than hearing the Gospel preached to you. And there is nothing better in all the world than to hear than the proclamation that Jesus died for you and that your sins have been forgiven. And there is nothing more blessed to learn that one day every tear will be wiped from our eyes and that we will live with our Lord and Savior forever.
And so even though Jesus could have healed everyone who came to Him that day, Jesus did the more important thing – Jesus preached. And that is why He rightly said to His disciples “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” Amen.
Let us pray: Blessed Lord, you speak to us through the Holy Scriptures. Grant that we may hear, read, respect, learn, and make them our own in such a way that the enduring benefits and comfort of the Word will help us grasp and hold the blessed hope of everlasting life, given to us through our Savior Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.