Bethlehem Carson City, 55th Anniversary

Saturday September 13, 2014

Readings: Luke 19:10, 1 Cor. 1:1-18, Acts 2:42-47

Bethlehem 55thTo the church of God that is Bethlehem Lutheran, those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

There was a man, Zacchaeus, he was a tax collector and filthy rich. And this man was seeking Jesus. He was small and wanted to see Jesus. Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, is a crook. Everyone knew it. That’s why it is such a shock to everyone when Jesus comes to this man and want to dine at his house today.

What is that you seek today? Did you come today to celebrate your own accomplishments in this place? Did you come to celebrate your work, or perhaps even the work of others? Certainly many of done many things here. Some of you have served on boards since I was in grade school. Some of you were working and serving to build this sanctuary while your current pastor was learning to walk.

But I’m sure if we gathered the right groups together, or if you look around the room, you would be just like the people in Jericho, “these people are sinners.” Looking around this room, they’d be right. Zacchaeus is a sinner who grasps onto money, any of those around? A sinner who looked for any means possible to accumulate more for himself, a sinner who was ready with a list of his accomplishments and acts of giving to self-justify himself before the Lord, perhaps you’ve thought about such things too.

Jesus goes to Zacchaeus and instead of looking on and being overjoyed and saying, “hey, great, we know that guy, he’s kind of a bad egg perhaps something good will come of this,” they grumble. We grumble when something good happens to our neighbor. Grumble when we look on those we don’t think deserve good things get more than we have or something we want, grumble within when we don’t like something, grumble at voter’s meetings.

Here’s Zacchaeus up a tree, here you are individually and as a congregation up a tree, climbing away from all this sin and even from the people who were sinned against. But he wanted to see Jesus and he’s here. For you, dear saints are no different than Zacchaeus nor those standing around, and to you Jesus says, come down here for I must stay at your house today.

This is the miracle and amazement of the Gospel. This is what Jesus has done for 55 years in this place. Come to be with sinners. Not just for a visit but to stay with you and call you here and to dine with you. For salvation has come today. For the Son of Man has come, not for those who are self-righteous, but to seek and save the lost.

You need Jesus, all of Carson City, Minden, Gardnerville, and Reno needs Jesus, the world needs Jesus, the Jesus who comes to you. He comes and brings salvation. Salvation that is accomplished as He leaves Zacchaeus’ house and continues on His way to Jerusalem to accomplish. Salvation that comes by way of a cross, salvation that comes in death and resurrection.

Jesus continues to come and calls you down from the tree today. He does so in the same way He has for 55 years in this place. He gathers you together now, for salvation is yours, your sins are forgiven in the Son of Man who comes to seek and save the lost, to seek you, to save you. Week after week, in not only this place, but at Shepherd of the Sierra, Trinity, in Reno, even somehow in Winnemucca, salvation comes as the risen Christ comes to forgive your sin and give you Himself in Word and Sacrament.

That’s the heart of everything we do here. That’s the witness, the proclamation and testimony, that Jesus is here, now. That’s the work of mercy, mercy which flows not from our self-justifying attempts to restore what we’ve done wrong, but mercy which flows from here and into the world because that’s the direction of the blood of Jesus – to the world from this place, His house. That’s the work of Christian education, proclaiming and teaching more than just math, science, history, and english, but teaching work of Jesus not only for the students but for the teachers.

Dear saints, Zacchaeus’ response should be our response. Complete repentance. Recognizing our sin, turning away from it, and coming together as the early church did in giving to the poor, not just from the extras but all we have to those in need.

Zacchaeus was indeed a “wee little man.” This wee little man is a lot like the we that is you and I. A sinner weighed down by the guilt of his past and called down by Jesus to be given salvation. For Jesus is passing through Jericho to go to Jerusalem, to pay not the bill owed to a tax collector but to pay our debt of death for our sin. Jesus goes to the poor and gives all He has, He comes to us poor sinners and gives His life that you may have the riches that is life in Him.

Salvation has come to this house, for salvation is where Jesus is, here now, to seek and save the lost, to seek and save you. May God grant more than another 55 years at this place may be the place where sinners can come and see Jesus.

In the name of the Father and of + the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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