300 S Ardmore Ave, Villa Park IL, 60181

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Saturday - 4:30 pm Sunday - 8:00 am & 10:30 am Christian Education Sunday - 9:15 am


You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastor Rob Rogers was born in Seattle Washington. He has a B.A. in Communication from Concordia University, Austin, TX and a Masters of Divinity from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO. READ MORE >>

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Pentecost 4 – July 7, 2019
Text:            Luke 10:17-20
Theme:
         Treading on Snakes and Scorpions

 

 

        When I was a chaplain at Baptist East Hospital in Louisville, it was a frequent occurrence to have someone come into the Emergency Room having been bitten by a poisonous snake.  It was not because he was hiking in the woods and just happened to accidentally step on a rattler.  It was because he was participating in a religious exercise in which they handled poisonous snakes in order to prove their faith in God. After all, they would argue, Jesus says,

        “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.”  They argued that if they were hurt, it was because they had a lapse in faith.  Jesus is of course not suggesting that we should go out and tread on the animals of his kingdom.  Snakes and scorpions are just as much a part of God creation as puppies and bunnies and we certainly would never imagine him suggesting that we should go forth and stomp on puppies and bunnies.  It is clear that Jesus is using a metaphor.  The disciples would have been well aware of the painful and dangerous results of treading on snakes and scorpions because these were hazards in their day to day world, and Jesus had just said,

        “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”  The point was clear to the disciples. Jesus protects us from Satan when we are fulfilling the work he has given us to do. When we go out into the world to proclaim Jesus, we need never fear the evil one or his minions for Jesus empowers us to do whatever he commands us to do and the host of heaven surrounds us.  We do, however, need to fear our own arrogance and stupidity.  Arrogance and stupidity is defined as those moments when we take our eyes off of Jesus and start looking at ourselves.  For instance, with regard to the snake-handlers.  Why would one intentionally do a dangerous and potentially deadly thing, like handle poisonous snakes?  It was not to glorify Jesus.  It was to stroke one’s own ego?  Look at me!  My faith is so strong that I can handle poisonous snakes and live!  Jesus knows us.  That is why he so quickly adds the corrective,

        “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”  Focus on the message of salvation that you have been given to deliver, not on yourselves or anything about you! We rejoice in what Jesus has done for us and our goal is tell everyone who will listen to us what he has done for us and for them.  But there are times when the devil tries to stop us.  He interferes with our showing the love of God to someone.  And he interferes with snakes and scorpions: the snakes of our own self-interest and the scorpions of our pride and arrogance.  I once knew a pastor who threw his son out of the house for being an alcoholic.  How does that improve the odds of his son coming to know and love Jesus? We have seen in the news stories of people who have inappropriate relationships with kids in their care.  How does that lead them to the cross of Christ?  People look at homeless people who ask for money and say things like “get a job.”  How does that show the love of Christ? People judge others for choices they make that are not in line with God’s law. Is it your place to judge others?  Is that not reserved only for God? Snakes and scorpions!  Snakes and scorpions writhing all around our legs, biting and stinging and distracting us from loving others like Christ loved us: unconditionally.

        We are Christ’s emissaries in the world, and we do that job all of the time, wherever we are, whatever we are doing, and if we focus on ourselves instead of on what Christ has done, we are failing in our mission.  We are getting down in the dirt and wallowing with the snakes and the scorpions and letting them bite us.  It is not an easy task to which we have been called and, of course, every one of us has failed from time to time, but one failure does not a life make, neither two nor three nor 70 times 7. That’s why we have forgiveness and the Word and Sacrament to empower us to go forward and to try again and again and yet again. Someone just said to me, “I’ve invited that guy to church a dozen times and he never comes.”  I said, “Invite him again.”

        We have been called by Christ to be the beautiful feet who preach the good news, who publish peace and bring good news of salvation.  We are washed in the waters of baptism and fed with the body and blood of Christ.  God empowers us to rise above the snakes and the scorpions in this life, to overcome our arrogance and self-righteousness and to do the work of disciples of God.  So yes, we are able tread on snakes and scorpions when we keep our eyes on Jesus because the Heavenly Host protects us and we do God’s will.