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There are many assumptions that kill. We assume that people are out to get us, and therefore put the worst possible twist on everything they do. We assume that people don't like us, therefore, we put up walls that shouldn't exist. We assume that people know what is right and do the wrong thing anyway, therefore we judge our brothers and sisters in Christ too harshly with no thought of patiently teaching them and building them up in the faith. In short, we assume that our neighbor has everything together, therefore, when they fall apart or make a mistake we are not prepared to catch them when they fall and help pick them back up in Christ.
My friends, we assume too much about our brothers and sisters and in this we kill our neighbor. I do know three things though, three assumptions that don't kill our neighbor, but instead prepare us to bear burdens with them.
1. I assume and know that the world has burned you out this week. I know that the world has gifted you worries beyond your control and has created anxieties that you didn't know existed. I know that the world, because you are baptized into Christ, has dragged you down yet again this week and left you with nothing but more to worry about.
2. I assume and know that your sinful flesh has fought every good thought, word, and deed of the New Man this week. I know that the Old Adam has yet again resisted you hearing the Word and meditating on the Gospel. I know that the Old Adam has worked overtime to help you forget the words of Absolution that you heard on Sunday morning. As St. Paul says, "17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do" (Galatians 5:17). In know that you haven't had a week of relaxation, but rather a week of spiritual warfare, I also assume that the Old Adam, at least in appearance, has been victorious yet again.
3. I assume that the devil has not left you alone for one second. I know that the devil has tormented you with new temptations and reminders of past transgressions. I know that the devil has come to you in your despair and preached your worthlessness and that He has puffed you up in your proud moments, only to drag you down when you fail. I know that the devil has taken every opportunity to steal away your trust in Christ and your confidence in Jesus' mercy toward you. In short, I assume and know that the devil has done his work on you this week and His arrows are still lodged in your heart.
Here's the deal. We must not assume the worst about our neighbor, but must assume that our neighbor is struggling and burned out. We must see our neighbor, not on a pedestal, but in the sewer, in need of Jesus' mercy.
My friends, I assume that the world, Old Adam, and the devil have beaten you this week. So, I have these two words to say to both those who preach and those who hear the Gospel this week.
PASTORS: I assume you've failed at your vocation this week. I assume that the world has preached that your office is a farce, that your Old Adam has won countless victories, and that the devil has tormented you relentlessly this week. May the world, Old Adam, and the devil be silenced. May you hear only Jesus' voice that reminds you that you are His forgiven child. You are His minister, chosen by Him, to do His Work. He promised to be with you at your Ordination. NO matter how weak you are in the ministry, Jesus is always working for the forgiveness of those He loves. Do your work, your preaching, in peace and confidence knowing that Jesus doesn't go back on His Word, but keeps His promise to speak through you as His called and ordained Servant. Do your work with peace, knowing that Jesus does it all for you.
THOSE WHO HEAR: I assume that you've failed at your vocation this week. I assume that the world has burdened you with extra cares and anxieties, that your Old Adam has vanquished you daily, and that the devil has tempted you with new sins and old favorites. May the world, the Old Adam, and the devil be silenced. May you hear only the voice of Jesus that reminds you that you are His baptized child. May you hear His voice that calls you to church, not to lift up your accomplishments on the altar of self-improvement, or be judged by your failures, but rather you are called to church to receive from Jesus' altar His accomplished work of salvation that He won on the cross for you. May you know that Jesus promised you salvation in your baptism and He renews that promise every time you are absolved all your sins.
Peace be with you. May the devil be silenced, the world be hushed, and the Old Adam drowned anew so that you hear only the voice of your Savior Jesus who says, "Peace be with you. Look at my hands, my side, stop distrusting, and trust that I love you and will never leave you nor forsake you," Amen.