You, Who Have Ears, Get Busy With Your Hands And Feet?

Text: Matthew 17:1-9

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

What part of the human body best represents the Christian Church?  

Over the last several decades, most American Christians would answer this by saying that the church is the hand of God.  

Take the Presbyterian Church for an example. They have a new initiative called “Hands and Feet,” which aims to get parishioners to engage with ministry projects on the ground using their hands and feet.   

Or, take the ELCA for an example. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America has a special Sunday each year titled “God’s Work, Our Hands.”  The goal of this Sunday is to explore the various acts of service that parishioners can do in every corner of their lives – acts of service using their hands. 

But what about in our Lutheran Church Missouri Synod? Well, over the years, the LCMS has often been tugged towards various movements in America where we have been encouraged to be some sort of instrument of God, usually using our hands or feet to ‘do something as well.  

And so, the point being, the temptation is to make the church mainly about ‘hands and feet.’ We just can’t help ourselves. Like the Apostle Peter in our reading from the Gospel of Matthew, we are always tempted to build stuff in the church. Anytime we are around the glory of God and the realm of the sacred, we seem to resort to wanting to be people of busy action.  

We can see this very clearly in America with how we have been naming our churches.  For example, consider some of the new contemporary names for churches here in Minot. The two newest names for churches are “The Pursuit” and “The Journey.”  In other cities, many churches are named like this as well. These names are not unique but a part of a current fad. In other words, in cities across America, we see newer churches named: Elevation, the Bridge, the Encounter, the Verge, Discovery, the Journey, the Pursuit, and so forth. The point is; these new names convey that these churches are busy with hands and feet – busy doing God things.  

Dear friends, that day when Peter saw the glory of Jesus on that Mountain, Peter’s reaction was to build three tents – one tent for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Jesus. Now, keep in mind that Peter’s actions were not evil but a distraction. In fact, the voice of the Father broke forth, interrupting Peter, saying, 

“This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to Him!”

In other words, God the Father spoke to Peter, saying - knock it off, Peter! Stop talking. Stop doing. Instead, listen to Jesus! Peter, stop moving with your feet, stop moving with your hands, and stop moving your mouth. Just stop. Stop and use your ears to listen. 

Dear friends, I believe this is one of the reasons why the American Church has been struggling for the last 40-50 years – we are not listening. In other words, the church has been in decline over the last 40-50 years, and the solution has been to push the church to ‘grow.’ And to get the church to grow, parishioners have been encouraged to use their hands and feet. They are encouraged to go on a journey to pursue or elevate themselves.  They are encouraged to discover, encounter, or be a bridge. 

I am certainly not trying to be rude in saying this, but it must be said, if you ask the average attendee in the American Church, “what are you pursuing, where are you journeying towards, and what are you climbing up to,” they will most likely not be able to tell because that really does not matter. What matters to them is that their hands and feet are busy and moving. 

Oh, how misguided this is! Lord, have mercy! 

Mark this; listen to this carefully - the American church is so busy working to save the church with its hands and feet that it has not bothered to listen to Christ with its ears. Way too many people are so busy pursuing, diligently hustling on a journey, or climbing in elevation that they are distracted from listening. While their intentions may be good, they have become distracted like Peter. They are not listening.  

Dear friends, make no mistake, this is not just a problem in other churches in America. But it is a problem that we are all susceptible to. Let me give you an example. Pretend you are looking to attend a new church. Would you rather attend a church named “The Journey” or a church named “The Remain?”  Would you rather attend a church named “The Pursuit” or a church named “The Stay in Place?”  Would you rather attend a church named “Elevation” or a church named “The Sit?”  Do you see what I mean? There is something about us as humans: we are like hyperactive little children who can’t sit still to listen. We don’t want to use our ears, but we want to use our hands and feet. We want to move. We want to chase. We want to climb. We don’t want to sit. We don’t want to listen. 

And that is why the Father’s rebuke is just as much for us as it is for Peter – “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him!”     

Think of it this way, Jesus says over and over in the Gospels not, “You who have ears get busy with your hands and feet.”  But instead, He says over and over, “You who have ears, hear!”  

But why is it so important to listen? 

Dear friends, consider this a moment. Due to our sinful nature, we Christians tend to forget the Gospel. Doubt continually arises in our hearts. Fear continually chokes out our faith. And our assurance continually grows weak. And to make things worse, guilt and shame typically take root in our hearts from the ways that we fail. And so, our immediate reaction is to try and do something to fix our predicament. We use our hands and feet to fix ourselves and serve our neighbors to somehow prove to God that we are good little Christians. But when peace and assurance are not restored through the use of our hands and feet, we double down and try to do more stuff with our hands and feet. In the end, all our doing does not overturn our doubt, fear, guilt, and shame. It just makes us more tired while trapping doubt, fear, guilt, and shame underneath all our huffing and puffing.  

Baptized Saints, stop! With Peter, we must stop and receive all good things from Christ. We must never forget that to be a Christian is not about achieving but about receiving. We must never forget that without listening, one cannot be a Christian, let alone use their hands and feet to serve their neighbor. Yes, we need to listen to what Jesus has done and what He says to us. 

And what has He done? What does He say to you?  

He says that you are forgiven of all your sins. Your guilt is atoned for.  

He says that you are baptized. Your identity is not in the world, your status, your achievements, or what others say about you, but instead, that you are a child of God.  

He says, be still, for He is your God, and the devil cannot snatch you from His hands. 

He says to abide in Him, for it is the Father’s pleasure to give you the kingdom. 

He says that He chose the cross on your behalf so that you might not perish but have everlasting life.  

He says that you are God’s masterpiece, forgiven and created anew in Him so that you can walk in good things that have been planned long ago. 

And so, the point being, you can never hear from Christ too much, and you can never hear too much of God’s Word. As a Christian, your ears are meant to hear, “I forgive you” every single day. This is why Christ opened your ears in the first place. He wants you not to hear and believe the blabbering devil, the jabbering world, or the prattling sinful old nature. But instead, He wants you to hear how He has done all things well – for you. He wants you to hear truth, life, and salvation as you muddle through this vale of tears. He wants you to hear from His church that as good or bad as it gets that He is with you, that He has redeemed you, that you are His, and that He will resurrect you on the last day. 

You, who have ears, gladly hear and receive this day! 

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

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