The text is what includes the confession of Peter, but in the lectionary context what I think it asks us to contemplate isn’t that confession, but what is in the name of Christ? The Old testament has “God Almighty” what the Patriarchs knew God by changing Abram and Sarai names to Abraham and Sarah. Names in the Bible mean things. Moses would learn THE NAME. Eventually it is revealed as Jesus the Christ, and Father, Son and Spirit. But what Jesus wants to know is “Who do you say that I am?” When you confess the Christ, does your Christ match the Christ who is? If you Christ can’t include suffering, cross and death, then you do not have the Christ. But also if your Christ is not the one who rose, you do not have the Christ. The answers that the disciples give Jesus aren’t wrong so much as coming up short. Which might be forgiven, because nobody had seen a resurrection. But we have heard and seen. The Christ is the one who works by death and resurrection. And he bids that we walk in the same way. Is this your Christ?
The text is the Temptation of Jesus in the gospel of Mark which is different than the others. The introduction to the sermon runs down some of those differences. And this sermon then in very specifically framed around the what those unique parts of Mark’s telling are. I know that the others Matthew/Luke often get told as a “how-to manual” for temptation and testing. Which I think is completely wrong. One, we are not Jesus. Two, Satan is so much smarter than us. Getting into a bible quoting contest with Satan means we most likely lose absent the Spirit giving us the words. No, it is Mark’s account that I believe is a picture of the Christian in testing or temptation. Your God has to be big enough for the Spirit to lead you out into the wilderness. That testing or temptation is like walking with the Wild Animals. The sermon elaborates a bit here. But we also walk with angels all the way. The Kingdom of God is always near. Even in the midst of testing. The Spirit does not desert us in the desert. The angels are ministering. Repent and believe.
The normal way the Peter’s words at the top of the Mount of Transfiguration are taken is comic relief or babbling. But if you take what he suggests (tents) in the context of what Jesus has just been predicting (his passion), what he is discussing with Moses and Elijah (per Luke His Exodus), and the glorious appearance, then it isn’t so much dumb as just out of time. This sermon reminds of the sequence and meaning of the three great Jewish pilgrimage festivals – Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Those feast are a structure of the Christian life in time. Peter’s suggestion understands what he is seeing, but it just out of time. And Jesus’ suggestion is the same for us as it is for Peter. Will you walk down the mountain, in time, in the proper order, with Christ?
In any religious life one has to make some type of decision if it is primarily a private thing or a public thing. In fact I’d go so far as to say the world wants to force you to choose. In the Pagan world all religion was public. You could believe anything you wanted, so long as you did the correct public rites. Today, the state would grant you freedom of worship, by which they mean you can do anything you want privately, but it better not affect your public life which must be lived as if you were an atheist. This sermon ponders that split through the how Mark depicts the ministry of Jesus leading up to an emphatic statement as to why Jesus has come out. We are obviously not Jesus, but this still has meaning as we sort our own religious lives out in private and in public.
The text is specifically an exorcism text. And if I am being honest, these texts are outside of the philosophy and experience of many people. If you’ve had an experience of spiritual evil, you’ve been forced to change your philosophy and these texts are strong comfort. “Even the Spirit’s obey Him.” If you grew up early accepting Spiritual reality, then the Biblical accounts are formative on your philosophy of them. But if you are part of the great sweep of de-mythologized WEIRD de facto atheists, exorcisms and real spiritual evil are embarrassing stories. The purpose of this sermon is not exactly to defend the idea of personal evil. Let’s just say I know that it is a fact. The purpose of this sermon is two-fold. First to proclaim the gospel which is that Christ has freed us from anything such uncleanness can throw at us. Yes, the unclean spirit is partially correct. We initially have more in common with them than we do with Jesus “the Holy One”. But Christ has taken mankind into himself. We now have a place and our sin is cast out; even if it leaves kicking and screaming, it is forgiven. The second purpose is to think about a way that might give even a sceptic second thoughts.
The text is Jesus’ calling of the first disciples – Andrew and Peter, James and John. But prior to that there is a one sentence summary of the preaching of Jesus. “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” Making disciples in the mission of the church. Jesus gave that to the church in the great commission. But what does it mean to be a disciple? That is the question of this sermon. Because the first think you have to confront is does it mean for everyone what it meant for those first 4? They left their nets and the father and followed. This sermon ponders that a bit. And it does so in the light of that summary of Jesus’ preaching. A summary of preaching which I think serves rather well as the basics of discipleship shared by all from Apostles to the present age.
The text is the calling of Samuel, but this sermon I think focuses a bit more on Eli. And theme is How to Hear the Word of God. Eli himself is a stunning negative example of how not to hear the Word and the effects of that. But in this text even Eli is prodded into being a good teacher for your Samuel. This sermon both examines that negative example of how we lose the ability to hear the Word and then lose the vision itself, and then it examines how Eli’s Words to Samuel are the foundation of any ability to Hear the Word. The Light of Christ, even in the darkness of Eli, never goes out. And God uses Eli to set Samuel on a good path to Hearing the Word. In those examples we also find our way to hearing the Word of God.
The text for the Sunday after Epiphany is almost always the Baptism of Jesus. This episode in the bible has always caused me some wonder. It doesn’t immediately make sense for me. And there are multiple ways that I credit things in the Bible as making sense. There is always just historical sense. I have no problem that Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan. But the bare historical is always the least. What is the theological import, and why was it done this way? You might call these things poetical sense. Things in the bible make poetical sense. Or at least to me they usually do. It had to be that way because that is the only way the story makes sense. That is the only way it rhymes and keeps meter. But the Baptism of Jesus doesn’t immediately strike me that way. And being a pastor, especially a Lutheran pastor, where Baptism is such an important thing, understanding this episode felt necessary. This sermon is my attempt to wrestle with why this baptism is important.
Sometimes in the study you get caught on some paths that might not make complete sense. For Epiphany I was thinking in terms of Jew and Gentile. I had heard someone call the Epiphany “Gentile Christmas” and it got me thinking exactly what was meant by that. And it got me thinking about the classic question “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?” This is a meditation about how both cities find their place in Christ. And how in the journey of the Magi, you see both reason and revelation at work to bring about praise.
This is an attempt at a New Year’s sermon. I admit upfront that I failed to create the sense that I wanted for New Year’s Eve that I wanted to. The texts of the day just wouldn’t allow it. I’m not sure if I combed through the bible I could find exactly that text. But I don’t think what I ended up with is bad. The text is really about Simeon and Anna and that is what the focus in on – and primarily the differences in Luke’s pairing of these two. Simeon is waiting for consolation; Anna is looking for redemption. Consolation and Redemption you could say are both modes of justification, the gift of God, but they are quite different. Consolation might be more appropriate for New Year’s, but that is me. This sermon explores these and how they are fulfilled in the Christ child.