The Gerasene Demoniac is one of those stories that is so vivid for me it stands a proof of the rest of the biblical story. Nobody could make it up. And it is such a perfect living symbol that only God could be behind it. This sermon ponders the demonic for a bit and how at least compared to my childhood, it is so much more apparent today. We live among the tombs, in Phillip Rieff’s word, among the deathworks. But you Christian have been cleansed and put in your right mind. Which causes its own problems. We know the trouble of demons. We know we have enemies. And that our very existence reminds them that they have been defeated and their time grows very short. Yet Jesus bids us “go home and tell what God has done.” The right mind knows what kind of request that is. It also knows that our Lord is with us and does not ask more than he has given.
Christians often talk about our freedom in Christ, or at least pastors do, but I’m not sure that we often talk about what the freedom actually is. If we do the farthest we often go might be our freedom from sin. Yes, Christ has freed us from sin. And that is something big. But I think borrowing the Apostle’s analogy, that is the milk of the Christian life. As one grows one needs to eat meat. And what is that meat, or at least some of it? We have not just been freed from sin and because of sin from death, we have also been freed from Satan and the powers and principalities. The Good Samaritan parable is a lesson in Christian freedom. We can be so bound in our identities, the laws, rules and chains of those powers, that we pass-by on the other side. Life – and the Lord who writes that life – presents us we many opportunities to exercise our freedom in being and becoming truly human. In becoming Christlike and triumphing over those powers. We can choose to be neighbors. We can choose to pay the cost of that. We can have our guts churned and be human. Or we can stay bound in identity chains. Christian freedom mean choosing to be a neighbor.
Biblical Texts: Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday Matthew 21:1-17, Matthew 27:32-66 Full Sermon Draft
Have you ever been in a situation where you knew exactly what was going to happen, what was going to happen was a travesty but the desires of everyone involved are just too set in stone? Every action and reaction is a cruel inversion of the claims of those doing them? That is Holy Week. The desires of the Galilean crowds, the desires of the Jerusalem priests and the desires of Rome are locked into a danse macabre . The thing about the dance of death is that it reveals all of our follies. All of our false pieties and crass ambitions are laid bare and open for us to see. Those groups dancing 2000 years ago desired messiahs not very much different from those we often desire. Jesus exposes them, and defines what the messiah is. The sermon explores our false messiahs and how they tyrannize us, and the freedom the true King offers us.
Worship note: I’ve left in a bunch of music this time. The hymns for Palm Sunday are probably the greatest in the hymnal. Between the palm and passion lessons the choir sings a pretty arrangement of the Palm Sunday Hosanna. The Hymn of the Day was LSB 444, No Tramp of Soldiers Marching Feet, a modern hymn which keys off of Pilate’s ironic words in the gospel of John “behold your King”. Truer words were never spoken that came off a tongue so false. The closing hymn, LSB 441, Ride on Ride on in Majesty, also beautifully connects the Palms and the Passion.
Baby Linley mentioned in the sermon is the grand-daughter of my A/V support, so the podcast version might be a little later. There is something deeply fitting about having a baptism on Reformation Day. Baptism is of course shared by the entire church, but each tradition chooses to emphasize a different understanding. And that actually gets to the core of this sermon. I hoped to present a uniquely Lutheran understanding of the Gospel. And to truly do that you need to consider baptism.
Objectively in baptism God has made you part of the family. Its His baptism. Its his word and promise and work. Through his work you belong. Subjectively it comes by faith. It’s true, but you need to make it your own. You have to believe it. And then you become it. As Luther says about baptism in the catechism, “the old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned…and the new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God”. We daily live out our baptism. We are daily becoming more like Christ. A Lutheran understanding of the gospel is a meditation on baptism.
For me the fullness of the gospel is best expressed by the Lutheran understanding. Everything else either adds something (Jesus and ______) or subtracts something (Sacraments just signs or just spiritual). That is why Reformation Day gets its observation. It is a yearly call to live our Christian Freedom bestowed in baptism. A call not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by Christ.