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.
We observed Ascension Day this Sunday. So I swapped out the first reading for the Ascension Day one. The recent coronation of the English King had me thinking about some things in regards to the Kingdom of God, the phrase Jesus consistently used. I guess the two questions would be: a) when does that reign start? and b) how does it manifest itself? Ascension Day is one of the logical times to date it from. (There are some nice theological arguments to be had about this, but the Kingdom in its full recognition starts here.) Our problem with this is the first royal decrees are not what we would do. “Are you now going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?” That was the disciples’ question. Because it is payback time. It is time to get ours. That is not what The King does. This sermon looks at the first royal decrees upon Ascension, and how they direct us today.
How we use the word saint in the English language has a couple of meaning that are somewhat contradictory. This All-Saints Day sermon ponders those categories of saints a bit and then turns to who and what Jesus calls blessed.
The text contains a couple of Jesus’ classic aphorisms, but this sermon really isn’t about those aphorisms. Those aphorisms are given to heighten the shock that the disciples are feeling. They can’t believe what has just happened between Jesus and the Rich Young Man. Even less can they believe what Jesus says about it. Their surprise is our entry to think about our attitude to wealth. How does wealth form the soul? What are the deep dangers that Jesus is warning about? The sermon ponders these. It then follows Peter’s blunt but natural question: who gets it right, the disciples or the rich young man? If you saw Elon Musk walking away, wouldn’t you have some questions about the deal? Jesus’ answer, just like all of Mark Chapter 10, is necessary for the modern church to hear. And it leaves us with stuff to ponder.
The first Sunday after Christmas has what for me is a terrible text, The Slaughter of the Holy Innocents. Immediately after Christmas we get something that reminds us of the type of Kingdom, the type of King who has come. His Kingdom is not of this world while being firmly in it. This sermon is a reflection on that. (And I hope it is understandable. I had surgery on Friday afternoon, and so the pain killers were still working here. A nod to being in this kingdom while looking for that resurrection. The text is not quite as clean as I just don’t have my main hand, so I dictated and went rough.)
The first Sunday in Advent often carries over a theme from
the previous week – the Kingship of Christ.
But instead of concentrating on the fulfillment of the Kingdom, Advent
places us back in our temporal surroundings.
It reminds us that the Kingdom comes humbly. It comes by invitation and promise. It comes one heart at a time. And yet it is a Kingdom. We are called to watch. It has a King.
This sermon is a meditation in a busy week of what it means
in our day to have a King. And I think
that most realistic analogy is when we talk identities. This is an advent pondering on putting on
The curse and blessing of a liturgical church. When everybody else has already moved on to Christmas, maybe they’ve been on it for a month, we are still in Advent. The day is often given over to Mary and the magnificat. There is a great recording of our choir singing one of those here. But I’ve been spending time with the minor prophets this season. We’ve been taking them in bible class, and I felt I had to bring one into the pulpit. One more day of blue and purple. One more day of the penitential and the hopeful. Grant me 15 minutes of Advent on this 4 Sunday of the season. We’ve got a bakers dozen for Christmas starting tomorrow.
The Sermon is for Palm/Passion Sunday, so the service starts out with those Hosannas and the Palm procession, it moves through Pilate’s palace, and ends at Golgotha and the tomb. There are a myriad of subjects possible, but the with Mark’s text what stood out to me this week was Pilate’s repeated pawing, “The King of the Jews”. He’s having perverse fun with the Chief Priests, and the crowds, and even with Jesus. He’s abusing his office for entertainment. The sermon compares it to an old cat and a mouse. The irony is that Pilate, the de facto king of the Jews, actually has the King of the Jews before him. And all throughout Jesus is nothing but truthful. The test is can we see that. Can we see the King not just in his purple, but also in His suffering? Old cats grow blind, all tyrants fall, but the King shall come when morning dawns. Can we see it?
Worship note: I’ve left in a verse or two of several of our hymns today. The hymns of Palm Sunday are such a big part of the experience.
We fade in with the choir processional – Hosanna
In between the split reading is No Tramp of Soldiers Marching Feet verse 2 (LSB 444)
At the conclusion of the readings is Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted verse 2 (LSB 451)
The conclusion is Ride On Ride On in Majesty (LSB 441)
All of these hymns in their fullness deal with seeing the King on the Throne which is the cross.
Have you ever read a biblical passage that just doesn’t make sense or maybe I should say makes sense in very bad ways? Then this sermon is for you. This text is one that has often struck me wrong and is one that when I pushed or heard others ask question the explanations would just “keep digging.” When I hit a passage like this I typically find one of three things: 1) the translators have chosen a particular word or phrase that carries the wrong connotations or ignores the larger context, 2) the cultural assumptions of the writers are just different than ours or 3) I have a sin problem that is more or less directly being addressed by the text. In the first two categories it is not that our English translations are bad, we should just recognize that the task of translation is an art. With this text I think it falls into my first category. So, this sermon starts with my problem, which I think would probably be familiar, and attempts to think our way to something that doesn’t make Jesus a liar or the Father a cretin. Hopefully the path is full of the gospel, helping us not to lose heart.
Worship note: I’ve left in our final hymn of the day. Lutheran Service Book 652 – Father, We Thank Thee. The text is from the Didache, the earliest catechism of the church from the 2nd century. I left it in because I think it captured the two main points almost perfectly: 1) the Father that Jesus reveals is full of compassion for the sinner and 2) that we do not lose heart by staying connected in prayer. The second verse is a mighty example of the prayer “your Kingdom come”.
I broke a rule today. One of the main sermon rules is pick a point or a theme and stick with it. You can’t develop more than one in the time allowed, and your listeners can’t absorb more than one. But today I had three things. There was the highly moralistic point of the lesson in its context following last week. Charity is not a false lesson. It is also one that we need to hear. But the rich man and Lazarus is more than a moral. The second was also short. I’ve heard and read way to many sermons that construct an entire picture of heaven and hell from this example. That is an abuse of the text. The sermon tells you why.
But then I turn toward the point that I think is deeper. “They have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them.” The moral point is true, but it depends upon two things embedded in that phrase – faith and the word. Everything that happens – even a man rising from the dead – can be interpreted in different ways. People will go to great lengths to ignore or explain away things that are contrary to their monetary benefit or settled beliefs. The message of Jesus – of the cross – is contrary to both in this life. It has always been a stumbling block. But to those of us who are being saved, it is the power of God. And what that power of God has done, by the waters of baptism and the word, is give us a name. Like poor Lazarus, we have a name. The world would surely know the rich man’s name, but we do not. Jesus didn’t tell it. But he knew Lazarus. Like he knows ours.
Worship Note: We had a great slate of hymns today. I didn’t include it in the recording but LSB 845 (Where Charity and Love Prevail) was the hymn of the day picking up on the moral point of the lesson. What amazes me is that the text is 9th century Latin. The church has taught the same things for a long time. Thy hymn I left in was LSB 782 (Gracious God, You Send Great Blessings). It was pledge card collection day, so that is part of the reason, but the hymn gets the order right as few stewardship hymns do. We have received mercy. We have heard the word. We are sustained in this creation. Lord we pray that we your people, who your gifts unnumbered claim, through the sharing of your blessings, may bring glory to your name. We have that name. We don’t do good works because we’ve been told, but because we have been named. That and the tune is one of the most uplifting in the book.