This is my first sermon at Mt. Zion. I think the text hovers around something quite important but rarely talked about. “Will many be saved?” is the question that kicks it off. That question plays on the fears of our loved ones and the doctrine of election. The all too easy answer is universalism. It also plays on our prejudice. Just our people, right? But Jesus’ answer is “the east and the west, the north and the south.” Anytime we become too concerned – taking responsibility for – the salvation of others Jesus and the apostles but the onus back on ourselves. “You strive to enter through the narrow door.” The election of God is God’s business. And the way he has chosen to work it out in time is our witness to our hope in how we live and faith in the work of Jesus Christ. Today is the day of grace for those who would here by those means.
We are on the three year lectionary. What that means is that the scripture texts we read each week are on a three year cycle. What the three year cycle does really well is allow you as a congregation to read through entire books. There are other lectionary schemes. A not small number in the LCMS uses a 1 year lectionary. And this is a gross simplification, but the 1 year lends itself to a dogmatic approach. You’ve got these teachings of the church. You want to remind/teach people every year on them. You build your readings around those teachings. The 3 year lends itself to an exegetical approach. That is a 10 dollar would for deep reading. Deep in that word exegetical is a root word meaning turning the soil. The 3 year continuous reading turns the soil of the gospel because each year has a primary gospel text. Since Advent 2009 we’ve been in the Gospel according to Luke. If it takes me say 15 hours to prepare a sermon (roughly 1 hour for each minute talking), in a year you will spend around 600 hours (the gospel of John gets read occasionally) with one gospel. You get to know it well.
The text for this sermon pulled me up short. In 9 perfectly artful verses, Luke asks the eternal questions. It puts the question to its readers – where is God acting? And if you know that, are you ready to go there? Even if it means putting yourself between Samaria and Galilee, being the peacemaker and healer? Even if it means walking toward Jerusalem, toward the cross? That is the path of being made whole.
I am a member of my Generation. We are finely tuned to irony. The gulfs between what one person says and what another, or the reader or God observes. When we read Mark’s account of the crucifixion (Mark 15:25-32), the weight of the irony is amazing.
An exerpt from this sermon…
…Coming off the cross, would only prove there are limits to God’s love. It would have been a sign of a lesser God. But we have the great God, the God, whose love was not limited. Jesus saved others, by not saving himself. While the establishment was demanding signs of a lesser God, the Father saw the greatest sign of love and belief imaginable. His son gave his life to save the lost world, and He entrusted all to the justice of the Father…
Two poles – 1) It’s about Jesus and 2) He’s got a mission. That has been the core summary of this series through Holy Week in Mark’s Gospel. Our spiritual adversary tries to push us off that second pole. The last thing he wants is faithful Christians actually sharing the Word that frees us from his kingdom of chains. He will shoot us a variety of lies: You don’t measure up to the saints, you don’t talk well enough, you aren’t a perfect person. Gracefully, it is not about us. If it were, the devil would be right. We aren’t enough of anything. But it is about Jesus and what He has done for us on that cross. Peter, the leader and example of the disciples, is our great biblical example. The disciple who fell asleep and denied his Lord at the hour of great distress, is never told by Jesus to go away, but is always invited along. Peter, after all that betrayal, is told to, ‘feed my sheep’. If the devil has you looking inward, you will never get the mission. Our salvation and our mission come from outward. They come from the one it is all about – Jesus Christ.
Wow, it was a busy week. This text was the core of my lenten devotion last week. Prepping for Mauday Thursday as well. It was Mark’s account of the Last Supper. In these lenten devotions, we’ve been walking through the Markan account of Holy Week. I’ve also been using a phrase to look at the events. It’s about Jesus, and He has a mission.
The cloud of biblical images around the last supper supports that bi-polar sentence better than many. The OT cloud is the passover. In the Last Supper Jesus redefines every element as pointing to him. A 1500 year old ritual is redefined in startling ways. Not the least of which is it becomes forward looking instead of a remembrance meal. The passover remembered when God acted. The Last Supper/Lord’s Supper recalls/longs for the day Jesus drinks again in the Kingdom. The NT cloud is all about mission and it is in parables. The wedding banquet at the end of time. In those parables the Kings says go bring everyone in. The city dwellers and the country folk, the crippled, the blind and the poor. That missional imperative is something we definitely know. We would often rather argue about theological points or fine shadings. We don’t know much of that for certain. What we do know – It is about Jesus, and He’s got a mission…and he wants us on that mission.
In finance there is a term – safe harbour. What it means is that there are gray areas of tax law and accounting rules. You can explore those grey areas, usually through the tax courts. If you lose, you will owe penalties. There is usually a safe harbour, behavior spelled out at appropriate. The tax courts may eventually rule the behavior wrong and change the regulations, but if you were in that safe harbour there will be no penalty. Theologically speaking there is a safe harbour – personally, believe and be baptized; as a church, be about mission.
The text is Mak 14:3-9. The story is a woman’s annointing of Jesus with a year’s wages worth of perfume. Jesus praises her and he tells the disciples to stop picking on her. He does not denounce their version of good – counting the cost and helping the poor. Instead he denounces their lack of awareness of the time. There is a time to break the jar and pour everything out. The following is from the full text…
“…When the time was right, God broke the jar. He incarnated himself in Jesus and he did not turn back. He poured himself out upon this earth. The one through whom all things were made became a helpless baby. The commander of armies of angels, called twelve Jewish misfits who would desert and betray him. The author of life would taste death on the cross and be placed in a grave without burial preparation. At the right time God was a spendthrift. At the right time God so loved the world that he gave his only son. And that Son, Jesus Christ, revealed and incarnated the Father to us.
As disciples we are called to a similar spendthrift task. To incarnate the love of Jesus for the lost in this world. And that requires both types of good. It requires the hard flinty type to be intentional about sharing the gospel. It requires the good helping the poor. It requires the good of being leaders in the community. It requires the good of prayer and study for discernment and looking for that task that we as a people or as individuals have been given. And it requires the good of being willing to break the jar when we see that opportunity that God has given us to bring Christ to our community…”
Continuing the mid-week series started Ash Wednesday we are working our way through the Holy Week account in the gospel according to Mark. Below is the compressed devotion coming out of the fuller text. Please join us looking at The Mission of Holy Week.
Text: Mark 14:1-2 (“But not during the feast…”)
We like to think that we are in control. The Chief Priests and the teachers of the law wanted to kill Jesus, but they wanted to do it on their terms and in their time. “Not during the feast, or the people may riot.” How did that work out? We like to think that we are in control, but we are only in control as much as we are following the will of God. It was God’s will to endure the cross for our sins. It is God’s will that we should make disciples. He gives us his Word. He places us in situations. He wants us to walk in the good works he has planned out in advance for us to do. We can refuse. We can book passage to Tarshish. But big whales often get in the way of those trips. We can rebel. We can look for ways to kill the Spirit that lives within us. Unfortunately, that often works. Our hearts become hard. We no longer hear the Word. The better path is one of prayer and study and trial. We pray and we study to be able to discern the path God wants us to walk. We intentionally look for those God wants us to disciple. Discipleship can be a trial. It does not always work out. Our disciples can refuse and rebel just like we can. But do we want to find ourselves in the feet of the chief priests working against God?
Transfiguration sunday. Exactly what we do with this picture of the Glory of God in Jesus is tough to talk about. Fundamentally, the image is too bright for our mortal eyes. What we can look at is the reactions of the disciples in contrast to the reactions of other people who have glimpsed the glory, primarily those healed like the leper or the deaf man in Mark’s gospel. Those two can’t keep the joy and the word in. Jesus tells them to be quiet, but they run and tell everyone, and there is no crackdown.
The Disciples don’t do that. They do three things. 1) They equate Jesus the messiah with Elijah and Moses – just another teacher, and they want to build an institution around them. Let’s build three tents. When God works in his glory we often want to domesticate it. We are scared of God working so we try and put Him in a box. The world and the church is full of sad empty boxes where God used to work. 2) They react out of fear. The text says they were terrified. The leper and the deaf man come to Jesus, unafraid or at least uncommented. Jesus drags the disciples up the mountian, and they cower. This view of the glory before calvary was for their reassurance, but run in fear. Fear is the power of the law. In Jesus God is doing a new thing. Fear is not called for. 3) They keep the word to themselves. They have just glimpsed the glory of God. Would this not have been something to share? If they had been healed like the leper, if they had been under the gospel, they would have told everyone.
Don’t build institutions, but follow Jesus where the Spirit wills. Don’t cower in fear. The law has no claim on you in Jesus Christ. And please, pass the Word on to those still in cowering. Under the Gospel we are freed from fear. The little kids know it best. Jesus loves me this I know. Hide it under a bushel – no! I gonna let it shine!
Allen Bauchle asked a great question/observation in bible class after worship about something called the ‘messianic secret’. That is a technical term for those times when somebody is telling who Jesus is (the messiah/the son of God), but he tells them to be silent. The demons obey. The humans do not. Strangely, the disciples do. Many words have been spilled on this theme, and while it is present to some degree in Mathew and Luke it is primarily something in Mark, the gospel for this year.
The truth of the matter is that I have received view, one that I’ve been told and strikes me a very close to truth, but I have not given enough pray and study to hold a view of my own. The only piece that I’ve done some work on is catagorizing the who and why.
The text of this sermon has one of the secret events. Jesus tells the leper to be quiet. The leper goes and tells – in loaded terms the former leper – “proclaims/preaches the word”. I don’t know why our more “literal” translations give us things like “talk freely about it and spread the news.” The New Living Traslation gets very “literal”…”the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone.” The juxtaposition of proclaiming the word by the man made clean and the command to be silent seem to be core. The leper is doing more than just talking about an event.
Part of my answer has to include the why’s of the people told. The demons, who have no interest in spreading the gospel, shut up at the command. The leper breaks the command, the law, for the sake of the speading the gospel. That is a slippery slope. Which laws can be broken? When are you breaking them for the sake of the gospel? Martin Luther’s quip about ‘sin boldly’ would seem to be appropriate.
Ultimately, it is those who have been cleaned by Jesus Christ that are given the mission to save others. Jesus can’t go into the towns, but everybody is looking for him. They are coming out to the desert places. It is the cleansed, the healthy, that can give directions where to find him.
Not a very Lutheran sermon, but I think it is spot on. (It was not very Lutheran becuase the overly simple condensation is Jesus was/did this, so we should do this. Lutherans tend to frown on Jesus the example which drifts to close to Jesus the law giver.) I liked it enough that I used it with the circuit meeting today. Lutherans love talking justification, and law/gospel and freedom from the law. The freedom from the law is absolutely correct, but it is freedom in Christ and not a general freedom. Even Paul’s response to that thought (should I sin so that grace may increase?) was absolutely not! Sometimes the simple Jesus the great example is called for especially when the issue is His mission to save sinners. It is directly out of that mission that the gospel comes. If we get the gospel we are part of His mission. We make his mission ours.