Monday, March 2, 2015

Lent 2 Sermon: "The God Who Bears"

+ Lent 2 – March 1st, 2015 +

Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series B: Genesis 17:1-16; Romans 5:1-11; Mark 8:27-38

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” So writes Lutheran pastor,
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Cost of Discipleship, p. 89)
That pretty well sums up the entire season of Lent. The Father bids Jesus to come and die for you. And that sentence also sums up your entire life in Christ. To follow Jesus means to come and die with him. Die to sin. Die to yourself. Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Jesus bears the cross for us so that we will bear our cross and follow him.
Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest how closely Jesus joins his passion to his call to his disciples, past and present.
the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.
All of God’s promises are contained in that little word “must”. Jesus must suffer. Jesus must be rejected. Scripture must be fulfilled. God will keep his promise to save you. This is the cost of Jesus’ discipleship to the Father, his costly gift of grace purchased and won for you. Jesus’ suffering and rejection are a divine necessity. “And every attempt to prevent it is the work of the devil, especially if it comes from one of his own disciples” (Bonhoeffer, 87). Anything or anyone that points us away from Christ Crucified is in league with the devil
The things of God are these: Jesus’ suffering and rejection on your behalf. Jesus bearing your sin and death on the cross. Jesus leading you with the cross as his disciples.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.”
The “must” of Jesus’ suffering and rejection applies to his disciples - then and now. A disciple is not above his master.
The cross is laid on every Christian.
The way of the Christian begins with death. In other words, to deny ourselves. Quite simply, to die. But we do not want to die. “It’s my life”, we demand. I’ll live it my way.” Like Peter we set our minds on the things of men: ourselves, our stuff, our reason and our strength. It’s all
about me.
And here we witness one of the great blessings of Lent. We’re called to repent, deny ourselves, and fast. Not because our repentance, self-denial, and cross-bearing is a stairway to heaven. But because by bearing the cross, God teaches us to look away from ourselves to Christ as Lord and giver of all things. Because if we’re honest with what Scripture says about us and our sin, our repentance, our self-denial, our fasting, our discipleship is always half-assed. The hope, comfort, and assurance of your salvation, of your life in Christ is not found in your repentance, or your self-denial, or your anything - but in Jesus’ bearing our cross and sin and death for us.
Like humility, self denial is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less (C.S. Lewis). To deny oneself is to be aware only of Christ and no more of self, to see only him who goes before you on the road that is too hard for us to travel.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. God shows his
love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Jesus bears the cross for us so that we will bear our cross and follow him.
There’s no need to go looking for your cross to bear, it will find you. The call of Christ in your Baptism, “sets you in the middle of the daily arena against sin and the devil” (Bonhoeffer, 90). Our crosses will come to us, like Peter and the 12 disciples, in our vocation, in the places where God calls us to serve: home, church, the world. In our daily life as husband or wife, as father or mother; with our friends at school or in sports; in the boards, activities, or ways we serve this congregation; in our health and bodily needs; in our life together with our neighbor, coworkers, or friends. We don’t always know when or how crosses come, but they will. Our Lord promises that.
But Christ also promises that he is with you. Jesus is with you by his holy Name and promise placed upon you in Baptism. Jesus is with you in the Holy Absolution as the Father welcomes us home like prodigal sons. Your sins are forgiven you. You are reconciled with God by the death of his Son. He is with you bearing the fruits of the cross he bore for you in His body and blood in the Supper.
God also places people in your life - your pastor, your brothers and sisters in Christ - to bear your burdens and suffering with you. “And as Christ bears our burdens, so ought we to bear the burdens of our fellow men” (Bonhoeffer, 90). Whatever cross you bear, it may be yours alone, but you are not alone.
Jesus is with you in whatever cross you bear, for he himself has borne it for you. God is the God who bears. Jesus bore our flesh. Jesus bore our cross. Jesus bore our sin, to make atonement for us. Jesus takes upon himself the whole suffering of the world - yours and mine too - and in doing so, proves victorious for you. The only path to victory is the cross. The only triumph over suffering is through Jesus’ suffering for you. Jesus bore our death. Jesus bore our suffering on Good Friday, and still does today. God is the God who bears you. It is a great reversal. In losing our old life we win a new life in Christ. In Christ’s suffering we triumph over our suffering.
This is why Paul writes: we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For above all, Jesus’ cross is laid upon on us Holy Baptism. Jesus unites you with his suffering and death in order to overcome yours. Jesus’ dying and rising is given to you in Baptism. 
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
In Baptism you were joined to Jesus’ death for us. Jesus was denied by the Father for all our denials of him. Jesus took up your cross for you, and you follow him through death into life. In Baptism you are given a new mind, the mind of Christ, set on the things of God – his water, word, body and blood. Your old mind and man, along with your sin is drowned. Baptism makes us disciples of Jesus.
Jesus leads us through our suffering by his suffering for us. Jesus leads us from the font to our daily life of repentance and forgiveness. Jesus leads us to hear the absolution that refreshes our soul. Jesus leads us to the altar to receive his body and blood with great joy. Jesus leads us from the altar in faith towards Christ and in fervent love for our neighbor, to help them bear whatever cross they have.
“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” And live through Jesus’ death, forever.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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