Monday, July 20, 2015

+ 8th Sunday after Pentecost – July 19th, 2015 +

Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series B: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-44

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Holidays. Sporting events. Church picnics. Food is a great people magnet. Just ask the hobbits.

Mark’s account of the feeding of the 5000 is no different.

Jesus and his disciples went out to a deserted place by themselves, yet the crowds followed them.  The day grew late.  Stomachs began to growl.  The people grew anxious.  And the disciples became frustrated.  But there was In ‘N Out burger, Costco pizza, or taco trucks in sight.  What everyone needed seemed impossible to provide.

But the problem was worse than being stuck in the boonies with a hungry mob.  Immediately when Jesus came ashore He had compassion on the crowds because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  There’s the real problem – the crowd was lost.  The food was important, but Jesus’ Word came first.  A feast of God’s Word followed by a feast of bread and fish. 

Mark 6 demonstrates wonderfully how Jesus shows compassion for His people.  For Jesus, compassion gives birth to action.  Jesus’ love does the impossible. Jesus the Good Shepherd satisfies our needs of body and soul.

For we like sheep have gone astray. We too are lost sheep.  Like the crowds, we’re powerless to provide what we need in body and soul.  God’s Word identifies the problem…and the problem is us.  This is what we confess in at the beginning of each service…we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean.  We get hungry, we get anxious, we get frustrated.  We wander away from God’s Word and prayer. 

And we are poor shepherds, for apart from Christ we can do no good thing.  Apart from God’s Word we feed on all kinds of spiritual junk-food.  Apart from Jesus who is the Truth, we wander in our own ways.  Apart from Jesus who is the Way, we search for direction and guidance in all the wrong places.  Apart from Jesus the Life, we eventually die physically and spiritually like sheep without a shepherd.

And yet, we’re not without a shepherd.  Jesus doesn’t abandon us in our need.  Jesus feeds us in both Body and soul.  Jesus sees our need. Jesus has compassion on us. Jesus returns us lost, wandering, sheep to our place in His flock.  Jesus is the only shepherd we need.

I am the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

 Nothing – not hunger, not illness, not a bad economy, not worry, not doubt, not our old sinful nature, not the devil and his prowling ways – will snatch you out of Jesus’ hands.
I AM your Good Shepherd, Jesus declares.  The Good Shepherd lays down His life for you, his sheep.  This is who Jesus is. 

When the disciples asked Jesus to send the crowds away to the villages near by to get food for the evening, Jesus provided.  Food and fellowship – it was all there.  Jesus was present with them.  Jesus took the bread and the fish and looking up to heaven said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people.  They ate.  They were stuffed.  There were left-overs. 

This is what Jesus does.  Jesus shepherds you.  Jesus saves you.  Behold I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out…I will rescue them where they have been scattered…I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and will strengthen the weak.

This is the work of the Good Shepherd. Jesus taught crowds in the desolate places and was later surrounded by crowds who rejected His teaching, spat in His face and mocked Him.  Jesus, who listened to the cries of those in need and later heard the mob yelling, Crucify Him, Crucify Him!  Jesus, who is the Good Shepherd laid down His life for the sheep.  In find us, Jesus became forsaken.  In order to bring us back from wandering, Jesus walked the road to the cross.  In order to bind up our sinful wounds, Jesus was bound and beaten, bruised and bloodied.  In order to save his sheep, Jesus lays down his life for you.

And so it is…on the night when He was betrayed Jesus took bread and when He had blessed it He broke it and gave it to His disciples…take eat, this is my body; take drink this is cup is the new testament in my blood.

Jesus is your Good Shepherd. Here is your pasture – this font where Jesus’ promise is washed over you in water and word. This altar – where Jesus’ body and blood are given for you. Jesus’ Word – spoken to give you life.

In compassion Jesus feeds us with himself as food for body and soul.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sermon for Pentecost 7: "A Tale of Two Kings"

+ 7th Sunday after Pentecost – July 12th, 2015 +

Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series B: Amos 7:7-15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:14-29

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Mark’s account of John the Baptist’s beheading matches the world we live in.
Grim. Violent. Messy. Senseless.

Countless Christian churches have been targeted and burned throughout our country.
Same-sex marriage advocates work tirelessly, first to make the Christian church tolerate, then accept, and finally celebrate sin.

A South Carolina church still grieves the death of their pastor and parishioners at the hands of a wicked man.

Demonic hordes such as ISIS threaten, persecute, and behead our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, whether it makes the news or not.

How true our Lord’s words ring in our ears:
Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. (John 16:2-3)

We’re tempted to despair. To give up the fight. To cry out: “Who’s in charge of this mess? Is God defeated? How’s he at work in all of this chaos?

And yet…Even in death John the Baptist is the forerunner, pointing us to Jesus’s death for us.

See how John’s death reveals a great irony: Mighty Herod is afraid. John is faithful. Herod hears the truth but fails to keep it. John hears the truth and can’t help but speak. The powerful Herod is weak, while weak and lowly John is strong. And if we understand this, we see the entire Gospel laid out before us. God’s power made perfect in weakness. The last are first. God reconciles sinners. Jesus’ death is our greatest victory. And John’s brutal, innocent death points us to Jesus’ innocent suffering and death for us.

Like the prophets before him, John was beholden to no man. Herod’s ax couldn’t silence John’s preaching any more than Manasseh’s saw could quiet Isaiah, or the pit drown out Jeremiah, or Jezebel was able to muzzle Elijah.

Whatever the Lord spoke, John spoke, even if it meant imprisonment or death.. John was the Lord’s servant. The Lord’s mouthpiece. A witness.

This is why we call it the martyrdom of John the Baptist. Not simply because he was martyred, but because he was a witness in life and death to the One whose way he was called to prepare.

That’s what that little word martyr means: witness. To testify. To confess that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Who takes away your sin. My sin.
And that is what cost John his life. Speaking the truth.

But what about us? Are we more like John – bold in our conviction of faith, intolerant of immorality no matter what the world thinks, fearless in pointing to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? Or are we more like Herod – hiding in the shadows listening to the truth, but cowering in public, weak-kneed and without conviction?

Repent. For there’s a little Herod in each of us who is lukewarm and afraid to commit. There is a little want-to-be king in each of us that is more afraid of looking bad in front of the world than we are afraid of God’s wrath over sin. Oh that we would join our hands to our neighbors and beg them to run with us and join John in fleeing the wrath that is to come. That we would leap for joy in sharing the Gospel as John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb. That we would be faithful witnesses to the Lamb who was slain and yet lives, even for sinners like us and John.

So on the one hand, John’s death serves as a warning and an antidote against any Pollyannaish notions we have about any victorious Christian living, or confusing the Gospel with positive thinking. Can you imagine if someone like Joel Osteen had been called to preach to John the Baptist in jail? “God has great plans in store for you, John, just stay positive...don’t worry; be happy!”

This is nothing but Tinkerbelle theology – you know, think happy thoughts. It might sound nice, but it’s a sham. It offers no hope, no comfort, and no forgiveness because it offers no Jesus crucified and risen for you.

We need John’s voice crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord. We need John’s broken-record message: there is one coming who is greater than I. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away your sin.

Even in death, John is the forerunner, pointing us to Jesus’ death for us. For it is the suffering and death of Jesus that gives us consolation in our suffering and death.
And so John’s death is more than a warning. It is a witness.

John’s death is a great comfort when we – or anyone we know – is suffering, especially for their Christian faith.

Herod may have murdered the chief witness, but he could not silence John’s testimony. Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, but the Roman guards couldn’t keep him in the grave.

Churches in this country may burn, be sued, or come under attack for our confession of faith but we are built on the rock of Christ’s death and resurrection. The world rages around you; but you are safe in Christ. The devil will still scowl fiercely. But he cannot harm you. He’s judged. Defeated.

ISIS may persecute and even martyr more Christians, but they cannot and will not remove the head of the Church, who is Christ our Lord. He holds the field victorious.
Paul may have been imprisoned for preaching the Gospel, but even in captivity he wrote of our great freedom in Christ:
 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

You see, this is a tale of two kings.

Herod hosted dinner parties for the powerful and wealthy. Jesus ate and drank with sinners and outcasts.

Herod appears strong but is weak and powerless. Jesus is weak - humbling himself even to death on the cross – and reveal his power hidden in weakness.

Herod oversees the death of John for his own gain. Jesus lays down his life for others.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.

Is God at work in John’s death? Yes, even in death, John is the forerunner, pointing us to Jesus’ death for us.

Is God being defeated? Yes, for in his defeat you receive victory over sin and death. His suffering is your suffering. His death is your death. His life is your life.

And so, faith looks at John’s death and says, “This is the Gospel of the Lord.” Your faith is not blind. We see tragedy and persecution. But faith looks through the mess of this world to the cross. Faith looks to Jesus crucified for you, for John, and for this whole messy, sinful world.

“God give us the strength of conviction, the courage born of compassion, the zeal forged in the reality of this same Grace to follow in John’s example. For even in death, John who points not to our many sins, but to our Redeemer, the Lamb of God, who saves you. May He fix our eyes there and let them never be moved.” (Peterson)

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Sermon for Pentecost 6: "Rejected for You"

6th Sunday after Pentecost – July 5th, 2015

Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series B: Ezekiel 2:1-5; 2 Cor. 12:-10; Mark 6:1-13
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Lebron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the hometown crowds went wild.
A young Marine returns home after three tours in Afghanistan and the whole community throws a parade.
Your first-born arrives home from a long semester at college and the family smokes the fattened brisket.

And then there’s Jesus returning to Nazareth. You might think they’d throw a party for him or a homecoming parade, especially after healing a woman with a 12-year blood-flow, raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead, and casting out demons. But no.

Jesus is rejected to rescue us from rejection.

No cheering fans. No hero’s welcome. No mouth-watering BBQ. Instead, Jesus gets the Nazareth inquisition:

Where did this man get these things? Where did he learn the wisdom of Solomon? When did he learn to preach like Moses? How can a plain old carpenter’s hands do such great things?

They were scandalized. They rejected Jesus. Was it the miracles? No. They liked those, especially the ones including lunch. Was it his teaching? Well, not until he started talking about Jerusalem and suffering and the cross and saying and doing things only God can say and do.

And that’s what is truly scandalous about Jesus. Jesus said he was God in human flesh. Jesus forgave sin. Jesus declared that he has always existed – even before Abraham. Jesus said he would judge the world on the Last Day. Jesus said he would die and rise three days later.

They rejected who Jesus is and what he teaches. There’s no doubt Jesus was ordinary. His stomach growled when he was hungry. He wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. Cut him and he bleeds like us. And to be sure, Jesus is holy. But all of God’s holiness is hidden for you in this ordinary carpenter from Nazareth, the Son of Mary. And yet, Jesus is more than a carpenter. For it is true, only God can save us from our sins. But God can save us from our sins only by becoming man and by being rejected for us.

Jesus is rejected to rescue us from rejection.

As St. John reminds us, Jesus came to his own but his own did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1).

Those are the two responses to Jesus – faith or unbelief. Everywhere else in Mark’s Gospel when Jesus performs a miracle, teaches and preaches, the crowds marvel, and many believe. But here in Nazareth Jesus is rejected and he marvels at their unbelief.
This is how Mark draws us into the story.

After all, it’s easy to wag our fingers at the Nazareth crowds who reject Jesus, while we do the same.

Whenever we place our trust in earthly rulers, governments, or even courts – we join the crowds in rejecting Jesus. Trust not in princes, they are but mortal.

Whenever we foolishly think that our time and possessions are our own property, rather than gifts of God meant to be received with thanks and used in his service, we join the crowds in rejecting Jesus.

Whenever we fail to love and serve our neighbor as Christ first loved and served us, we join the crowds in rejecting Jesus and serving ourselves.

This is why Jesus tells this story of warning. Repent of your rejection.

And rejoice in Jesus’ rejection for you. Yes, rejoice in Jesus’ suffering and death on your behalf. For Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth points forward to his greater rejection on the cross for you.

Jesus’ words to St. Paul are just as true when it came to his own suffering and death. My power is made perfect in weakness. God’s power hidden beneath the cries of mockery and the cracking whip. God’s power hidden beneath the thorn-pressed, bloody brow. God’s power hidden beneath the wounds and blood of Jesus. God’s power made perfect in Jesus’ weakness – in his rejection that accomplishes your redemption.

God’s kingdom, then, isn’t found in the courts of Pilate, Caesar, or the Supreme Court– but in the Crucified King and his kingdom which comes in water, word, body, and blood.

Jesus’ rejection on the cross fills his Church – and this congregation – with his crucified and risen presence. Like St. Paul, Christ gives us the gift of contentment in his promises. My grace is sufficient for you. God’s undeserved mercy toward us in Christ, is far more sufficient than anything else.

And then Christ continues to hide his power behind each of us – as masks – sending us to love our neighbor as he first loved us.

So, not only do we rejoice in our weakness, knowing that we are strongest of all when we realize we have no strength, save Christ. But we also rejoice in Christ’s weakness for us. We rejoice that he who knew no sin became sin for us. We rejoice that Jesus is rejected in order to rescue us from eternal rejection by the Father. Jesus overcomes our rebellion of sin by being rejected in our place.

And this the greatest scandal of all, that your redemption isn’t found in your acceptance of Jesus, but in his acceptance of you. that your forgiveness, life, and salvation is given to you in spite of your rejection and rebellion of sin against Jesus. And it’s given freely – no strings attached.

And yet this great scandal is also our greatest joy.

Jesus is rejected to rescue us from rejection.

Jesus gives you faith in him, and in everything he’s done and still does for you. It’s all gift. God’s doing. For you.

And that is truly marvelous.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.