Monday, September 28, 2015

Sermon for Pentecost 18: "In Jesus' Name"

+ Pentecost 18 – September 27th, 2015 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series B: Numbers 11; James 5:1-12; Mark 9:38-50

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

There’s no getting around it, Jesus’ words in Mark 9 are tough to hear. And if we’re honest, we might even admit that Jesus’ teaching here makes us uncomfortable. How true C.S. Lewis’s words ring when we hear readings like this:

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity” - C.S. Lewis (God in the Dock).

Yes, being salted with fire doesn’t sound very comfortable – though Jesus’ refining fire and preserving salt is good for us.

Jesus warning against temptation to sin and causing offense also makes us squirm a bit – divine amputation doesn’t sound like a very good church growth tactic – but then again, Jesus came as a real savior for real sinners like us. “I came for the sick, not the healthy,” he says. So that’s our message, not coddling sinners, but dishing out true consolation week after week in Jesus’ water, word, body and blood.

And then there’s John’s comment to Jesus: “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”

What do you do when the Gospel is proclaimed by someone outside the inner ring of the disciples – or outside of Redeemer, or the Lutheran Church? How should we respond when someone says or does something right in Jesus’ Name – and we weren’t the ones saying or doing it? Our first reaction is to go full-John and say, “Stop that; none of that now. Let me see some ID.”

We scoff at John’s foolishness. But, John’s words reveal that we’re no different. The old Adam in each of us is a drama king or queen that wants everything, everyone, at all times and in all places to be focused on ourselves.

And in doing so, we turn Christianity into our own twisted version of a high school lunchroom. The Lutherans are the music geeks. The Episcopalians are the popular, rich kids with the fancy cars. And the Evangelicals are trying really hard to get everyone to like them. In the end everyone is convinced they’re better, smarter, and cooler than the rest, and everyone else is just doing it wrong.

And, of course, when we do that, we always naturally put ourselves on the winning team. After all, the old Adam in each of us is a control freak. Goldilocks is our hero because we’re not happy or content unless everything is just right, and by that we mean – my way.

But the Christian faith is no popularity contest. And we’re not the center of it all. So, Jesus warns John and us…the Christian Church isn’t a rivalry of us vs. them, the insiders vs. the outsiders.

For the one who is not against us is for us.

Just to make the point clearer, let’s play a quick game of “who said it”, Martin Luther or someone else?

Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. Great quote. But it wasn’t Luther. It was a Methodist bishop named D.T. Niles

Or how about this one…Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the liturgy has disappeared and been replaced by some kind of religious entertainment. Great quote on the liturgy. Who said it? Luther? No. It was Pope Benedict XVI.

Still, Jesus words are tough to hear and understand:

For the one who is not against us is for us.

So, does this mean that false teaching is somehow OK and we should ignore it? By no means. Speak the truth in love. Correct the error. But also commend the good. And these days – with social and life issues like gender dysphoria, homosexual marriage, and selling human body parts – we may be surprised to find ourselves agreeing with other faithful Christians in places we never imagined.

And though Jesus’ words can be difficult understand, the Gospel he gives us, and the Gospel we proclaim to others, is remarkably simple.

Jesus died for you. Christ died for sinners…and we qualify.

Jesus saves you – not because you’re nerdy or cool, an insider or an outsider, or anything you have or haven’t done – but because God is gracious and merciful to us. It’s not our love for God that saves, but his love for us. It’s not even our faithfulness to God that saves us – but Jesus’ faithfulness for us, and in our place. Truth be told, we were all outsiders in need of rescue.

But that didn’t stop Jesus. He became the biggest outsider in the world for you. Jesus died alone, forsaken on the cross, with all our sins of control, pride, and selfishness nailed to the tree with him. Jesus, the self-less one, gave himself up in blessed humility for John, for you, for me, for all. Jesus the First One became last so that we can sit at the head of the table at the marriage supper of the Lamb. For though we were against him, Jesus is – and ever shall be – for us in the cross.

So, when you hear this Good News – that Christ came to dwell among sinners – from someone else or somewhere else, rejoice. Rejoice that fellow sinners are given the greatest honor of all – to speak forgiveness to you. Rejoice with Paul in Philippians 1, that Christ is proclaimed.

Jesus’ words to John also teach us that John, Peter, and the disciples aren’t the lord of the Church, any more than Luther, voters' meetings, or your pastor are lord of the Church. We’re not the captain of the ship. Jesus is the Bridegroom and we are his bride. Jesus is the Shepherd and we are His sheep. We belong to him. We are counted as insiders though we were all outsiders.

That’s what it means to be “in Jesus’ Name.” Think of adoption for a moment. All the parents’ legal rights and inheritance, even the family name, are given to the children. Everything they have belongs to the child. Every parent of adopted children I’ve met calls their adopted child my own – my son, my daughter. Why? Because they’re part of the family; they have the name. They belong to them.

What a beautiful picture of God’s grace. We’re all adopted by our heavenly Father. Our certificate was signed in blood by the cross of Jesus, and sealed with water and word in our Baptism. Your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life. You’re family. You belong. You bear Jesus’ name.

And you receive his inheritance: the kingdom prepared for you before the foundation of the world. You even have the best Sunday dinners around, here at the Lord’s Table where our heavenly Father feeds us with the flesh and blood of Jesus, sustaining our flesh and blood with his own for our forgiveness. Here is true comfort food for body and soul, rich in forgiveness. Here is Jesus’ consolation for our guilty consciences. Here in his body and blood, Jesus is always here for you.

For in Christ there are no insiders or outsiders, no cool kids or losers, only forgiven sinners, each and every one of us.

So, take heart. Do not be afraid. And be at peace with one another, for God is at peace with you.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment