My Christmas Day sermons are a little more contemplative. This one is from the texts of the day, primarily Isaiah 52:7-10 and John 1:1-14, but it also leans heavily on the hymn A Great and Mighty Wonder – LSB 383. It is a contemplation of the Holy set against the normal wisdom of the middle way. Merry Christmas
Tag Archives: holiness
What do we expect of the Promised Land? What does it mean to be in the presence of the Holy?
When in dialog appropriate and when is confrontation the only course?
The Holiness of God and What we approach in Communion
Recognizing when God is acting in our midst
“Greater Israel” and a covenant of the law
Judgement, personal holiness vs. group identity, theological candy
1 Samuel 28:1-25
1 Corinthians 6:1-20
Amalek (Exodus 17:16), What is Amalek in our day?, Disregard for the law, Temple, Dwelling place of the Holy Spirit vs. the spirit of Amalek
The Holiness of God vs. The Risk of Proclaiming the Gospel
Gog/Magog as spiritual image of trial, (#716) I Walk in Danger All the Way, Our War against sin
Biblical Text: Luke 17:1-10
Full Sermon Draft
Most of the commentators on these verses take them as a disconnected jumble of aphorisms. The equivalent of Luke saying, “hey, I’ve got these sayings I’ve got to include somewhere, might as well throw them together here”. Not that this might never happen, but I think that reflects the strengths and weakness of our age. As far as strengths I think due to the scholarship on the last century we know a lot more about how we got the bible we got (and its fundamental reliability) than probably any generation since the death of the apostles. The weaknesses are that to get that information we atomized our understanding and neutered what I’ll call our story imagination. We know a whole lot about trees, and we can’t see the forest.
In 10 verses, as Jesus gets toward the end of the walk to Jerusalem, he turns to the disciples and gives something of a summary of the Christian life. Jesus affirms that divine justice is sure. The stumbling blocks that must come will get their punishment. But that shouldn’t be the disciple’s focus or hope. The disciples watch themselves and live law and gospel or repentance and forgiveness. The disciple’s joy is found in repentance and forgiveness, not in justice.
And this is where I think it takes the story imagination to keep it all together. Disciples of every time and place eventually get to that point where they want justice. The world lives by the Chicago rules – “they put one of yours into the hospital, you put one of theirs into the ground”. Moses brought the law which said an eye for an eye. Jesus is telling the disciples in the Kingdom of God – if the sinner repents when warned – let it go, forgive. If they don’t repent – leave the justice to God. And they reply to Jesus – “increase our faith”. We can’t do that. And Jesus gives one of those mysterious replies about trees being uprooted and planted in the ocean. This is core message from the sermon…this is what I take Jesus answer as. How did that work for you? Following the world’s advice you end up in the kingdom of the dead. Following the law’s advice you end up in the kingdom of the blind. Follow me – and crazy things will happen. Small things loom large, like mustard seeds. Things that are rooted yards deep and immoveable – mulberry trees, bitter hatred, generational grudges…sin…these things will come up and fly away. Imagine if you can…its easy if you try.
The disciple’s heart, the heart that is being made right, desires mercy. Along the way, turning all justice over to God and desiring Mercy, we find those things so deeply rooted in us that we don’t know who we are without them, are pulled up and we are changed. This is the point of the kingdom. This is the basic nature of the kingdom in this world. And if we are disciples, servants of Jesus, we can’t dodge this.
Biblical Text: Luke 10:38-42
Full Draft of Sermon
Mary and Martha. That used to be the jumping off point for a bunch of buddy stories. But the text is not about a conflict of personality. The revisionist and womanist (or is it womynist) preacher makes great hay out of this text. Martha is the enforcer of accepted patriarchal social scripts which Mary chooses to ignore. Jesus backs up her choice securing her already grasped freedom. (Just to be clear, Mary moves first, Jesus just gives moral support). But that would seem to be majoring in minors – although there is enough truth you can’t just scoff.
The context is the help. Last week was the good Samaritan and in previous weeks the 70 were sent out and great things are happening. The whole contingent is on the move. They are doing great things. The disciples, and us the reader, could be forgiven for taking the point of the Christian life as being a heroic do-gooder. And then we see the ultimate do gooder. Martha is serving everyone…and Mary just sits. Jesus, do you mean what you’ve been saying?
Like Martha, the church is full of care and distracted by all the things that need taken care of. And there will be plenty of opportunity to serve. Nobody ever gets in your way when you don the role of the servant. But the world, the devil and our own flesh will labor mightily to keep us from the Word. Service not grounded first and firmly in the Word of God is just so much trouble. The one needful thing – the one thing that we can’t go without is the Word. And that is typically presented as a choice. Do we choose the feet of the Jesus, or our cares? Everything else shall pass away, but what is done at the foot of the cross will never be taken away.