There is always a bit of a frisson when I have a text with Satan in it. Giving Satan a voice from the pulpit always feels like crossing a boundary. There is a bit of that in here. But the main contemplative point is how Law and Gospel are connected with an “and”. In this world you don’t get one without the other, although that is always the temptation. Satan’s temptations are to break the relationships that bind and order our existence. Sometimes that temptation is straight up to our sinful nature. Sometimes that testing is to the power of the ring. But however they express themselves, they are always a rebellion against both the grace and the order of God. He has a way that He desires us to walk. When we tell the Spirit, sorry, I don’t like that desert or those 40 days, we’ve gone off the path. This sermon meditates on how Jesus walked it for us (hence the closing hymn), and bids us to follow.
A quick note about this sermon. It is really a short one at the start, and then the rest. With NY State becoming an open infanticide state it was necessary to say something from the pulpit about this deep wrong. That is the short clear start.
The second part hopefully ties that in. The text is about the authoritative Word of Jesus. When He preached everyone recognized the impact of what he said. And that impact wasn’t really the healings or the exorcisms which were the signs and wonder. The impact was that His Word demanded a response. The text gives us three examples of responses. The sermon looks and them and how we respond in our lives.
We are continuing through our Epiphany series which might be subtitled “seeing God”. The normal ways of seeing God that the Epiphany texts help us to see are Word and Sacrament. This text is no different in that, except this text asks the next question: what does seeing God mean for the one who sees? And Epiphany is always also a test. Do we believe? Do we trust the promises given in the Word of God and the sacraments, or do we demand what we take as greater signs? This sermon ponders Jesus’ reception in his hometown, and parallels that reception among those who have been made his family by baptism.
The first Sunday in Lent brings the temptation of Jesus as the text. The text is usually turned into a moral lesson about knowing your bible. And there is some of that here. But as I worked through the text and the various inputs this week, that fit less and less easily. Especially given Luke’s text. The temptations come in a slightly different order here, and the Devil and Jesus flip-flop words. Jesus goes from “it is written” to “it is said” when the devil picks up quoting scripture. This is no sword drill bible quoting one-up-man-ship.
The postmodern world tells us that everything is interpretation. There are authoritative interpretations made so by power. There are deviant or subversive interpretations. But, there are no facts; there is no truth. In the first two temptations Jesus clearly refutes that as he both takes as true and binding the Word of God and refutes a power and authority’s ability to assert interpretation against fact. In the third temptation Jesus turns to the opposite problem. Instead of thinking that everything is interpretation, its opposite is often a too great a certainty. When the devil starts quoting scripture the temptation is to put a very precise interpretation on a poetic verse.
Applied to the modern church or would you have both the church that has abandoned the law because they hunger after the approval of the world, and you have the church that is uncomfortable with faith and hope and mystery. The narrow way lies between the two ditches. Letting the secret things be God’s, but claiming surely those things that have been revealed. Deuteronomy 29:29
This is an attempt to preach the text by connecting roots of post-modernism with how we see it playing out in events today. As such, as David Foster Wallace would once quip, I’m attempting to point out the water to the fish (what’s water?). It is preaching directly at a space that is probably never in questioned. As such it might have zoomed right past.
The text for the day shows people who are captured and oppressed by that unholy trinity of the devil, the world and our flesh. Simon’s mother-in-law running a high fever (flesh), the demon possessed man (devil) and the crowds (world) all are healed. They all have the release proclaimed to them. The all recognize the authority of the Word of Jesus. But they all have different reactions. They are all freed. The devil, the world and the flesh are all rebuked, but only one of the reactions is appropriate.
After three Sunday’s looking at how we see God through the sacraments, the theme this Sunday was the proclaimed word. And while we can say we see God in the Word (especially THE WORD, Jesus Christ), that seeing function is more answered by the sacraments. God has instituted and promised to be present in Water, Bread, Wine and absolution. Those are something physical that we can “see”. The proclaimed word is more about answering that second order question, how do we know we’ve seen? We know we’ve seen because someone has told us and we believe that testimony. Our belief influences what we see. We can see the sacraments because we believe, because the Holy Spirit has created eyes of faith. But the orthodox faith doesn’t just push something called fideism, or faith in faith. Out faith does not rest on an emotional desire or something we gin up in ourselves. Saving faith rests on the Word. The proclaimed word brings forth a reaction. Preachers don’t (or shouldn’t) proclaim themselves or feelings or vague movements. Preachers proclaim the Word. And THE WORD is Jesus Christ. How do we know we know? Christ told us. It all rests on him. Who do you say he is? What is your reaction to the proclamation?