Tag Archives: Mark 9

Transfigured Lives

Biblical Text: Mark 9:2-9 (Transfiguration)
Full Sermon Draft

One way to think about meaning in a text is to divide it into different levels. The first and most basic level is the words and grammar themselves. This is a very simple and literal level, but even the most complex text never outgrows the basic words. The second level is the actions (or inactions) that are narrated. A character who lies, and someone who knows it is a lie but goes along, give a scene meaning beyond the simple words. The action of a lie betrays the words themselves and the action of accepting it reveals something about the character whether that is longing, or hurt, or self-loathing, or even a kindness depending upon the social status of the liar and the lied to. I’m sure there are other levels. (I was taught a third level where both the text and the action don’t mean anything more than an expression of the power structure of the writer. This is the standard critical school reading method. The text isn’t the Word of God, but what layers of the dominant folks put into God’s mouth. This can be an interesting window, but it also fundamentally assumes that the writers were either oblivious or nefarious in their intents.) The transfiguration text to me is one that operates on the high difference between the first level of the worlds and the second level of the final deed. The words themselves detail the magnificence of Jesus as the second person of the Trinity. The deeds are that person turning from the glory and points toward the cross. The question is where does glory reside?

There is glory with God in the beginning, and that cannot be taken away, but God moves toward Calvary. There is glory in the events of Calvary, but God is not a masochist. Suffering and the cross is not the end. The full shape, which the disciples are told to remain silent until they see it, is glory growing through the cross until the final glory of the resurrection. Transfigured lives are not static lives. Transfigured lives are not lives lived in misery. Transfigured lives are lives made so by the shape of that story. We carry the cross in the hope of the resurrection. We leave comfort, to test and grow faith. We walk in love of our neighbor, because that is what Christ did. That is how we become fully human. That is how we are transfigured.

Worship Note: I’ve left in our choir which had a beautiful short piece that our recording equipment caught rather well. I also left in one of the best not just modern hymns, but hymns of all time. I moved it in the recording to after the sermon from it place as hymn of the day. LSB 416, Swiftly Pass the Clouds of Glory. Unfortunately the song is still under copyright, so I’m going to cheat. If your hymnal doesn’t have this hymn, you need a new one.

Swiftly pass the clouds of glory, Heaven’s voice the dazzling light
Moses and Elijah vanish; Christ alone commands the height!
Peter, James and John fall silent, Turning from the summit’s rise
Downward toward the shadowed valley, where their Lord has fixed his eyes.

Glimpsed and gone the revelation, They shall gain and keep its truth
Not by building on the mountain any shrine or sacred booth
but by following the savion through the valley to the cross
and by testing faith’s resiliance through betrayal, pain and loss

Lord, transfigure our perceptions with the purest light that shines
and recast our life’s intentions to the shape of your designs
Till we seek no other glory than what lies past Calvary’s hill
And our living and our dying and our rising by Your will.

Kingdom Memory, Kingdom Walk

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Biblical Text: Mark 9:38-50
Full Sermon Draft

The Gospel of Mark, per the early church, is the memories/sermons/stories of Peter written down around the time of his death. And I tend to think at the close of sections, like today’s text, you can see just the way memory works. The big story about a point is told, but there are a bunch of smaller sayings and stories that rush into the mind afterward. Those other stories and sayings are important, you can’t imagine the full story without them, but they are footnotes or modifiers on the larger points. After being put in their place about status positions this text modifies just how disciples are to walk with each other. The main modification is an acceptance that the Kingdom is something larger that one tribe or expression of it. But that modifier deserves a second, a don’t let your brains fall out. While you can find joy in an expression of the Kingdom that isn’t yours, the church still has boundaries. Those boundaries involve sin and truth. The church is a community of truth and as such is calls out sin. It doesn’t just accept it as a different expression of church. And the teachers of the church have a scary role in that that could end in millstones and deep water.

The sermon attempts to have an artistic flair. Parts of a one man show, the remembrances of Peter. And those remembrances are brought forward in application to our situation. I’ve succeeded if you’ve heard the voice of the Apostle.

Music Note. I left in the recording our hymn of the day which is in my top 5 hymns. My guess is that you wouldn’t here this one in many churches and definitely not in the local mega-church. Mainly because it is a little slow do develop and has a strong poetic structure. The first three verses get darker before the last three speak of our reality in God. It fit with my understanding of these verses. Yes, we will all be salted with fire, but that is as the living sacrifices. We walk toward truth and peace which is with Jesus and heavenward all the way. Even in the midst of trial. I Walk in Danger All the Way, Lutheran Service Book 716.

Willful Moral Ignorance

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Biblical Text: Mark 9:30-37
Full Sermon Text

This text is the second passion prediction and a unique to Mark saying of Jesus. The saying is mirrored a couple of other places in very similar sounding ways, but the setting and the vocabulary of this text are unique. Unique enough to support this sermon. The central theme or problem is what do you call it or what happens when you know the moral path but are afraid. And this is tied to a very specific living example.

Faith over Fear

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Biblical Text: Mark 9:14-29
Full Sermon Draft

Fear is just not a permanent facet of the Christian life. It is not that we don’t feel it. It is not that we are spared the type of experiences that bring it forward. But the big difference is our belief in the end. The Christian both believes in an author of history, a providential God, and he believes that this providential God loves us and does all things for our benefit. We may fear for a night, but the steadfast love of the Lord is forever. This sermon examines fear, the response of faith with overcomes fear, and how the Christian lives out of that faith instead of fear. As we started Sunday School today, special emphasis is given to that roll of teacher.

Lead us not into temptation…

Biblical Text: Mark 9:38-50
Complete Draft

I would be hard pressed to think of a message more contra the advice of every “grow your church” consultant than this one. Dependence upon a translation of a Greek word? Check. Pointing out sin and struggles with it? Check. Attempting to say that what feels like failure might be the greatest spiritual good? Check. Resting that spiritual good squarely on faith as proof without an immediate here and now reward? Check.

So why the heck would I do that? What I’d like to be able to say is Truth. Our current culture or environment would scorn this statement, but that is what the pulpit is about, proclaiming truth. And it is truth that suffering and failure are part of this life. Our Lord was crucified and betrayed. It is harder to find a more pure case of losing. Either we deal with that, we include space for less than the power and the glory, or we’ve created a false religion that will ultimately lead to despair.

The thing is: 1) truth isn’t popular. We’d rather have the pretty lie as long as we can believe it. 2) We aren’t actually that good at discerning truth. Archbishop Cranmer’s formulation holds, “what the heart wants, the will chooses and the mind justifies”. We want a lot of things to be true. I’m sure that many an atheist could say, yeah, like your sky god stuff. But here is the thing, through 3000 years recorded in the Bible, the prophets that are recognized are usually like Jeremiah or Elijah or Jesus – “Father, take this cup from me.” They didn’t want the world as it was, yet that was the truth. And they served truth. They served the Word. Mankind has never wanted to believe that they aren’t God or the measure of everything. Goes all the way back to Eve.

So, Jesus says in today’s text that we will all be salted with fire. Do we watch and prepare, or do hold onto the lie a little longer? Does the watchman proclaim it, or keep silent?

Gold Bricks, Rotting Corpses and Dead Phone Lines…

Text: Mark 9:30-37
Full Sermon Draft

That title or the graphics might be a little macabre, but just give a listen (or a read). Every now and then you come across a story that has meaning beyond the simple facts. That’s what happened here.

Prayer Paradox

Text: Mark 9:14-29
Full Sermon Draft

This text itself is something of a paradox. It has two of the most memorable phrases from the gospels. “I believe, help my unbelief” which in the story context is this heart rending plea of desperation. And it has Jesus’ summary to the disciples, “This kind only comes out through prayer” which can seem oddly tacked on to the story, seems to add a differentiation to spiritual evil and makes a comment on technique that is wholly absent elsewhere, and added to that is the manuscript tradition adds fasting to prayer. Our two best manuscripts do not have fasting, the first corrector of one of those manuscripts added it, almost all the other manuscripts have fasting. The best textual scholars all say fasting was an early churchly scribal addition, but the evidence of it being original is somewhat staggering for such an easy verdict. The reason that is interesting at all is that driving out spiritual evil by fasting would be a long term thing while just by prayer is an in the moment operation. The disciples did not fast because the bridegroom was with them (Mark 2:18-19). With fasting Jesus’ words would seem to be directly addressed to later hearers after the bridegroom had ascended.

And this is the paradox, with all that interesting stuff to ponder, this episode has been sparsely preached and commented on. Interesting sayings and emotional scenes are usually sermon goldmines. You can here preachers everywhere saying, “That will preach”. Not so much here.

My approach was to struggle with what I think is the central paradox. The father in the story is example. We are the disciples, or they are our entry into devotion. The time that prayer is most necessary, is exactly when you don’t believe in the person you are talking to. When you are thinking – “My God, why have you forsaken me?” is exactly the time you need to say “Into you hands I commit my spirit.” A paradox of prayer.

Less brought out in the sermon, but still something of a paradox is the question of exactly who believes and trusts? Is it our belief and trust that enables miracles? Or is the one who believes really Christ alone? His belief is given to us. His belief helps our unbelief.

Both of those will preach. Both of them point to a deep promise – “a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory – Matt 12:20.” At those breaking moments are when we can be most sure of grace.