There is a fundamental conflict in our existence. It was present before Jesus, but in Jesus it has come in its fullness. And that conflict is the one the Elijah fought against the prophets of Baal and against himself. What is more important, what we see, or what has been given us in the Word? It is not that God has not given signs of himself. Elijah saw the fire from heaven. The people ate the bread in the wilderness. But those signs do not sustain forever. We file them away, or can’t process them correctly. Jesus gives to us the Bread of Heaven, the Word, himself. And this sustains on our 40 days and 40 nights here on our journey to the mountain of God, on our way to the Father.
The lectionary has us in John 6 for three weeks. It is one of those long watershed chapters. It all takes place in the aftermath of the feeding of the 5000. In the Gospel according to John the feeding and that crowd are a little more specific about their desires than in the other gospels. They wanted to make Jesus their King. But the type of King they wanted was not the King Jesus is. The crowds were seeking, but they were not willing to be found. God was offering the bread of life, but they wanted their bread. This sermon explores that dichotomy.
Blame it on reading a little Boethius recently, but in reading the feeding of the 5000 two things jumped out at me. The first was the repetition of “a desolate place.” Jesus wanted to bring the disciples to a desolate place, and when the action starts the disciples mention that they are in a desolate place. The second phrase that jumped out is the summary that “all ate and were satisfied.” What does it mean to be satisfied? This sermon looks at the ways we typically answer that, or how we look for satisfaction. And then it puts forward one more. Call it the foolish, the wise and the gospel. Only one truly gives satisfaction in a desolate place.
The image from the Text is a plumb line, something that checks if you built straight. The Northern Kingdom, specifically the house of Jeroboam had not, and their time was short. Amos was sent by Yahweh to tell them. But in Amaziah, the Northern Priest, and Amos’ MMA style confrontation we get some vital insight into our calls. This sermon digs into putting the plumb line on our souls.
It happens occasionally, July 4th falls on a Sunday. And unless you’ve got your head in the sand, the role patriotism and nationalism is a cultural divide or some magnitude. This is my attempt to think through a Christian patriotism. The divide is between those from somewhere and those from anywhere. And I think this puts forward a fair case that even though the worries of anywhere are real, somewhere is necessary for the gospel.
The text is one of the “Markan Sandwiches” – an outside story interrupted by an inside story. That gives us a chance to reflect on things exterior and things interior. In the biblical text the the outside and the inside stories interact and intensify each other. They are told in this way because we are meant to understand them together. Likewise our internal and external selves. The first reflection this sermon delves into is the contrasts between Jesus and the Crowds in the external story in regards to hope. Internally it is the difference between hope and despair, externally it is the difference between the acts of horror and serenity. The second reflection contrasts the woman and the disciples in the internal story in regards to cost. What is the cost of this hope? There are only two answers. Give the sermon a listen to hear.
The text of this sermon is really the book of Job. The lectionary makers had a moment of inspiration in their OT and Gospel pairing. What does it mean to fear the LORD? I feel that is an uncommon topic. Even more I think that when it is taken up from the pulpit we are more like Job’s friends. And if we are we miss the gospel. It is only an unbound God, a sovereign God, who can save, who binds the winds and the wave.
All of Jesus’ parable to some extent are elaborations of the parable of the sower, at least his Kingdom parables. But I feel that is even more the case with the Gospel according to Mark. The Sower and the Soils is Jesus’ picture of the Kingdom in this world. The parables that are part of the text today are refinements or close ups of parts of that parable that answer some natural questions. The early part of this sermon sets that connection because the lectionary jumps right back into the gospel skipping the larger narrative parable.
The questions natural questions that might come up immediately are: 1) to what extent are we responsible for the growth of the seeds? and 2) when the seeds do grow what does it look like? This sermon looks at both those questions through the parables.
I put the title as “the Spiritual Crisis of the Christ” because just the existence of Jesus and his claims puts everyone in the position of having to make a choice. The technical term for what I try to describe in the sermon is a Chiasm. It would normally be outlined or diagrammed as A B C B’ A’. The “C” part is the deepest and most important part. The truth of that “C” part ripples out in the B/B’ and A/A’ parts like a stone dropped in the water. The truth at the center is that we live in Satan’s house, but Christ has bound Satan and is stealing as many as he can from Satan’s Kingdom for the eternal Kingdom. That is the gospel proclamation. You have been freed from the bondage to Satan.
That proclamation is met by two levels of crisis. At the easiest level the claims of the Christ are just crazy talk. The claims demand that we re-order our most natural selves – like our family – around the His missional family. Of course it might not be family, it is really whatever we take as the core of our personal identity. This must be subsumed under the mission of Christ to be part of God’s family. The more dangerous level is when that crisis demands a resolution. When all our status and power are defined by the idols of our age and we are called to say what we believe about Jesus, and crazy won’t be enough. You will be called to call Jesus demonic, the adversary. And this is the unforgiveable sin, calling the Spirit a liar.
Because the Spirit testifies to the truth of Jesus’ claims. Are you going to call God a liar, or allow him to free you from the bondage that Satan has you in?
The Sunday is Trinity Sunday, which is the final “Festival” in the Festival half of the church year. It is set aside to meditate on the Truth that captured the imagination of the first six centuries of the church – The Trinity. Part of that in the Lutheran church is the confession of the Athanasian Creed. (In the recording responsively.) But the texts for the day are rich is so many ways. This sermon does something I don’t do that often, it layers the Old Testament lesson in with the Gospel. And I did this because the story of Uzziah, mentioned in Isaiah’s call, and the story of Nicodemus layer so beautifully. They are stories of incense and pride. They are stories of desiring to see God in His essence, and missing God in what He has done. The year Uzziah dies, is the year we can see God. This sermon helps us see that.