It’s the first Sunday in Advent. The Gospel text is traditionally Palm Sunday – the triumphal entry, which is Jesus the King coming to Jerusalem. This sermon is based off of the Old Testament lesson from Jeremiah. Jeremiah is traditionally the prophet of doom and lamentation. But here he tells of fulfillment. God fulfills his promises. He fulfilled them to the heirs of Jacob. There was a greater fulfillment for Israel, a fulfillment we receive by faith. But behold, the days are coming when they will be fulfilled again. This sermon retells the covenants God has promised to his people.
Thanksgiving in connected to creation. It is also connected to the New Creation in Christ. Either everything falls apart, in which case Thanks and Praise are offensive, or is all hold together in Christ – the one thought whom is was all created and the firstborn of the new creation. Choosing to give thanks, is siding with creation which displays the love of God at all times.
The day on the church Calendar is the last Sunday of the Church Year, sometimes called Christ the King. The sermon completes our reading through Jesus’ last things sermon from Mark 13. You might call it the distinction between the end of a world, a time of tribulation, and the end of the world, the deliverance of Christ the King. The first of those we should be able to recognize by the “sign of the fig tree.” The last of those, we do not know, but we await that day. For that day is the day the Kingdom comes in its fullness. The Day of our deliverance.
It is the end of the church year. Two Sunday’s hence, the start of Advent, is the church new year. And in the last two Sundays the texts turn to last things. In the year of Matthew you get the parables. In the year of Mark you get Jesus’ sermon itself from Mark 13. Which means it is the perfect time to preach the doctrine of the 2nd coming. There probably isn’t a more misunderstood doctrine with worse effects on Christian life than the 2nd coming. And the text itself isn’t easy to comprehend as there are at least 5 threads running through it, some of them very Jewish, others off in the future. What this sermon does is point out the two ditches that we often get stuck in when contemplating the 2nd Coming and why they are ditches. We shouldn’t necessarily feel back about these, because they are perennial. They are what the disciples wanted to turn towards. The second part of the sermon listens to Jesus’ answer to those disciples as they tried to steer him into the ditch. Jesus this week explains what it means for a Christian to watch or “be on your guard”. Once you are “on guard”, then next week he turns to some actual answers that we can hear about those last things.
This sermon is about the book of Revelation, specifically chapters 4:1-8:5, but more about what we feel when our minds wander to that book’s supposed subject. When we hear apocalypse we think endings, we think things that are incomprehensible, and we fear. But all of that is exactly the opposite of the purpose of the book. The purpose of the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ is assurance. The purpose is so that we know. And in the middle of the tribulation – not the fear induced popular “they left me behind” tribulation, but life in this fallen world – Christ is revealed and what he has done for his saints, the full number of them. This sermon is about that unveiling.
What exactly is Reformation Day? It has been a lot of things. This sermon mentions a couple of them. But almost of of the alternates are corruptions of what it really was. Which is a recovery of the Apostle Paul. Which is a new birth of freedom in hearing the law and the gospel. It is not just the gospel, although that is the happy best part. It is also the law. The Reformation recovered that 200 proof cask of grace that Paul preached. Christ died for sinners and God’s righteousness is given to you as a gift. You have been made a member of God’s house by God’s choice. And that free gift also frees us to see the law for what it is. It is not a method of saving ourselves. But it is also no longer our writ of condemnation. Yes, we are sinners. But the righteousness of God does not come by the law, but by grace through faith. So we can accept the law as God’s good gift to us for our good. Reformation Day is about the law and the gospel, and how they Reform our hard hearts into hearts of flesh.
The text is the capstone both to Mark 10, which is the toughest chapter in the gospels, and the ministry of Jesus. The rest of the gospel of Mark is passion week which really is something separate. What we’ve seen in the rest of Mark 10 is a bunch of ways that people misunderstand or outright reject discipleship. But here with the story of blind Bartimaeus we have a lesson of true discipleship. This sermon is a meditation on how Bartimaeus sees more clearly – even though blind – than most of the sighted. And it is an encouragement to “walk the way.”
The text contains a couple of Jesus’ classic aphorisms, but this sermon really isn’t about those aphorisms. Those aphorisms are given to heighten the shock that the disciples are feeling. They can’t believe what has just happened between Jesus and the Rich Young Man. Even less can they believe what Jesus says about it. Their surprise is our entry to think about our attitude to wealth. How does wealth form the soul? What are the deep dangers that Jesus is warning about? The sermon ponders these. It then follows Peter’s blunt but natural question: who gets it right, the disciples or the rich young man? If you saw Elon Musk walking away, wouldn’t you have some questions about the deal? Jesus’ answer, just like all of Mark Chapter 10, is necessary for the modern church to hear. And it leaves us with stuff to ponder.
You become what you love. We either love God, and with loving God love the truth and love our neighbor; or we have something else we love. And whatever else that something is, it isn’t enough, not to be the primary love that forms our souls. The biblical text is Jesus’ encounter with what is typically called the rich young ruler. The man – the individual soul – knows something is wrong. He is actually quite sharp, sharper than we tend to be these days. This sermon meditates upon this encounter of love, and what questions our souls should be asking? Into what are we forming our eternal life?
There are lots of biblical texts about human sexuality. There are also lots of texts about freedom. This text has more to say about both and their intersection than any of the rest. This is Jesus talking about how God made it, and this is Jesus giving the gospel key to understand the rest. This text, just as it was in its day, is a nuclear explosion against all the settled pieties and selfish claims of our cultural moment. This is my attempt to preach it. I’m content with this.