The Christian in called to live in two kingdoms at the same time. There are the kingdoms of the law. What we call the state is the typical representative of the Kingdom of the law. And in the Kingdom of the law the primary responsibility is Justice. Because this Kingdom is ruled indirectly by sinful humans (and fallen powers) justice isn’t always perfect, but that its responsibility. Christians also life in the Kingdom of Grace. And how we are called to live is thinking of the Kingdom of Grace as a millennium’s worth of work compared to the law’s as three months. Three months is a lot. Most of us don’t have three months in the bank. Three months is real. And legally we can demand it. But the Christian who wishes to reside in the Kingdom recognizes that those three months are as nothing compared to the 10,000 talents.
This is the way of the cross. The way of grace. Trusting that God’s justice is better than the best we could ever provide.
I thought hard about preaching on the Epistle Lesson this week – Romans 13. The core of that work ended up as the Meditation in the Bulletin (post below). But I decided two things: 1) Paul’s plain words were clear enough in this time. And give the response of the congregation just to the reading of it, I was right here. 2) Those who need to hear that one are largely not in my pews. So I went ahead with the gospel lesson.
The fundamental structure is between the values of the Kingdom and those of Satan, The World and our Sinful nature. And one of the places this constantly is made real is in the GOAT (Greatest of all time) discussions. We all want our recognition. We want others to recognize us. The call of the Kingdom, the way of the cross, is to humble ourselves to serve God and our neighbor. This sermon works on how that plays out both in time and in eternity for the Sons and Daughters of the Kingdom.
We live in a time that definitions of words can’t be taken for granted. People use the same word but often have radically different meanings. That is the case in this text for the idea of Christ. Jesus and the Father have a definition that centers on the cross. Peter’s Christ can’t include the cross. That must be sorted out. Likewise understanding was The Cross means for Jesus and what it means for his followers is important discipleship stuff. This sermon attempts to make clear what Christ and the Cross mean for the Christian.
The Reign of God or the Kingdom is the overriding theme of the gospel and we’ve been thinking out way through it this summer. It starts out being proclaimed. (“Repent! The Reign of God is near!”) Then it is taught. (“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom.” “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…”.) Then it is exhibited or demonstrated as Jesus interacts with the crowds, the disciples and the Pharisees and Sadducees. All of which leads up to the final. “Do you understand? Who do you say I am?”
That is a question that we all must answer when the Reign draws near. And there are a variety of answers, but only one correct one. “You are the Christ.” And that correct answer – that confession does a couple of things. It binds us to Christ in the church. And it frees us from our sin. The Keys of the Kingdom, the reality of the Reign. If you confess Christ, you can only truly do so within his body. And within that body, Satan cannot touch the pardon of God.
That – our proper response to the Reign – is what this sermon encourages.
I’m sure that in many pulpits today, in attempts to be edgy and with the zeitgeist of the world, preachers will use this text to promote blasphemy. Which is terrible, because when you allow yourself to hear it, it is the most beautiful witness. If you ask “What is repentance?”, or compare this woman to Peter – the “little faith” one – you see a great witness of faith. That is what this sermon attempts to do. Put this episode in its context and allow us to understand better both faith and how repentance is the ongoing act of faith.
The miracles of Jesus are not just random events. God is not capricious, handing out bennies to some while stiffing others. The miracles have a purpose. This sermon sorts through a couple of different ways of thinking about those purposes. And then it focuses on how we often receive miracles, especially epiphany type. The disciples seeing Jesus walking on the water in quick succession go through the key ones. And Jesus is quick reply answers them. This is for us that we might understand and take courage. The New Creation is already ours.
The feeding of the 5000 is an easy jump to the Lord’s Supper, but in pondering it this week I wanted to focus on something a bit different. I’m still greatly worried about all of those online and the supper, so I wished to downplay that a bit. The latch for me was the specific situation in Jesus’ life. This is what happens immediately after the death of John the Baptist. Matthew is very clear about what Jesus wanted to do, and then what happened which is about 100% the opposite. It tells us something about the God we have, the inconvenience of compassion, and how God provides. Yes, part of how God provides is the specifics of the Lord’s Supper, but he provides so much more than that.
I’m convinced that more than a very OS daemons operate in the technology. It figures on a day that I hoped to address the online group a bit more explicitly the tech betrays us in a stupid way. But if I’m listening to my own sermon, out of meager loaves, the Lord provides.
This is the close of the parable sermon. And I’ve got a little bone to pick with how these are typically preached. They are typically preached as law. Now the law is good. Seeing Christ as the treasure encourages a fine piety, and piety is a good thing. But it is also something that ultimately fails. No, the person doing the action in the parables is almost always Jesus. Who is the treasure? Who is the pearl of great price? It is you. Christ sold everything he had to redeem you. The rest of the sermon teases out some of the implication.
Oops, I had some problems uploading this and I never came back to finish it after I solved them.
This is the middle sermon of three on Jesus’ parable discourse. It cover mainly the Wheat and the Weeds, although I think the mustard seed and the leaven are important for rounding out the understanding. If the Sower addresses why the Kingdom seems to be failing, or at least encountering heavy opposition, then these address how we are to respond to it. And at this point there are two audiences: a) the disciples and b) the crowds who are on the fence.
Both audiences are encouraged to patience. Don’t take rash action. But each a different type of patience. The disciples to not become “zealots” reaching for a sword. The crowds to watch the leaven/mustard work/grow.
Parables are strange little things. Everyone loves a good parable. If there is a part of the bible that remains common knowledge it is probably some of the parables, like the Sower and the Soils. But what makes them strange is that while the crowds might remember them, they don’t really hear them. If you are hearing the parables alone, it is because your ears aren’t working. The understanding, the explanation, only comes by faith. And that understanding is often at great odds with the surface friendliness.
In the case of the Sower and the soils, them point is not really to identify soils which is what we so often do. The point is to recognize the overwhelming grace of the sower. And to understand that you are good soil. You who have heard and accepted the Word, you are good soil and will be made fruitful. Because the Word of God does what it intends.