The text is possibly the most famous biblical text of all time, Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. But there is a problem with that. There is also 2000 years of piety around the text. Sometimes piety is a great thing. Most times. It usually is a virtue and prevents us doing something really stupid. But occasionally piety gets in the way of an authentic meditation on a text. We can’t hear or imagine the text because of everything else around it. This sermon attempts that meditation. These texts are not about about repentance, not really. They aren’t about sorting into prodigal and elders. They aren’t about spurring us on to greater feats of piety. They are a picture of God. The God who does come for us. The God who does clean us. The God who welcomes us back to the household. The God who wants only sons. (Not excluding daughters here, but the God who wants only members of the household, not hired men. And households don’t operate on the law. Households live on grace.
This sermon addresses something that I think we all are falling into wrongly and that is judging people by group standing. With God there is no collective righteousness, neither is there collective damnation. The Lord says, “I will judge each of you according to his ways.” Unlike our natural ways, comparative and collective, God doesn’t engage in comparison. Your neighbor’s sins are nothing but a mirror that reflects our own unworthiness. Your neighbor’s righteousness can’t be transferred to you. What God is interested in is you. None of us will avoid the judgement. The question is will we be found fruitless or fruitful. Whether we are talking about the general providence of God the Father, or the saving grace of the God the son, we have been given our daily bread. We have been given the care and feeding needed to be fruitful, personally fruitful. That starts with repentance. This sermon develops these themes around the parable of the fig tree in the vineyard.
The text for the 2nd Sunday in Lent is the short 2nd part, Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem. But that part is so intimately connected to what came before. It is a meditation and instruction on salvation and will. Someone asks Jesus, “will few be saved?” It’s a comparison question. But Jesus doesn’t deal in comparisons. The salvation of one doesn’t uniquely impact a second. But Jesus doesn’t reject the question outright. That is what we moderns would do. Jesus turns the question toward “will you be part of the saved?” It becomes a personal reflection and chance for repentance. But we moderns reject the entire question. This sermon ponders that conflict with how Jesus approaches the question of salvation. Which eventually ends in the question of will. Jerusalem has a will. And Jesus laments over that. It is also necessary that Jesus go to Jerusalem. This sermon in a mediation on that conflict of wills. The will of God to go to Jerusalem, and Jerusalem’s will.
Biblical Texts: Psalm 34, Genesis 7:23-8:12, Mark 3:20-35
The pastors of LCMS circuits typically get together monthly. Part of that is time in worship. The host is the preacher. It was my turn to host this month. In one way this sermon is a continued meditation on the texts from last Sunday. But that is really just the starting point. The texts I chose are the Lutheran Service Book’s daily lectionary texts. I don’t often post occasional sermons (funerals, weddings, winkels) because the audience is so specific. But this one is different that most of my sermons. In most of my sermons I try for a very specific point or doctrinal teaching. If I’ve got 15 mins a week (month, quarter, year) to preach to people I’m going with the necessary core. But with the gathered pastors, I risked a bit of a contemplative devotional sermon. I really like this sermon, but I also feel like it just missed something much more worthy. And I can’t think what that is. It will haunt me for a while. (Sorry, no audio.)
The lesson for the first sunday of lent is an ancient choice, the temptation or testing of Jesus. For a long time it was taken as an excuse for preaching fasting. Jesus fasted, so should you. The problem with that is we aren’t Jesus and we are probably not lead by the Spirit into such a fast. It is not that there isn’t a “Jesus as our example” in this text. Jesus sustains the testing of Satan. In his example we have the full devil’s playbook. This sermon spends some time on that. But the gospel message of the sermon is Jesus won. Satan had never lost a testing until that day. He’s never really won one since. Christ sustained the test and remained faithful. And we can hide ourselves in him. Everyone who calls on Christ is victorious. The victory over Satan is given to them by faith in the work of Jesus. This sermon proclaims that victory.
Justification from Jonah, sanctification from Peter. Ash Wednesday as something of a yearly reboot of the Christian life. A life which starts in the ashes and proceeds through incorporation into Christ to being part of the divine life.
Luke’s account of the Transfiguration is interesting. You have to pay close attention to how he tells it to pick it up, but I believe if you do you get rewarded for it. This sermon meditates on three of those interesting differences. Luke’s transfiguration takes place during prayer. What does that mean for the role of prayer? It’s the transfiguration, which is the latin term. The Greek is metamorphosis, which Luke leaves out. Jesus is not metamorphosized, but his glory is revealed. Which in the context of a Greco-Roman religious world is meaningful. As pagan practices start finding their way back into our world, Luke’s avoidance of the term is a meaningful warning. The last is Luke’s use of the word Exodus. How are we included in the Exodus of Jesus? How do Moses and Elijah help us? And how might we see better our own exodus? (On a personal note, I like this sermon, but I willing to think of it as too personal parochial happenings.)
The text is part two of “The Sermon on the Plain”, Luke version of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. And what this sermon (and last week’s) encourage is what seems to be a specific audience shift in the way Luke presents it. The Sermon on the Plain is to the disciples, or this week specifically to “those who hear.” It may sound strange coming from a Lutheran, but the Law is Good. The Law does have a place in the Christian Life. The deeper question is how does one take that law? And that is what I think Jesus is getting at in Luke’s version. This is the 3rd Use of the Law version of the sermon. And that rule is the rule of grace. The golden rule is to act today, toward your enemies, toward those who won’t pay you back, as the Father and the Son have acted toward us. Do so understanding that you probably don’t get paid back in this world. Which is fine, because as a disciple of Jesus, you are living out of the eternal measure of God.
The text is Luke’s version of the beatitudes. If you know them, you know them from Matthew. How they appear in Luke is quite different. Different is a way that invites a little comparison and contrast. Also different in a way that invites a much different interpretive focus. The focus of this sermon is how Jesus’ blessings and woes form a teaching on “the good life” for the disciple. Jesus’ teaching contrasts with both popular and philosophical examples of the good life in serious ways. Ways that every disciple should spend some time contemplating.
Those first two points have unfortunately become a polarity in the church. Yet they go together. One grows out of the other. The life of faith finds its start and its proof in obedience to the Word. The text is the amazing catch of fish, but you never get to the catch if Peter is not obedient twice to the Word of Jesus. But both the faith and the mission rest on the experience of God. This sermon attempts to experience along with Peter that presence of God through obedience to the faith and the call to mission.