Within the larger Thomas story is one of the the seed beds of Christian Doctrine. There are three places in scripture where Jesus gives to certain people the authority to bind and to loose sins. And it is really all three of them working together that gives us the full picture of God’s “superabundant grace and goodness.” This sermon starts from the seat in this text and preaches the forgiveness of sins specifically understood through the Office of the Keys and the Pastoral Office. With special attention paid to God’s both/and when we often desire an either/or.
Jesus’ predictions of His passion each elicit responses by the disciples. Those response are often quite telling. They highlight some false idea which the disciples are clinging to. But there is something else that swirls around the first two – Jesus offering what the church calls the Keys. What you bind is bound and what you loose is loosed. The first offer of the Keys leads to the passion prediction which Peter responds roughly “not going to happen”. In this second passion prediction Peter doesn’t directly confront Jesus, but in this sermon’s conceit starts succession planning. The sermon of Jesus that follows talks about what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like which is nothing to start succession planning over. Instead of leading with the offer, Jesus ends with the offer of the Keys. His followers will be humble or childlike or little enough to not demand the law or their due with each other. The church instead is based on confession and absolution. The church is based on offering and receiving grace.
I received more comments about this sermon than almost any in 5 years. The pessimist in me is saying “and you are going to pay for each one of those comments.”
In the worship service as a whole there was an interweaving of hymns and songs including one of my favorites, I Walk in Danger all the Way, Some of the VBS kids shared with us a couple of the songs from the week including “Stand Strong” and the one I reference in the Sermon Marching to Zion. But you don’t need that thicker worship setting to get the sermon.
The gospel point, the core of the text, is that it is Jesus alone who is walking to Jerusalem. And that walk ends outside the city walls. At the place of the skull. We can’t march into the city of God. We only enter through the narrow door, at the foot of the cross, through repentance. There is no “we” marching to Zion. The question is are you walking there? Is your walk with Jesus all the way?
The audio will be added later. Our guy who volunteers to convert the files (and has the stuff to actually do it) took a much deserved break. His son did the recording (thank you!), but the digital conversion is coming.
So much in our world we deal with by deleting, or attempting to delete by shoving in some memory hole. We delete everything from pixels to inconvenient people. And we all eventually become inconvenient.
God does not delete. God does not deal with problems by covering them over. God deals with problems (like sin) by absolution…by transfiguration…by resurrection. That is the conflict of Easter and the triumph of our Lord. Sin, the World and Satan want to erase, delete and hide. Christ rolled back the stone and lives.
1. Here is Dr. Haidt on talking about one way to step back. What he does is force what I’d call an admission of sin. Each polarized side has “things that they have left undone” as the corporate confession says. Recognizing that is the start of actually addressing the problem.
2. Rod Dreher takes this to an interesting place in regards to civil law. Confirmation 101 stuff: Q. What is the first use of the law? A. Civil or curb. The government/state/Caesar holds the sword for a purpose. As we ask for in our prayers for the state, we ask that they “make, administer and judge our laws…according to Your holy will”. What that all means is that our laws have a teaching function. This is appropriate behavior, and this is not. They are a curb, with the sovereign in place to protect the mass of society from the depravity from the few. God help the people whose sovereigns abdicate this responsibility. The bible might say it is analogous to having a child as the king. (Eccl 10:16) What Mr. Dreher points out is that really simple laws work for the best of society. Including really simple rules like “don’t smoke pot” or “get married, stay married, and raise your kids within marriage”. Rich and clever people can break the rules and come out smelling like a rose. Who amongst you were wise, powerful, or noble birth? (1 Cor 1:26) Or maybe, Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom – James 3:13. The wise abide by simple rules out of meekness knowing that creates the better society. The rest of us abide by simple rules because: “hey, we might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, why push it.”
3. The Gospel Coalition on the one really simple rule that we all have ruled ourselves smarter and wiser than all of recorded history on.
How do we step back from the brink? Confession, absolution, walking in the way we should go. That’s not so hard is it?
The office of the Keys is all about who has the authority, responsibility and accountability to forgive and bind sins. The good news in Lutheran doctrine is that Christ himself rules the kingdom of the gospel. If sins are forgiven here, they have already been forgiven in heaven. Heaven acts first. And heaven acts through the means of grace – baptism, Lord’s supper, confession/absolution, preaching. In those methods the grace of God through Jesus Christ is proclaimed; it is announced. The words have power and are received simply by faith.
That faith is given or revealed by the Father (in the son and through the work of the Spirit to complete the Trinitarian formula). We are not left without proof. Faith itself is a proof. The work of Jesus is the greatest revelation. But faith is a revelation. Peter did not confess Christ by flesh and blood but by the revelation of the Father. Same with us. Hard teaching or pure comfort. Either God is still at work on an hourly basis and involved personally with you, or faith is something you can’t accept.
Most things have a normal curve outcome – i.e. lots of “c’s”, a few “A’s” and a few failures. As I was writing and practicing delivery, I knew this sermon was inverted – all or nothing.
Here is why it could strike out: 1) reference to child sexual abuse, 2) talking about how to be a disciple/holiness, 3) the major image being a secular motion picture, 4) continuing or heavily referencing the previous week’s gospel (the context is critical), 5) a heavy theological concept at the end (absolution coming ‘extra nos’ or outside of ourselves), 6) an analogy that if I took it out of the context of the image would be gross work’s righteousness, 7) a different outline or format than I typically use and 8) a general high level of emotional pitch throughout.
It was risk piled on risk. (Ok Holy Spirit, better show up for this one.) I was pondering right up until Sunday Morning if I had the guts to deliver it.