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?
Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell is a fascinating character. Nobody would ever believe me, but I once wrote up a Character Study of the guy for school that was titled – “Historical Libel”. The thesis was what she did for the man much better. Anyway, one of her lines she gives him is “Choose your prince carefully.” It is a fascinating insight to the character and the time. Mantel’s books don’t have much theology, well, because Henry’s Reformation wasn’t really about theology, but that phrase I think is surprisingly deep theologically. This sermon starts there. But moves into a meditation on Jesus’ words that the son of man cam not to be served but to serve. There are plenty of moralistic sermons about how we can serve God. I get some of that in here riffing off our Hymn of the Day – “Go to Dark Gethsemane”. But for me the much more fascinating pondering is choosing what we serve. Thinking in gentile lines we are aiming not to serve but to Lord it over. But the truth is that these deals with the devil, the world and our flesh always end in serving them. It is only Jesus whose yoke it easy. Because his hierarchy is inverted. The greatest was the slave of all. So Choose Your Prince, carefully.
Grace and Mercy and the roll of the Law in following God
Getting the order of Lord’s correct
Program note: The phrase I was struggling to remember about Luke 16:16 is “the violent bare it away”. That is a better translation of the phrase. It is another example of what we’ve seen in Sunday bible class recently of the translators bringing a “cheery” gloss to a verbal aspect or metaphor instead of the “sign of contradiction”. In this case the Kingdom of God comes and meets violent rejection. The verse is not about everybody’s scramble to be part of the Kingdom, but in context how the things of God are violently rejected by men, in this case the Pharisees. Never-the-less choose your Prince. The one who rewards in this life alone, or the one who welcomes into eternal dwellings.
The word peace in the Gospel according to Luke is a big word. This was the First Sunday in Advent and the gospel lesson is often the triumphal entry or Palm Sunday. The theological theme of the that text is the Kingship of Jesus. No different in Luke, but Luke adds this strange cry from the crowd leading Jesus into Jerusalem. “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! (Luk 19:38 ESV)” Did you catch the strange word? Peace in Heaven. The entire phrase is an echo of the Angels at Christmas, but instead of peace on earth, now it is peace in heaven. And if you do the word study, roughly midway through Luke you find this, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. (Luk 12:51 ESV)”
The peace of God is not a generic peace. The Angels were never singing just “peace on earth”. They sang “on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased! (Luk 2:14 ESV)” The specific peace is the Kingdom of God, the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The specific peace is one imposed…through grace. You can take it or you can leave it, but you can’t work for it. You can’t earn the peace. The Father just declared it. The war was over on the cross.
The only question is our response. Do we accept the peace, or continue an insurgent war. Which Kingdom do we choose, the Kingdom of this World, or the Kingdom of Heaven. The tyrant Satan or the humble Christ. Choose your prince.