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.
This text in my reading is really about one thing, Jesus’ definition of the office of Christ and its work. To understand Christ and his work requires for things.
1) Christ works in and through His church
2) That Church will not fail
3) It will not fail because to it has been given the key of heaven, the forgiveness of sins
4) That forgiveness was won on the cross
This sermon is an exploration of those points and how those point all rest on the rock of confessing Christ and the cross.
Worship Note: We lost a memory card, so this is a recording after the fact. Which means we lost the great music we had in church today. Great Day: LSB 609, 949, 645, 575. Moral? Come to church!
The Gospel of Mark, per the early church, is the memories/sermons/stories of Peter written down around the time of his death. And I tend to think at the close of sections, like today’s text, you can see just the way memory works. The big story about a point is told, but there are a bunch of smaller sayings and stories that rush into the mind afterward. Those other stories and sayings are important, you can’t imagine the full story without them, but they are footnotes or modifiers on the larger points. After being put in their place about status positions this text modifies just how disciples are to walk with each other. The main modification is an acceptance that the Kingdom is something larger that one tribe or expression of it. But that modifier deserves a second, a don’t let your brains fall out. While you can find joy in an expression of the Kingdom that isn’t yours, the church still has boundaries. Those boundaries involve sin and truth. The church is a community of truth and as such is calls out sin. It doesn’t just accept it as a different expression of church. And the teachers of the church have a scary role in that that could end in millstones and deep water.
The sermon attempts to have an artistic flair. Parts of a one man show, the remembrances of Peter. And those remembrances are brought forward in application to our situation. I’ve succeeded if you’ve heard the voice of the Apostle.
Music Note. I left in the recording our hymn of the day which is in my top 5 hymns. My guess is that you wouldn’t here this one in many churches and definitely not in the local mega-church. Mainly because it is a little slow do develop and has a strong poetic structure. The first three verses get darker before the last three speak of our reality in God. It fit with my understanding of these verses. Yes, we will all be salted with fire, but that is as the living sacrifices. We walk toward truth and peace which is with Jesus and heavenward all the way. Even in the midst of trial. I Walk in Danger All the Way, Lutheran Service Book 716.
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.
The text is part of what is called the missionary discourse. Jesus is sending the twelve out to proclaim the kingdom. As part of that sending are some stern warning about persecution. Right next to those stern warnings are some of the most treasured expressions of believers about the love of God. What this sermon attempts to do is demonstrate how this functions as the gut-check of discipleship. Luther explains the first commandment as “we should fear, love and trust God above all things.” The gospel is proclaimed as what the disciple is encouraged and expected to believe about Jesus: about the place of a healthy fear of God, but the primacy of trusting God and his demonstrated love for us in Jesus.
The recording begins with one of my favorite hymns in Lutheran Service Book (LSB #933 – My Soul Rejoices). It is a versification of The Magnificat or song of Mary. We used this as our Hymn of Praise this morning.
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 people see that word Confession and think the Roman Catholic rite of penance or those booths with a little sliding door to talk through. Lutherans have what is most likely an archaic definition. Confession is to publicly profess one’s beliefs; to lay out before people this is what I believe. At St. Mark’s we weekly confess one of the historic creeds. That is the core of our catholicity. As LCMS Lutherans we hold to the Book of Concord as our fuller confessional document. Within that book is something called the Augsburg Confession. Lutherans of all stripes like to claim that one. And that one is something special. It was written by Philip Melanchthon. Philip was Luther’s right hand man, but he was also a layman. Also Philip was not the person who publicly confessed it. Those were an important group other laymen. The top of the list was John the Duke and Elector of Saxony, but it also included the senate of Reutlingen (town Burghers). They did this at an imperial meeting before the Emperor Charles V who in no way wanted to hear it. The Augsburg is unique in its simplicity and lay-lead nature.
This was brought to mind after reading this and watching the video below.
I don’t quite know how 25% of the nation think Mr. Obama is a muslim. I’m more staggered at this quote, “Fewer than half of Democrats and African-Americans, core components of Obama’s political base, correctly identified Obama as Christian.” And I wonder what drives that. In a darker mood I’d posture that it is becoming tougher to be a religious person on the political left, and those on the left have a hard time seeing Mr. Obama as a Christian. If that is true, that is not a good for the faith. As Cardinal Wolsey would quip, “would I had served my God as well as my King, He would not have given me up in my gray hairs.” A Christian party usually ends up serving the party and smearing Christ.
It is not the Augsburg Confession and this is not 1530, but in its way, this is a public confession. [Highly personal, not overtly doctrinal and slips into generic God, but he is a politician who needs votes at a prayer breakfast. It is clearly informed by mainstream American Protestantism in its words and emphasis and cadence. It goes beyond simple civic religion just by using the word Lord. It has the basics – sin/forgiveness, a personal God, a continued walk of discipleship.]
UPDATE: Anyone who might doubt my darker mood statement, or go the other way and think that crediting the words as confession should read this from a Georgetown prof.
Raging Christ-fest? While the president thankfully steers clear of “Christian Nation” rhetoric, there was simply too much of Obama the Christian yesterday…Such a nation, one would hope, would be led by a person who understands that this type of rhetoric can be deeply troubling to those who don’t believe in Christ. Just as it may offend those Christians who believe that Christ’s teachings tend to become distorted when they are mouthed by the worldly powers that be.
1. America is a liberal Catholic publication. It might go too far to say that they are proud supporters of the cafeteria, but they have problems with certain doctrines that are not changing.
2. That said, this article is heart rending. You can’t read it and not hear the true love for Christ represented in the devotion to the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper), and in some sense for the church itself.
What doctrines are immediate disqualifications (gross error)? What ones do we need to be able to say, ‘you know, we disagree, but I can see your love for Christ and we need to continue to walk together?’ How does that impact a Eucharist, a communion? If you say that you have to be united in confession (a strict LCMS teaching), are we ever united in confession on all doctrines? Isn’t that obsession the problem with the Pharisees – always on the outlook for minor errors but missing the big things?
This has been a heart-wrenching time for the practice of my faith. A confession: For the first time in over thirty years of active, committed, adult Catholicism, I have weighed leaving the Church. I don’t mean considered the option: I mean really wrestled with the idea that perhaps God is calling me to leave the Church I love as a statement of conscience.
I love the Church because I believe in the Eucharist. I know that’s how Jesus feeds me. I find that going to Communion is a visceral experience, as well as a spiritual one: when I eat Christ’s body and drink Christ’s blood, I feel full. Sated. And for a few moments, like I’ll never have to eat again…