Authority of the Cross


Biblical Text: Luke 20:9-20
Full Sermon Draft

All of Chapter 20 in Luke is Jesus teaching on proper authority. It is set in the conflict between Jesus and the Temple, and this text is the parable that Jesus uses as the loadstone of the entire teaching. You find true north in regards to authority by pondering this parable.

It happens to be a fortuitous text as the political season moves in strange ways this year. It also comes up at the same time as a situation I have been pondering simmers. This sermon attempts to think through the text and those situations. What it emerges with I hope is a picture of what authoritative leadership looks like. In this world authoritative leadership looks like the cross.

I don’t bring it up in the sermon itself, but Luther once attempted to talk about the marks of the church, how you would find it. His biggest mark was the cross. You will know you’ve found the church when what you are looking at bears the cross. It is only that type of authority and leadership – a leadership that is directed toward God and neighbor willing to bear the burden – that is truly fruitful.

I hope that this is helpful in your meditation. Also, I want to add a note about the recording. This is a re-recording after the fact, because the recording at the time something went wrong. Which is a shame, because the choir sounded wonderful, and we sang one of my top-5 hymns. LSB 423, Jesus Refuge of the Weary. The words are by the original Bonfire of the Vanities Girolamo Savonarola. The author is a cautionary tale. He rose is acclaim and fortune castigating a corrupt authority. He was later hung and burned at the same time. I believe the text of the hymn comes from his prison meditations. It might not be true, but I hear the confession of a man who got lost but came to see the cross anew. A historical support for the limits I attempt to point out in the sermon.

Beware the Scribes


Biblical Text: Mark 12:38-44
Full Sermon Draft

This sermon includes an larger explanation section than I normally try to enter. There are two things that need to be understood to grasp the text. Just what is a scribe in the time of Jesus, and the role of polemic in the ministry of Jesus. And neither of those things are immediately clear to us today. This sermon attempts to alert us. And then it attempts to translate to a more likely modern analogy. More likely than what our simple “religious bad guys” definition would mean. Part of that is drawing some distinctions between scribes and two other groups, Pharisees and Chief Priests, that they are often connect with. As with any speech where you are explaining, you are losing. One thing in hindsight that I would have added might be an elaboration on the “lay holiness movement”. The holiness part includes a code or an imbedded polemic. Every such movement thinks there is something in the society that is drastically wrong. We only call people Pharisees today whose code is obnoxious to us. And we do that because of the success of Jesus’ polemic.

But what this passage really attacks is corruption. Because of the fallen nature of the world, that corruption is inevitable. Even holiness movements are corrupted. The gospel focus is two fold. That corruption will be judged and dealt with. We believe in the life of the world to come. The second part is that we have been freed to make our own choice. We can be complicit in the corruption, or we can live lives of simple faith and charity. Because God sees the widow putting in her mites. Yes, the institution is corrupt. But her heart is not.