This sermon owes a bunch to Luther’s Postil sermon on this text for this 1st Sunday after Christmas. That published sermon of Luther’s is one of those great overstuffed things. There are about 6 different sermons attempting to break out. In some ways I imagine the great man might have been under some of the similar pressures. He’d probably preached three times in the week already and had a few other things due. And then the next Sunday is there. What do you say? There is always a lot in God’s word, the real work of preaching is picking and expressing one specific thing. But sometimes you just don’t have the bandwidth for that work. So you offer up a smorgasbord.
Solid potato dish – The faith of Simeon & Anna/Joseph & Mary.
Vegetables – The humility of Christ in this group
Fish – Typology, Anna as Old Testament Saints/Temple; Mary as New/Church
Desert (don’t take too much) – Some numbers, 7 & 84
The text is the third parable in a row that Jesus has told to the Chief Priests and the Elders in the temple. By this time the meaning at the time of telling is obvious, but the question is what does it mean on the other side of the parabola’s line of symmetry.
This sermon, with the help of Augustine and Gregory the Great, stakes out what it means for the church. In particular it looks at three things: 1) Where are we confronted with Jesus today?, 2) What do we take the wedding garment as? and 3) Do these things themselves point to something greater? Along the way we tackle a few other modern questions that cling to this parable.
The modern world is one full of distractions. I’m the geek that as a kid you could find reading an encyclopedia. My schoolmates were sure that “Encyclopedia Brown” was biographical. But today I find myself reading a few pages and flitting off to something else. And the Kindle doesn’t help with that. That approach to spirituality and religion goes no place good. Oh you can fool yourself into thinking that you are getting a broader view or are just sharing in the wisdom. The problem is that everything else out there is a shadow compared to the reality of Jesus Christ. That is the Father’s Epiphany to us. Things we saw glimpses of elsewhere we see the fullness of in Jesus. And it takes time to incorporate an Epiphany – sometimes an entire life. Not the least because it usually demands that we change something in ourselves. To accommodate what we have become comfortable with to what Jesus intends. That is ultimately the question of discipleship. Do you want to stick around, go deep, to see the greater things of Jesus? Or is the world’s buffet too tempting?
When I was working in corporate America one of our major activities was fielding the impossible request. When I worked the impossible request was always a balancing of three items: usually increase unit revenue, increase unit gross profit and do that without impacting cross unit sales. All sales were cross unit, so there was always another internal group involved. Getting two out of three was easy. We could always increase our revenue by raising price and the %GP would go up also, but that would hurt ancillary sales. We could raise revenue (by selling more widgets) and leave the other units untouched by taking a hit to our %GP (The revenue per widget was less). We could even leave the other units untouched and raise our %GP by raising price accoss the board (the demand curve was not that elastic), but then our total revenue would decline. We always eventually ended up in “come to Jesus” meetings where the total deal was skinned and the cross unit executives stopped being parochial and had a heart warming kum-bah-yah moment each giving up what they could at the moment. But until that moment, the internal fighting was brutal. We would spend 80 hour weeks making up arguments for why we should get the bigger portion. Just scheduling the meeting was “giving up your side” and no deal could be made until the end of the quarter anyway.
The King of Babylon has a dream and he tells his advisors tell me and interpret my dream. What? How can we know what you dreamed? An impossible request. And this guy is serious as heads were on the line. Daniel and his friends pray, and God reveals the dream. Notice who Daniel gives the credit too and what he tells the king. Nobody here can grant your request. But there is a God who can and has given us the revelation. Daniel confronts the King and tells him this is from God. This guy is fearless. That is not how humans work. But Daniel is not ultimately serving humans. He is a minister to the King, but he serves God first.
In many ways that is God’s impossible request. He says live in the world, but don’t be of it. And we botch that all the time. But, Jesus Christ lived in this world. God lived among us, but he did the will of his Father. Jesus didn’t grab for the glory first. That is what Satan offered him at the start of the Gospels. Jesus lived in this world to the cross to fulfill the Father’s will. Daniel is an OT shadow of that service. Jesus is the fulfillment to for our benefit.