This is a stand alone sermon (most of mine are) but with John the Baptist at the center it is something of a pair with last week. It is a scene of taking stock. John’s in prison and going to lose his head. Has his work been at all meaningful? The one he said must increase doesn’t look exactly like what he was proclaiming the loudest. Jesus, are you sure what you are doing? Is the prophet and his prophetic words true? Does this grace that can be seen in this hour align with that word? How do grace and truth go together? They go together in the one Christ. Blessed is the one who is not scandalized by me.
What exactly is Reformation Day? It has been a lot of things. This sermon mentions a couple of them. But almost of of the alternates are corruptions of what it really was. Which is a recovery of the Apostle Paul. Which is a new birth of freedom in hearing the law and the gospel. It is not just the gospel, although that is the happy best part. It is also the law. The Reformation recovered that 200 proof cask of grace that Paul preached. Christ died for sinners and God’s righteousness is given to you as a gift. You have been made a member of God’s house by God’s choice. And that free gift also frees us to see the law for what it is. It is not a method of saving ourselves. But it is also no longer our writ of condemnation. Yes, we are sinners. But the righteousness of God does not come by the law, but by grace through faith. So we can accept the law as God’s good gift to us for our good. Reformation Day is about the law and the gospel, and how they Reform our hard hearts into hearts of flesh.
The text contains a couple of Jesus’ classic aphorisms, but this sermon really isn’t about those aphorisms. Those aphorisms are given to heighten the shock that the disciples are feeling. They can’t believe what has just happened between Jesus and the Rich Young Man. Even less can they believe what Jesus says about it. Their surprise is our entry to think about our attitude to wealth. How does wealth form the soul? What are the deep dangers that Jesus is warning about? The sermon ponders these. It then follows Peter’s blunt but natural question: who gets it right, the disciples or the rich young man? If you saw Elon Musk walking away, wouldn’t you have some questions about the deal? Jesus’ answer, just like all of Mark Chapter 10, is necessary for the modern church to hear. And it leaves us with stuff to ponder.
The lectionary has us in John 6 for three weeks. It is one of those long watershed chapters. It all takes place in the aftermath of the feeding of the 5000. In the Gospel according to John the feeding and that crowd are a little more specific about their desires than in the other gospels. They wanted to make Jesus their King. But the type of King they wanted was not the King Jesus is. The crowds were seeking, but they were not willing to be found. God was offering the bread of life, but they wanted their bread. This sermon explores that dichotomy.
The day is Pentecost, which for us is also confirmation day. So the message today has three movements. The first is a mediation on what Pentecost means for us with the focus on the distinction between the Holy and the Common. The second and third movements are a pastoral final blessing to the confirmands in the form of a meditation on their assigned confirmation verses.
I’m sorry about the recording quality. I think my microphone cut out somewhere after the readings. The microphone that was capturing the sounds was the altar mic. I’ve tried to compensate. It is not terrible, but this is why I also post the draft.
The text is from Jesus prayer on Thursday of Holy Week in John. It is picked because this past Thursday was ascension day, the day 40 days after Easter when Christians mark Jesus’ return to the Father. 10 Days later, next Sunday, is Pentecost when the Spirit is poured out. This is promised is Jesus’ prayer. What this sermon does is first reflect on the foundation for the prayer. Jesus prefaces his petitions with some statements. 1) The World and the those he is praying for are at odds, 2) those he is praying for have been chosen by the Father (election) and 3) It is through the disciples he is praying for that he receives glory. Such is the foundation and purpose of the Christian life. In order to live it, because Jesus is leaving this world, he asks his Father to grant his disciples certain things. All these things Jesus considers that while he was in the World He gave them, and he knows that we need them. So he asks the Father.
I have heard many preachers talk about these things, in particular the first one, as stuff the church should be working on. But that would turn them into laws, not graces. Jesus is asking his father for grace for his people. Grace to be one in the name. Which is true not the least in our baptisms. Grace to be kept from the Evil One. Which is true in that the Satan has been bound and has no way to destroy the church in this world. And Grace to consecrated in truth. Which is granted in the abiding word. Jesus’ prayer has been answered.
The Jonah story is so much more than just a fish tale. It is a tale of repentance. It is a tale of what moves God. It is a tale of prophets going the wrong way while everyone around them goes the right way. It is a tale about learning to desire grace. It is a tale of seeing the signs and applying them to ourselves. It is about walking in joy even if the way is strange and hard. In short it is a tale of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. This sermon attempts to bring that stuff into the foreground, and put the whale in background.
The recording is the full lessons and carol service. The sermon though I believe is a good one for this year of many changes. A Christmas Eve reflection on the roll of memory, ritual and God’s repeated announcements of his grace. Merry Christmas. Time to get home to the kids.
Recording Note: We had a snafu on recording live, so this recording is an after the fact re-recording. Lessons and sermon only.
The text is the parable of the talents. And we often get lost in pondering the talents themselves. So much so that the word, which originally was just a measure of weight of precious metal, now means abilities. That gives us an insight into how this parable has shaped in influenced our very language.
But the parable really is not primarily about our actions, but about our beliefs that drive those actions. It wants us to ask what do we believe about our master, Jesus. Do we live in the grace and love of God such that we immediately try to do his will, working the talents? Or do we think he is “hard” and merciless? It is a parable that tells us about God and holds a mirror up to our heart’s understanding of God. Will we have such a Lord as Christ?
The entire life of Jesus is a revelation of the heart of God, so the Matthew 19 text is a glimpse into how Jesus treats all of his children which is as individual souls and mindful of their eternal fate. Which is nothing like our modern obsessions with care and fairness. And I don’t really want to be too hard on care and fairness. Because it is not that God doesn’t care, or that he isn’t fair. It is that his care and fairness so exceed ours as to make us look like barbarians.
God’s care is not about indulging our temporal and usually spiritual desires. God’s care is his eternal faithfulness. When God promises something, you can take it to the bank. Hell is perfectly fair. The punishment always fits the crime. God is graceful, granting to us what we don’t deserve.
So in this time of work, this time under the cross, God’s care and fairness and seem contrary to ours. But that is because we don’t understand what we have been given. We don’t understand the joy of working in THE vineyard. That is what this sermon attempts to think about. How God has given us so much more and better than what our hard hearts would demand.