A Widow & a Scribe – Vocation and Providence

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

We collected the pledge cards this week. Believe it or not, that was planned before actually looking at the text. If I had looked at the texts first, I’m pretty sure I would have said, “can’t do it that week”.

There is a really crisp and clear direct application that feels just a little too easy. You could say, like Jesus did, look at the widow and go and do likewise. But to me the widow is not where most of us Americans are at. We are not that poor. We are not forced by circumstances to completely trust on the providence of God. Most Americans are more than likely in the scribal position.

So here I concentrated on scribe a little bit more trying to illuminate the vocational problems and the problems with providence. The law in both cases is clear and comes from the larger context. At the start of the larger section the text comes from Jesus answers what the most important commandments are – love the Lord your God and love your neighbor. The first is reliance upon providence and the second is carried out in our various vocations. What the scribe was doing, what we do so well, is instead of using our vocations for our neighbor, we use them to avoid or deny providence. The good news is that none of us have the vocation of messiah. That is Jesus alone. So we are still called to reliance upon providence and vocations of service to our neighbor, but when we fail Jesus is our salvation and our righteousness, because he did not fail.

On a grading note, that above paragraph is a better summary than is probably in the sermon itself. The spirit of the staircase rules this week. As I left the pulpit certain things became clearer. But the Amen had already been said.

Resident Aliens

Full Text

Our lectionary (the assigned readings for the week) is taking us through 1 Peter during the Easter Season. I can’t remember ever hearing a focus on 1 Peter. As I write this now 3.5 weeks into it, I understand that a little better. Peter is very short. You could condense the letter to two very short sentences. God chose you. Live like it.

In a world that is often plagued with doubt, Peter isn’t. He is bold enough to say compare your former life with your current life in Christ. Compare the status craving world running from one idol to the next to your status as God’s chosen. Yes you are resident aliens. You are exiles, but exiles from what? Something that is here today and gone tomorrow. Christ’s election is incorruptible and unfading. Christ has called you and given you an inheritance and has a job for you. Whatever that job is there is nobility in it, because God has placed it in your path. The world will say your odd. Make the comparison. Which is worth more?

As a preaching and denominational note. Even though Luther liked first Peter, the message is somewhat different. The Lutheran pattern is law and gospel. When you have been convicted of the law then the gospel restores. That was Luther’s personal experience. His anfechtung over sin followed by the recovery of the gospel to himself. Lutheran preaching can be caricatured – “make you feel really, really band and then make you feel really, really good.” Peter’s proclamation is Gospel (God chose you) followed by sanctification (live like it). It is a radical dependance upon the Holy Spirit to first call a wavering people to recognition of who they are and second to then live the faith.