Biblical Text: John 1:29-42
I love that gorilla is showing up in the Word Cloud. If you want to know why, you will have to come and see (i.e. give the sermon a listen).
Biblical Text: Mark 8:27-38
Full Sermon Draft
The first natural reaction to suffering is simple avoidance. Run away from it and anyone associated with it. But life is too tough for such a simple strategy to work forever. And too many people suffer for the spoils of society to go to cowards. The second reaction is more nuanced, more full of wisdom, but I’m not sure it is greatly different. We turn our reactions to suffering into a merit game. The merit going to the one who handles and by their handling avoids feeling the suffering. This is partly what is going on in virtue signalling and victim culture. This also goes on in religion and philosophies as diagnosis of problems turns to recommended paths. The sermon highlights two examples.
This is not the way of the cross. Christ did not seek to avoid sufferings, but he embraced it. He did not come to tell us a path, but to give us the way to walk. Not around Calvary, but with it. This sermon attempts to speak without being trite or overly simplistic about that way of the cross.
Biblical Text: John 4:5-26
Full Sermon Draft
The gospel lessons for Lent this year are coming from John and they are emphasizing some of his vibrant characters. Last week was Nicodemus. This week is the Samaritan woman. Next week is the man born blind. These are archetypal meditations. That doesn’t deny their reality has happenings, but in this March Madness season they are the “one shining moments”. We’ve all had them. Those moments that explain so much else. Our problem is we rarely realize it at the time or even close to it. It is only on reflection and meditation that they become clear. And even then it is a personal truth, not Truth. With John as sacred scripture we have Truth.
Thirst is a subject that John’s Jesus talks about three times. Here at the well. He will connect it to the bread of life in John 6:35. And then on the cross. When Jesus talks thirst, he is thirsty to find those the Father desires. He is thirsty to give the gift and reveal himself, to give the spirit and show himself the truth. Jesus slakes our thirst, but he remains thirsty until the Kingdom. He is always thirsty for the lost and lacking to find the well.
Worship Note: I’ve left in our opening hymn, LSB 602, The Gifts Christ Freely Gives. It perfectly sets the tone based on the text. Christ talks about the “gift of God”. Those gifts are revealed throughout his life and empower the life of the church. We sang vs. 1,2,4,5. Another thing that the song reminds me of is the importance of that flesh and blood congregation where those gifts are found. You are invited.
The Gifts Christ Freely Gives – Lutheran Service Book 602
1 The gifts Christ freely gives
He gives to you and me
To be His Church, His bride,
His chosen, saved and free!
Saints blest with these rich gifts
Are children who proclaim
That they were won by Christ
And cling to His strong name.
2 The gifts flow from the font
Where He calls us His own;
New life He gives that makes
Us His and His alone.
Here He forgives our sins
With water and His Word;
The triune God Himself
Gives pow’r to call Him Lord.
4 The gifts are there each day
The holy Word is read;
God’s children listen, hear,
Receive, and they are fed.
Christ fills them with Himself,
Blest words that give them life,
Restoring and refreshing
Them for this world’s strife.
5 The gifts are in the feast,
Gifts far more than we see;
Beneath the bread and wine
Is food from Calvary.
The body and the blood
Remove our ev’ry sin;
We leave His presence in
His peace, renewed again.
Biblical Text: Luke 7:36-8:3
Full Sermon Draft
The texts are following along in Luke’s gospel. What is unfolding is the divide between people who are answering Jesus is “a great prophet” and “God has visited his people”. And what I think Luke is attempting to show is how just answering “a great prophet” is necessary but not sufficient. A “great prophet” faith will fail, and it will often fail before it has even started. That is Simon. He thinks he is sitting in judgment of the prophet, but he has failed to treat Jesus even as a prophet.
I’m not sure I completely got there, but this I think is something the modern church often does. It thinks it is inviting Jesus over, but when it does, it sits in judgment of Jesus. It assumes like Simon that they owe nothing, that God owes them. And consequently it presumes to question the love of God. That is a place where any “great prophet” can go. We ourselves are our own best prophets. And the less the great prophet conforms to our desires, the less He looks like a prophet. We think we are sitting in judgment. The woman on the other hand knew her sins, but she also assumed the love of God. This love is not a complete assumption because she has witnessed Jesus. It is not a compete assumption for us also, because we have seen the cross. The picture as it develops to me is that we should always presume on the love of God. Especially when we don’t understand what is happening or we are undergoing trial. In those times we might question God’s love, but his revelation of self is that whatever we are experiencing will be brought about for our benefit. Such is God’s love.
Biblical Text: Luke 1:39-56
Full Sermon Draft
Luke tells us a couple of things at the start of his gospel. One is the format, he’s telling a specific type of history, a diagasis which the dictionary defines as an orderly narrative. The second thing he tells us is that the eyewitnesses have delivered these stories to him and he’s compiling them. (Luke 1:1-4). It is not provable, but it has long been the supposition that Mary herself was the source for Luke’s first four chapters. (If you look closely at Acts there is probably even a time when Luke with Paul is in Jerusalem at the same time as Mary with John.) The repetition of the phrase “and his mother treasured up these things in her heart” is often taken as the textual signal of the source.
As with most saints, their reality is more interesting and human that the sanitized stories the church often tells. I think that goes in spades with Mary. Mary often gets transformed, like Jesus, into this meek and mild creature. That isn’t the story she tells, or the psalm she sings. These are full throated paeans of joy from someone who has had their dreams of conventional happiness shattered, but replaced with joy in the presence of God and his plan. And that is what this sermon attempts to explore, the source of joy in contrast to happiness. It winds through Dickens as an example of a surprising juxtaposition, but keeps Mary front and center. Joy in the presence of God.
Music Note: I’ve left in our opening hymn, Hark the Glad Sound LSB 349. This is one of the hymns I want at my funeral. The gates of brass before him burst, the iron fetters yield. Sin, death and the power of the devil give way before Christ. I’ve also left in one of the Magnificats or Songs of Mary that we sang today. Mary’s psalm has inspired some of the great hymns of the church as well as the standard chants in Vespers (West) or Matins (East). My Soul Rejoices LSB 933 is a modern text dating from 1991 paired with an older beautiful tune reflecting a little of the plain chant tradition. (I understand the need of publishing houses and hymn writers to have copyright, but it sure makes the sharing of the hymn experience difficult. I almost makes one favor older songs just because they are public domain.) I think both of these reflect the joy of the day even in the midst of Advent waiting and watchfulness.
What do we expect of the Promised Land? What does it mean to be in the presence of the Holy?
When in dialog appropriate and when is confrontation the only course?
The eschatological Jerusalem and the Priesthood of All Believers
Freed for our Neighbor