This sermon addresses something that I think we all are falling into wrongly and that is judging people by group standing. With God there is no collective righteousness, neither is there collective damnation. The Lord says, “I will judge each of you according to his ways.” Unlike our natural ways, comparative and collective, God doesn’t engage in comparison. Your neighbor’s sins are nothing but a mirror that reflects our own unworthiness. Your neighbor’s righteousness can’t be transferred to you. What God is interested in is you. None of us will avoid the judgement. The question is will we be found fruitless or fruitful. Whether we are talking about the general providence of God the Father, or the saving grace of the God the son, we have been given our daily bread. We have been given the care and feeding needed to be fruitful, personally fruitful. That starts with repentance. This sermon develops these themes around the parable of the fig tree in the vineyard.
The text for the 2nd Sunday in Lent is the short 2nd part, Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem. But that part is so intimately connected to what came before. It is a meditation and instruction on salvation and will. Someone asks Jesus, “will few be saved?” It’s a comparison question. But Jesus doesn’t deal in comparisons. The salvation of one doesn’t uniquely impact a second. But Jesus doesn’t reject the question outright. That is what we moderns would do. Jesus turns the question toward “will you be part of the saved?” It becomes a personal reflection and chance for repentance. But we moderns reject the entire question. This sermon ponders that conflict with how Jesus approaches the question of salvation. Which eventually ends in the question of will. Jerusalem has a will. And Jesus laments over that. It is also necessary that Jesus go to Jerusalem. This sermon in a mediation on that conflict of wills. The will of God to go to Jerusalem, and Jerusalem’s will.
What this sermon attempts to do is recreate the experience of John the Baptist. For a long time I don’t think this was really possible. We were too comfortable. But today, maybe we can start to hear John. Today we might just be able to listen to a Word in the wilderness.
Ash Wednesday is typically about repentance. Now there are a bunch of ways that our need for repentance can manifest. This is a sermon about what that feeling of weariness that I think we are all feeling it telling us.
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.
I thought hard about preaching on the Epistle Lesson this week – Romans 13. The core of that work ended up as the Meditation in the Bulletin (post below). But I decided two things: 1) Paul’s plain words were clear enough in this time. And give the response of the congregation just to the reading of it, I was right here. 2) Those who need to hear that one are largely not in my pews. So I went ahead with the gospel lesson.
The fundamental structure is between the values of the Kingdom and those of Satan, The World and our Sinful nature. And one of the places this constantly is made real is in the GOAT (Greatest of all time) discussions. We all want our recognition. We want others to recognize us. The call of the Kingdom, the way of the cross, is to humble ourselves to serve God and our neighbor. This sermon works on how that plays out both in time and in eternity for the Sons and Daughters of the Kingdom.
I’m sure that in many pulpits today, in attempts to be edgy and with the zeitgeist of the world, preachers will use this text to promote blasphemy. Which is terrible, because when you allow yourself to hear it, it is the most beautiful witness. If you ask “What is repentance?”, or compare this woman to Peter – the “little faith” one – you see a great witness of faith. That is what this sermon attempts to do. Put this episode in its context and allow us to understand better both faith and how repentance is the ongoing act of faith.
The curse and blessing of a liturgical church. When everybody else has already moved on to Christmas, maybe they’ve been on it for a month, we are still in Advent. The day is often given over to Mary and the magnificat. There is a great recording of our choir singing one of those here. But I’ve been spending time with the minor prophets this season. We’ve been taking them in bible class, and I felt I had to bring one into the pulpit. One more day of blue and purple. One more day of the penitential and the hopeful. Grant me 15 minutes of Advent on this 4 Sunday of the season. We’ve got a bakers dozen for Christmas starting tomorrow.
Advent 2 is John the Baptist week. (Advent 3 would be as well, but that week typically gets taken up by the Children’s program.) And I think that both the Baptist and his message are a little tough for us to understand, although I think we are probably approaching the time and place where they shouldn’t be. They used to require imagination, but the sermon will attempt such imagination is becoming reality. My opening question for you would be: What might make you listen to a street preacher? For I think that is akin to what John is, except that he is wildly popular. That is the space you have to get into to understand the Baptist – where a street preacher is popular. This sermon attempts to paint that picture. It also attempts help us grasp that it isn’t the street preacher antics that make John unique, but the place and the message. Come ponder just what it might the way straight, to raise up the valleys and level the hills, to do so from the desert, to do so with a Word.
Recording Note: The Choice sounded great this morning and I got a good recording, so their piece is in the recording between the OT lesson and the Epistle.
What is the good shepherd? Can we understand it alone, or only is comparison to other things? The Good Shepherd is Jesus himself, but does it have more than romantic meaning for us today?
This sermon obviously answers yes. But it does so through the contrasts that Jesus develops. The Good Shepherd is contrasted both with The Hired Hand and with the Wolves. The contrast with the hired hand is something that Jesus alone fulfills. Christ’s alone are the sheep. The contrast with the wolves is where we have more skin in the game if you would. The wolves do two things: seize and separate. The Good shepherd: lays down his life and gathers. We can give in to the wolves plan, or we can follow the shepherd.
And when we follow the shepherd, we are incorporated into the shepherd. We put down our lives, to take them up for eternity.