Sometimes you feel like you live in a time of Eli. Just to be clear what that means is old, blind, uncaring, casually cruel, dismissive of almost everything as beyond your ability to do anything or even care. Like Ezekiel staring a valley of dry bones – Can these bones live? And it seems pie in the sky to say yes.
Yet this is how God works. He works by death and resurrection. And the form or the means of God’s work is His word. Just when we might think “the lamp of God” has gone out, it hasn’t, and it calls out “Samuel, Samuel”. And if comes and stands in our presence and speaks to us anew.
The renewal of the Christian life always starts with “Speak Lord, for your servant hears.” That is what this sermon ponders.
The text from Isaiah is one of promise, the anointed one (i.e. the messiah, the royal child) is also the sent one (the suffering servant). The anointed one is sent with one purpose, “to proclaim good news to the poor”. What that means is then accomplished through the purposes of his sending. This sermon walks through that promise. That is the good news which deserves the longest time which answers how Christ binds the broken hearted.
But promises always rest on something. You get the promise from Whimpy and you know you will never see that dime tomorrow. The promises of the messiah rest upon the Character of God who “loves justice…and has made an everlasting covenant.” And attached to this promise and the reassertion of the character of God are a couple of proof points. Israel shall be known by the nations and Israel shall be known as blessed of God. We spend a bit thinking about the promises to physical Israel, and also spiritual Israel, and how these are proofs for us today.
The final bit of the text is the reply of Israel – praise and exaltation.
Biblical Texts: Acts 17:16-31, 1 Peter 3:13-22, John 14:15-21
I gave myself a bit more freedom today. It is hard to describe exactly what I mean. The best I can do is compare proclamation and application. Proclamation is the announcement of what God has to say to sinners. Application is then the “what shall be do” question. I tend to be much more on the proclamation side. That proclamation includes the law – the 10 commandments. My application tends to be big broad strokes or examples. I hope that the Spirit is working in my listeners to bring the seeds planted to fruitfulness. Today though, I felt compelled to talk a bit more about an application. The proclamation is the resurrection life in Christ. The application is how we as Christians approach suffering and risk of suffering in this world. I think we are taking too many of our cues from the world. And we should change that.
It is probably fading from memory, but in the generation passing there was a favorite hymn by lay people that was most despised by clergy – In the Garden. It is the proto-Jesus as my boyfriend song. But it is one that I’ve often thought there was a challenging and orthodox reworking available in its bones. What it expresses is the presence of Jesus with his people. It is expressing the power of the resurrection. Its verse “he walks with me and talks with me…” is the core of what could be. Because that is the core of this text. All resurrection texts speak to the historical reality of the event. They all also proclaim the power of the resurrection to bring us eternal things. What the Road to Emmaus does is show us how this kingdom comes in weakness. While we can’t see him, Jesus walks with us. For a long time, until our faith is strong enough, he walks with us. The reign of the living Christ is one that comes in weakness. Through preaching and teaching. In Word and Sacrament. Things that accompany us. As we are prepared for the full weight of the resurrection to come to us.
We had a glitch in recording today, so I had to rerecord after the fact, but I can’t rerecord the music. And the Hymn of the Day I think was important. Maybe more important that the sermon. This particular hymn is one I look forward to all year. It is a favorite, and I believe it stands up to the best of all time. In our hymnal – Lutheran Service Book 416 – Swiftly Pass the Clouds of Glory. The text is by Thomas Troeger. The music is Love’s Light by Amanda Husberg. It is a gorgeous pairing.
Swiftly pass the clouds of glory. Heaven’s voice the dazzling light/Moses and Elijah vanish; Christ alone commands the height/Peter, James and John fall silent, Turning from the summit’s rise/Downward toward the shadowed valley where their Lord has fixed His eyes.
Glimpsed and gone the revelation, they shall gain and keep its truth/Not by building on the mountain any shrine or sacred booth/but by following the savior through the valley to the cross/And by testing faith’s resilience through betrayal, pain and loss
Lord, transfigure our perception with the purest light that shines/And recast our life’s intentions to the shape of Your designs/Till we seek no other glory than what lies past Calvary’s hill/And our living and our dying and our rising by Your will.
The question I asked in Bible Study to start discussion was “What is the most effective faith killer?” We were looking at the OT lesson for the day (Exodus 3:1-16), and there are a bunch, but what I wanted to build from was phrased by the group as “lack of experience of God”. And there are a bunch of different ways that can come about, but the one I wanted to hone in on was when religion slips into an insider code or a tradition not understood. That is the religion of the Sadducees.
This sermon might be a little rough, but I think it ponders an important point for the church. Has our religion slipped into a barely understood tradition? Is it a code that helps us ID our tribe, but has little to do with our daily lives? We need that experience of God. As Luther would say about baptism, “we daily arise to live before God in righteousness”. Is your religion world weary? Let a little fear of the Lord into your heart.
This is really part two from last week. Jesus is teaching about covetousness and how to avoid it. Last week we under the parable of the Rich Fool we elaborated on two parts: 1) have faith in the providence of the Father and 2) be busy putting what is given to you to work for the kingdom. The third part rests on the character of the Father. And that is what Jesus bids us to ponder – just who The Father is and how he acts. There are potential God’s where covetousness would be justified. But that is not The Father who for a day clothes the lilies in such riotous beauty to make Solomon blush. You think he’s going to do that and not clothe you with the resurrection body? C’mon. He wants to give you all the treasures of the Kingdom. And he does this because he is our Good Father.
I hope this sermon was not a snore. It is one of those that I think is operating at a very simple level, but also I hope operating at a much deeper level. The very simple level is: a problem, a solution, and a wait. This world wears away. Good news, it will end. Until then we watch, never becoming too attached. The deeper level is the juxtaposition the title. Today, this world is an impermanent dwelling that holds within it the permanent. The core of many of the temptations of the devil, the world and our own flesh is that we trade that eternal element for some promise of immortality. I will give you all the kingdoms of the world if you worship me. The glory and fame of all the world can be yours, if you give up eternity, seeing the true God. The sermon attempts to think about this in our vampire stories – the literary example of immortal characters who are caused pain by the eternal or things that contain hints of the eternal. I think there is a great and fruitful contemplation in that juxtaposition of eternity and immortality. We watch because we are looking for eternity while spurning the flimsy offers of immortality.
I didn’t do my normal word cloud for this, instead above is the Icon of Mary Magdalene. She was one of the Mary’s that went to the tomb to spice the body. The icon captures both of those things. In her left is the jar of spice, but in her right is that bright red egg. That egg is a very ancient symbol of the resurrection. That bright red is the blood that bought this day.
The sermon focuses on the uniqueness of Mark. It ends with Mary running from the tomb afraid. It is an existential question. We know what happened with Mary. She took courage and told the others. Mark’s point is a question to us. We’ve seen the empty tomb. We’ve heard the resurrection. It demands we live in hope. Do we take courage? Or do we stay in fear? This Morning is different. Choose to live.
Ash Wednesday is one of the occasional services of the church year. I alter up the text a bit, because I think the assigned texts don’t reflect our actual practice. It is not that the historic practices are bad, just that we don’t do them. I think we might consider them in the right light if we understood the section of the sermon on the mount right after them. And by understood what I really mean is feel cut to the heart by it. That is what this attempts.