Beginnings and Endings – A Cruciform Existence


Biblical Text: Mark 6:1-30
Full Sermon Draft

Under the biblical text I put the full text I was drawing from. The reading is only Mark 6:1-13, but I think that cuts off a significant element of interpretation. What we see in this text is Jesus marveling at his rejection by his hometown because of what they “know”. They don’t really know anything, but what they “know” gets in the way of actually seeing. What this represents is the start of the hard opposition and rejection of Jesus. His ministry which has been one of crowds and superficial acceptance up until this point makes a turn toward the cross. At the same time he sends out the twelve. This is the beginning of their ministry. So we have the beginning and the beginning of the end in the same story.

What that highlights for us is the nature of Kingdom growth. The Kingdom grows not because of any individual ministry, but it grows through multiplication, through death and resurrection. A seed falls to the ground and produces a hundred fold. Jesus’ successful ministry healed people one at a time. We he was nailed to a tree, he healed the entire world. God’s power is revealed most sure in weakness, in the midst of the trial. And that is what the stories the church tells, the lives of the saints reflect most clearly.

Recording note: The hymn left in is Fight the Good Fight (LSB 664). The lyrics and the music reflect that cruciform nature of discipleship in this world. Success is not about the outward appearance, but about Fighting the Good Fight, Keeping the Faith, because God’s definition of success is found in Christ.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Zechariah 2:1- 3:10 and Romans 15:1-13

Zechariah 2:1- 3:10
Romans 15:1-13
St. Timothy, Conversion of St. Paul & St. Titus (Church Calendar stuff)
Measuring Jerusalem & Rebuking Satan
The Inclusion of the Gentiles

The Kingdom Bill of Rights – All Saints Celebration


Biblical Text: Matthew 5:1-12
Full Sermon Draft

Nurse Kaci Hickox is a fascinating sign, an almost perfect illustration of this age. What looks like heroic compassion combined with staggering amounts of narcissism and selfishness.

Keying off of her invocation of her rights, this sermon puts forward the beatitudes as a “Kingdom Bill of Rights”. Unlike our typical invocation of rights, which are always about justice for us, the Kingdom rights point always toward God or toward our neighbor. They are costly. They are love. And they are what Christ has done for us.

Being All Saints celebration, this sermon then meditates on how the saints serve the people of God as lights in dark places and tells the story of a couple such lights.

Note: the choir between the First and Second readings of the day is our Children’s Choir.

Google Serendipity

This was the Google Icon this morning. It is sometimes interesting who they pick, but today’s was fascinating. Here is the Wikipedia entry for Nicolas Steno. Here is the Catholic Encyclopedia Entry. What a fascinating life. Lutheran, World Class Scientist, Convert, Priest, Bishop, Pious Ascetic, Missionary, Tragic Death.

This quote found in the Wikipedia entry betrays the lost foundations.

Fair is what we see, Fairer what we have perceived, Fairest what is still in veil.

He never gave up the hunger for truth. And from that quote what you can see is what he believed the foundation of all truth was. The world made sense – was fair, beautiful and true – because God made it make sense. Though parts might be veiled now, there is an order we can perceive.

Sainted by John Paul the Second, feast day Dec 5th.

The Spirit/Saint of the Age

That title is from the philosopher Hegel and it shows up in all kinds of quackery from the Age of Aquarius to Gestalt to whatever movement someone else is pushing. It is a hardy perennial. Probably because we like finding patterns in things and we are social creatures – “it is not good for the man to be alone.”

In seminary a layman from the congregation I was assigned to asked me about the revelations about Mother Theresa. The revelations were her years long feelings of the absence of God. I eventually had two answers. The first was based on experience. Per her report Mother Theresa had a very strong encounter/appearance of the risen Christ. If just based on Peter’s reaction on the mount of transfiguration, many things in the everyday world would seem like God is absent after such an experience. That is one of the dangers of direct revelation, and one the reasons that the church has never based doctrine on any form of continuing revelation. It is personal. My second reaction was very Lutheran. Reading the book that was the basis of the question, it rubbed me that her father-confessors never really seemed to offer absolution. They just encouraged her further in her saintly vocation. The Lutheran in me just want to scream, its grace. She gets this better than you do. She offers it everyday, but nobody is reminding her.

But after reading this there seems to be a third answer. Mother Theresa represents the misgivings of the age.

…[Atheists] experience of God’s absence is a truthful experience, shared also by believers. Faith is not a denial of all this: it is a patient endurance of the ambiguity of the world and the experience of God’s absence….

Now not all believers feel that absence. Many live in a wonderful everyday relationship with Christ. And we shouldn’t privilege one over the other. Not all parts of the body are eyes or feet. But especially Lutherans should be able talk about that absence. Luther called it the hidden God. No matter what you did the hidden God disapproved and hid His face from you. Luther’s answer was the revealed God. The Word of God. When the hidden God was too much, you looked to the cross, to the God revealed in Jesus Christ. You let God fight with God. You let Christ handle the tensions that we have now been justified but not yet glorified.

That post continues with this phrase, “patience with others is love, patience with self is hope, patience with God is faith.” We are saved by grace through faith. In a very impatient age, it seems right that the saint of the age had the patience to keep faithful for years at a time while feeling an absence.