The text is the Prodigal Son, so you already know it. It is the gospel. Nothing can separate us from the Love of the Father.
But this sermon wants to meditate on the text in a little different way. How, if we haven’t been conditioned to hear it as we have been, would we hear it? What did the original hearers think? (I think they would have jumped at the two brothers theme. Jesus doesn’t go where an OT raised person would expect. More in the sermon.) What would someone in our West hearing this for the first time think? (I think this might be more common that we know. And I think it would be the absolute Sovereignty of the Father in the story. And the prideful natures of the sons. Again, more in the sermon.) Hearing it new today, yes, it is a parable about love and grace, but it is also a parable about pride. The only thing that separates us from the Love of the Father is our pride. But He is sovereign. And how he has done things, was necessary. And he doesn’t consult us. Do we humble ourselves, or would we rather be outside the party and the love?
The text is one that still has resonance in the popular culture due of Horror Flicks. It is the possession of a man by “legion”. Leaving aside those trifles, the text stands as an important part of Luke’s narrative argument. Jesus has turned to parables, the chief of them the parable of the sower and the soils. The Word is being spread, and its reception is varied. Amid the varied reception, there is also a pattern. Those who should know, do not. Those who would seem to know nothing, are given full healing.
What this sermon attempts to do is examine the assurances of Word in the midst of such variance. That assurance is not some small trifle, but merely the promise of sane peace, and that nothing happens outside the command of heaven. And that command is given for our good.
We observed Ascension Day yesterday. The core teaching of Ascension day is right in the creed. He sits at the right hand of god. Christ reigns. Simple teaching, plenty of proofs throughout history. But there are two standing complaints, both express right away by the disciples. THis sermon looks at both of those complaints. It suggest a reasoning, part of it is where the title comes from. God does not desire courtiers, but Knights of Faith. It ends with a comparison of everything that we might find “more real” than an ascended king with a challenge to compare their realities. When you do that, you’ve answered the second complaint.
The final hymn in our worship I think captures the message of Ascension Day perfectly. LSB 830 Spread the Reign of GOd the Lord. It is also paired with a pretty tuned that I’ve been humming for the last day.
(Recording note: Sorry I forgot to start the system, so I didn’t start recording until the gospel text. The OT and Epistle lesson of the day which I usually include are missing.)
The text might or might not be the familiar episode of Jesus walking on water. In the Gospel according to Mark the story is a little shorter and has a little different purpose than Matthew. Matthew has Peter getting out of the boat. Mark is about Jesus “passing by” and deciding to get into the boat. The two main points from both are: 1) this Jesus is God and 2) trust him, but with different context. The trust in Matthew is more a focus on Peter and hence our ability to trust Jesus in or out of the boat. When we get out, Jesus will put us back in, more like the lost sheep parables. In Mark we have Jesus deciding to get in the boat and those inside deciding how to react to God being with them.
What this sermon does is examine two common reaction to God passing by and the third that he text desires you to do – trust Jesus in calm and in storm. This is looked at in the context of how we pass through life. We have a tendency to sand of the edges and use euphemisms to avoid dealing with the really bad stuff. What Jesus does is not bid us to euphemize ourselves, but to “be not afraid”. The Christian calls a thing what it is. They life in trust that Jesus has this.
First, I love it when the Children’s Choir signs. You can hear them on the Podcast well directed and taught by Mrs. Kristin Bayer who is a wonderful sax player and teacher. (I hope she doesn’t mind the plug.) The simplicity of the songs they sing makes worship and sermon themes very easy to construct. Someone has already done the hard work of distilling a biblical message to a child’s level – I get to piggy back it. And this Sunday had the serendipity to have lectionary texts very easily meshed.
Second, the Lordship of Jesus is something that Reformed usually do better having a strong Sovereignty of God theology. But even they take it in a different direction normally than I think the New Testament does. When most theologians start talking Sovereignty of God it is usually about election or salvation. Everything gets bent to a salvation theology. Not wrong, just not the entire story. The old and new testaments teach that God is actively involved in the world for the benefit of his people. He is not some distant deity. He is not some pull in case of emergency God or a galactic vending machine. He (typically) operates through means – like Cyrus, King of Kings of the Persian empire, or Pilate, Prefect of Judea or you and me wherever we might be.
That gets to that radical nature of “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.” The authority is God’s duly appointed. She is there for a reason. The authority should also recognize they are not an authority grounded in themselves. There is a Sovereign, an active one. All authority is accountable in the Kingdom of Heaven. That is why when the Beatles sing “everything’s gonna be alright” we don’t just tune it out as Pollyanna drivel. Everything’s gonna be alright, because He’s go the whole world in his hands.
The Bible un-apologetically holds that God is Sovereign and that we are responsible. Paul hits that wall over and over in Romans 9 and 10. Romans 9 concludes that it is all in God’s election. Romans 10 says we better get busy spreading the word. I’d be lying if I thought there was really a solution to that. It is the same way that Bible holds that God is unchangeable, and yet he answers prayer.
Romans 10 talks about believing with our heart and confessing with our mouth. Christians actively do that, yet both of those are passively worked in us through the word that has drawn near. Hearts of stone turned into flesh. Halting words made to sing. And its the full person. Not a dry confession without the heart. Not the heart without some content. God takes heart and mind and makes them new.
What you can say is that the Christian can put God against God. The terrible unknowable eternal decrees can be place against the promises and the demonstration of love in Christ. God, you said he did it for all. That includes me. I’ll take that.