This week’s sermon is a little different. I imagine it might come off a little testy. But the text calls for something like this, and the week calls for something like this. And I have a hard time summarizing it other than as a “come to Jesus” moment. The past week – carefully stitched together first – should make clear how hollow we are. Hollow due to trying to live by the letter, live by the law. And what Jesus has to offer is himself – his body as true food and his blood and true drink. And it is only this that will fill that hollowness. And like all calls to a true spirituality, many cannot listen to it. But some hear, and believe, and then know.
Sometimes you have one of those spooky encounters. This includes mine floating in a pool a few years ago. But the points is about the warning and the blessing of being a follower of Jesus. The warning could cause fear, a little like my story. But it shouldn’t, because the blessing is so much greater.
I also left in a great hymn at the end that captures everything. LSB 836
The text is the parable of the talents. We have trouble reading this today I think because the word talent itself has become on English word with a meaning. A specific gloss of this parable is part of our language just in the use of that word, talent. What this sermon attempts to do is hear the parable in parallel with last weeks, and not just accepting the embedded gloss. I did that because that embedded gloss skips the gospel. It delivers the moral punch without pondering the reason why. To me the talents is all about our big choice in this life. Who is God? Is God hard and capricious and untrustworthy, or his He full of steadfast love? Is the economics of the kingdom about scarcity or about love? The amount of talents, the returns, the numbers that catch our attention are so much yawn. What the Lord is interested in is the attitude of our hearts towards him. Do we trust him to do what he’s promised, or not? Are we fearful, or faithful?
The text contains a couple of staple funeral texts. They are more than that, but it is that connection that is part of this meditation. The greatest of the “I AM” statements is the first text – “I am the Resurrection and the Life”. The shortest verse in the bible, “Jesus wept”, is the second. Both of these are part of the larger story of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. And the repeated line is theirs. “If you had been here, our brother would not have died.”
This sermon is a personal reflection on those words. I hope that it carries the gospel.
Worship Note: Two points. First, we got our new organ this week. I believe you might he a much clearer sound. Second, today was a good day to sing some of the great Lenten hymns. The one I left in the recording is LSB 435, Come to Calvary’s Holy Mountain. I believe it carries the themes of resurrection and the life, a God who keeps his promises.
Fear is just not a permanent facet of the Christian life. It is not that we don’t feel it. It is not that we are spared the type of experiences that bring it forward. But the big difference is our belief in the end. The Christian both believes in an author of history, a providential God, and he believes that this providential God loves us and does all things for our benefit. We may fear for a night, but the steadfast love of the Lord is forever. This sermon examines fear, the response of faith with overcomes fear, and how the Christian lives out of that faith instead of fear. As we started Sunday School today, special emphasis is given to that roll of teacher.
(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.
The word cloud are completely random outside of reflecting the usage in the sermon, but I like the one above for two reasons. I went with the black and white because that is how Jesus present having mercy. It is a black and white issue. Not being merciful to your fellow christian is the same thing as cutting yourself off from Christ. The second reason is the order the big words got spit out in. The Mercy flows down from the Lord God to fellows slaves. Fellow slaves become the conduits, the extra nos or outside of us paths of the mercy of God. It is through our fellow Christians that we hear the good news and the absolution of Christ. This sermon reflect on that through the parable of the unmerciful servant in the gospel text for the day.
The text is part of what is called the missionary discourse. Jesus is sending the twelve out to proclaim the kingdom. As part of that sending are some stern warning about persecution. Right next to those stern warnings are some of the most treasured expressions of believers about the love of God. What this sermon attempts to do is demonstrate how this functions as the gut-check of discipleship. Luther explains the first commandment as “we should fear, love and trust God above all things.” The gospel is proclaimed as what the disciple is encouraged and expected to believe about Jesus: about the place of a healthy fear of God, but the primacy of trusting God and his demonstrated love for us in Jesus.
The recording begins with one of my favorite hymns in Lutheran Service Book (LSB #933 – My Soul Rejoices). It is a versification of The Magnificat or song of Mary. We used this as our Hymn of Praise this morning.
Somebody once asked how you judged sermons. Okay, many people did. The funny thing is judging a sermon depends upon the congregation. For example there are three congregations on our corner: Lutheran, Northern Baptist and African American. Not that you couldn’t deliver roughly the same sermon in words before each, but the reaction would be different in each. Part of that is because the sermon is a shared experience. There are a thousand ways that a sermon goes bad and you can diagnose those. But a good sermon is just The Word. How do you know? At the end, you just say “Word”. I just heard truth, more like Truth.
Although not in a Christian context, not even explicitly spiritual, this is The Word. There is something deeply true about this presentation.
At MOOC (massive open online course) Divinity School (Mooc-Div), the seminary of the online future, students will work with degree granting organizations (DGOs) to fashion a seminary education without ever stepping foot on a seminary’s campus, if a campus exists, or meeting any of their professors.
Given the write up, Scot is not too enthused. The CSPP are not happy either. Let’s just say I’m a little different. There are some sad things about the passing of one form of education, but we have to deal with the world as it is. And dealing with that means dealing with two things as far as I can see: 1) the cost of education for something that most of the church considers at best “nice” and 2) what I think is the big opportunity to really tackle the complete breakdown of trust.
Both of these comments assume that this type of thing actually alienates and causes even more hyper-individualism. As far as I’m concerned, in the era of facebook, those are the starting facts. The other item is that I think this might put the focus back on where it should be, the local congregation. The time out of the local congregation would be reduced. And if they were smart the local congregations would use things like this as outreach vehicles. Instead of the prestige and “action” as it were being in going away and being taken out of the congregational context, the congregation becomes the learning community. If I look at history, I think that has been the paradigm in most places. Even at the dawn of the seminary system it was a congregation that “sent their best and brightest” for training expecting them to come back. This would rebuild that trust because the learning is taking place under the congregations nose.