Change in the church is always a contentious issue. But even Jesus assumed that it would happen. And the book of Acts gives an example of a significant change. What these biblical texts give us is a Spirit Led pattern. This sermon takes Jesus’ words as the basis and Acts as the enaction of those words. Peter’s “ordered argument” is meaningful. It is not that revelation or vision and experience are meaningless. They are quite meaningful and Peter includes both as part of his argument. But his real argument is “remembering the Word of God.” This sermon looks at Peter’s Spirit led example and encourages us to examine our own changing in the same light.
This Sunday is typically “Good Shepherd” Sunday. The Gospel text comes from John 10. The key verse of that being “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” The first reading assigned in from the end of Acts. And why it is paired up with the Gospel reading is because it is the answer to the natural question: How do the sheep hear the voice? This sermon meditates on the answer based on Paul’s “good-bye” message to the Ephesian Elders.
The assigned texts for the Sunday’s after Easter this year selectively read through a couple of books. The Epistles are coming from the book of Revelation. At least right now I’m trying to write about those in the weekly newsletter. The “first lesson”, replacing the normal Old Testament reading, is a reading from the book of Acts. Acts is a book about the formation and life of the early church. This lessons comes from the first months after the Resurrection. And I think it is worth preaching through Acts at this time. Why? Because I think we in the modern church have lost connection with “all the words of life.” That is what the Angel told Peter and the Apostle’s to go preach when he released them from prison. There are complex words, but it isn’t those we’ve lost, its the simple ones. And that is what this sermon meditates on. What are the simple words that make the church?
The text details a Sabbath Day for Jesus in Capernaum. It is a day full of demons and healing. And what it makes completely clear is that the cosmic battle has come to earth. Christ has come to make us holy. The confrontation in the Synagogue with the demon sets the conflict. The demon thinks that “us” is mankind and the demons. The Holy One of God has nothing to do with that us. But Jesus rejects the demon’s definition of “us”. To Jesus us is God and man, God with us. And Jesus intends to make us holy. And he does this by His word. The sermon examines the authority of that word and what it calls us to be and do.
This sermon is a reworking of one given by Luther in 1523. I took from that one its main points and the general outline. But the flesh of it I had to rework for 2022. I did this because I felt the main point was both one that we rarely hear in churches today and that it needs to be heard. That main point is the reality of testing in the life of the believer and why God brings that into our lives. The biblical basis is Mary’s losing the young Jesus. The second point is where our consolation is found in the midst of testing. Mary searches for Jesus: in the group, among relatives and acquaintances, around Jerusalem before finally coming to the temple. They say that Luther was against allegory, but he could use it well while preaching. This sermon updates his examples for all the places we look for God before going to where he has promised to be.
Recording note: I’m not sure of the complete quality. You might occasionally hear a dropped first syllable, especially after a pause. I think it’s time to replace the mic batteries. That is what tends to happen when they are starting to go. It takes a syllable to recognize line volume again. I only heard a couple, so it doesn’t ruin the recording.
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.
Sometimes the smallest thing in the text can inspire a thought. Here it is the travel notice -“He returned from the region of Tyre through Sidon…”. Jesus goes north to return south. But the travel notice state or implies a much longer journey, something of a great circular route, a long way. But even when you take the long way, you eventually end up where you are going. And that is what confronts Jesus when he completes the circle. It is often what confronts us on our spiritual walk-abouts. When we’ve taken the long way, the spiritual question remains, and how we are going to answer it. That is what this sermon is about.
There is a fundamental conflict in our existence. It was present before Jesus, but in Jesus it has come in its fullness. And that conflict is the one the Elijah fought against the prophets of Baal and against himself. What is more important, what we see, or what has been given us in the Word? It is not that God has not given signs of himself. Elijah saw the fire from heaven. The people ate the bread in the wilderness. But those signs do not sustain forever. We file them away, or can’t process them correctly. Jesus gives to us the Bread of Heaven, the Word, himself. And this sustains on our 40 days and 40 nights here on our journey to the mountain of God, on our way to the Father.
All of Jesus’ parable to some extent are elaborations of the parable of the sower, at least his Kingdom parables. But I feel that is even more the case with the Gospel according to Mark. The Sower and the Soils is Jesus’ picture of the Kingdom in this world. The parables that are part of the text today are refinements or close ups of parts of that parable that answer some natural questions. The early part of this sermon sets that connection because the lectionary jumps right back into the gospel skipping the larger narrative parable.
The questions natural questions that might come up immediately are: 1) to what extent are we responsible for the growth of the seeds? and 2) when the seeds do grow what does it look like? This sermon looks at both those questions through the parables.
The text is from Jesus prayer on Thursday of Holy Week in John. It is picked because this past Thursday was ascension day, the day 40 days after Easter when Christians mark Jesus’ return to the Father. 10 Days later, next Sunday, is Pentecost when the Spirit is poured out. This is promised is Jesus’ prayer. What this sermon does is first reflect on the foundation for the prayer. Jesus prefaces his petitions with some statements. 1) The World and the those he is praying for are at odds, 2) those he is praying for have been chosen by the Father (election) and 3) It is through the disciples he is praying for that he receives glory. Such is the foundation and purpose of the Christian life. In order to live it, because Jesus is leaving this world, he asks his Father to grant his disciples certain things. All these things Jesus considers that while he was in the World He gave them, and he knows that we need them. So he asks the Father.
I have heard many preachers talk about these things, in particular the first one, as stuff the church should be working on. But that would turn them into laws, not graces. Jesus is asking his father for grace for his people. Grace to be one in the name. Which is true not the least in our baptisms. Grace to be kept from the Evil One. Which is true in that the Satan has been bound and has no way to destroy the church in this world. And Grace to consecrated in truth. Which is granted in the abiding word. Jesus’ prayer has been answered.