Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pentecost 8 Sermon -- Mark 6:45-56 (LSB Proper 12B)

July 26, 2009 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

“[Jesus] saw that [the disciples] were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.”

The Psalmist wrote: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever. . . . To Him who alone does great wonders, for His steadfast love endures forever. . . . To Him who spread out the earth above the waters, for His steadfast love endures forever.” The Lord God’s actions receive thanksgiving, for they show His steadfast love for His creation, especially for His people.

Part of the Lord God’s steadfast love is the deliverance that He brings for His people. The Old Testament Reading mentioned Noah and his sons. These four, along with their wives, were spared from the Great Deluge by the Lord God’s actions. He instructed Noah to build the ark, using Noah to preserve “the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth.” The Lord God’s people would not perish from the face of the earth, as He preserved them in the ark. Through Noah’s descendants, the world would be repopulated. But more importantly, through Noah’s line, the Redeemer of the world would arise, just as the Lord God had promised in His steadfast love to His first people, Adam and Eve.

That promised Redeemer is seen in the Gospels, just as He was seen in the Gospel Reading for today. Who teaches the crowds, feeds the crowds, and sends the crowds on their way? It is the Lord God Incarnate who does so. He shows His compassion and mercy—His steadfast love—to them, not turning the crowds away. Their plight is answered by the Lord God’s actions and is reversed. So it was for all who encountered Jesus and asked for His aid. The scene depicted by the Gospel Writer is not unique; it occurs often to Jesus: “Wherever He came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored Him that they might touch even the fringe of His garment. And as many as touched it were made well.”

But what about those Twelve who had been traveling with Jesus? The past weeks, you have heard several things about them. They were sent by Jesus to proclaim repentance of sins, which they did. They were instructed by Jesus to travel across the Sea of Galilee, which they did. They were commanded by Jesus to feed the crowd, which they did. They were told by Jesus to gather up the leftover food, which they did. And they were directed by Jesus to get back in the boat and sail to Bethsaida, which they did. In all these acts, the Twelve are seen as obedient people of the Lord God. But are they recipients of His steadfast love: His pity and mercy?

Reading Mark’s account, it can initially appear that the Twelve were abandoned by Jesus: “He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowd. And after He had taken leave of them, He went up on the mountain to pray.” Go and sail, while I stay here. And just how does that sailing go? Not well. “They were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them.” Their efforts done in obedience to Jesus’ command had not brought success. An entire night goes by, and the Twelve had not made it across the lake. Hours of struggling, and Jesus is nowhere to be seen. He cares for the crowds, but will He care for His disciples?

But Jesus does not abandon the Twelve. He sees their plight, and He answers it: “He saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night, He came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them. . . .” Jesus’ steadfast love for the Twelve drives Him onto the lake. To aid His people, Jesus will do the supernatural and miraculous, striding across the waves to get to the disciples’ boat. He will not let them perish; He will not abandon them to their fear and despair. Even in the midst of the disciples’ fright, Jesus says to them: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Jesus gets into the boat with them, to bring their travails to an end.

In a similar way, Jesus provides aid to you. Some of that aid happened well before your existence. The Lord God’s deliverance of Noah and his family benefits you. You live because the Lord God allowed Noah and his sons to live and because of His covenant promise: “The waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.” Jesus’ walking on water benefits you. You have life because the Lord God did not allow the Twelve to drown in the Sea of Galilee, but brought them to the other side. From their mouths, eternal life through Jesus’ words and works would come to your souls.

But not all of Jesus’ actions for your benefit are in the past. He acts for your salvation here and now. It can be said that Jesus gets into the boat with you. It began before your birth, as the Lord God took on human nature to live as a fellow man. Such was “the breadth and length and height and depth” of Christ’s love, as the Apostle Paul wrote. The Son of God comes where humanity is suffering and where their struggles could never bring success. Where the waves of sin, death, Satan, fallen human nature are present, working against all human welfare, Jesus steps in to bring them to an end.

That is what Jesus does in your lives today. But it is not always evident. Your lives are no different than the sailing voyage of the Twelve. You know the Lord God’s will. You know what He has commanded you. You know that you are one of His people and you want to fulfill His desire for you. You know that a covenant has been made with you, that the waters of Holy Baptism brought you life and made you an heir of the Lord God’s kingdom. And so, you go into the boat and begin the journey that the Lord God has set out for you.

But what happens? Everything works against you. You begin to travel on the journey of new life, but your own flesh and blood work against you, wanting to go other ways. You point the bow of the boat in the proper direction and start rowing, but obedience to the Lord’s will brings difficulties and troubles from others. You travel with other disciples of Jesus and quarrels break out in the boat. Disease and illness make the rowing arms grow weak. The destination on the other shore never seems to get any closer. Waves of doubt crash over the sides of the boat as you wonder if Jesus really is who He says He is, as you want to see evidence of His power and ability now like the crowds in Galilee did. The temptation to ask, “Why did I even get into this boat in the first place?” hangs around you.

In those moments, in the fourth watch of your night, Jesus often comes. His words are remembered. But in the knowledge of sin, knowledge of your own faults and shortcomings, the sight of Jesus can be frightening. You act like the Twelve in the boat: “When they saw Him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw Him and were terrified.” Seen through the prism of your imperfection, the Lord God’s appearance is like a harbinger of doom, the moment before a dreadful end.

But Jesus’ presence is not to portend ruin. No, in the midst of the waves which rock the boat of His Church, Jesus is present to show His steadfast love. He is there to bring aid to you and all His disciples who cannot reach the other shore by their own efforts. As the waves of sin, death, and Satan’s temptations crash over His disciples, Jesus is there to remove the fear and dread. Immediately He speaks, saying: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And He acts to fulfill that command to courage.

Jesus says to all in the boat: “I have overcome these things. You are forgiven of you faults. Your journey will come to its intended end, just as I have willed it. I am here in the boat with you, and I will never abandon you. I am the God of gods, the Lord of lords, who alone does great wonders for My people. My love for you endures forever.” Jesus displays the signs of His covenant with you, to remind you of what He has done and does for you: “Here is the water which washed away your sins. Here is My hand which touches you and makes you well from your disease. Here is the bread and wine which carry My forgiveness, life, and salvation to you. Your eyes may not see, but I am present with you in these things. You have nothing to fear.”

So Jesus comes to you supernaturally and miraculously in His words and signs. He will not let you perish. He will not abandon you to your fear and despair. He will not let the waves of this life keep the boat of His Church reach the others shore. His will for His people will be done, for it is the God of god and Lord of lords who desires it for you. He is able to do far more abundantly than all you ask or think. And His steadfast love for you endures forever. So take heart and do not be afraid, for the Lord Jesus has climbed into the boat with you, having walking on the waters, placing His name on you, and promising you the blessed end of everlasting life.

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pentecost 7 Sermon -- Mark 6:30-44 (LSB Proper 11B)

July 19, 2009 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

“Many saw [Jesus and the Twelve] going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things.”

Children without parents. Tourists without a guide. Students without a teacher. Soldiers without a captain. Groups who lack a leader suffer many problems. There is a dependence upon guidance and wisdom, for someone to provide expertise that the group members do not have. This is especially so for flocks of sheep. Sheep without a shepherd will be in grave danger. No one will lead them to safety. No one will guide them to safe pastures. No one will keep the wolves at bay. Instead, the sheep will be left to ineptly fend for themselves.

The Old Testament Scriptures use the term “shepherd” as a way to speak about the leaders of the Lord Gods people, Israel. Even from the time of the Exodus, the leader of the Israelites was compared to a shepherd. When discussing his successor, Moses asked the Lord God: “May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the Lord will not be like sheep which have no shepherd.” When David was anointed king, the leaders of Israel said: “For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.”

So the kings of Israel were to care for the people. That was the Lord God’s will. But as is seen all too often in the Scriptures, what the Lord God desires is not always fulfilled by His people. The kings of Israel were no exception. In fact, they were usually the worst offenders. By the time of Jeremiah’s life, these kings had all but totally abandoned the Lord God’s covenant and their responsibilities for the spiritual and physical welfare of the people. So the Lord God speaks against them: “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” He promises them retribution: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord.”

But the Lord God’s character is not vindictiveness and anger alone. Where these are required, He will show them. However, it is His character to be compassionate and merciful. He wants what is best for His people. So when the Lord God sees His people abandoned, He removes the poor shepherds, so that new shepherds can be appointed: “I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.” By the appointment of new shepherds, the Lord God provides for the welfare of His sheep, the people of His flock.

The care which the Lord God has for His people always has a spiritual and eternal character. He does provide for physical well-being, but His greatest care is for the salvation of His people. That is why He was so angry with the kings of Israel who had instituted idolatry in their land. So when the Lord God takes on human flesh and walks among His people, He also provides for their physical and spiritual welfare. This we see in the actions of Jesus in today’s Gospel Reading.

You heard how Jesus went away with His disciples for a time of rest: “The apostles returned to Jesus and told Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’” But what Jesus encounters drives Him to compassionate action: “When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things.” Faced with the wandering people with no leader, Jesus shows His character: He acts for their benefit. He does what had been promised by the Lord God centuries before. Jesus becomes the shepherd who cares for these Galilean Israelites, teaching them the ways of the Lord, as well as providing food for their hunger.

Why Jesus acts this way is critical to understanding His identity and mission. It is Jesus’ goal to redeem, to rescue, to provide aid for those who cannot help themselves. The people whom Jesus encounters on the lakeshore need His help: “They were like sheep without a shepherd.” The crowds needed someone to remind them of the Lord God’s covenant with them. They needed the wisdom which Jesus possessed: the words of eternal life. They needed to hear how their sin, their guilt, their imperfections could be removed from them. But all these needs could not be met by their efforts, so “[Jesus] began to teach them many things.” Jesus meets their needs by declaring His words to them.

As the teaching continued, another need of the crowds arose: “When it grew late, his disciples came to [Jesus] and said, ‘This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.’” But Jesus continues to show His compassion for the crowds. Though the people could not provide a meal for themselves nor could the Twelve disciples, Jesus could: “Taking the five loaves and the two fish He looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And He divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied.”

This event in Christ’s life shows His interest in the spiritual and physical welfare of His people. The compassion and pity that Jesus shows to the crowds is what He shows to all sinful humanity. Jesus saw the crowds in Galilee as “like sheep without a shepherd.” But that is how Jesus sees all humanity. Viewing the cosmos caught up in sin and death and a lack of true knowledge of the Lord God, He enters the creation and becomes part of it in order to deliver it. Jesus shows compassion for you, so that you will no longer be lost, but be part of His flock. This is not what you could achieve, but what the incarnate Lord God achieves for you.

Recall again the Lord God’s promise through the prophet Jeremiah. After speaking about new, earthly, human kings which He would appoint for His people, the Lord God includes another, greater promise: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which He will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” That great Messianic promise is what Jesus fulfills.

The Son of God and Son of David who is raised up does what is impossible for you. Driven by His compassion as He saw you as sheep without a shepherd, He became your servant. Jesus gave Himself, His efforts, His life for you. Offering Himself in atoning sacrifice for you, Jesus made up for your sin, guilt, and imperfection. Everything which kept you from righteousness and true knowledge of the Lord God has been overcome by Jesus’ work. This was not done begrudgingly, but out of His pure goodness and mercy.

But like the crowds in Galilee, you also go to find Jesus where He is. You seek Him to help, just as they did. And seeing you, He has compassion on you, for you are like sheep without a shepherd. Without His continual presence and giving of forgiveness, you would still be lost. But your Lord has made it so you are not left abandoned. He still teaches you many things, so you receive what His words declare: your sin, your guilt, your imperfections are removed. He still takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it out; you can eat and be satisfied by receiving forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation through His Body and Blood given in death for you. His goodness and mercy follows you all the days of your life, so that you may dwell in His house forever.

All this the Lord Jesus does for you because of His compassion and pity. He fulfills the promise that His Father has made for you: “I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.”

What the Lord God promised has been accomplished for you by the incarnate Lord God: the One who took upon human nature, the One who saw the crowds and took pity on them, the One who sent His apostles and their successors with directions to care for His people, the One who provides for the needs of body and soul, the One called “The Lord is our righteousness.” So you may be brought to the promise of everlasting life “with the saints and members of the household of God,” those who have received the compassion of Christ.

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pentecost 6 Sermon -- Mark 6:14-29 (LSB Proper 10B)

July 12, 2009 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

“It was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her.”

Speaking truth to power is a dangerous enterprise. At times, it can bring great glory: the Founding Fathers who listed their grievances against George III are enshrined in the hearts and minds of Americans, as well as having a secular temple in honor of them. But for every individual or group which is successful doing the same, there many more who suffer great negative consequence for their actions. History is littered with records of protests which failed and were crushed by those in authority.

The speaking of truth to power is dangerous within the secular realm. But it can be even more dangerous within the spiritual realm or where the secular intersects with the spiritual. That is clearly shown in the readings for this Sunday: the accounts of Amos the Prophet and John the Baptizer. Both were charged with the task of speaking the Lord God’s word of judgment—a message of truth—to monarchs of Israel. And both of these divine spokesmen suffered the consequences of doing so.

The Lord God had chosen Amos to tell of the destructive fate of Israel and its king, Jeroboam: “Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of My people Israel; I will never again pass by them; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.” Compared to the plumb line of the Divine Law, the house of Israel was crooked, leaving the straight and narrow. For their abandonment of the Law and the Covenant that the Lord God had made with them, Israel would go into exile, losing its place as the protected people of God.

But what does Amos get in return for his trouble, for speaking the truth to power? He is attacked by the leaders of the spiritual community, as well as the political elites. Amaziah, the court chaplain who led Israel in idolatry, tells Amos: “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” Amos is accused of seditious talk against Jeroboam. And in the records of Church Tradition, it is said that Amos was given a mortal blow from Hosiah, the son of Amaziah. Instead of repenting of their sins, the house of Israel kills the prophet who brings that true message of divine judgment.

In a very similar way, John the Baptizer was chosen by the Lord God to speak the same message of repentance. From the annunciation of John’s conception, his mission was foretold: “He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before Him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” The Baptizer would speak a message of indictment against those who had broken the Divine Law, so they could repent and return to the Lord God’s will.

So when the news of Herod marrying Herodias, the wife of his brother, came to John, he was quick to speak truth to power: “John had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’” The Baptizer points out Herod’s sin: his marriage was not right. But what does John receive for his trouble? “Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death.” And when the opportunity presented itself through the foibles and faults of Herod’s character, John was beheaded.

For Amos and John, like many of the Lord God’s prophets, death came when they dropped the hammer of the Divine Law against the targets who needed to receive it. But their actions were meant to be: they were given the charge to do so not by any ordinary man, but from the Lord God Himself. Regardless of their fate, Amos and John were bound to fulfill the command they were given. Such a task was part of their divinely-given identity.

As part of your identity as Christians, you also have a similar task to speak the Lord God’s will to people, even people of power. It isn’t a general task, but one that applies within your particular vocations. When your civic leaders enact unjust—not simply unwise, but unjust—policies, you are to speak out. This includes policies which deny the divine institution of marriage or which lead to the destruction of human life. It also includes when the government unjustly takes people’s property or liberties, and when courts render unjust or biased verdicts and decisions. These are times to speak publicly the Divine Law to leaders.

But speaking divine truth to power is not limited to government as a target. It is also applicable to capitalists and industrialists in the private sector when they act unjustly against employees and customers. And lest one thinks that the Church gets a pass, bishops also must hear the Divine Law when they make unjust decisions. Congregations which wrongfully remove ministers must also be indicted by that same law. When false teaching is heard from the pulpit, preachers must also be corrected. There may be negative consequences, but like Amos and John, you must speak.

However, the only way that this is possible for you as Christians is when you have heard the same Divine Law with your own ears. One must know what the Lord God’s will is before daring to speak it to others. Recall what happened to Amos and John: both received the Holy Spirit when they were called to be the Lord God’s spokesmen. Amos spoke about his calling: “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’” The angel Gabriel spoke about John before his birth: “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb.” By this, Amos and John were given knowledge of the Lord God’s will.

You also have been given the same knowledge. From the proclamation of the Scriptures, you have heard the decrees of the Lord. From youth—either physical or spiritual—Christ’s followers are taught the Ten Commandments. You heard the “Thou shalts” and “Thou shalt nots” from the Lord God’s mouth. These aren’t simply moral teachings; they are indictments against your behavior. The Lord God tells you: “It is unlawful for you to trust in other gods, to misuse My Name and truth, to ignore My Word, to disobey those I place in authority, to harm your neighbor, to abuse your sexuality, to take possessions of others, to lie and slander others.” Each time that you do so, the Lord God points out your sin as His Law is replanted in your heart and mind.

But like the judgment which Amos and John spoke, the Lord God’s conviction of you is meant to bring you to repentance. The Lord God shows you your error, convincing you that your thoughts, words, and deeds were faulty. But He also intends to have you turn to Christ for forgiveness and to lead to a correction in life. There is to be a change in hear and mind, as well as a change in the direction of life. The Lord God does not desire to condemn people and leave them without hope; rather, He wants them to seek Him alone for a remedy. And He provides that remedy: He grants salvation by the application of Christ’s merits through the spoken and visible Word. As this is done by the Holy Spirit working through that Word, the change in people takes place: the sinner is made righteous, sinful lives are abandoned for holy living.

As this Spirit-driven change has taken place in you, knowledge of the Lord God’s will has been given. Not only do you know it, you want to follow it. And it is also your desire that others would follow it, too. So as you understand the Lord God’s morality and His desire to turn people to repentance, you can speak that truth to power and weakness, to the elite and commoner. For they all need to hear how they have acted unjustly, so that they can be led to adjust their thoughts, words, and deeds through the work of the Holy Spirit in them. You can speak the words of Divine Law, regardless of the consequence, boldly speaking as the Lord God has called you to do so.

But even greater than the act of speaking the truth of the Divine Law is something that only you as Christians can do. The unbeliever may be able to grasp the Lord God’s morality, but only those who have been called by the Holy Spirit to believe in Jesus Christ can speak of salvation. Those who hear you speak judgment can also hear you tell of forgiveness, just as St. Paul spoke to the Ephesians: “In [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

Just as much as the world needs to hear you speak the truth of God’s Law, even more it needs to hear you speak “the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” For it is only that which brings pardon for all the unjust things which you and every sinner does. May you be emboldened by the Holy Spirit to believe and to speak both truths to power until the day when you receive the promised inheritance with Amos, John, and all whom the Lord God has called.

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pentecost 5 Sermon -- Mark 6:1-13 (LSB Proper 9B)

July 5, 2009 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

[Jesus] went about among the villages teaching. And He called the Twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.

Those whom the Lord God sends out to proclaim His Word carry authority with them. They are given what is necessary for them to fulfill the task that is divinely assigned. This was the case with Ezekiel, the Twelve, St. Paul, and even Jesus. Though each of them comes from a different background, each possesses the Spirit of the Lord God and the authority which comes with it.

When Jesus entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, He came to teach the people. Jesus was present to speak about the Lord God, what He had done for His people, and what He promised to all who believe in Him. That was His task on that particular day, as well as His entire life. Throughout Galilee, Jesus attracted great crowds as He proclaimed the message given Him to speak. Still others came to Jesus’ presence as He did great wonders accompanying His proclamation.

But when Jesus attempts to do so in His hometown of Nazareth, He gets no positive reaction. The people of Nazareth had heard of what Jesus had done all over Galilee. They ask: “How are such mighty works done by His hands?” Yet the people are not willing to receive His message. They wonder in astonishment: “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to Him?” Jesus’ proclamation is impressive; His teaching is full of divine wisdom. But the people doubt that Jesus knows what He says or has the ability and right to say it.

Instead of hearing the words about the Lord God and His great acts and His merciful promises, the people of Nazareth get wrapped up in the speaker. They ignore the message and agonize over the messenger: “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” Rather than hearing with gladness the magnificent proclamation which Jesus has to give, “they took offense at Him.” Their obsession with the person of Jesus kept them from receiving His message.

This is a problem that can affect you also. You can become so concerned about the messenger that the message is never heard. The answer to the questions which the Nazareth worshipers had about Jesus is quite simple. Jesus gets His teachings, His wisdom, and His ability to do mighty works because He is the incarnate Son of God and He carries the Holy Spirit as the Christ. That is His true identity. That is the true person of Jesus. He is the carpenter and His siblings live in Nazareth, but He is much more than that.

Because Jesus carried the Holy Spirit and the authority of His Father, He could speak and do such things. On the surface, He looked like any ordinary Galilean man. But the office entrusted to Jesus by His Father, the Lord God, makes Him special. It is parallel to what you heard in the other readings: Ezekiel’s being made extraordinary by the call of the Lord God; Paul’s being made extraordinary by the revelation and vision of Christ that he received. Jesus’ office as the Christ made Him unique. Yet, the people of Nazareth could not accept this.

As mentioned earlier, the same problem can affect you. There are many people who hold offices with divine authority and sanction. They are ordinary people, at times even unimpressive people. Yet the Lord God’s choice makes them extraordinary. By virtue of the office which the Lord God has conferred upon them, they are not common. But how often people sinfully focus on the individual instead of the office!

You have a bad habit of considering the person instead of their position. Government leaders are dishonored by your comments about their person because you disagree with their ideology. Employers are disrespected by you because of their lack of good interpersonal relations. Parents are considered by you to be good based upon their skills or their dedication to their children. Spouses are deemed valuable when they meet your expectations. Even the clergy are received by congregations based upon their personality or charisma.

But these types of evaluations miss the importance of the office held by the individuals. You don’t ask the question: “Is this not whom the Lord God has given authority and status?” No, the questions are: “Isn’t this the jerk who raised my taxes or the moron who voted to end my favorite program? Isn’t this the ogre who never compliments my work? Isn’t this the woman who can’t keep her children under control or the man who calls himself father but never shows up at the children’s activities? Isn’t this my ‘partner’ who always needs my help and never pulls their weight? Isn’t this the ‘man of God’ who is cold and ineloquent?” Those questions, those thoughts put all the emphasis on the person and completely ignore the office and the accompanying authority given by the Lord God.

But what does Jesus do when faced with such questions? What does He do when the people say: “Isn’t this the carpenter?” He replies: “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” The Gospel writer says: “He marveled because of their unbelief.” And yet, Jesus doesn’t suspend His work. He doesn’t go home and sulk. No, He goes to fulfill His office.

St. Mark tells us that Jesus leaves Nazareth “and He went about among the villages teaching. And He called the Twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.” Jesus continues to do what He had been chosen by the Father to accomplish and for which He carries the Holy Spirit. He will continue to proclaim what the Lord God has done and promised because there are people meant to receive it. And not only will He make that proclamation, but Twelve others will do so with His authority, “proclaiming that people should repent, casting out many demons, anointing many who are sick with oil and healing them.”

Thankfully that takes place. In those acts, your salvation is found. Regardless of how others consider their person, individuals who hold divinely-given offices have tasks to fulfill. Rulers must govern the people. Employers must run their businesses. Parents must rear their children. Spouses must love and cherish one another. Preachers must speak the truth of Christ, both the message of repentance and the message of forgiveness. These tasks must be done. And for Jesus it is especially so. For He has been charged by His Father to bring salvation to a world plagued by sin, absent of righteousness, and without hope. Regardless of whether people “hear or refuse to hear,” Jesus must fulfill His role as the Christ, the Word of God come down to earth.

“So Jesus went about among the villages teaching.” He goes to other synagogues in Galilee and speaks the Lord God’s message of hope and joy. He reminds people of what the Lord God has done and continues to do for them. Jesus doles out the forgiveness of sins to people who faced eternal condemnation for their faults. And in the face of great opposition, Jesus travels relentlessly to His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection to bring life to the world.

Because Jesus didn’t abort His mission in Nazareth, you have been given a share of what He accomplished. Jesus has fulfilled His office as the Christ for you. Carrying the Spirit of the Lord, Jesus is sent “to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against [the Lord God].” Jesus is sent because “they and their fathers have transgressed against [the Lord God] to this very day,” and the Lord God desires their salvation. Jesus goes to these who have rebelled to bring the pardon which the Lord God has for them.

But as was seen in the Gospel Reading, Jesus does not do this alone. It is true that He alone earned salvation by His perfect life provided in substitute for your sinfulness. But then Jesus sends others with His authority, carrying the Holy Spirit, to bring the merits that He earned to you. Jesus continues to send apostles out to speak His message of what He has done and what He has promised. They are to speak it whether people listen or not. They are to act with His authority whether people recognize it or not.

As the authority of Christ is seen in your midst—in His teaching, wisdom, and mighty works—you can be assured that the salvation He has earned is yours to keep. Your confidence is in the authority that the Father gave to His Son to bring into this world. Jesus speaks the truth about Himself and about you: He is the source of your eternal good. Jesus doesn’t turn away from His duties, but fulfills them, so that you may receive what the Lord God has set aside for you: forgiveness, life, and salvation. So it is brought to you as those whom He sends go about the villages teaching and proclaiming the words and works of Christ.

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.