Sunday, July 29, 2012

LSB Proper 12B Sermon -- Mark 6:45-56

July 29, 2012 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“Immediately [Jesus] made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd.”

Jesus again sends the Twelve. Earlier they were sent by Him: “He called the Twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits…. So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.” All had gone as Jesus directed, as Jesus had authorized. These disciples had been empowered by Jesus and accomplished what He had sent them to do.

Now Jesus sends them again, but not with authority to exorcise and exhort. No, the task was different: “Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd.” The Twelve are sent to the shoreline with the command to sail across the Sea of Galilee. But the Gospel Writer tells us that they could not get to the other side: “And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and [Jesus] was alone on the land. And He saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them.” The wind blew in the face of the disciples: no matter how hard they would row, no progress was being made. They were stuck in the position of not being able to meet their Lord’s command. The lake that had once brought them a living by catching fish now stood as an opponent that could bring them death.

So what could be done in this situation? What would bring relief to the Twelve? They could wait for the winds to change, hoping for what might never come before their boat became a transport to a watery grave. They could turn back and sail for the shore, an act that would directly contradict what their Lord had commanded them to do. Or the One who controlled the wind and wave could intercede for them. And that is what Jesus does: “And about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.”

But what does Jesus’ appearance bring to the disciples? It brings fear and fright: “He meant to pass by them, but 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.” When Jesus strides across the waves toward the disciples’ boat, it is a supernatural act. It is a display of divine power and ability. No mere man is capable of such a work, but Jesus does it. And that encounter with the full divinity of Jesus brings terror to the Twelve. The confrontation between humanity’s weakness and God’s power, between the natural and the supernatural, terrifies the Twelve who see it. Their status as those who are inferior to the Godhead is made clear.

But terror is not what Jesus seeks to cause in His disciples. No, His presence is for their benefit, not their detriment. He walks on the waves to display His divinity in a way that the Twelve had not yet seen. They are to take from this that the Incarnate God is present to bring them aid. That happens when Jesus speaks to His disciples, declaring His identity as the One who brings courage: “But immediately He spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’ And He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased.” Through that act, Jesus’ identity is made known to the Twelve: He is the Lord of Creation, including the waters. He is the γώ εμι, the Great I Am present in the world. He is there to put right what was wrong with His creation, to bring salvation by overcoming what humanity could not.

Yet, the Gospel Writer tells us: “And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” Jesus’ action brings some confusion to the Twelve. They witness what Jesus has done, but they do not fully comprehend it. They have seen Jesus’ divinity on display, but they have yet to fully realize why Jesus has done so. But that will be remedied as the Twelve continue to follow Jesus, as they observe all His actions and hear all His words that reveal His identity as the Redeemer of the cosmos bound by sin and chaos. The Twelve will come to know that Jesus possesses all authority in heaven and earth in His death and resurrection and that authority is what brings them deliverance. They will see that Jesus’ use of His divinity is done out of compassion for His creation. So they will understand about the loaves, about the healings, about the teaching of great truths, about the crucifixion and the empty tomb.

This is what you have come to know and understand from the apostles’ testimony of what the Lord Jesus has done. It is what you have come to experience as your attempts to fulfill the Lord’s commands have proven just as futile as the Twelve’s straining at the oars to cross the Sea of Galilee. You have the waves that oppose the completion of the Lord’s will. Our catechism reminds us: “the devil, the world, and our sinful nature do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come.” They would not have you be helped by the Lord at all. They would not have you be counted among His people. This is what you encounter when you go out from here to live your daily lives according to God’s commands.

What you face is similar to the Twelve. You have been called and baptized, made Jesus’ followers. You are fed by Jesus in this desolate place, just as He fed the Twelve and the other 5,000 men who were present on that Galilean hillside. Then you are sent out. Jesus says to you: “Follow My way of life. Be righteous as your Father in heaven is righteous. Love Me above all things. Give what you have to help those in need. Forgive your brother seventy times seven. Do good to all who oppose you.” And what is your desire? To do all these things that Jesus commanded. You go from here wanting to be just like your Lord, to complete every task that He has given to you.

You step out into the parking lot. You travel to your homes. Monday morning comes, and you have your jobs to go to or your familial duties to fulfill. The motivation is there to be faithful parents, faithful employees, faithful citizens. You say: “I will be just as Jesus wants me to be.” But then it happens. The first car cuts you off. The first cries from your children come. The supervisor criticizes you in front of the office staff. You get the fourth charity telephone call asking for contributions. The president or governor issues a policy that you hate. And you are angry, upset, raging. All the righteous acts that you wanted to do are left undone. The commandments go broken or unfulfilled. You strain at the oars, but founder in your boats.

But Jesus sees that you are “making headway painfully, for the wind was against them.” He sees what opposes you. He does not ignore your plight. No, He comes walking out to you, bringing His authority—the power “that breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature.” He says to you: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Jesus reassures you of His identity and His presence with you: “I have overcome these things for you. I forgive your failures. I have attained what you could never earn for yourself and I freely bestow it to you. Do not be hard-hearted, but know that I will give you far more abundantly than what you could ever ask for or imagine. That is why I came as the Great I Am and made My presence here in the earth. It was for your benefit, even now.”

You have Jesus present with you. He is here in the boat of the Church. He is here, not so that you can touch the fringe of His garments. No, Jesus is present, so that you can have Him wash you clean of all your guilt, speak His words of pardon, feed you with His meal that brings forgiveness, life, and salvation. You have Him present in His statements that His Covenant has been made with you and that you will not be cut off. That is what grants courage. That is what relieves fear. That is what Jesus’ good and gracious will is for you. That’s what you understand and know from the miracle of the loaves and the walking on the water, even more so from the death of Jesus and His resurrection to life for you.

Through Jesus’ words and works, you know that “He who alone does great wonders, who by understanding made the heavens, who spread out the earth above the waters, who made the great lights” is not your enemy. No, He is your Savior. He is the One who works for you, not against you. His acts are just as real as the efforts of those who oppose His will. But His acts are greater. Because of this, the prayer for this morning comes to fulfillment for you: “strengthen our faith and give us courage to believe that in Your love You will rescue us from all adversities.” Hearing again what your Jesus has done, you say: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” For that steadfast love has been shown to you by the Great I Am who overcomes what opposes you and will bring you safely to the other side in life everlasting.

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

Monday, July 23, 2012

St. Mary Magdalene Sermon -- July 22, 2012

July 22, 2012 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

Jesus said to Mary, "Do not hold on to Me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that He had said these things to her.

The Gospel is all about restoring hope to the hopeless, life to the lifeless, righteousness to the unrighteous. That is what we see in dramatic form on this day, the Festival Day of St. Mary Magdalene. As we in the Church commemorate one of Jesus’ disciples, we see her as a recipient of the Gospel. We see her hope restored, her life restored, her righteousness restored.

For this woman, one who had been helped by Jesus earlier in her life, Jesus’ death was devastating. She had followed Him through thick and thin. Tormented by demons, Mary had been freed by Jesus. In response to what He had done for her, Mary gave Him her money, so that Jesus and the Twelve disciples could continue on their mission of preaching the good news of the kingdom of God to the world. When most of Jesus’ disciples had run away and were in hiding, Mary was present outside of Jerusalem. She watched and mourned as her Lord was crucified, died, and was buried in the rich man’s borrowed tomb.

But now, as St. John recorded in the Gospel Reading for today, Mary Magdalene was devastated. Perhaps she had not known exactly why Jesus had to die, but she was there when He was crucified. Maybe Mary didn’t realize all that would happen to Jesus, but she was faithful even in His death. Once again, she had taken her money and offered it in service of Jesus. Mary had brought burial spices to the garden tomb: “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.’”

Yet, when Mary was at the tomb, there is no dead Jesus there. There is no body to be found. Though Mary may not have understood why Jesus would die, she had seen Him dead. Now when Mary wanted to give Jesus one last act of devotion, she is prevented. The Gospel Writer told us: “As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

We can understand Mary’s sorrow. It is grief that goes beyond what even we experience at our funerals. When we lose loved ones, we know where they are laid. We have gravestones carved and placed. We have the committal rite. We even have tombs registered with the local government. The marking does not really give us any comfort; it doesn’t bring our loved one back to life. But there is a certainty about it. But there is none of that for Mary when she sees Jesus’ disturbed tomb. There is only sorrow and uncertainty instead.

Even when Jesus Himself comes to the empty tomb and speaks to her, Mary’s sorrow and doubt aren’t changed: “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?’ Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, ‘Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.’” We can envision Mary’s hysteric voice breaking between her tears. We can imagine the total lost feeling she had. Her hopelessness is nearly tangible as we hear her words.

But when Jesus calls her by name with His words, then all Mary’s sorrows are driven away. As Jesus says: “Mary,” she is a recipient of the gospel: hope is restored to the hopeless, life is given to the lifeless, righteousness is granted to the unrighteous. She is overjoyed at seeing the Risen Jesus, for all that she had believed about Him is proven true in His resurrection. No more is Mary dazed and confused, sad and sorrowful. Instead, she goes and tells the Twelve what she has seen and heard, just as the Risen Jesus instructs her: “Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’—and that He has said these things to her.”

As Mary goes and as she tells, the Twelve will also have the same experience as she did. They, too, will have Jesus greet them by name. Doubters like Thomas will believe. Deniers like Peter will be restored. Even persecutors like Paul will be converted and made into apostles. Each will have their name called by Jesus, each will be a recipient of His gospel. Jesus will give them hope and life and righteousness. They will make the statement about what has been accomplished for them by Jesus’ death and resurrection: “To us has been sent the message of this salvation…. And though they found in Him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have Him executed. When they had carried out all that was written of Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead, and for many days He appeared to those who had come up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now His witnesses to the people.”

So too are we called by name. Jesus calls you by name. He reveals Himself as risen and glorified, so that you are recipients of the gospel. All of us were just as despondent as Mary. We were tormented by sin and Satan, but the Lord drove them away. But as death and loss are seen all around us, we lose hope. Yet Jesus is there to greet us, to remind us that He is not a dead hero that we revere or a memory that we bring out from time to time to give us a few minutes of comfort. No, Jesus comes into our midst and shows Himself as the Living One: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

That is why He sent Mary to tell the Twelve and the Twelve to tell the world about His victory over sin, death, and Satan. Jesus is found here, in our telling, in our reading, our hearing. Here, Jesus declares Himself as the Living One for your salvation, for your joy. He calls you by name and says your sins are forgiven. He calls you by name and says you are His people. He calls you by name and speaks the promise of eternal life for your possession. And He calls you by name and sends you out with the instruction to confess this great news to all His brothers: “I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of Your works.”

The gospel is all about restoring hope to the hopeless. It is about you were hopeless people being given a new hope. You who were unrighteous people are granted Jesus’ righteousness for your own. You who were dead in sin and trespasses have everlasting life restored by His resurrection. The gospel is personal, just as it was personal for Mary. It is all about what Jesus has done for you. And this day of commemorating Mary Magdalene even points out that fact: the day is more than about her, it is about you—the ones whom the Living Lord has redeemed, called by name, and sent through life in this world with life and joy. The Collect of the Day speaks that well: “Almighty God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, restored Mary Magdalene to health and called her to be the first witness of His resurrection. Heal us from all our infirmities and call us to know You in the power of Your Son’s unending life.”

With Jesus, the Living One, there really is no more uncertainty in this earthly life for us or for Mary. No, there is only the greatness of His resurrection and ascension and the promises they bring for us—promises that even the confusion of this world cannot change: “Nevertheless, I am continually with You; You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will receive me to glory.” Hold on to those promises and to the Living One who has given them to you, so that on the Last Day He may call you by name and bring you into His kingdom forever.

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

Monday, July 16, 2012

LSB Proper 10B Sermon -- Mark 6:14-29

July 15, 2012 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, 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. For John had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted him put to death.”

Two voices speak against those in positions of power. So you heard in this morning’s Old Testament and Gospel Readings. The two voices have similar messages for the royal house of Israel: “You have been judged. You stand under divine condemnation.” That is what both Amos and John the Baptist speak in the hearing of the nobility.

Amos’ message to Israel is the making known of the vision he had seen from the Lord. Amos tells what he saw: “This is what the Lord God showed me: behold the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in His hand.” The prophet sees a vision of the Lord’s building a wall, straight and true. But then the Lord speaks to Amos: “Then the Lord said, ‘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.”

The vision is made clear to the prophet. The Lord had measured the people of Israel with His plumb line. His standard of righteousness had been applied to them. And what does the Lord find? Not a straight wall anymore, but a tilted one. Israel’s following the Lord’s way had gone from faithfulness to disloyalty. The high places and sanctuaries dedicated to any deity other than the Lord had been set up and used. Instead of having no other gods, Israel had plenty of idolatry. And the royal house of Israel had been more than complicit in this; they had led the people on their crooked way. So the Lord pronounces judgment against them through the mouth of the prophet, as Amos describes: “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.’”

Then there was John the Baptist. Just three weeks past, the Church celebrated John’s nativity. He had been given a task from before birth, the destiny of being the Messiah’s Forerunner. John was to prepare the people. So he preached about making straight the crooked paths, leveling the hills, filling the valleys—all the ancient, poetic, Scriptural ways of proclaiming repentance that leads to forgiveness of sins. And John showed no favor based on class: the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak all received the same message: “Bear fruits worthy of repentance…. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

John applied the divine standard of righteousness to the people. The same way that John spoke to the crowds was how he spoke to the royal house of Israel. Herod receives the message of judgment, just as the ancient Israelite kings had. His adulterous sin is pointed out, as the Gospel Writer tells us: “John had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’” Divine judgment was leveled against Herod and Herodias.

So how were Amos’ and John’s words received? What was their effect? The nobility would have none of it. They would not heed it. Instead, their desire was to rid themselves of these meddling prophets. You heard how the Royal Chaplain of Israel responded to Amos: “Then Amaziah said to Amos, ‘O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.’” Amaziah gives Amos the bum’s rush: “Down to Judah with you. Don’t dare bring that prophecy of judgment back here in Israel. Jeroboam and his family will not have it said in their hearing.” And John receives the same treatment: “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.” Herod says to the Baptist: “No more of that talk about sanctity of marriage. To the prison you go. The public speech against my sin and my wife’s sin will no longer be heard.”

But that is the reaction that mankind has to the judgment of God. The Lord’s words of condemnation are unpleasant to hear. They are hurtful. They sting. Those divine words expose what all desire to keep hidden. Who wants to hear how unrighteous they are? Who wants to be shown all their flaws, all their blemishes, all their faults? Anything that can be done to keep those words from being heard and received is tried. Cover the ears. Shout over the voice that speaks the indictment and judgment against you. Repeat over and over that it’s not actually so, it’s not true, it’s not how I am. That is how humanity acts.

And yet, what happens even if the prophet is exiled to Judah, the forerunner is beheaded, or the preacher is tuned out? The voice of judgment still speaks. It is put in another mouth and another mouth and another mouth. Over and over again, the Lord’s rightful condemnation is leveled against you and all who have fallen short of His standard of holiness: “You are guilty. You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.”

But another call is issued to you, just as the prophets of old had spoken to their audiences. It is the same call that Jesus and His apostles proclaimed: “Repent and be saved. Turn from your wicked ways and live. Acknowledge the sin and receive the remedy.”

That is what you also heard this morning. The sound of divine judgment was placed in your ears, showing that you are a poor, miserable sinner, pointing out that you had sinned against God in thought, word, and deed. But there was also this spoken to you, if you would hear the sound of the Lord’s voice: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”

Blessed be God? Blessed be the One who issued His judgment against you and your sinfulness? Yes, blessed be God, because of what He has done. His condemnation was not the only thing that He has spoken. No, He has blessed you. That is what the apostle explains: “In love He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. In Him 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.”

The apostle proclaims the reconciling act that the Lord has done for you. Reconciliation has been accomplished for you who have transgressed and broken every aspect of the Divine Law. You have been weighed and found wanting. But you have also been provided what you lack. There is a hope for you, a new fate for you, a new reality for you. It is for you who have been shown your sin, your guilt, your imperfection and who acknowledge it to be true. It is for you who have heard the prophetic voice of judgment instead of shutting it out and refusing to listen. The word of Gospel is spoken to you: “Your sin is great. Your guilt is immense. But that has been atoned for. Your slate is wiped clean. You now stand under divine grace. You have been rebuilt, straight and true. That is My desire for you. That is what I, the Lord, do for you.”

That is the message heard in the apostolic words: “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.”

The word of truth is not only that you have sinned much and deserve nothing but punishment. It also is this: “Jesus’ accomplishments have overcome your failures. Jesus’ death has atoned for your guilt. Jesus’ resurrection has brought you life. Jesus lacks nothing and has bestowed His goodness to you. You have been baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection. You have heard Jesus’ pardoning word. You have eaten of His life-giving body. You are not given half of an earthly kingdom, but have been made part of the divine household. That is your inheritance. That is the Lord’s gracious will for you.”

Both words—the word of judgment and the word of absolution—are necessary. This is what your ears must also hear. Do not tune out what the Lord speaks. Instead, receive it as true. When His voice exposes your guilt, acknowledge that it is so. Then when you hear His voice that discloses His salvific work done for you, you will also know just how great it is, covering every last bit of your sinfulness. Be not like Jeroboam and Amaziah or Herod and Herodias who used all their earthly power attempting to silence the Lord’s voice. Instead, let the psalmist’s words be your motto and creed: “Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for He will speak peace to His people, to His saints; but let them not turn back to folly. Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land.”

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

Sunday, July 8, 2012

LSB Proper 9B Sermon -- Mark 6:1-13

July 8, 2012 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.’ And He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief.”

What causes people not to listen to the Lord? That is a question that vexes and confounds those in the Church, laity and clergy alike. The Lord’s words are spoken to them, but they will not hear. They hear instruction in the Lord’s Law, but they don’t heed it. The Lord’s promises are made to them, but they don’t believe them.

Why will they not listen? That question has been asked for millennia. It is the question that the prophets pondered. They were chosen to speak to the Lord’s people, those who had been brought into the Covenant. Their audience was not unfamiliar with what the Lord had done or said. And yet, what does the Lord say to the prophets? You heard His statements to Ezekiel: “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against Me. They and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.”

The instruction to Ezekiel tells about the nature of his audience. What are the people like that Ezekiel is sent to? They are rebellious. They are transgressors. They are impudent and stubborn. That’s their character. That’s what they are by nature. Even though they have the Lord’s Covenant extended to them, even though their ancestors had benefited from the Lord’s actions on their behalf, they refuse to abide in His ways. They have transgressed against the Lord not just in the past, but “to this very day.”

Similarly, Jesus encounters such people in His hometown. That is what you heard in the Gospel Reading: “Jesus went away from there and came to His hometown, and His disciples followed Him. And on the Sabbath He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to Him? How are such mighty works done by His hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at Him.”

Jesus goes to His hometown. He does what He had been doing in other places around Galilee. The Lord’s words are spoken in the people’s hearing. But what is their reaction? They will not hear. They will not receive. They will not have Jesus teach them. Why? Because they rebel against Him. They take offense at the person speaking, and that leads to offense at the speech itself. So Jesus speaks judgment against them: “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” Nazareth’s sin is noted and recorded. And the beneficial acts that Jesus could perform are not done for them.

But this is not just a problem that Ezekiel and Jesus faced. No, this is the same problem that happens right here in Mechanicsburg. Rebellion and refusal to listen are not foreign to Central Pennsylvania. The same words that the Lord speaks about the people to whom He sent Ezekiel are spoken about you as well: “They and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. The descendants also are impudent and stubborn.” But this is not just Dutch hard-headedness. No, this is the rebellion that is common among all people. It is one of the chief symptoms of original sin. No one wants to be under any authority. No one wants to be told what he can or cannot do.

Such hard-heartedness is not only in reaction to the Divine Law. It is also naturally found in reaction to the Divine Gospel of salvation. Recall how the Nazarenes reacted to Jesus: “Many who heard Him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to Him? How are such mighty works done by His hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?” This is how they reacted to the words of salvation that Jesus was delivering to them in the synagogue. Jesus’ identity as the Promised Messiah was thoroughly rejected.

But that negative reaction is not unique to First Century Galilee. It is found here. It pops up whenever a minister speaks about the identity of Jesus and that is rejected. The promise of salvation is extended, put out for people to receive. Then the full range of objections comes: “What do you mean that Jesus is truly God in human flesh? How can you believe that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary? Resurrection from death—that’s ludicrous! Salvation is limited to people who trust in Jesus’ words and works—that’s the height of intolerance! How can you insist on forgiveness only being given through preaching, baptism, absolution, and communion! I must submit to the teachings that First Century men wrote down, what unenlightened oppression!” The objections are nearly as numerous as stars in the sky. They are just another expression of the impudence, stubbornness, and rebelliousness of people—even of you.

And yet, what does the Lord do in the face of such rejections? Remember what He tells Ezekiel: “I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.” Remember what Jesus does in Galilee: “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.” The Lord still sends people out in the face of such rejections. They still go out carrying the same Divine Word for an audience to hear.

Why does the Lord do such a thing? Why doesn’t He just stop sending them and close off all hope of salvation? Because it is His will that people be saved. It is His will that people be turned. It is His will that the Word that is spoken will call, enlighten, and gather some. Today’s Collect summarized the Lord’s character well: “O God, Your Almighty power is made known chiefly in showing mercy.” There will be some among that rebellious, impudent, and stubborn household who will turn to Him. So the Lord continues to send out His speakers.

That is why you have had the Lord’s spokesmen sent here to Calvary for 113+ years. That is why His Gospel continues to be offered in preaching, baptism, absolution, and communion. There hasn’t been a Divine Interdict spoken against you, despite the rebellion, impudence, and stubbornness that are plentifully present. The Lord speaks concerning you: “Whether they hear or don’t hear, they will know that a prophet has been among them.” But for those who do hear, there is forgiveness, life, and salvation. There is a giving and restoring of the identity of being the Lord’s people. Ears are turned to hearing. Hearts are turned to believing. Minds are turned to obeying. A transforming takes place. For that is the power of the Lord’s Word, even in the midst of your rebellion, impudence, and stubbornness.

None of this is a matter of merit for you. No, it is a matter of mercy. The Lord chooses to be merciful to you. There is no deserving of it. In fact, the Lord could simply do to you and all creation what Jesus instructed His disciples to do: “And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” Such witness of judgment would be right. Yet, the Lord has mercifully elected to send His Gospel among this place. It is for you who will be turned and will hear, who will repent and will believe, who will be called and gathered.

Today’s Collect prayed rightly concerning you: “Grant us the fullness of Your grace that we may be called to repentance and made partakers of Your heavenly treasures.” It is the petition that comes from those who have been turned and have heard. Such prayer comes from you who have received the Lord’s disciples sent to your midst. Such prayer comes from you who have had the evil spirit cast out, who have been anointed by the Lord, who have been forgiven of sin. Such prayer is offered by those who do not take offense at Jesus, but who trust in His words and works instead. That is what the Lord desires to hear from the people to whom He has mercifully sent His Gospel, for it is the reaction of faith. May that be true here at Calvary, so that it is never said concerning you: “[Jesus] marveled because of their unbelief.” But instead may Jesus’ words always be said to you: “Your faith has saved you.”

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

Sunday, July 1, 2012

LSB Proper 8B Sermon -- Mark 5:21-43

July 1, 2012 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing [Jesus], he fell at His feet and implored Him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.’ And He went with him.”

Jairus’ faith drives him to Jesus’ presence. He runs with haste to where Jesus was, coming with a plea for help. What does Jairus know while running to Jesus? He knows that his little daughter is ill, deathly ill. Nothing has been able to help her. But he also knows something about Jesus: that Jesus has the ability to help the situation, to give healing to the girl.

How does Jairus know this about Jesus? What has given him the notion that Jesus can help his little daughter? Jairus has seen and heard Jesus. Note what the Gospel Writer tells about him: “Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name….” Jairus’ vocation included being a leader of the faithful people in Galilee. He held the position that we might call a deacon or congregational chairman here in our parish. And what had Jesus been doing in the synagogues of Galilee? You heard that earlier in the Epiphany Season this year. Think back to the details that you heard in the Gospel Readings from January and February: “And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath [Jesus] entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes…. And He went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons…. [The healed leper] spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to Him from every quarter.”

Jairus was familiar with Jesus’ words and works. This is what drives him to Jesus’ presence when his daughter was deathly ill. His desire is for Jesus to do what He is capable of. Just as Jesus had freed people from demonic affliction, made the paralytic walk, and cleansed the leper, so He could bring healing to Jairus’ daughter. That is what the ruler of the synagogue believed concerning Jesus. So he finds Jesus, “and seeing Him, he fell at His feet and implored Him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.’” There the begging request is made: “Do what You can and my daughter will live!” It is the cry for mercy that comes from the mouth of one who trusts in Jesus’ words and works.

But what happens as Jesus goes with Jairus? Jesus heals someone who comes seeking the same thing as Jairus. Mark writes: “And there was a woman who had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.” But he also records: “She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. For she said, ‘If I touch even His garments, I will be made well.’”

The woman’s faith drives her to Jesus’ presence. She comes with haste to where Jesus was, coming with a desire for help. What does she know as she approaches Jesus? She knows that she is deathly ill. Nothing has been able to help her. But she also knows something about Jesus: that Jesus has the ability to help the situation, to give healing to her. She knows this about Him because she has heard about what He has done. She has faith in Jesus’ words and works, something confirmed when Jesus says to her: “Daughter, your faith has made you well [saved you]; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Trust in Jesus’ words and works. That ties both Jairus and the woman together to Jesus. They both come to Him because of their belief in what He can provide. And it pleases Him that they come. Jesus sends neither away. Even when worse news comes from Jairus’ house informing him of his daughter’s death, how does Jesus respond? “While He was still speaking [to the woman], there came from the ruler’s house some who said, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?’ But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’” He affirms that Jairus is right about Him. And when He goes into the house, Jesus provides the action that was sought: “Taking [the girl] by the hand He said to her, ‘Talitha cumi,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you arise.’ And immediately the girl got up and began walking, and they were immediately overcome with amazement.”

What happens for Jairus and the woman is what Jesus desires to provide for you. His words and works reveal who He is and what He can do. They tell of His identity as a Redeemer, a Deliverer, a Savior. That is what Jesus is for you. Like Jairus and the woman, you have heard the reports of Jesus. You have heard what He has done. You have heard both the narratives of Jesus’ actions and the commentary about their significance. You have heard that Jesus went around Galilee teaching and performing great deeds, but that His greatest accomplishment was to bring about the atonement of sin and guilt, opening the gate to Paradise through His resurrection. He is a bringer of life—true life, everlasting life—to those who are under the curse of death because of their transgressions. Jesus has come to be the source of life for you who have broken the commandments of God, who have caused harm to yourself and others, who have even chased after the ways of death.

You are turned to Jesus by hearing of His words and works. They form the object of your faith, what you trust. They become the foundation that you build your hope on. Not just anything is believed concerning Jesus. No, it is quite specific: “For us men and for our salvation [He] came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.” This is what Jesus’ words and works declare.

So you turn to Jesus for what He provides to remedy your illnesses. Yes, you pray for healing of disease. But more importantly, you fall at Jesus’ feet and implore Him earnestly to cure what makes you deathly ill: your guilt incurred by your sins. Even when the Tempter comes and tries to dissuade you from asking of Jesus—the one who says to you, “Why bother Jesus? You’re dead in your sins. No one is able to help that guilt. Spend all you have, your time, and your effort, and you will always be a lost cause.”—you still come to Jesus’ presence. He speaks to you the words of invitation: “Do not fear, only believe. You have heard what I have done and what I have promised to do. You are right about Me. Ask for what I provide, for I am the One who has borne the sins of the world, even yours. Ask for the true remedy, for I am the resurrection and the life.” And when you come to Jesus, seeking out the forgiveness, life, and salvation that He provides, He speaks: “I say to you arise.”

This is the dialogue that Jesus has with you each time that you come here to this place where He makes Himself and His gifts present for you. Driven by your faith in Jesus’ words and works, you come like Jairus and the woman. You come either for yourself or others. You come with your little children, imploring that Jesus raise them to eternal life through Holy Baptism. You come with your illness and disease of sin and guilt that you can’t heal and that others can’t either. You do so, not just hoping to touch the hem of His garments, but to receive Jesus’ forgiving words that He places in the mouths of His sent ones. You come, even to eat and drink what Jesus provides—the Bread of Life that comes down from heaven, His own self given and shed for the forgiveness of your sins. And each time you do so, you hear the same words from Jesus’ mouth: “Your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

And so you make the confession of faith: “I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” It is the outcome of Jesus’ words and works for you. It is the reason for your praise of Him, just as the psalmist of old gave: “O Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You have healed me. O Lord, You have brought up my soul from Sheol; You restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. Sing praise to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy name.” So you can speak, because your faith has driven you to Jesus’ presence. So you can speak, because He has answered your pleas for help. So you can speak, because He has raised you and made you well.

The Lord has been good to you who wait for Him, to you who have sought Him. And His mercies will have no end for you. Every morning, they are new to remedy your sin. His faithfulness is great, so that you may rely and hope in Him. This is what Jesus desires you to know and know well. As you do, the time will come when He will step into the chamber where you dwell and say: “You are not dead, but are just sleeping. I say to you arise!” And you shall be drawn up from the grave to dwell with Him forever with Jairus, Jairus’ daughter, the healed woman, and all who have benefited from Jesus’ actions that take the deathly ill to life everlasting. So His word and works declare for you.

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