Friday, August 3, 2012

Sermon -- 9th Sunday after Pentecost (July 29, 2012)

Here's the first of (God willing) many to come.

MARK 6:30-34

In the name + of Jesus.

     There is no doubt that the devil’s handiwork can be obvious.  St. Paul spelled out what that will look like as the world draws near its end.  In the last days there will come times of difficulty.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)  Such actions and attitudes are seen in a society where God’s order for marriage is turned on its head and people who uphold that order as the only divine order are vilified for doing so.  It is also seen when a deranged individual goes into a theater and opens fire on the people who simply wanted to be entertained by a movie.
     But don’t get the idea that Satan’s handiwork is only seen in acts of violence, perversion, or cruelty.  Most people who are under Satan’s domain we would not consider to be violent, perverted, or cruel.  Most people know how to behave.  Most people are decent, law abiding citizens who go to work, pay the bills, take their kids to little league, and sit harmlessly in the movie theater.  They are not monsters, but they are captives.  They do not even know they are bound and claimed by Satan because Satan has deceived them.  They figure that as long as they pay the bills, see Junior get a hit, and get settled into the theater seating before the previews start, all is well. 
     But they are lost.  They may only recognize it when life turns tragic.  It does not take much to upset our world.  Sin and sorrow and death affect everyone, so eventually people discover that they are lost.  They are alarmed to learn that they live life without hope, without foundation, and without peace.  When evil comes and unravels the fabric of your life, only then do you discover whether or not your life is founded on something that is solid, dependable, and real.  The only source of real, reliable, and rock solid hope is Jesus Christ.  Jesus has compassion on the lost.
     Jesus and his apostles had set out for a retreat.  They sailed from the western shore of the Sea of Galilee to a quiet place on the eastern shore.  But the crowds saw where they were going, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. (Mark 6:33)  While Jesus was moved by the size of the crowds, it was not from an ego trip that such large numbers had come running to the middle of nowhere to see him.  It was from seeing so many people who were lost.  He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. (Mark 6:34)
     Sheep are helpless, and that is the way it is with sinners.  You cannot stop yourself from sinning.  You cannot save yourself from dying.  You will not escape God’s judgment.  When you are tormented by the guilt and the shame of your sins, when you are haunted and terrified by the reality of your death, when you are tormented and taunted by Satan’s temptations and accusations, you will find no comfort in saying, “Well, at least the bills are paid.  At least Junior’s team won his game.  At least there’s a good movie playing tonight.”  These are no solutions at all.
     Even God’s flock feels harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Your conscience highlights that you still do not live as you should.  You still sin.  You will die.  Being one of God’s people does not make these things go away.  Satan’s handiwork is still seen in the solutions he tries to sell you.  He wants to deceive you into thinking that you can use forgiveness as an excuse to embrace attitudes and engage in behavior that God condemns.  He tries to deceive you into thinking that there is no harm in neglecting God’s word and sacraments and prayer.  He wants you to believe that it is enough to be nice, behave, and be productive.  God’s command is not “Be productive,” but “Be perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)  You may not be perverted, violent, or cruel, but neither are you holy.  Repent. 
     Jesus knows that all men are guilty.  All fall under God’s judgment.  All will die.  And all are haunted by these things.  Such fears and woes cannot be avoided, but they can be silenced.  So when the crowds came to Jesus, he began to teach them many things. (Mark 6:34)  Jesus proclaimed the word of the Lord which silences the fears of sinners, silences the accusations of Satan, and even silences the threat of the grave.  Jesus has compassion on the lost, so Jesus began to teach them many things.  Jesus’ words also deliver you from Satan’s handiwork.
     You are no longer a lost sheep.  You are under Jesus’ care.  Jesus delivers you from God’s curse to God’s blessing, from death to life, from hell to heaven.  Jesus’ compassion for you is not merely sympathetic words.  It is demonstrated in his life, death, and resurrection.  God’s curse does not simply go away.  Jesus suffered it and absorbed it for you.  Death does not just disappear.  Instead, Jesus’ resurrection has overcome it for you.  Hell and Satan do not willingly give you up.  Therefore, your risen Savior descended into hell.  He marched right onto Satan’s home turf, proclaimed his victory, crushed the serpent’s head, and has rescued you from their grasp. 
     Jesus has compassion on the lost.  No longer are you lost.  You know the way to heaven, which is Jesus Christ.  He has brought you into God’s kingdom.  He comforts you with divine words.  Jesus’ words overrule everything Satan says to you.  Jesus’ words expose Satan’s lies so that he will not deceive you.  Jesus’ words guide you so that you do not stray.  Jesus’ words do not merely talk about forgiveness; they give it.  Jesus’ words console you so that fear gives way to peace.  Jesus’ words are added to water which has washed, cleansed, and sanctified you of all shame and disgrace.  Jesus’ words are added to bread and wine through which Jesus gives you his body and blood and by which you ingest all of the blessings of God. 
     Dear children of God, do not be deceived into thinking that being nice is enough to be saved.  The devil’s handiwork is all over such deception.  It is why people think that avoiding violence and cruelty is enough to please God.  But no one works his way into God’s kingdom.  It is only Jesus who delivers you there.  He reveals the way through divine words and promises.  It is only by hearing that you know of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  It is only by sitting at Jesus’ feet that you receive divine mercy, salvation, and forgiveness.  It is only by faith in these promises that you are saved.  That is why Jesus taught many things and proclaimed many promises.  This is where Jesus claims the lost and reveals to them the way, the truth, and the life.  This is where the redeemed continue to find comfort and care through their loving shepherd.  This word is where Jesus’ compassion is revealed.  It is where sinners are rescued from the devil’s handiwork and are delivered into God’s loving hands. 

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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