Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sermon -- 5th Sunday after Pentecost (June 28, 2015)

LUKE 9:18-24 
In the name + of Jesus. 

     It is common to talk about people who are making news, whether that news is good or bad.  Bruce Jenner, or Caitlyn if you insist, is going to have people talking.  Some will praise him; others will scorn him.  But either way, people will talk about him.  Of course, in light of Friday's Supreme Court decision, people have moved on from Jenner already to the next big story.
     Jesus was making the news in Galilee and Judea.  Stories were being told of his miracles and his teachings.  Whether they were saying good things about Jesus or bad, people were taking about him.  So Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”  And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” (Luke 9:18-19)  For the most part, the crowds were complimentary.  But note this: They were also wrong.
     Then Jesus asked his apostles: “But you--who do you say that I am?”  Peter answered on behalf of them all: “The Christ of God.” (Luke 9:20)  The word “Christ” means anointed one.  Whenever a man was established into an office, oil was poured on his head and he was given the authority of that office.  Aaron was anointed as the high priest.  David was anointed king.  If Jesus is THE Anointed, then what is his office?  What is he anointed to do?
     Jesus is the Christ, and that means a cross.  He said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Luke 9:22)  Jesus was anointed to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  This was not optional for him.  Jesus said that “it is necessary” that he suffer, die, and rise.  This is what he was anointed for.  By doing this work as the Lord's Anointed, Jesus redeemed you from all your sin and guilt.  He has covered your shame with his righteousness.  He assures your eternal salvation.  That is what it means that Jesus is the Christ.
     Peter confessed, “You are the Christ of God.”  Jesus received the title “Christ,” and it was not honorary.  It meant the cross.  Likewise, you also bear the name of Christ, for you were baptized into it and are now Christians.  This is no honorary title for you either.  Many people say that they are Christians.  But confession is not made with the mouth alone.  It is also made by one's life and actions.  Aaron was not only called the High Priest, he performed the work of the High Priest.  So also with David as King and Elisha as prophet.  So also with you.  Being a Christian is not something that merely is claimed.  It is lived.
     Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)  Jesus wants you to recognize that you are a sinner, and that you cannot improve your situation.  You can try to behave better.  People may even motivate you by asking if you are doing what Jesus would do or if you are doing great things for Jesus.  That might stir you to behave better for a while.  But it does not stop you from being a sinner.  It will also burden you with tremendous guilt when your efforts to live like Jesus only prove that you are not like Jesus, or when you realize that doing great things for Jesus is still driven by a selfish desire for glory.
     Your sinful nature reveals itself in simple, everyday things, such as whenever you get in the car to drive.  You do not have patience for other drivers.  You call every other person on the road an idiot.  If there is an accident, your initial reaction is, “Great!  Now I'm going to be late!”  You lament that someone else's ruined vehicle and ruined day is an inconvenience for you.  The sinful nature cannot tamed.  It must put to death.
     “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily.” (Luke 9:23)  Jesus is the Christ; that means a cross.  You are a Christian; that means a cross.  The sole purpose of the cross is to put something to death.  So, we put our sins to death day after day by contrition and repentance.  We do not make excuses for our sins.  And we certainly do not make ourselves comfortable with them.  Sadly, even Christians are lulled into embracing sins by appealing to how common they are, or by insisting that, because certain actions are legal, they are now also moral.
     If you will call yourself a Christian, then everything in your life must submit to Christ and his word.  If you cannot or will not submit to Christ's word, then you cannot bear his name or rightly call him “Lord.”  God always sets the standard.  God defines good and evil, and God is not swayed by popular opinion or court decisions no matter how supreme the court is.  Therefore, when God's word exposes our sins to us, we acknowledge them, we despise ourselves for our evil, and we renounce them.  Though our sinful nature will always delight that its cravings are being fed, the sinful nature desires to destroy us.  Therefore, it is imperative that we deny giving our sinful nature the sins it craves.  It is necessary to daily put our sins to death.
     Jesus is the Christ.  You are a Christian; that means a cross.  If you want to follow Jesus, then you will hear his word and seek his will.  But you may discover that you never live up to your desires.  No matter how diligently you strive to do what is good, you will still sin.  When doing what is good costs you money or effort, you may hate it.  When doing what is right means that you have to suffer for it, you may want to give up.  Bearing the name of Christ does not mean that everything will be easy or that life will be glorious.  Your glory comes after the resurrection, just as Jesus' did.
     Still, you bear the cross.  You submit to God because he is always good even when life is not.  No matter how many pleasures Satan promises you for doing whatever your sinful heart desires, you know that leads to death. Such a life is not worth saving.  Such a life is to be denied and crucified.  Nor is such a life dismal.  When you follow Jesus, you have the assurance that your are saved, that your guilt is pardoned, that your death is temporary, that your God loves you, and that you shall have everlasting glories and pleasures in heaven.  For, after the cross comes the resurrection and glory.
     Jesus is the Christ.  You are a Christian; that means a cross.  Bear yours, knowing that it drives you to Jesus day after day.  You repent of your sins and put them to death each day.  And each day, Jesus raises you up anew to live before him in righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.  But do not fear that your salvation is not based on how well you are bearing your cross or denying your sin.  As diligently as you strive to live as children of God, your confidence is not that you are living up to your end of it.  Your confidence is that God acknowledges and claims that you are his children.  Your salvation is based on the fact that Jesus bore his cross for you.
     Jesus is the Christ; that means a cross.  Jesus fulfilled his office by being the atoning sacrifice for your sins.  You are forgiven.  You are baptized into Jesus, and that means you are already holy and blameless in God's sight.  You cannot improve on that, no matter how many good things you try to do for Jesus.  All the good you need Jesus has done for you.  Jesus is the Christ, anointed to be your Savior.  He forgives all sins.  He bestows all righteousness.  And he marks you, dear Christians, as his own.

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