Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (B – Proper 9)


July 8, 2012

Text: Mark 6:1-13

In matters of life and death, there’s simply no time to beat around the bush. One must be blunt, even jarring, and if people are offended, well, then, they’re offended. You’re dying. There’s no dressing it up. Sin has mortally wounded you. And there’s only one source of help. You need radical surgery, and only Jesus Christ, the Savior, can perform it. It will be a full-fledged death and resurrection. I know you’d rather make do with the Tylenol of warm and fuzzy spirituality and good old-fashioned family values and go on denying the real problem. But that won’t do. For you to be cured, Jesus must tear you apart with His Law. He must kill you. He must utterly destroy you. He must rip your heart out of your chest and give you a new one. Because your heart is made of stone, an unbelieving heart, black with lust and covetousness and rebellion against God, a heart captivated by idols, a heart filled with love only of the self. Jesus must rip it out and give you a new heart, a beating heart of flesh, devoted to the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, captivated by Christ, filled with love for others. Jesus must bind your wounds by the precious Gospel of the forgiveness of sins in His blood. Jesus must breathe new life into you by His Holy Spirit. Forget the Tylenol. It won’t help. Forget your self-made religious illusions. They’re fake. It’s time for surgery. This is a matter of life and death. This is a matter of death and resurrection. This is a matter of God’s killing Law and His life-giving Gospel. There’s no time to be around the bush. It’s time for blunt honesty. And if you’re offended, well, then, you’re offended. But you will know that the prophetic Word of the Lord has been among you.

Why do the people of Nazareth take offense at Jesus? Is it simply because He’s the hometown boy, because they know His mom and Joseph and His brothers and sisters, because they changed His diapers and knew Him when…? Actually, congregations love it when a son of their congregation comes home to preach. They feel like they had something to do with making the boy into the man he is. And they’re right. I am who I am as a pastor today in large measure because of little Our Savior Lutheran Church in Bingen, Washington, small in numbers but mighty in the gifts of God’s grace. It was there that I was baptized into Christ. It was there that I was taught the Scriptures and the Catechism. There, at that altar, I received my first Communion and was nourished week after week on the body and blood of Christ. By their love and encouragement and prayers and financial support I was put through four years of college and four years of seminary. They did it because they love the Lord Jesus and His Gospel and His Church. Of course, they’re right to take credit for making me who I am. And, not to be too presumptuous, I think they’d love it if I came home to preach. But they’d call me Jon, not Pastor, and why not? They would say, is not this Donald’s son, and are not his mother Gayle and his brother and sisters here with us? Did not we change his diapers and do we not remember when he was a little rascal running around in Sunday School and the many sins of his youth? And if I were to forget my place as little Jon… If I were to preach the Law in such a way as to call them out on their very real sins… If I were to forget all tact and kill them with the preaching of the Law so as to bind their mortal wounds with the proclamation of Jesus Christ and His Gospel, with authority, no less… Well, let’s just hope they aren’t reading this on the internet (love you, Mom!).

Well, I’m sure you know this already, but there’s a big difference between Jesus and me. Jesus has no sin. He was the perfect child in Synagogue. He was never a little rascal. But the congregation in Nazareth think they remember Him that way. They are all excited when their favorite son gets up to preach. That’s our boy, they say. But then He opens His mouth. And He kills them. He exposes their idols. He shows them their sins. He is blunt. He jars them. He forgets His place as little Yeshua. He preaches with authority. You’re dying, He says. In fact, you’re already dead in your trespasses and sins. And the Tylenol of your self-made spirituality won’t help you a bit. But here’s the good news. I’m here. I’ve arrived on the scene. I’m your only hope and your only help. You’re going to despise me for this. You’re going to take offense. And that despising, that offense, will work together for the salvation of the world. For you will deliver me over to be crucified. And by my death I will give life to the world. The sins of the whole world will be paid for on the cross. Death will be defeated in my own death. Hell will be vanquished. The serpent’s head will be crushed. The grave will be sanctified, and after three days, I will rise from the dead for the eternal life and resurrection of all who believe in me.

It’s an offensive message, isn’t it? The members of the Nazareth congregation aren’t offended because Jesus is the hometown boy, they’re offended by the message the hometown boy preaches to them. With authority. As God in human flesh. They’re offended at the person of Jesus Christ, the Savior. Because that means they are sinners condemned to death and hell, that there is no good in them, that they cannot help themselves, that they need Jesus to be their Savior and their God. You and I are offended at this, too. Because it kills our sinful flesh to hear it. As, indeed, it must. The preaching of Jesus Christ is nothing less than death and resurrection. The preaching of His death and resurrection results in the crucifixion of our flesh and our being raised to new life in Christ. This is Law and Gospel. This is the drowning and rising of Holy Baptism. This is daily repentance and forgiveness. This is confession and Absolution. This is the fruit of Jesus’ death placed in your mouth as the risen body and blood of Jesus in the Supper. And this is what all Christian preachers are given to proclaim, whether in their hometown, or half a continent away. The LORD sent the Prophet Ezekiel to the rebellious house of Israel. He was to preach, “Thus says the Lord GOD” (Ez. 2:4; ESV), but Ezekiel wasn’t promised that they would listen. “And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them” (v. 5). Jesus sent His twelve apostles out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He gave them authority to preach. And He promised that some would reject them and their message. If any would not listen, if any would not receive the preaching of Jesus Christ, they were to shake the dust off their feet as a testimony against them. “So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent” (Mark 6:12). The miracle is that anyone does NOT reject the prophet, the apostle, the pastor, and the preaching of Jesus Christ. That’s the Holy Spirit working in His Word. For sinners are always deaf to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, unless the Spirit gives them ears to hear.

Our text this morning really isn’t about hometown boys or hometown crowds. It’s about the offense of the Gospel. It’s about the offense of Christ crucified for sinners. The miracle is that by the Spirit, beloved, you believe this Gospel. You believe the apostolic preaching. The world is offended by this. Shut up, you Christians. Go believe it if you want, but don’t force it down our throats. But you believe it. It’s a miracle. It’s the miracle of your Baptism. It’s the miracle of the dynamic Word of God, which is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12). The Word of the Lord kills you with the Law. The Word of the Lord brings you to new life with the Gospel. There’s no beating around the bush. You’re dying. You’re dead… in and of yourself, that is. But the Lord Jesus, who died for you and has been raised from the dead for you, has brought you to new life by His Spirit and made you God’s own child. Death and resurrection is what it is. You’re sinners. Repent. Die to yourself. And believe the Good News. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. His blood covers all your sins. You belong to Him. Don’t be offended. Believe it. You’ve been created anew. So, now, go out and be the people God has called you to be. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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