Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Second Sunday after Pentecost

Second Sunday after Pentecost (B—Proper 5)

June 7, 2015
Text: Mark 3:20-35

            There are spirits at work in all things.  There is a vast spiritual reality present among us that we cannot see with our fallen eyes.  It is a war between God and Satan, the angels and the demons.  They are fighting to possess you.  The war was already won on the cross.  Jesus is the Victor.  He is stronger than the strong man.  He binds the devil by being bound to the cross, submitting Himself to death for our sakes, and rising again on the Third Day, vanquishing sin and death.  But the devil still has a limited time to wreak havoc in this world.  He wants you as a casualty in the war.  He wants you to lose your faith in Jesus, to forsake your Baptism, to fall away from the Body of Christ, the Holy Church.  It is vital you understand that there is no spiritually neutral ground.  Either the Holy Spirit possesses you, or demons possess you.  You can’t have it both ways, and you can’t have it neither way.  In your Baptism you belong to the Holy Spirit.  Where you are in the Word of Christ and receiving His Body and Blood for strength and nourishment, there the Holy Spirit takes possession of you whole, and there is no room for demons.  There the holy angels surround you to protect you in body and soul and shield you from temptation.  But away from your Baptism, in those dark places you love to wander, the idols to which you are devoted, the images you love to worship, curved in on yourself, these are dangerous places because they are the realm of evil spirits.  There are very real demons at work, beloved, in addictions, in pornography and sexual perversions, in greed and selfishness, in gossip and slander.  Repent.  Run for the waters of the font.  Run to Christ.  Be absolved.  The guilt you feel is the Holy Spirit calling you home.  The Blood of Jesus that flows from font and chalice is also very real, to forgive you of all sin, to cleanse you of all that is unclean, and to restore in you the Spirit of joy and peace and faith, the Holy Spirit of God.  You cannot fight this spiritual battle alone.  The weakest demon is stronger than any man.  But the strongest demon, Satan himself, is no match for the Lord.  There is help for you.  Come talk to me.  There is no shame in confession of sins.
            Jesus’ family is not sure He has the Holy Spirit.  They are afraid He is out of His mind.  He is the embarrassing One, the brother who is making a spectacle before the crowd.  Mary remembers the things said by angels and shepherds, wise men and old Simeon.  She ponders them in her heart.  But those things cannot mean this, can they?  Jesus challenging the religious leaders?  Jesus surrounding Himself with crowds of the irreputable: the unclean, tax-collectors, prostitutes, sinners?  Jesus making claims that suggest He is Messiah, suggest He is the Son of God?  Well, Mary knows that to be true if she heard the angel right.  She knows His conception was a little… different than the normal way.  But the brothers (who are not yet believers, though they will be after the Resurrection)… the brothers convince her that they must shut Him up and bring Him home.
            The scribes, the religious leaders, believe there is something more sinister at work than insanity.  They are good enough theologians to know there is no such thing as spiritually neutral ground.  They believe Jesus is possessed by the devil.  Not just any demon, but Beelzebul, the lord of the flies, the prince of demons, Satan.  They are convinced the devil has given Him this power to cast out demons as a show, to attract the crowds, deceive them, and lead them astray.  But how can Satan cast out Satan (Mark 3:23)?  How would that work?  That would be like our own armed forces demonstrating their vast power to ISIS by bombing themselves.  It would be lunacy.  A kingdom, a house divided against itself cannot stand (v. 24), Words of wisdom for our nation, words of wisdom for our Church, and proof positive that Jesus is not possessed by Satan, but by the Holy Spirit.  And here is what is so chilling.  In saying He has an unclean spirit (v. 30), the scribes blaspheme the Holy Spirit.  And “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (v. 29; ESV).
            Ah, yes, the sin against the Holy Spirit, the unforgiveable sin.  This has caused no small amount of angst among Christians.  We hear about this, and we worry: “Have I committed the sin against the Holy Spirit?  Can I be forgiven?”  First of all, if you are worried about whether you’ve committed the sin against the Holy Spirit, you haven’t.  Take comfort.  If you had committed the sin against the Holy Spirit, you wouldn’t be worried about it.  That is the nature of this sin.  The sin against the Holy Spirit is to refuse Him, to harden your heart against Him when He speaks His Word, and to do this so persistently that He gives up on you.  He gives you what you want.  He hardens your heart for you, like Pharaoh in the exodus.  And then He leaves you alone.  He gives you up to your idolatry.  He gives you over to the evil spirits.  The sin against the Holy Spirit, then, is persistent unbelief.  The scribes called the Holy Spirit an evil spirit.  They rejected Jesus and believed the Holy Spirit needed casting out.  They hardened their hearts.  They blasphemed the Holy Spirit.  That is the unforgiveable sin, because it refuses forgiveness, refuses Christ.
            Now, think about the way our Lord was received by His own family, the authorities, and the religious leaders of the day.  Think about the Spirit at work in Jesus and the spirits at work in the various reactions to Christ.  And then compare these to the plight of the Church in our own day.  The Church is the Body of Christ.  As it is with Christ, the Head, so it is with the Church, His Body.  The world will reject you when you confess Christ and His holy Word, when you hold steadfast to the faith, when you insist His Word is truth.  Your own family may think you are insane.  They may try to shut you up and take you home.  The world, including many of those perceived to be “religious authorities,” may call you worse than insane.  They may accuse you of being in league with Satan.  Oh, they won’t say it that way.  They’ll say you are a hater.  They’ll say you are a bigot.  If you don’t believe me, just try calling Bruce Jenner’s recent “transformation” into question on Facebook.  No matter how gentle, how loving, how compassionate you may be, the reactions will be venomous.  The very fact that the world has so whole-heartedly embraced this is evidence of grand demonic deception.  (And this should go without saying, but because there is so much confusion in the world, I hope you know, beloved, that Mr. Jenner’s confusion calls for our compassion and for our loving confession that gender is not something we get to choose for ourselves, because God has made us male and female.  He is God.  We are not.  He will bring clarity to those who are confused, unless they harden their hearts against Him.  And Mr. Jenner is precisely the kind of person our Lord would hang out with.  But He wouldn’t leave Mr. Jenner in his perversion.  He would, and does, call him to repentance and faith.)  The world has no love lost for Christians.  The world thinks we are insane to believe the things we believe.  And the world calls the Holy Spirit an evil spirit, a spirit of hatred and bigotry, a spirit of ignorance and intolerance.  Being a disciple of Jesus comes with a cost.  They will revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely on account of Jesus (Matt. 5:11).  Our Lord promises it.  But rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in the heavens.  For so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (v. 12). 

            You have the Spirit of faith about whom St. Paul writes in our Epistle: “I believed, and so I spoke,” Paul quotes the Psalmist (2 Cor. 4:13; Ps. 116:10).  So you believe, and so you speak.  You believe because the Spirit has given you faith in Christ as a gift.  You speak because the Spirit teaches you what to say by His Word and gives you courage.  And along with faith and His Word, the Spirit gives you the gift of discernment.  You discern the spirits.  You know that the Holy Spirit speaks in the Word of God and the confession that Christ is Lord.  You also know that evil spirits parade as angels of light.  That means they look good to the world, and even to your flesh.  But you can always tell them for who they are when they call on you to doubt the Lord’s Word, to doubt your salvation in Jesus, to harden your heart, to go your own way.  Generally speaking, the world will not be a fan of what the Holy Spirit is doing.  The world will always follow the evil spirits.  But you are not of the world.  You have been called out of it.  The Holy Spirit has cast out every evil spirit in your Baptism into Christ.  He has taken possession of you, body and soul.  And He has brought you into His Church, the Communion of the Baptized, the Body of Christ, sons and daughters of the Father.  Here Jesus Himself washes you, and teaches you, and feeds you with His Body and Blood.  Here Jesus Himself forgives your sins and grants you eternal life.  He calls you His brothers and sisters and mother.  For you do the will of God.  And the will of God is simply this: that you believe in Jesus Christ, whom He has sent.  So here, in the Church, you are safe from the demons and unclean spirits.  You are with Jesus, who has crushed the serpent’s head.  And “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16).  The Kingdom ours remaineth (LSB 656:4).  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.          

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