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 05, 2015

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (B—Proper 9)

July 5, 2015
Text: Mark 6:1-13

            Preachers are called to preach the Word of the Lord.  Jesus sends them with all His authority to speak His Word… all of it, the whole counsel of God, no more, no less.  The preacher doesn’t get to pick and choose what he likes and what he doesn’t like, what is safe to proclaim and what could land him in hot water with the people or with the government.  The Holy Christian Church is called to hear the Word of God… all of it, the whole counsel of God, whether it appeals to her members or not.  She is to receive it gladly, confess it boldly, and support the ministers of Christ who publicly proclaim it.  But understand, there is no promise of glorious success in this undertaking, at least not in human terms.  There will be those who hear the Word of God, repent of their sins, and come to faith in Christ.  But there will also be those who will not hear, not for lack of preaching, but because they refuse to hear.  They do not want the Lord or His Word.  And this should not surprise us.  We are a rebellious nation in the midst of rebellious nations, after all.  Fallen sinners, every one.  We are born unbelievers.  Our ears are not, by nature, attuned to the things of the Spirit.  That is why we require a new birth by water and the Word, the washing of regeneration that is Holy Baptism, that born of the Spirit we have ears to hear.  It is God’s gift, this new life, this faith that hangs on every Word of the Lord Jesus.  It is His doing, and not our own.  And so it is that we are called to preach and hear and confess the living Word of God.  But the results are up to the Spirit.  We are not called to success.  We are called to faithfulness. 
            Jesus came to His hometown, Nazareth, to His home synagogue, to be the Guest Preacher on this particular Sabbath.  The text doesn’t say it, but I can imagine how it went.  Everyone was excited that the hometown Boy was returning to preach.  “That’s our Boy!  He’s done well.  Look at the following He has.  Why, I can remember when He was just a little guy on Momma’s knee.  I just can’t wait to hear His sermon.  I bet He’s a good Preacher.”  But then He opens His mouth.  And He preaches the Word of God unvarnished, with all its rough edges and hard surfaces, the crushing weight of the Law, the scandal of the Holy Gospel.  And the people say, “Wait a minute!  This is not what we were expecting.  Who does this kid think He is, anyway?!  Saying things only God has the authority to say!  Telling us to repent!  Forgiving our sins!  After all, He’s just a carpenter.  Nobody special!  We know His mom and His brothers and sisters.”  I’ve preached at my home Church, and while everyone was very gracious, I’m not sure how effective a preacher I can be to people who changed my diapers.  When a preacher returns home, at best, there is a condescending pride in the boy who made good.  Jesus gets the worst.  The people are offended at Him.  They will not hear the Word from Him.  “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and his own household” (Mark 6:4; ESV).  “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” (vv. 5-6).  Disappointing.  Sad.  But so it goes.  Jesus came to preach, and that is what He does.  Whether they hear or refuse to hear (Ez. 2:5).
            Our Lord’s mistreatment serves as an object lesson for the Church.  This is not just about a preacher returning to his home congregation.  This is the treatment any faithful Christian can expect when you speak the Word of the Lord.  Jesus calls the Twelve and begins to send them out two by two.  He invests them with His own authority over unclean spirits.  He sends them out to preach that people should repent, to cast out demons and heal the sick, to be His spokesmen, His representatives to the people.  An “Apostle” is one who is sent.  The Apostles were sent by the Lord Jesus, and they possessed all His authority in the matter for which they were sent, so that when they spoke, when they acted, it was the same as though Jesus Himself spoke or acted.  And so also the reaction they were to encounter.  Jesus tells them they will not always be received well.  “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there.  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” (Mark 6:10-11).  The negative reaction is not to the Apostles in and of themselves.  It is a rejection of Christ.  It is a refusal to hear His Word.  As Jesus says elsewhere, “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16).  “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master… If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matt. 10:24-25).  No matter.  “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12). 
            That is what the world does to prophets and preachers of the Word.  That is certainly how they treated Ezekiel.  God sends His man, the prophet Ezekiel, to a rebellious nation of Israel.  And He virtually promises the prophet he will be rejected.  “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” (Ez. 2:4-5).  The preacher is sent to preach the Word of the Lord.  He is not called to success.  He is called to faithfulness.  Whether they hear or refuse to hear, they will know that Christ has sent His man, that the Lord has spoken. 
            This is a comfort to pastors and to the Church in a world that doesn’t really want to hear us right now.  We’re free to believe what we want to believe, as long as we do it quietly.  But when we come speaking the Word of the Lord, preaching that the people should repent, that they are sinners, and so are we by the way, and we all need the salvation that only comes in Jesus Christ, well… No, thank you!  Keep preaching that and we’ll have to silence you by force.  Refuse to endorse same-sex “marriage” and we’ll strip you of your tax-exempt status.  Speak against homosexuality and we’ll fine you for hate speech.  Keep it up and we’ll arrest you.  I’m not exaggerating.  It’s already happening in Canada and Europe.  There are proposals to do it here.  The stage is set and it will happen.  But that’s the Spirit’s problem, not yours.  Jesus is Lord, and Caesar is not.  We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).  You just confess the truth in love.  I’ll just keep preaching.  And whether they hear or refuse to hear, they’ll know that the people of God have been among them. 
            And the miracle is that some will hear.  The Spirit does His work in the preaching of the Gospel.  He breaks hearts of stone and bestows beating hearts of flesh.  He brings to new birth by water and the Word.  He leads the Old Adam to water and drowns him good and dead, that He raise up the new man in Christ to live in Him by faith.  He bestows seeing eyes on the blind and hearing ears on the deaf.  He opens dumb mouths and looses bound tongues to speak His Word faithfully.  He sends preachers to preach and the Word of the Lord grows as sinners come to faith in Christ.  “(W)e preach Christ crucified,” says St. Paul, “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23-24).  We preach Christ crucified for sinners, for the forgiveness of sins.  We preach Christ raised from the dead, who will raise us also.  It is a scandal, and it is really to say that Christ Jesus saved us precisely in being rejected.  It’s true.  He saved us by dying.  Not very successful in human terms.  But with God, things are not as they appear.  His death is His triumph and our salvation.  So with St. Paul, we are content to be weak and defeated in the eyes of the world.  For the sake of Christ, we are “content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities” (2 Cor. 12:10).  For Jesus says to us as He said to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (v. 9). 

            So it is that the Lord sends His weak preachers to mount pulpits week after week, day after day, proclaiming “Thus says the LORD GOD” to poor miserable sinners.  It is a pitiful sight to the movers and shakers of this world.  But with God, things are not as they appear.  The weak man is clothed in an Office that speaks for the risen Lord Jesus Christ.  The Word he speaks grants life to the dead.  And the sinners in the pew are forgiven, righteous, glorious saints, who reign with Christ and will judge the world.  We preach and we suffer, willingly, with rejoicing, because we know how this ends.  We know it is good.  For Christ is risen.  He lives, and He reigns.  The old is passing away.  Jesus makes all things new.  “Thus says the LORD GOD.”  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.           

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