Today’s Sermon September 30, 2012
Grace, Mercy and peace are yours through Jesus Christ, Amen.
Our Sermon for this the 18th Sunday after Pentecost comes from the Gospel reading just read in Mark.
Growing up I was loved, taken care of and taught well. Both my mother and father loved me dearly, still do and it is true that they would have done anything for me no matter what the cost. I was cherished, but still there was doubt that crept into my mind as a teenager and there were many times where I wondered if my mother and father really loved me. And so… I endeavored to do well… it doesn’t really matter what it was whether track or football, academics or even trying to keep my room clean I did my best in order to win approval that in reality I already had. I couldn’t understand that as an adolescent, but as my relationship with my parents grew… and certainly upon becoming a father myself I began to understand the love of a mother or father for their child. There was nothing I could do to make my mother and father love me more, but it was I who convinced myself that there was something more that was needed for them to love me. It’s simple to understand this temporal concept but to understand that the same is true of Eternal God’s thoughts of us, well… according to our sin, it’s impossible.
Like St. John; we all want approval. Whether it’s the small child looking for the pat on the back from mom and dad, the athlete who gets to sterling write-up in the sports section, the academic who makes the honor roll, or the hard worker who deserves a raise, it makes no difference… we all want to be recognized when we do well.
St. John approaches Jesus in our text for today with an honest question. “Was it Okay for me to rebuke the man who had been healing in your name Lord?” Just as John asks the question John hears words that must have made his heart sink in the same way as ours does when, after completing a task we were sure was going to be met with approval, is quickly rebuked by the very one from whom we sought the approval. Jesus words seem harsh, scathing and unappreciative. Doesn’t he see the good intentions John had? No doubt Jesus did, but it is not good intentions, the disciples discipline or even the healing work of the man who cast the demon out that makes a real difference, this is what Jesus has been trying to teach John, the disciples and us throughout the Gospel. Christ, in the last verses of Mark’s gospel is fast approaching His death on the cross and His sole aim at this point in the Gospel is to make sure that His followers understand everything that was going to happen for them… it’s imperative that they know, it’s imperative that they believe, but at every turn it becomes clear that the disciples of our Lord just don’t get it.
Many of you have heard the old cliche, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” and while those words are not found anywhere in Holy scriptures they serve as a good reminder to you and me today that it is not our best that God wants, instead God our loving heavenly Father insists that the disciples have their eyes opened to see and receive the best that God has to give to us. It is imperative that those disciples, who would become the first pastors of the Christian church understand who Christ is and what He has come to do. For if they stumble; if they continue to believe falsely they will most certainly be the first to receive the punishment Jesus speaks about today in our text. If they lead any away, any little ones, that is to say, anyone, young or old, who believes on Jesus, it would be better for them to have a millstone fastened around their neck and to be cast into the sea. These are Strong and stern words!. But by these words Christ is serious about His disciples leaving with the right confession; the very confession we heard last week from our Lord; “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” This is the confession that is necessary; this is the only confession that is necessary from any Christian as St. Paul reminds us of in 1 Corinthians 2:2 “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” What is important is not that John perfectly discharges his holy call, not that the man who cast out the demon did what was right, not that any of the disciples have delivered water to one who was thirsty. Because in reality, none of these men had any power in themselves to discharge these tasks, as our Lord reminds us… Whoever casts out In my name, Whoever delivers water to you because you belong to Christ… Christ has been crucified for you, your sins have been put to death with Him. God is pleased with you because of what Jesus has done for you and me. But we humans are dead set, and thoroughly convinced that it is the works Christ talks about today that must be done in order to receive God’s favor. But my friends as we have seen time and again, it is not those works that we do in order to receive anything. It is exactly opposite; you and I do these things because we have already been marked, because we carry the name of Christ everywhere that we go already, Christ does these works through us.
Do not forget that Christ’s name has been placed upon you in the waters of Holy Baptism. Because of this it is the Name of the Triune God that you bear already. Most of you were marked before you could ever utter a word or walk a step. The name of the Triune God was placed upon you before your hands ever committed a sin, before your feet carried you to sinful things and before your eyes could behold great sin and vice. Christ claimed you, drowned the Old Adam in you, branded you, marked you as His own and has created a clean heart in you already… given unconditionally, given to you freely, given to you because He loves you and wants nothing more than to be with you forever. It is finished. But yet, we, like those Israelites we heard about in our OT lesson, who had been given freedom from bondage, still clamor for something more than perfection.
St. Mark reminded us just four short weeks ago: For from within, out of the heart of man, comes evil.” It is not our hands, or feet or eyes that cause us to sin… it is our hearts. The heart of the old sinful Adam still resides in us, and it is because of this that our hands and feet and eyes commit all sorts of sin. And so it is when Jesus says today to cut these things away, to throw them off He is not commanding literal dismemberment but is helping His disciples and us to remember that which He has already said. It’s a test really… a test to see how well the disciples had listened; and once again they fail. But it serves another purpose as well; for there is literal cutting that our Lord does command us to do. It is the same sort of cutting that we see used in the field of agriculture. It is the practice of pruning.
My friends, Melissa planted beautiful rose bushes in April… I am pleased to report that all the bushes have produced beautiful and fragrant flowers, in fact I just pruned one of them off on Friday for our kitchen windowsill. But a stark fact faces every gardener, every farmer who wishes for a bumper crop. Branches which would sap growth from other areas of the rose bush must be pruned, cut away. The same is true for we who have been baptized into Christ. We too engage in a cutting away; a cutting away of those things which stand in the way of Christ. And it is this which Jesus calls us to today. Thanks be to God, that our limbs and our eyes have no need of being cut off or plucked out. And thanks be to God that He provides the means necessary to cut away those sins that have attached themselves to us. My friends, the cutting away that God does to us is indeed painful at the time that it is being done, His word cuts straight to our heart. His perfect word of law leaves us no wiggle room, and in the end we realize that that sin which has attached itself to us must be cut away in order that we may see clearly the great mercy and grace that God has given to us. It is painful, it is often embarrassing, and too often our pride gets the best of us and convinces us that what we’ve done really isn’t all that bad. But have we ever stopped and asked ourselves; does it have to be this way?
Dear brother’s and sisters, Satan, the king of this world loves nothing more than to keep you from the gifts that God gives to you and me in Repentance and confession. He loves keep you separated from your pastor who has been given the charge of salting you for this world. He loves to keep you from the salting that your brother’s and sister’s in Christ provide for you. He loves to keep you from the peace of absolution. Satan knows that where ever there is forgiveness of sins that there also is eternal life and salvation. Dear friends, we cut away not physical body parts, but rather, actual sins. We lay our sins and burdens at the foot of our Lord’s cross and receive in return God’s absolution, peace and the promise of everlasting life. We are salted by the word of our Lord, so that we may preserved in peace, and given flavor for this bland world. Christ has salted us with His life giving word, it is Christ who first came into the world dead with sin and brought it to life through His holy blood.
Dear friends, you are the salt of the earth, the children of God! Just the same as salt was used in the days before refrigeration to preserve and flavor meat, the gospel of our Lord preserves you in the promises of Christ. Be salted often. Come to hear time and again how your Lord preserves you. Come to hear the flavor of life, life everlasting in order that you may go out into this world of death and sin as ones who have been made alive by Christ. Your savor, your flavor, is Christ; a flavor that is so desperately needed in this world. Your savoriness is certain, for it is what every baptized believer carries with them already. You bear the name of Christ where ever you are, you have been marked and claimed by the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost, salty you are, and salty you shall remain for Christ’s sake. Amen.