Sermon Archive

SERMON: 6 Easter (May 10)

Category: News, Sermon Tags: May 10, 2015 @ 9:00 am

The Rev. Franklin Wilson

The Rev. Franklin Wilson

Readings

Acts 10:44-48
Psalm 98
1 John 5:1-6
John 15:9-17

Text

“The Lord will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity.”
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you… love one another.”

Listen

“You are my friends if you do what I command you … love one another.”  I wonder about the “if.”  The very fact that I wonder, the fact that the “if” threatens me, indicates that I read Christ the way I read a legal contract: as a matter of law.  It tells me that, when push comes to proverbial shove, I hear Christ’s command not as gift, but as burden.  It tells me that I don’t abide in Christ’s love; that I’m not Christ’s friend; that I don’t qualify.  Which (from my side) is true, and yet (from Christ’s side), is false.

Still, the “if” haunts me.  It condemns me to uncertainty at best.  Worse than that, the if subverts even my uncertainty, leaving me with the certainty that I don’t abide in Christ, that I fail Christ’s love.  So long as the “if” endures, the best I can hope for is a certain uncertainty: the lingering suspicion that I’m not.  But, then, according to St. Paul, uncertainty may suggest hope, the very ground in which Christ grows faith.

Did you ever doubt your mother’s love?  Hollis did.  When Hollis was five years old, there was a day when he could not believe his mother loved him.  His family had just moved into a neighborhood of farmlets—little weekend acreages with small barns, a couple of out buildings, a pasture, a hay field, a small orchard, and neighboring houses across the fields.

Linda and Bill lived to one side, Pete and Irene on the other.  Linda was also five, and became friends with Hollis that first week.  Each day when kindergarten was over, they’d race from the bus, have a snack, and then meet in the field to plan adventures.  Sometimes they’d chase chickens; sometimes they’d explore the woods or throw rocks at cattle.  Or they’d play hide and seek in the barn.  Then, one day, they decided to take off their clothes and race naked around the hay mow.  They had a blast chasing each other shrieking at the top of their lungs.  It was perfect Eden until Maxine, Linda’s frantic mother, discovered them.  Their shrieks had caught Maxine’s ear.  Suddenly, she was there: an enormous cat pouncing on a cowering mouse.  The field stretched continental as furious Maxine dragged Hollis pell-mell across it, swatting his bare behind with every giant step.

By the time Maxine delivered Hollis into the hands of his mother at the back door, he knew he had committed mortal sin, that he was as good as dead, that judgment would be swift, that he would never again be welcomed home, or anywhere else in the neighborhood.  As Maxine proclaimed his sin, he was certain he’d forfeited his mother’s love: he’d be disowned, sent away—probably to “Woodburn,” the infamous reform school, the place his older brother had said was a hell hole from which you could never return.  He’d have to pack his bag and forfeit his dinner.  The police would soon arrive and take him away.

As Maxine turned and huffed off back across the field, Hollis waited for the hammer to come down.  Standing stark naked inside the utility room, shivering with fear, he awaited the worst:  judgment, condemnation, rejection.  Shaking her head, his mother left the room, and went inside.  He could hear her footsteps on the stairs.  Maybe she was going to get a gun.  Maybe she was going to get a suitcase.  Maybe she was going to get his little brother to protect the sleeping child from the shame of such a wayward brother.

It wasn’t long before she was back: no gun; no suitcase; no baby brother. She had gone to fetch some clothes. “Here,” she said, “Put these on while I make you a sandwich.” Hollis was crying and, amid his tears, saying how sorry he was.  But, seeing the clothes and hearing “Sandwich,” he managed to mumble, “Aren’t you mad?”

“Oh,” she said, “I’m a little mad at Maxine for getting so worked up over the two of you.  That’s just something kids do.  I’d probably be a little angry at you if you did it again.  But I expect you’ve learned it’s best to keep your clothes on when playing with the neighbors.”  “Here,” she said, “Eat your sandwich, and don’t worry too much about Maxine.  She’ll get over it.  I just hope Linda doesn’t get it any worse than you did.”

Linda and Hollis never spoke of it, so he never knew.  But he did know this:  there’s a world of difference between the varieties of love.  When Christ Jesus bids us abide in his love, he says we can trust the dependability of his love, not ours.  Whereas our love for anything and everything is inconstant, and changing with the weather, or with age and circumstance, Christ’s love for us is constant, unchanging, and eternal.  As Luther might say, we cannot of our own ignorance or weakness alter Christ’s love.  Christ’s love is more like a mother’s—only stronger, more durable, and utterly dependable.  Yet a mother’s love (or indeed any parent’s love), impressive though it may be, is merely a sign of that love which Christ alone exhibits not merely for good people but especially for the bad, for us not merely when we’re lovable, but most especially when we’re not—when the “if” haunts, and we know in ourselves that we fail Christ and his commands.  Even so, and especially then, Christ abides.  His cross-death signs his love.  He bears the shameful pain for us.  The death we deserve, he takes upon himself.  This, then, is love: we did not choose him, but he chose us, and gave himself for us when we were naked, afraid, and trembling at the door in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

5 Easter (May 3)

Category: Sermon Tags: May 3, 2015 @ 9:00 am

The Rev. Franklin Wilson

The Rev. Franklin Wilson

Readings

Acts 8:26-40
Psalm 22:25-31
1 John 4:7-21
John 15:1-8

Text

“To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down… and I shall live for him.”
“We love because he first loved us.”
“Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”

Listen

First things first:  First John says, “We love because he first loved us.”  In the Gospel, Jesus says, “Abide in me as I abide in you.” He then provides an analogy:  “Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”

He first loved us?  In our English language, “Love” is a problematic word.  We “love” everything from apples to antiques, from the Packers to peanuts, from the Badgers to bowling, from   Cantata to curds.  Jesus himself seems to understand this.  Therefore, he communicates the meaning of “abide in my love” by means of horticulture: the vine and the branch.

“Abide in me as I abide in you.”  A corollary might sound like this:  there would be no apple without an apple tree.  Today’s readings proclaim the interrelation of life, and not merely of biological life, but the dependent LIFE of Christ, the LIFE we are grafted into by baptism into Christ, being made members of him, his body.  It’s not that the body of Christ is a metaphor for life; it’s that the body of Christ is LIFE itself.  Christ is Life.  The antithesis is also true:  there is no LIFE apart from the body of Christ, no LIFE apart from Christ himself.  Christ is the very life the beauty and sound Cantata Sunday proclaims.

Of course, the Botany Department may disagree.  But that’s no surprise.  It’s not the purpose of Botany to dissect love, but rather to explore plant life in all its physical, material, and measurable forms.  This, it turns out, can be done (perhaps must be done) apart from love—that is without the invariable loss of self all true love requires.  And yet, even within the Botanical Garden signs of love abide—engraved paving stones bear the names of persons who exercised self-sacrifice developing the study of Botany at the University of Wisconsin.

Some sunny day, take a walk across University Avenue.  Cross the street and follow the path northwest, past the engraved paving stones, up the hill through the Botanical Garden, toward an apple tree at the Garden’s northwest edge.  A bronze plaque near the tree’s trunk declares in part that the tree is a “Newton Apple Tree,” a direct descendent of the English apple tree from which it is thought Isaac Newton first observed a falling apple and, as a consequence, began work on his theory of gravitational force.   The walk is worth it not only to see the Newton Tree, but because Bruce Bengtson says (and he’s right) it’s the best place on campus from which to view the gravitational force of Luther memorial Church.

There were no falling apples last Wednesday, when my wife and I sat beneath that tree.  There were, however, brilliant pink and white blossoms bursting with summer promise.  Gorgeous hues of erupting buds beckoned bees buzzing in bright sunlight beneath a sky of cobalt blue.  A vernal breeze rustled leaves of Edenic green:  the tree was newly dressed in the elegant attire of Easter unknown to Botany.  As a child knows not his or her conception, so Botany cannot know its conception in the love of God; a botanist may know, but Botany cannot.  The child knows only that it is; that it lives and moves and is the child of Jean and Dave, or Art and Pauline, or Don and Helene.  Like Botany, a child cannot know (and perhaps even should not know) the genesis of its conception, but only that it is; and that is enough, at least enough for now.

But there will come a day when the child will want to know.  There may even come a day when the child will need to know the how and why of his or her impassioned parental entry into biological life, an existence that could not have been without them and that; a life that wholly depends on them and that; the way an apple depends not only on the tree, but also on the bud, the branch, the leaf, the breeze, the bee, the bacteria, the sun, the clouds, the rain, the dirt, the roots, the bark, the DNA, and the gravity which first pulled the fruit earthward, borne-drop-down descending through light faster than the flux of all things, photon flooding Newton’s eye, traversing optic nerve, pulsing oxygen rich blood past cerebrating neurons, mingling with carbon and hydrogen (C6,H12,O6) to become the sugary zest, the mythic apple of human desire.

No wonder they say it was an apple that she took, an apple that she gave, an apple her husband (our mythic father) ate, and tasted the first sweetness of sin’s bitter fear only to fear and blame (“the woman whom Thou gavest to be with me!”) only to fear and blame the very One on whom he and we depend for life and all things.

“Abide in me.”  This, then, is love: a dependent apple; a dependent tree, blossom, leaf and earth, a crucified man depending from the wood.  Why so?  Because that tree, and every tree, that apple tree and every fruit-laden vine of summer, that vine and every cluster of grapes, that cluster of grapes and every drop of blood red juice, that blood red juice and every drop of wine, that drop of wine and every ear of grain, all proclaim the Tree of Life, and the Fruit of that Tree, the very melody and meaning of life, the music, the LIFE that is Christ himself.  Eat him.  Drink him.  Consume Christ. Depend on Him:  the love of God in whom and by whom and with whom we abide.  Come, let us sing unto the Lord.  Eat.  Drink.  Abide.  Love. Sing.  Depend.  Christ’s gravitational pull:  Cantate!

4 Easter (Apr 26)

Category: Sermon Tags: April 28, 2015 @ 1:20 pm

The Rev. Franklin Wilson

The Rev. Franklin Wilson

Readings

Acts 4:5–12
Psalm 23
1 John 3:16–24
John 10:11–18

Text

“There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”
“We know love by this, that [Christ] laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.”
“No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

Listen

In a pluralistic age, it is generally assumed that the meaning of a word like “salvation” (like the meaning of any word), is limited to individual interpretation.  In such an age, one can hardly imagine a sentence more embarrassing than this from the First Lesson:  “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”

The very mention of “salvation” is itself enough to make a child of the modern age cringe.  The word conjures visions of a benighted era, minds narrow with religious obsession, souls burdened by fear, the high anxiety of divine condemnation from which “salvation” delivers.

To make matters worse, Acts says that this salvation—if we even allow the possibility—Acts says that this “salvation” exists solely in one person—“there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”  In an age of “inclusivity,” here is a claim mortifying in the extreme.  This salvation which we must have exists in, with, and under one name only: Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord of the universe, a first century Jew put to criminal death and raised on the third day: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”  The name, however, is exclusive in one sense only:  it is exclusive of sin, the very thing to which we cling.

Offensive though the First Lesson seems, it’s perfect for the Rite of Confirmation, the Affirmation of Baptism for:  Abigail, Branden, Calvin, and Henry.  The First Lesson is perfect for Confirmation, perfect for people steeped in the death of objective truth, the power of individual choice.  It’s perfect because it runs against the grain of post-enlightenment culture—that is, against our culture, the regnant view that there is no such thing as objective truth, that truth (if there is any) is relative to individual point of view, that salvation (to the degree there is any) is determined by individual taste, choice, and preference, that if we need or want saving at all, we could be saved by whatever or whoever we choose, that, in fact, there are as many names under heaven who could save us (if, indeed, we wanted saving) as there are individuals under heaven considering the vast menu of saving options.

To put the question succinctly:  “Do you want salvation?” may be considered as roughly equivalent to “Do you want fries with that?”  Just like fast food, “salvation,” comes with options:  self-actualization, self-fulfillment, and self-aggrandizement might be roughly equivalent to our choice of fries, green salad, coleslaw, joe-joes, chips, three-bean salad, or (if you choose) soup, of which there are at least three kinds ….”  We live in an age of individuated choice as a kind of salvation.

Yet, notice:  spoken in the voice of Peter, the Acts reading gives no options, offers no menu, invites no choice.   The speaker provides one meal and one only.  In Acts, we have not come to Burger King, but to the Holy Trinity, to the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, the Holy Supper.  The Body of Christ given for you.  The Blood of Christ shed for you.  No wonder so much of Christian history finds the church conflicted along sacramental lines:  once a month or once a week?  Flat bread or raised?  Wine or grape juice?  One cup or many?  Drink or dip?  Wheat or gluten free?  Standing, kneeling, or sitting?  All baptized Christians welcomed or only our particular type?  Baptism necessary  or unnecessary?  We will, you see, exercise our will.  We will invent a choice where we have none.  We will decide!

Peter’s speech, however, warns that we are bound to decide badly.  Like Israel of old, the church of every age, we will do wrong in the name of doing right; we are bound to do evil in the name of doing good; bound to kill God’s Son to protect God’s law; we love ourselves under the pretense of loving God and neighbor; we are bound to call our love God’s love even as we hate in God’s name.

In truth, it is not God’s condemnation from which we need salvation.  We need saving from our selves.  Just like those addressed by Peter, we do precisely what we would and not what we should do: we kill the very one sent to save us from ourselves.  That is, in rejecting God’s Savior, we participate in the accomplishment of God’s salvation; we embrace life by destroying the Lord of life.  We exercise our vaunted inclusivity by excluding any we think less inclusive than ourselves.  We prove Jesus divine by killing him that he might be raised from the dead and thereby revealed as “the Stone the builders rejected.”  In short, as enemies of God we are our own worst enemies.

In other words, the salvation we must have saves us from ourselves, and this Christ, is the only one who has died to save us.  Whether we want him to save us is beside the point.  God raised him from the dead, and by baptism joined us to his death and resurrection.  By the Father’s choice, we are saved.  And, after four decades of teaching Confirmation—40 years in the wilderness!—nothing is clearer to me than that we need to be saved from ourselves.  Christ’s death and resurrection proclaim that this salvation is accomplished, finished, done.  Therefore we say “I do and I ask God to help me,” because in Christ Jesus, God already has done; God already has helped us, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

3 Easter (Apr 19)

Category: Sermon Tags: April 19, 2015 @ 9:00 am

The Rev. Eric Jones

The Rev. Eric Jones

Readings

Acts 3:12-19
Psalm 4
1 John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48

Listen

2 Easter (Apr 12)

Category: Sermon Tags: April 12, 2015 @ 9:00 am

The Rev. Brad Pohlman

The Rev. Brad Pohlman

Readings

Acts 4:32-35
Psalm 133
1 John 1:1-2:2
John 20:19-31

Listen

Easter Day (Apr 5)

Category: Sermon Tags: April 5, 2015 @ 9:00 am

The Rev. Franklin Wilson

The Rev. Franklin Wilson

Readings

Isaiah 25:6-9
Psalm 118
1 Cor. 15:1-11
Mark 16:1-8

Text

“Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He has been raised….And going out they fled from the tomb, for trembling and ecstasy had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid.”

Listen

“Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He has been raised.”  But they were alarmed—so freaked out, they fled the tomb in ecstatic fear and said nothing to anyone.  They were terrified: the dead man was alive again. Moreover, they would see him in Galilee.  How would that go down?

Don’t be alarmed?  Who’s the young guy think he’s fooling?  Maybe angels are that cool.  Maybe, like Spock, they have ice in their veins.  But even Vulcans die.  Check out Leonard Nemoy: way cool though he was, he’s spending this Easter on the down side of sod.  But, then, what if he were no longer dead?  Suppose when you turn to share the peace this morning it’s Spock there beside you: cool as an Easter angel, flashing his Vulcan salute.  “Peace to you,” says Spock.  “Don’t be alarmed,” he says, “They’re gonna beam us up.”

But that’s the thing.  Maybe Nemoy got beamed, but Jesus didn’t.  Here’s the thing about Christ’s resurrection: on the third day, they didn’t beam Jesus to the warp-speed safety of a star ship. They didn’t zap-tingle him into some distant galaxy, a hidden dimension of the multi-verse.

The risen Jesus didn’t skip off to a perfect paradise like Andromeda 3 or Telexis 7.  That’s what I would have done.  And so would’ve Bones McCoy, James Kirk, O’Hara, and Spock.  That’s what we’d do too.  A little well-deserved R and R seems appropriate following the week Jesus had.  Passion Week’s no picnic:  handed over to the authorities, rejected, abused, humiliated, tortured, and killed.  Who couldn’t use a little beam up after that?

Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.  Take it easy. Take a break.  Take five.  Kick back. Relax.  Enjoy.  You deserve it.  Pamper yourself.  A little post-redemption down-time. But this angel’s no trekkie.  He says, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he goes before you to Galilee.”

Galilee?  Imagine Spock risen from the grave, and the first thing he wants is you to see him in Kronos—the dead center of Klingon territory.  Galilee’s no place for rest and relaxation.  It’s the center of revolution, a borderline Gentile nightmare (Galilee of the Gentiles!), a down-home zone fraught with constant struggle.

“Go tell his disciples and Peter that he goes before you to Galilee.”  But resurrection’s not supposed to include ordinary Galilee.  Galilee’s the routine we know:  life in the shadow of death.  Galilee is all who have lived and all who have died.  We try to remember them, but we can’t. Their number’s too vast.  Trying to remember all the dead is tantamount to what God said to Abraham:  “look at the stars and number them if you are able.”  Abraham wasn’t able; and, despite our telemetric advantage, neither are we.  Numbering the dead would be like counting the grains of sand on the earth.  It can’t be done.  Numbering the grains of sand, counting the stars, like counting the hairs on our head, is like, well, it’s like raising the dead: impossible.

Impossible for us, but not for God.  For God, all things are possible. The Christ who heads to Galilee is the very One who says we are each known by the God who made us.  That sounds like wishful thinking.  How could anybody know everybody?  Impossible.  But Jesus goes further:  Not only are we each known to our Creator, the Father even numbers the hairs on our head.

Of course, that’s ridiculous; impossible.  Yet, like the resurrection of the dead, it’s impossible for us, but not for God.  Jesus isn’t a professor of science, or a super-hero, or even a philosopher of logic.  He’s more complex than that.  Jesus is science. Christ is the hero of loss, the Logician of impossible.  He’s the Logic of life through death.  He’s the Lord of loss as gain; the Prince of power in weakness.  He’s the Knowledge of unknowing to know, the Science of less as more; the Least forever more than all.

Easter is more than entertaining diversion, a break between games, the televisual soft of non-speak.  Far from soft, resurrection is the hard word of Galilee; the Compass of death into Life, the forever Feast of death’s death:  “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines …. And he will swallow up death forever.”

The Risen Christ skips not the light fantastic.  He skips nothing.  He goes to Galilee, goes ahead into real life, the struggle of life fraught with death.  He goes not to a luxury star ship or an exclusive club, but to mundane Galilee, where everyone has gone before.  And more:  Christ gives a feast for all peoples. A feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines…for all peoples.  For all peoples?  Is that even possible?  Christ is the impossible made actual.

In the deadliest of places (Earth!), the Risen Lord holds the crown-jewel of feasts, the Easter meal of Christ’s own body and blood. We eat and drink him: the fruit of eternal life.  Christ swallows death forever.  He consumes our death, even as we swallow him.  Easter brings ecstatic terror.  The terror of life beyond death.  Since Christ has been raised, what’s left to beam up?  Christ is risen.  Easter beams down.  Alleluia!

Maundy Thursday (Apr 2)

Category: Sermon Tags: April 2, 2015 @ 9:00 am

The Rev. Brad Pohlman

The Rev. Brad Pohlman

Readings

Exodus 12:1-14
Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31b-35

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Passion/Palm Sunday (Mar 29)

Category: Sermon Tags: March 29, 2015 @ 9:00 am

The Rev. Brad Pohlman

The Rev. Brad Pohlman

Readings

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
Mark 14:1-15:47

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5 Lent (Mar 22)

Category: Sermon Tags: March 22, 2015 @ 9:00 am

The Rev. Franklin Wilson

The Rev. Franklin Wilson

Readings

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 51:1-12
Hebrews 5:5-10
John 12:20-33

Text

“…for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”
“….he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Listen

God promises to “remember [our] sin no more.”  It’s not that God forgets—that’s what we do or, at least, what I do.  But the Lord’s amnesia is intentional, a matter of God’s will.  Unlike my own advancing forgetfulness, God chooses not to remember: selective amnesia as divine choice, volition.  The Lord wills not to remember our sin:  speaking with the voice of God, Jeremiah says, “I will…remember their sin no more.”

God’s choice to forget sin forms the counterpoint to forgiveness:  “I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”  In other words, God chooses not to remember what has been forgiven.  In still other words, the Lord remembers our iniquity that he may forget our sin.  God chooses not to remember our sin: (as we say in the Confession) the things “we have done, and the things we have failed to do.”  But, more than that, the Lord forgives the ­way we are.  God chooses to forgive that we are sinful.  This forgiving and intentional forgetting are primary signs of God’s love.  As Paul says:  “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”   Christ’s death for us equals God’s love for us.

Speaking with the voice of Jesus, today’s Gospel puts it this way:  “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”  John’s Gospel speaks poetically of crucifixion.  Jesus says, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth.  “Lifted up” is John’s image of crucifixion.  When Jesus is crucified, he is “lifted up from the earth.”  John makes this clear in the last line of today’s Gospel when he says, “He [that is, Christ] said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.” In other words, the death of Jesus is no accident, no mistake, not a simple overreach of Roman imperial power, nor the vicious result of mean-spirited religious authority.

Jesus was crucified because he intended to be crucified. Moreover, because the Father willed it; being lifted up, being crucified is the Son’s whole purpose (“….it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.”).  The Son’s crucifixion is the Lord’s subversive means of “glorifying the Father’s name.”

If nothing else, the crucifixion of Jesus makes us reconsider what “glory” means, and most especially what the “glory of God” means.  How can the brutal and humiliating death of God’s only begotten Son glorify the Father’s name?  Instead of “glory,” common sense (that most uncommon of all human traits), common sense understands the crucifixion of the Father’s beloved Son (in the language of Phyllis Tribble) as “divine child abuse,” the deranged activity of a madman, the opposite of “glory.”

In saving us, the Son contradicts us.  Hebrews says that “Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, ‘You are my Son, to day I have begotten you,’” and “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” In other words, the Father’s appointment of the Son, the consecration the Son as high priest after Melchizedek, the mythic King of Righteousness, underscores the intentionality of Christ’s suffering, crucifixion, and death.

Left to ourselves, we might imagine a king of righteousness lording it over us and enforcing his rule by means of strict religious authority—a severe righteousness manifest in power both dominant and unyielding, punishing and condemning us for being sinful—for the things we have done or left undone.

But Christ does not rule by means of domineering power; he reigns in suffering, weakness, and death.  Hebrews goes on to say that, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him (read raise him) from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him….”  In other words, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the King of Righteousness, suffers and dies for unrighteous sinners—for all who oppose God.  The Obedient suffers and dies for the disobedient.  God heard Christ’s prayers and supplications, heard his loud cries and saw his tears, so that the Son might be “lifted up.”  The Father listened and saw not because of the Son’s righteous power, but because of his holy weakness, his reverent submission [to the Father’s will], his submission to crucifixion, his being lifted up from the earth.

Heard in this way, this Lenten Gospel proclaims the Father’s choice, and not ours. In doing so, it echoes Jeremiah’s proclamation of the “new covenant.”  According to Jeremiah, God’s “I will” expresses the new covenant.  In four brief verses, God says “I will” six times and “they shall” twice:  “I will make a new covenant;” “I will put my law within them and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” “They shall all know me….I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.” In the new covenant the Lord violates our disobedient will, and does so by means of the Son’s holy weakness, his obedient and “reverent submission.”

In Christ Jesus, the Father’s will trumps our will. He draws us to himself by the power of his suffering and death:  “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”  This is the magnetic power of the crucified Christ. Baptized into his death and resurrection, he draws us to himself.  In him, we die to ourselves, that we might live like a seed buried in the earth, ever rising toward him in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

4 Lent (Mar 15)

Category: Sermon Tags: March 15, 2015 @ 9:00 am

The Rev. Brad Pohlman

The Rev. Brad Pohlman

Readings

Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Ephesians 2:1-10
John 3:14-21

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