ST MATTHEW Sunday July 12 2015 | 7th S After Pentecost Proper 10 Year B
Amos 7:7–15, (Psalm 85:1–7) 8–13, Ephesians 1:3–14, Mark 6:14–29
Grace, Mercy, and Peace be multiplied unto you who have become the adopted children of God through your election in Jesus Christ His Son.
SERMON TEXT: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 1:3, ESV)
SERMON THEME/TITLE: “Nothing to Fear!”
Blessed in Christ! With Every Spiritual Blessing! In the Heavenly Places! This is why the people of God have “Nothing to Fear!”
Concordia Publishing publishes worship helps for pastors to get a head start on sermons, prayers of the day, themes, etc. Their theme for today’s appointed scripture reading is this: “The Lord Jesus Brings His People through Death into Life by the Preaching of Repentance.” I might have used that as the theme for this meditation except I don’t like long themes for sermons. Yet, the essence of what I wish to convey is stated in these very words, “The Lord Jesus Brings His People through Death into Life by the Preaching of Repentance.”
It is in this regard that I want to ask you a question. How do you think the Christian Church, generally speaking, has been doing in its responsibility of “Preaching Repentance?”
· Has it sat silent, not sounding the trumpet of God’s warning to an adulterous and unfaithful people?
· Has it taken on the language, ideals, and slogans of the world and made them its own hoping to be attractive to an ever growing unfaithful lot, thinking it might bring them to Christ?
· Has it plunged headlong into secularism trying to “save some”, thereby itself becoming a people most in need of repentance?
If any of these questions could be answered “Yes” from God’s perspective, we are a people in need of repentance. Yes, you did hear me correctly. I did say, “We.” Yet, in this regard, there is “Nothing to Fear!” “Nothing to Fear” because the Blessed God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ, in the heavenly places. That means we can always trust God to hear us; to receive our pleas for mercy; to understand our plight; and to turn us from our wicked ways back to Him in true repentance and faith. There is “Nothing to Fear!” Not even fear itself!
Even so, we need to know and understand that when concern for appeasement causes God’s people to separate the Word of God in its full truth and purity from the people in any measure, it is in fact separating people from Christ Himself, no matter how much or how many feelings and promises of grandeur are promised.
Witness the mess the Farmer Amos is called by God to speak to, and how God’s message, and the prophet who delivered it are rejected. Nobody likes to hear bad news about themselves or their leaders. Many are enamored by charismatic style, flashy speech, and give-a-ways. Nevertheless Amos had “Nothing to Fear!” in making his proclamations against such messages. He was God’s servant who had God’s truth. He obviously trusted God more than he feared what might happen to himself by an unbelieving and adulterous generation.
Do we have that same kind of trust in God today? When our neighbors whom we love and care for have a different opinion regarding any kind of fornication or sexual perversion, including pornography, or sex outside of marriage of one man with one woman, are we bold enough to say, “Do you think that behavior squares with a holy God who judges all things according to His Word?”
This is law, I know. But what else should be said to a person who is being burned alive by the fires of hell? Should we say something like, “Oh I think it’s wonderful that you have found a soul mate who loves you?” Perhaps, but what about the commandment, “You shall not commit adultery?” Or, do we simply justify ourselves by putting our own definition on those eternal words so as to say, “It only applies to married people, not to chastity and sexual morality?” Oh-my-gosh, just think of how perverse we can become … no, have become by putting our own spin on the revealed will of God; and sometimes agreeing with it out of fear.
But why? We have “NOTHING TO FEAR!” And the reason is simply because of whose and who we are in Christ Jesus our Lord, assuming we still have faith and trust in His eternal election. “God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 1:3, ESV) But He has not chosen us to these blessings to make a mockery of His gracious life and love, or to have us join it to another husband in unbelief.
Consider how the guttural, gut-level compassion, mercy, and love of God has shown itself for people who are in need of repentance when Jesus, the eternal Son of God, is hoisted up like a criminal on the accursed tree of the CROSS where He became God’s curse for us.
· It is the cross of Christ that people stumble over and are led into fear, unbelief, and eternal death, even though there is “NOTHING TO FEAR!”
· It is the same CROSS of Christ through which people find eternal life and habitation with the eternal God, because they have come to know there is “NOTHING TO FEAR!”
But the Word of God itself brings much dissension and strife to God’s people. It always has. Even so, there is “NOTHING TO FEAR!” Witness our texts for this Seventh Sunday after Pentecost. In every age God has sent His chosen representatives with His clear instructions and authority, speaking the truth. But look at what those who prefer lies over against the truth do. They outright reject the blessed word that turns the unholy to the holy and the blamed to blameless with the promise.
St. John the Baptist also suffered for his faithful preaching of repentance. King Herod “sent and seized John and bound him in prison,” even though he knew that John “was a righteous and holy man” (Mark 6:17, 20). Out of pride and fear, Herod “sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head” (Mark 6:27) even though there was “NOTHING TO FEAR!” from the one who sent His messenger before Himself to the King.
To all of these horrors and the horrors that exist in the world today, one can only ask, “Is there a need for repentance?” The answer of course is “YES!” Yes, sadly, each and every one of us are in need of repentance. We are always in need of that change of mind with respect to God and His Word that says with the Psalmist: “Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.” (Psalm 85:8–9, ESV) You see, He is God and has all things in control. We are called to be His servants to do His will, not our own. At least, that is what a repentant soul thinks and desires. O Lord! Have mercy on us sinners, all, so that in You we may again know that we have “NOTHING TO FEAR!”
It might surprise you, though I hope it does not, that Amos and John were also sinners in need of repentance and instruction from the Lord Jesus Christ. From the day of their birth, until the day of death, they were in constant need of repentance. How do I know that? Well, how do you know that you are a sinner and unworthy of God’s mercy? God’s Spirit reveals it to you through God’s Word. Even so, you rejoice like John who especially gives voice to this kind of thinking when Jesus comes to be baptized by him. “John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”” (Matthew 3:14, ESV)
Amos and John obviously received what no person can render upon one’s self. God’s grace and mercy and love and forgiveness. No one can serve the Lord without faith and trust in Him. And that comes as a pure gift of grace and mercy and love. Though neither man saw in their lifetime Jesus suffering on the CROSS, they both, along with all believers suffered with Christ as true servants of God because they had “NOTHING TO FEAR!” God was for them, and with them, just as He is with and in every one of His servants.
We ourselves have “NOTHING TO FEAR!” when we receive to ourselves through faith the promise of God in Holy Baptism; the forgiveness of sins, the promised Holy Spirit, according to the Word of God. In that promise is the new spiritual birth as God’s beloved children who were chosen in Christ before the foundations of the world were laid.
· God never waivers from His promises, plans, or purposes. WE DO!
· God is never in need of repentance. WE ARE!
And in this regard, we have “NOTHING TO FEAR!” God is well aware of us from head to toe; inside and out. There is nothing hidden from His sight. He simply feeds us with His truth and Spirit and lets them have their proper effect on His creatures and His New Creations. And that effect is always good for His chosen people. O Lord! Let it not be lost on us through our own fool-hardiness. Though we be unfaithful, God remains faithful and trustworthy. We have “NOTHING TO FEAR!”
Through Amos, God proclaimed this truth: “I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.” (Amos 9:14, ESV) The fortunes of God’s people today are being restored
· every time a child is baptized into the name of the Triune God, Father Son and Holy Spirit;
· every time a person repents and believes the truth of God, all the hosts of heaven shout for joy their Halleluiahs! Halleluiah!
· The ruined city, Jerusalem, the city of God, and God’s people Israel are being rebuilt and restored in Christ, in the heavenly places, every time a sinner repents and is turned to God in faith. Halleluiah! Amen!
And what more can be said of John the Baptist? Fear arose in the hearts of unbelief for the evil that had been committed against God’s servant. Evil even considered that John “has been raised from the dead” (Mark 6:14, 16).
Indeed, God’s servant will be raised just as we all will be raised when Christ Jesus returns. We can be sure because God has said it. Jesus has done it, and the Holy Spirit confirms it in every believer. Perfect Love casts out all fear. In Christ, we have been engulfed in perfect Love, so that we have “NOTHING TO FEAR!” Not even fear itself.
Even the Psalmist speaks this way: “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky. Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.” (Psalm 85:10–13, ESV)
The reason for such confidence is this: Christ is the destruction of death itself. And God has made us a part of that, IN CHRIST, “before the foundation of the world,” and even now, we have come to know by faith, “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” has blessed us in Christ “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3–4, ESV) Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will keep our heart and minds safe in Christ Jesus now and unto life eternal. “NOTHING TO FEAR!” Amen.
6th Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 9) LSB #856
Text – Mark 6:8
He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in their belts…
In these days of airline baggage fees, it’s a lot cheaper to fly if you can travel light. Car manufacturers have been working for decades to lower the weight in the automobiles they sell. It’s better to travel light, because it increases fuel efficiency. Medical research is making it clear that the human body is much healthier when it’s traveling light.
In the reading from St. Mark’s gospel it appears that Jesus has the same understanding. He sends His disciples on a mission trip with nothing but the clothes on their back, a staff in their hand & sandals on their feet. No bread, no bag, no money in their belt – Jesus wants them traveling light. No sport utility vehicles needed for His disciples.
It’s become popular in recent years for people to say they like Jesus. They just don’t like His church. People with that attitude might have skipped over events like this one in their reading of Holy Scripture. No bread, no bag, no money in their belt was the command that Jesus gave. Traveling light is not the popular way to roll in our day.
How much time & money do people in our country spend on acquiring possessions? How much time & money do the people in this room spend on getting new things? The 12th chapter of Hebrews tells us:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, & sin which clings so closely, & let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (ESV) To run well, you need to get rid of weight. You need to travel light. The more weight you carry, the less your endurance will be. In Matthew 11, Jesus presented God’s remedy, “Come to me, all who labor & are heavy laden, & I will give you rest.” (ESV) You see, it is actually our Lord & Savior who enables us to travel light. He lifts the burden of our sin. He carries the grief of your heart. He relieves the pressure from your mind. The Son of God gives life to your soul.
In the Gospel reading for today, the twelve disciples still needed to learn those things from firsthand experience. So Jesus sends them on a mission, ordering them to take along zero provisions for the trip. They’ll have to depend totally upon God to provide them with food & shelter. In that way it was similar to Israel’s wandering in the wilderness for the forty years.
The disciples were instructed to accept the hospitality of whichever home was first opened to them, & stay there until they left the village. They were not to dishonor the home through seeking more comfortable provisions offered by someone else. However, Jesus warns them there will be villages where no hospitality would be offered.
Jesus then commands them to shake the dust of the village off their feet where no hospitality is offered & where their word is not tolerated. This was a testimony & warning to those villagers. Shaking the dust off demonstrated that the disciples had fulfilled their duty & those who rejected them would have to answer directly to God.
It was the same as declaring that to be a pagan village. However, this expression of judgment upon a village was never simply condemnation carried out immediately. It was a prophetic act designed, above all, to provoke thought on the part of the villagers. Its primary purpose was that of an act of warning in order to elicit repentance.
The arrival of the disciples, like that of Jesus Himself, had the character of sifting & gathering the true people of God. The presence of the disciples, in a town or village, was to determine which of the inhabitants were open to the Word of the reign & rule of God. In the well-known story of Zacchaeus, after he receives the good news of Jesus’ teaching, & offers to give half of his goods to the poor, Jesus announces, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek & to save the lost.” (Luke 19:9-10 ESV)
In the 5th chapter of Mark, last Sunday, we heard of the incredible faith of the woman who’d been bleeding for 12 years. Then, we hear of the faith of Jairus who, although he was a wealthy & influential man, came begging, on his knees, to Jesus. He pleaded for Jesus to heal his daughter that she might live.
Today’s reading opens chapter 6 with the people of Jesus’ own village rejecting this carpenter, the mere son of Mary. In their culture it was insulting to refer to a man as the son of his mother, even if his father was deceased. In so doing, they’re calling into question whether Jesus has a legitimate father. In effect, they’re referring to Him as a “love child.”
Their unbelief was so profound that Jesus marveled because of it, & He could do no great work there. Jesus is not at all tactful in His response, insulting the people of Nazareth in return, when He says: “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown & among his relatives & in his own household.” Jesus is not on His way to becoming a mega-church pastor.
Chapter 5 ended on the great notes of faith & belief, even in the midst of trial & tribulation. Chapter 6 opens with skepticism & unbelief so great that Jesus Himself marvels at it. In his writing, St. Mark is purposely highlighting the tension Jesus brings as faith & unbelief clearly put themselves on display. They permeate the reading in the gospel lesson for today.
Jesus stated this fact quite clearly in Matthew 10: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (10:34 ESV) The Gospel of Mark shows that unbelief is the context in which the Christian mission advances. Rejection is an experience common to the Lord & to His Church. In the face of this unbelief at Jesus’ hometown, His disciples are to have faith & travel light as they go about their mission two by two. They’ve been commissioned, not just to teach the Word of God, but also to completely & absolutely trust in their heavenly Father to provide everything they need to live. For 40 years in the wilderness, the Israelites had to rely upon God to feed them & their sandals never wore out.
When we hear the Word of God we are participating in the reign & rule of our Lord over His creation. Our Father in heaven allows us to be about the work of reclaiming His creation – recreating it even. As people come to faith in Jesus as their Savior, they begin to experience true life, a life of peace & harmony that cannot be known in any other way.
So in a way, the 1st Commandment can be considered a key to the Gospel, even though it is law, because that commandment requires us to receive all of life from our Lord, & to seek all that we need from Him alone. The 1st commandment actually calls us to travel light, to throw off everything that hinders us, in other words, everything that gets between us & God.
The Christian life – walking in the light – does not consist of straining for a perfection that exists only in God. The Christian fellowship is a more humble one, namely the fellowship of the forgiven children of God. It’s not a solitary walk either, but a fellowship with each other & with the God who guides us in His perfect light.
In the gospel reading for today, the Twelve apostles actually represent the beginning & foundation of a restored Israel. The instructions Jesus gives to them parallel the instructions given to Moses as he leads the people of Israel out into the wilderness & away from Egypt. Travel light & your heavenly Father will provide everything you need.
Traveling light puts all the burden on Jesus & rejoices in the life that He gives to us. That’s how our Savior calls us to live: “Come to me, all who labor & are heavy laden, & I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, & learn from me, for I am gentle & lowly in heart, & you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, & my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV) The command of Jesus, to take nothing more than the clothes on their back, a staff in their hand & the sandals on their feet, may seem like a radical obligation. It appears that way because sin has so radically twisted what our eyes see & what our ears hear.
That’s why verse 12 of today’s Gospel reading states, of the disciples, “…they went out & proclaimed that people should repent.” We need to repent because our eyes fail to see & our ears fail to hear the truth of God’s Word. All of us, “...have sinned & fall short of the glory of God, AND are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…”
People today, who love Jesus & hate His church, usually aren’t happy with the fact that the Church calls them to repentance. None of us like to be warned that what we’re doing is harmful or destructive. The sinful nature longs to be self-sufficient & is totally self-centered at heart. Yet it is Jesus, through His Church, who is behind the call to repentance.
Jesus calls us to repentance, however, because He sees the path we’re on, of our own accord. That path leads to death. Therefore, Jesus’ call to repentance is in truth a call to life – full, abundant & peaceful life. In order for our eyes to see that, & our ears to hear it, we must live by faith, not by sight. And that means traveling light. Amen.
O Christ, who called the Twelve to rise & follow You, forsaking old, familiar ways for ventures bold & new: Grant us to hear Your call to risk security &, bound in heart & will to You, find perfect liberty. O Christ, who sent the Twelve on roads they’d never trod to serve, to suffer, teach, proclaim the nearer reign of God: send us on ways where faith transcends timidity, where love informs & hope sustains both life & ministry. O Christ, the apostles’ Lord, the martyr’s strength & song, the crucified & risen King to whom the saints belong: though generations pass, our tribute still we bring, our hymns a sacrifice of praise, our lives an offering. Amen.
 Romans 3:23-24
Pastor Dean R. Poellet