Doing the Will of God
2nd Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 5) LSB #857
Text – Mark 3:35
Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother & sister & mother.
DOING THE WILL OF GOD
It’s the time of year to be looking ahead to summer vacation. School is out! The weather is nice. People are looking forward to getting away from it all! Whether it’s going camping, to the beach, or going to Disney World, we enjoy hearing that everything is ready & it’s time to leave. It’s quite a different story however, when we hear the phrase ‘Doing the Will of God.’
It doesn’t sound like it’s going to be fun. Doing the will of God does not hit our ears, or our heart, in the same way as, “Let’s go on vacation.” We are wired for the immediate & the fantastic. We love having those sensations filled. I think it’s possible those desires are a remnant left from before the fall into sin.
Now, we have this hole in our heart & soul that can be filled only by our heavenly Father, yet sin has separated us from Him. Before The Fall, His mere presence was immediate & fantastic to Adam & Eve. After the fall, we seek our thrills elsewhere. To do the will of God now strikes our heart as mundane & tedious.
We see that in the attitude people have toward being in God’s house on a weekly basis. “Remembering the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy” is seen by almost everyone as tedious & mundane. There are hundreds of things we can do with our time, other than remembering the Sabbath day, that bring more immediate, if not more fantastic, results.
Yet the 3rd commandment challenges us to put our trust in the Word of God, rather than in the word of man. People we know, who do not attend church, or do so once a month & less, will tell you about all the great things they do on Sunday & how much they enjoy them. They describe, with enthusiasm, their adventures, all they accomplish, & all the meaning they find in their pursuit of life, liberty & happiness. “The church will have to liven things up,” they say, “if it’s going to compete for my time.” I will grant that there is a sense in which a worship service can be deadened by poor leadership. However, people should carefully balance their judgement of that against what the Word of God refers to as The Church.
In Ephesians 1, we find this: “God has put all things under the authority of Christ & has made Him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is His body; it is made full & complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with Himself.” (1:22-23 NLT)
In light of the fact that The Church is the body of Christ, who Himself makes it full & complete, do we really want to hang our hat on that statement, “The church will have to liven things up if it’s going to compete for my time.” Do we have the right to demand that of God? Do we really want God to compete for our time?
Many of you already know that God will do exactly that! “So Jesus told them this story: ‘If a man has a hundred sheep & one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the 99 others in the wilderness & go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?’” (Luke 15:3-4 NLT) After that parable, Jesus tells another about the Lost Coin & then about the Lost Son.
In either case, God spares no expense to compete for the time of those who are lost. In the OT reading, after their fall into sin, Adam & Eve found themselves naked & were afraid. They tried to hide “themselves from the presence of the Lord God,” but He searches for them. He competes for their time, & He calls out to them: “Where are you?”
The rest of the 3rd chapter of Genesis reveals what happens whenever we reject doing the will of God. We separate ourselves from our heavenly Father, & we put Him in the position of having to compete for our time, which in Jesus’ case, meant suffering for us, & dying for us on the cross of Calvary. Before The Fall, Christ’s mere presence was immediate & fantastic to Adam & Eve. After the fall, we seek our thrills elsewhere. To do the will of God now strikes our heart as mundane & tedious.
On our recent vacation, Jan & I went hiking on several occasions, & one of them was in the Dupont State Forest of North Carolina. Our friends Jerry & Linda had been there before, but there were still a few unexplored paths they had not taken. Jerry was kind enough to pack in our lunch for us, but after more than an hour of hiking he was looking to unload his burden.
The search for a place to eat thus began. We’d already seen the Triple Falls & now were headed for the covered bridge which was situated just above another waterfall. Two of the four us wanted to climb down to a rock at the water’s edge & eat lunch there, but no path could be found. We were separated from the immediate & the fantastic by a jungle of impenetrable brush.
Earlier, on the trail to the covered bridge, the other two of us had noticed a calm & serene clearing with a picnic table in the middle of it. It was off the path so it appeared to be a tedious & mundane answer to the question of where we should eat. Since the immediate & fantastic solution was blocked, all four of us finally agreed to give the tedious & mundane a shot.
As we made our way back from the covered bridge, & up the trail leading off the main path, upon reaching the clearing with the dull & boring picnic table we caught a glimpse beyond of another clearing with a shelter. Immediately, we were drawn to a new & fantastic view of the falls that was spectacular, yet solitary, & the perfect place to eat lunch.
It was the classic case of God closing one door & opening another. We surrendered our desire for the immediate & the fantastic. We followed what appeared to be the mundane & the tedious. Then, God gave us so much more than we imagined possible.
When we hear the phrase “Doing the will of God” & it strikes us as tedious & mundane, what’s the answer? I am not making the case that, in our lives, we should always choose & the dull & the boring. I am trying to point out, however, that we should always, & forever, trust in the Word of God even when it appears to be nothing but tedious & mundane. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” can easily appear to be nothing but a dead end in our very life. Certainly Jesus ends up exactly that – dead, on a cross upon Golgotha.
The greatest news in all of history is that Jesus does not stay that way. His path to the cross, all 33 years of it, was mostly tedious & mundane, yet He trusted in His heavenly Father’s promise of the resurrection. Good Friday was just the normal result of life in this world, but Easter Sunday changed all of history. It changed all of the future as well.
St. Mark’s Gospel is recording for us that our discomfort with “Doing the Will of God” is not unusual. In the third chapter, Mark reveals that the resistance to Jesus’ teaching continues, this time on the part of His own family. Jesus is perfectly doing the will of God & they come to seize Him, because they think, “He is out of His mind.”
When you & I are doing the will of God, we can expect the same. Jesus’ family comes to seize Him, & the leaders of His church claim He is possessed by the devil. Today, there are men & women in our military, in our government & in courthouses across the land, who are telling us as Christians, that we are out of our mind for believing some of the things God’s Word teaches.
Today, you struggle with being in God’s house because it seems tedious & mundane. Someday, you may struggle with being in God’s house because it threatens your very life. Chapter 3 sets the tone for the rest of St. Mark’s gospel: “Why is everyone so heatedly against Jesus?” Eventually, those opposed to Him would have their way & He’d be crucified.
The Christians of our nation have not had to live their faith in that context. The multitude of our blessings has created a church full of people with only a shallow faith. We struggle even to grasp what it means to be a disciple of Christ. The evidence is our sporadic presence in the house of God, or our lack of attention to reading His life-giving Word. By following Jesus, through believing what He teaches, people are marked off as those who do the will of God. That means believing in Jesus more than you believe in yourself. Such obedience is as radical as that which took Jesus willingly to the cross.
The call of God to obedience creates a fellowship in which pursuing the will of God binds us closely together to all our brothers & sisters in Christ. That fellowship is marked by mercy & grace as we forgive one another, just as our heavenly has forgiven us. In spite of the church leaders’ attempts to have Jesus killed, it only occurred when He allowed it.
Jesus died willingly so that His love, demonstrated on the cross, might become the power to save us from our sin. It’s the power that draws us into God’s house to receive His blessings of life & salvation. His love is the power that enables us to understand, believe & trust in His words of promise, even when they seem tedious, mundane or foolish.
As we trust & believe, God allows us to see things more fantastic than we ever could have imagined. In the OT reading this morning, we have God’s Word & assurance that Satan is already defeated, for the Word of God always accomplishes that which He has spoken. Do you remember that word?
In Genesis 3:15, Yahweh is speaking to Lucifer: “I will put enmity between you & the woman, & between your offspring & her offspring; He [meaning Jesus] shall crush your head…” And so it was accomplished, for you & for me. As we believe this, we are doing the will of God. Amen.
You came to earth, O Christ, as Lord, but power You laid aside. You lived Your years in servanthood; in lowliness You died. No golden scepter but a towel You place within our hands of those who seek to follow You & live by Your commands. Lord, help us walk Your servant way wherever love may lead &, bending low, forgetting self, each serve the other’s need. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet