Sunday, June 27, 2021

Mark. 5. 21-44; Fifth Sunday after Pentecost; June 27, 2021;

Mark. 5. 21-44; Fifth Sunday after Pentecost; June 27, 2021; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marias, MN; And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments? ” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me? ’ ” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further? ” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. (Mark 5:21-44, ESV) Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Well, it’s quite a pick of texts today to talk about. Our three-year cycle of readings just doesn’t get around to Lamentations very often. How could you not say something great about: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-33, ESV) And then there’s the Epistle from St. Paul. Give generously because giving is a gift of God!(2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-14, ESV) I know, lots of you are thinking there are folks in our congregation who could sure use a stewardship sermon. But, unless we are willing to look at ourselves first, well… that’s another sermon. Then there’s that Gospel. Mark gives us the account and you can almost smell the sea air of the lake they just crossed. It’s not an easy choice. But the topic of the Gospel lesson is just too rich. And besides it’s really the topic of all time isn’t. And yet this topic might be easier if we’d actually had a funeral here at Life in Christ. But I guess we will patiently wait for that, can’t we. Maybe it is just the topic we love to hate. If you Google, the word you’ll get more than you want to see. I did find an interesting site though. At http://deathclock. com you put in some vital information at get your date of death based on your normal life expectancy. It adjusts the date if you smoke, are overweight and such. My “Personal day of death” is Tuesday, October 9, 2035 then it gives you the number of seconds that is. I’ve got some 540 million seconds left. You can sit there and watch the time ticking away, second by second. It’s morbid, but fascinating. As I watched the seconds of my life tick away, I got the urgent feeling that I should be doing something else… much more constructive. Death does that to us when we think about it. Bishop Hall said, "Death borders upon our birth, and our cradle stands in the grave.” One pastor I know said we live our whole lives graveside. You’ve all lost someone you loved. A father, a child, or a spouse, a brother or sister… the pain is just as much about our own coming death as it is a hole in our heart because we miss the one who died. So, when the bible talks about death we perk up our ears. When we hear about Jesus healing a woman who was considered dead and raising a little girl who was dead, we perk up our ears. It’s the topic we want to hear about, but we don’t want to hear about. Today we are going to talk about death by looking at an example of what Jesus does about it. Here’s how it goes… Jesus was crowded in, as usual, when Jairus, the synagogue leader, pushed his way in to see him. He had to yell over the crowd.” Jesus! Jesus! My little girl is dying!” he dropped his to his knees in front of the teacher. “Please come and touch her so she can live.” Jesus just smiled, raised him to his feet, took him by the elbow and began to go with him. But they didn’t go far when Jesus suddenly stopped.” Who touched me?” he looked around at the pressing crowd. The noise died down for a moment.” Someone touched my clothes. Who was it? ” A timid woman moved toward Jesus. She dropped to Jesus’ feet. “It was me, Lord. I only wanted to be healed. I’ve been bleeding for twelve years.” The crowd backed away in horror. She was unclean. She didn’t belong among them. No one could touch her. They shouldn’t even be near her. “I had no life at all,” she said. “The doctors were stumped. They tried everything but over the years the condition just got worse and worse.” The crowds backed off even further. She was a dead woman walking around. “But all that has changed. I knew that if I could just touch you, I’d be better. You’ve given so many people their lives back. I just brushed the hem of your robe, the bleeding stopped.” Jesus gently laid his hand on her shoulder. “Ah, daughter, you were right, it is your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed.” The crowd reacted. But while Jesus was speaking to the woman a man took hold of Jairus and spoke into his ear. “It’s no use to bother the teacher any more. Your daughter is dead.” Jesus heard what he said. And everyone could see the fear and grief rising up in Jairus’ eyes. But Jesus looked straight at him. “Stop. You don’t have to be afraid. Just believe in me.” Jesus spoke to his disciples; they held the crowd while Jairus, Peter, James, John and Jesus went on the Jairus’ house. It was nearby and soon they could hear the shouting and weeping of the wailers. They were trying to match the tragedy of the death of one so young with volume. “Why are you doing this!” Jesus shouted over the voices. “That little girl isn’t dead, she’s just sleeping.” The wails turned in an instant laughter. “What! Who are you to say such a thing?” But Jesus sent them away with a single word. When everything was quiet, he placed his arm around the girl’s mother, and they all walked into the room where her daughter lay. In the dead silence of the room, Jesus knelt by the bed and took a hold of her cold hand. Placing his lips near her ear he spoke. “Ταλιθα κουμ, Little girl, get up.” And that’s exactly what she did. She breathed a breath, opened her eyes, smiled at Jesus, put her feet on the floor and headed straight for her favorite toy. Picked it up and began walking around the room with it, because that’s what twelve-year-old girls do. No one in the room could believe what they saw. She was alive and walking around. Her parents were too shocked to do anything but stare. Jesus turned to them and quickly said. “Don’t tell anyone about this. No one! She’ll be hungry. She needs something to eat.” Now you and I have been there, right with the dead. We’ve watched cancer take the lives of people we love. We’ve stood by the death bed of those who’ve gone too soon. We have the same reaction every time, sorrow, pain, fear, and horror. And we ask the question that is always asked. Why? Why did they have to die? Why do I have to die? It is a good question and there is a clear answer. The answer is because we deserve to die. That little twelve-year-old girl deserved death. The woman who bled for twelve years deserved death. You and I deserve it too. That death clock ticking is only bringing about our just reward. I know, I know, we have a real problem with this. We really don’t believe it’s true. All our lives in fact we work under the assumption that there’s got to be something that makes our lives worthwhile, worth saving. When the young die, we say, “He didn’t deserve this. He was such a good person.” That’s why we need to be reminded of truth. God told Adam and Eve that if they ate the fruit, they’d die a double death (Genesis 3:17, ESV). What He meant was that sin would forever separate them from His presence. And that separation would also mean that their bodies would face death, too. Saint Paul said it clearly. The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23, ESV) When we sin we are dead people just walking around waiting for our bodies to catch up. And what makes you and me and the twelve-year-old fit in that category? Well, it’s sin. You can’t deny it. I can’t deny it. We brush it aside as if it isn’t really anything. But it is. It’s real. It invades our thoughts. It changes our good motives to selfishness. We think we can stop it. We think we have the power to make it go away. But we can’t be successful enough to rid ourselves of it. It keeps crawling back into our lives. We mistakenly believe that we have “free will” to choose good over sin. But Adam and Eve changed all that. Now we only have “self will. ” Lying dead on our beds is all that we can look forward to. The clock is ticking the seconds away. That’s when Jesus says, “Stop! You don’t have to be afraid. Just believe in me.” Well, just look what he did. A suffering dying woman touched his cloths and stopped bleeding. St. Mark says that when she did that power flowed out from Him. In Mark’s language the word he used was δύναμις. It is where we get the word dynamite. It was an explosion of life-giving power. She was restored to complete health. Life returned to a lifeless little girl when Jesus told her to get up. He only spoke two little words into her ear. “Ταλιθα κουμ-little girl, get up.” he whispered, and life came back to her, and she began walking around, because, Mark says, “that’s what living little girls do.” This man that crisscrossed the Sea of Galilee, and walked the roads around Capernaum, was more than a man. He holds the power to raise the dead. He holds the power to raise you and me from the dead. How do you know that? After all, Jesus was there doing what He was doing over two thousand years ago. How do we know that when time comes to an end and we’ve been lying in the grave for years and years, Jesus can and will speak words of resurrection in our ears? It is because he didn’t just break other people out of the hold of death, He came walking around out of His own grave. It is one thing to raise the dead, but it’s something entirely different to raise yourself from the dead. Jesus did. He offered up his own life. He faced a sorrowful, painful, fearful, and horrible death on a cross. He was beat to a bloody pulp by Roman soldiers. His hands and feet were fastened to wood with six-inch spikes. A guard used a spear to split his heart in two just to make sure. He was dead; as cold as the little girl lying on her bed; as lifeless as anyone lying in the cemetery. But in an instant, He breathed a breath, opened His eyes, smiled a smile, stood on his feet and walked out of the tomb. Jesus is alive. We don’t have to be afraid of death because Jesus promises that He will do for us what He did for those two women way back then. Jesus promises you, that He will speak to you “Ταλιθα κουμ, little girl, little boy, get up.” And you will. Well, pastor, that’s all fine and good. I believe it. But those folks back then had it easy. Jesus touched them. He took them by the hand and led them from death to life. He walked around there in the dust of the ancient world. He breathed on them. He laughed with them. He ate with them. If only he’d take my hand like that. If only Jesus would touch me. I’m sick. I’m tired. I’m worried. I’m lonely. My sin is always in front of me. I’m afraid of death. I’m a dead person walking around. If only Jesus would touch me and raise me from the dead. Dear Christians, that’s exactly what he promises to do, and in fact that’s exactly what he does. Jesus Christ in his very body comes all that time and comes right here to you. He places his very body into your hand. It’s the very same body that had its hand nailed to the cross. It’s the very same body that took hold of that little girl’s hand and brought her life. And every time you receive it, he says the same words, “Take, eat, this is my body. Ταλιθα κουμ!” And He comes to you through bread and wine to bring you to life. Because the sin that makes death come to you is washed away by the blood that came from His cut side. The sin that you can’t stop doing, the sin that means you should be separated from God forever, is taken away by Jesus by the blood that He pours into you in, with and under the wine. When you come to this altar and Jesus touches you, He takes you by the hand and says “Take and eat, you are forgiven. Take and drink you are forgiven. Ταλιθα κουμ, Get up and walk around in new life.” Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Mark.4.35-41; The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost; June 20, 2021;

Mark.4.35-41; The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost; June 20, 2021; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. We know storms. Today’s readings are all full of storms. In Job, God speaks to Job out of a storm (some translations call it a whirlwind). Up until this point in the book, Job has wanted to confront God for the trouble he’s having. You remember about Job, how he lost everything, his wealth, his family, and his health. His friends sit around him and tell him that all of things that are happening to him are some kind of punishment for sin, if not outright sin, than some hidden sin Job isn’t aware of. But Job insists that there’s nothing that he’s done, he doesn’t deserve the storm of trouble that’s happening to him. He complains that if he could just plead his case before God, he’d get answers. Our reading is the beginning of God’s response to Job “out of the whirlwind.” Finally, in the middle of Job’s stormy life, God speaks. Only it’s not the response Job is expecting. It’s not an answer we’d be happy with either. “Who are you to question me?” God says, “Where you around when I created everything? I’m the one who made everything. Were you there when I created everything?” God puts Job in his place. It’s just not the kind of answer we think we want from God. There’s not compassion or comfort there. It’s just as if he drives another nail in Job’s coffin. He doesn’t answer Job’s questions about why he is suffering. God doesn’t justify his actions or pacify. And Job bows in humility and fear, his storms are not calmed by God (yet!). In the Gospel lesson, which is actually the text for our meditation, the storm is a little different. On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” (Mark 4:35-41, ESV) This storm is no less real than the storm faced by Job, and no less real than the storms that we have on the plains and face every spring, real storms, with real consequences. IO rather miss the big storms there. We just don’t get them here. For the disciples they are afraid of drowning in the lake. You guys know you don’t take a small craft out on the lake during a storm. As the waves grow and begin to splash over the sides of the boat you imagine the boat disappearing under the dark green foamy water. What will you do? Swim, how will you know which way to go, how will you keep afloat with the rain and wind. The fear is real. The disciples were afraid… for their lives. What a contrast to Jesus sleeping in the boat! Here he is sleeping soundly in a boat that’s filling with water and about to sink. And finally, the disciples can’t bear the fear any more. And Jesus lying on the cushion sound asleep exasperated the whole experience. They were facing death and Jesus doesn’t seem to care! So, they wake him up. “How could you sleep at a time like this? Don’t you care if we drown? There’s real danger here and you’re just sleeping your life away, and ours!” Jesus doesn’t answer their question but speaks directly to the water. “Quiet! Be still!” I imagine him looking also at the disciples as if to say, “you too!” The wind and the waves react instantly. As soon as Jesus speaks the wind is silent and the waves calm. It’s a great contrast from complete storm to complete stillness, in an instant. Opposite of the great contrast that is seen in Jesus; great calm while sleeping to calming the storm. I wonder, do you see the connection to the reading from Job? “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’? (Job 38:8-11, ESV) Jesus’ mastery of nature is striking in the way He commands the waves and they obey. Just look at the disciples surprising response. They don’t lose their fear its focus only changes. And they ask the important question. “Who is this? Who is this that sleeps one moment and controls the storm in the next?” It is a question of faith and fear. “Why are you so afraid, do you still have no faith?” Jesus asks them. After all the disciples had witnessed. It appeared that they still didn’t know who he was. And yet right there in that boat they had all they needed to see. Jesus was sleeping, clearly a human being who needed sleep. He ate and slept, and drank and walked, and talked with them every day. He is as human as they were. And also, he controlled the waves as easily as they threw their fishing net into the water. He was the one who set the boundary for the waves. Jesus is God; God speaking from the midst of the storm just like he did for Job. You see, this text isn’t about how Jesus calms the storms of our life. As much as we want it to be true, God never promises that faith in him means that we won’t suffer from bad things in our lives. Look at Job. He suffered a great deal, but never found out why he suffered. He never knew God’s purpose. Job was a man of great faith. We often think about his patience but really, it’s all about his faith… that is letting God be God and never knowing why he suffered through the storm. This text is about God being God; it’s about Jesus Christ being truly God, and Jesus Christ being truly man. And how God reconciled the real cause of storms in the world by sending Jesus his son, in human flesh. The storms of this world, tornados and social problems, earthquakes and broken families are our own fault. Sin is at the root. Sin causes pain and separation. Sin causes death. To be in sin, which all of us are, is to have a stormy relationship with God, instead of a perfect one. And that stormy relationship means that we don’t deserve anything from God, especially his protection, and presence in the storms we create. But he came anyway, in Jesus Christ. Jesus calms the storm between God and man, by taking the punishment instead of us. He brings God to us by suffering and dying and rising again. That is what our faith is all about. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19, ESV) That’s the content of our faith. That’s the important thing about what we believe. Christianity is specifically about who Jesus Christ is and what he has done for us. The fact that he came to earth, God and Man, to live a perfect life for you and me, suffer and die on the cross for human sin. To reconcile us to God by paying the punishment of sin, suffering hell on the cross for us. But when the storms of life gather around us, we forget who Jesus is. Well maybe we don’t actually forget but we act as if it doesn’t matter who he is. And that’s what also places us there in the boat with the disciples, being afraid of the storm. Our storm may not be the spinning cloud that passes through town, but what about the turmoil in our family that seems to be tearing it apart? No matter how hard you try you can’t seem to put it back together. You’re afraid you’ll never again have a whole family. What about the disease that won’t let go of you, and threatens to take away everything you have? Or the heart problem, or stroke, or illness that strikes without warning. Or the storm of being so busy that you can’t stop even to breath for fear of missing something important. You see all those storms leave us afraid and we shout out, “God don’t you care what’s happening to me, I’m afraid, and you don’t seem to be doing anything!” Just like the disciples we’ve forgotten who God really is. We forget that he’s in the midst of the storm. We forget about Jesus and what he promises us. But Jesus knows about our storms because he isn’t a God who stands back and hurls lightning bolts at us from heaven. He is a God who became a man and lived among us. Right here in the midst of our storms, in the midst of our suffering, in the midst of our pain. Jesus Christ knows what it means to suffer through them. He suffered, just like we do and more. He knows the storm of separation caused by death. He wept at the grave of Lazarus. He knows the storm caused by illness. He walked among the crowds that pressed in on him for healing. He had compassion on them, but he didn’t heal them all. No matter what’s troubling you Jesus Christ knows your storm. He can and does take care of us. He is God. He is the very same God who created everything. He is the God who set the boundaries for the sea and formed the mountains with his very words. He is in control of everything, from the smallest flapping of the butterfly’s wing to the formation of clouds and the waves that lap against the seashore. That’s Jesus standing in the boat with the disciples calming the storm around them, speaking in the midst of the whirlwind. But he doesn’t always calm the storm. Job had to suffer for an exceedingly long time. You and I have storms that never seem to end. What is Jesus doing about that? Well, he hasn’t left us alone to deal with the storms of life, even if he doesn’t just make them go away. Jesus Christ the God-Man who died and rose again for us has provided us with special gifts to help us weather the storm. These are things that he gives us freely and abundantly. And he gives them to you right here. Right here in this place he speaks his word to you. Storm or calm, week after week, month after month, year after year. His very words of comfort and strength are given to you. What does he say to you? He gives you promises. Promises that he will always be with you, you are not alone in the storm. You don’t have to leave your bed and crawl in with mom and dad when the thunder rolls; Jesus is with you wherever you are. The disciples were in the boat with Jesus; the storm was nothing to worry about. Over and over again Jesus makes that promise to you. It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8, ESV) God doesn’t promise no storms or burdens, but he promises that he’ll help you bear it. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29, ESV) These are the kind of promises of God makes to you, given in his word. And don’t forget that those promises are true for you because he has claimed you to be his own. Look at the font here. Here God reaches out and grabs you in your storm. Here he makes you, his child. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV) That promise to be with us is no surer and more certain for us than it is here at this altar. Here he comes to us in his very body and blood. In the midst of our storm, we can take hold of Jesus Christ himself, as we hold out our hand and make for him “the very throne of God!” We handle him, touch him and see him… and he gives us strength in this food to stand in the storm, but not strength to stand on our own, strength to stand because he gives is promise and keeps his promises. Will the storms all go away? Will Jesus always stand up and “rebuke” the demons that threaten us? Nope. Life is still full of stormy days. Look what that storm did for the disciples. They got a lesson about turning to Jesus. They needed to be reminded who he is. That’s what the storms do for us too. They remind us that we can’t go it alone. They remind us that God is in control of everything. They remind us that we need to depend on him more and more every day. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ, Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Romans 6:6-11; Third Sunday after Pentecost; Jun 13, 2021

Romans 6:6-11; Third Sunday after Pentecost; Jun 13, 2021 Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6–11, ESV)Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; I love living here in the United States. Where else in the world am I able to be my own man, independent, and self-reliant? There’s no one around that dare tell me how to live my life, or how to take care of my family. I’ve become successful through my own sweat; my own hard work… there’s nowhere in the world that that pays off like here. I’ve sacrificed for the things I wanted, and no one’s is going to take that away from me. I could live and be alone, a strong individual, like the Marlboro Man I really don’t need anyone. Above all else, whatever you do, don’t look on me as helpless or powerless. That is one thing I am not… powerless. I prove it everyday. I approach my work with the attitude that gets it done. I may not be the strongest guy around, but there’s more to power than brute strength. There’s knowing how to get the job done, knowing how to work the system… lots of times, knowledge is power. When things get tough, the tough look to me for direction. And that’s power. I don’t let emotions cloud my judgment. They make you weak and as I told you before above all, I’m not weak. When decisions have to be made strong people make them without the influence of all that emotion. I can defend myself, too. If I have to, I can take the licks and survive, but if you come against me, you’d better be careful. I’ll come back and when I do, I’ll strike hard. My family is safe with me around. I’m not weak and powerless as far as defense is concerned. Just in case you didn’t catch what I’ve been saying I’ll say it again. I’m my own man, independent, strong and powerful. But… lately I’ve been beginning to wonder about all that. Lot’s is happening in the world that I really don’t have any control over. And somehow it all seems to be closing in on us here. The Global Pandemic has had a large affect on the feeling. Believe in it or not, it has been impossible to change what has happened. Businesses struggle to get workers, out of fear, or because they can make more on unemployment. There are no foreign workers to work here, it only adds to the problem. And now, just as things are lightening up, new strains are popping up. Makes me feel out of control. The flood of immigrants that are coming across the boarder is staggering. Are terrorists gathering? Have we forgotten World Trade Center towers? What is the next target? Mall of America? USA Today said that a dirty nuke, that’s a bomb with radioactive medical waste blows up at the Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, the fallout will pretty much make that city unusable for centuries. How can I stop one crazy person who’s willing to strap 20 pounds of dynamite and nuclear waste around themselves? And there’s more that this powerful guy can’t seem to get a handle on. I’ve seen it all around, people get sick… the list of people we pray for each week with cancer continues to grow. That nasty disease brings strong men to their knees… but the worst part is that you just don’t know who’s next. I’m a strong guy, as I said, but who can stand up against and invisible enemy that attacks you from inside. The more I think about it, I’m not really all that powerful after all. My independence is really a sham; I need people around me all the time. Not just to watch my back, but also to be there for me, because when I really think about it, I am helpless and weak… powerless… But… You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Did that say what I think it said? When we were powerless? When I was powerless, Christ died for me? I see, that’s what the Good News of Jesus Christ is all about isn’t it? I was I am powerless, but God is powerful. Not only that but even more than that, St. Paul writes that we were God’s enemies, enemies deserving His wrath and punishment. That independence that I show highly prize is really an affront to God. When I try to live my life on my own, I disregard the creator and ultimate provider, “I don’t need you, God! I don’t need other people that you have provided for me!” we say. God’s enemies… that puts powerless in another interesting light. We are all truly powerless standing before God in our rejection of him. And what does Paul say, for a righteous man someone would rarely die, but that’s exactly what Jesus did. And we were hardly righteous or even good. We were God’s enemies! And yet, Jesus Christ died for me, powerless, helpless, and pathetic me! Powerless, helpless and pathetic you! Just exactly did the death of Jesus Christ accomplish? Michael Powers tell the following story in Allison Bottke’s book “God Allows U-Turns.” Brian “was a special education student at the small high school I attended. He was constantly searching for love and attention. It usually cam for the wrong reasons, from students who wanted to have some ‘fun.’ He was the joke of the school…” Mike defended Brian, even had him over to the house. “Hey, Mike,” Brian asked. “How come you’re not like some of the other kids at school?” Mike told him about the love of God the Father. “Brian really opened up to me. He explained that his dad had left him and his mom when he was five years old. He told Brian that he couldn’t deal with having a son like him anymore, then he walked out of Brian’s life and was never seen again. Brian told me that he had been looking for his dad ever since. “Now I knew why the tears kept flowing that day in my bedroom. His search was over. He found what he had been looking for since he was five years old. A Father’s love. “He would never again be alone.” When we were alone and powerless, God the Father showed His great love for me by sending His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to death on the cross, to make me His own children. He showed me a Father’s love; a love that would sacrifice everything, especially when I was helpless and alone. He sacrificed the life of Jesus to satisfy the judgment that was mine as God’s enemy. He made Jesus his enemy instead of me; and He made me His child. It was a simple exchange. But that isn’t all; because God approved of Jesus perfect sacrifice, He raised Him from death to life again. That too is a promise to me. So, what about all those things that I can’t control; Pandemic, terrorists, illnesses that are lurking around out there looking for me? I’m helpless in the face of them, but God is my Father. He has done everything for me. He has made me his own child. I’ve been “reconciled” Paul said. What reconciliation! I’ve gone from God’s enemy to God’s child. I guess there’s nothing I can do about the terrorists, the bomb may go of in Asia, and cancer might be in my future. I am helpless, powerless… but really, it’s a good thing that I am because being powerless is being dependent, and I’m as dependent as I can be on my Heavenly Father. I’m as dependent as I can be on him and his promises. I will be saved because of Jesus Christ. Have you been feeling alone, helpless and powerless lately? Maybe you don’t show it, but there’s a lot going on these days that can make you feel that way. Well, all that I’ve been talking about for me is true for you too. God, the Father, has also reconciled you through the death of Jesus Christ! When you were powerless, when you needed it the most, Jesus Christ sacrificed everything to restore you, and make you a child of God again. And all those things you may be worrying about, well they might seem powerful but not compared to the love of God, the love that God the Father has showered down on you! Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Mark.3.20-35; Second Sunday after Pentecost, June 6, 2021

Mark.3.20-35; Second Sunday after Pentecost, June 6, 2021 Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marias, MN; Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:20-35, ESV) Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. How would you like your family to think you were crazy? That’s what’s happing here to Jesus here. His family is saying, “He out of his mind.” Literally, they were saying he was “beside himself.” “He’s crazy!” It is kind of a strange expression, isn’t it, to be beside yourself. But it means to be so greatly excited by something that we don’t know what’s going on. To be so totally affected by what’s happening that we are out of control, or out of our own mind. A person who is beside himself needs help, they need someone to come and take charge of them. Someone has to step in and take over. That’s just what the family of Jesus wants to do. Just like we would do if we saw a member of our own family “beside himself.” …they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” But how can anyone take charge of Jesus. How can anyone control his actions, his words, or his Spirit? There are lots of attempts to do just that. Ways to reduce Jesus to understandable categories, and a controllable size. There are ways that people try to make Jesus fit into what seems to make sense and what’s logical. Here in this text Jesus’ family tries it and so do the scribes. And later on, even his disciples even give it a try telling Jesus that he must not go to Jerusalem to suffer, die and rise again. But all attempts to “take charge” of Jesus fail. Weather we call Jesus words into question because we think they are crazy, or by trying to discount his miracles, as the work of the devil or even as if they never happened. The truth is that no one ever takes charge of Jesus. Jesus, through the work of the Holy Sprit, takes charge of us. So here in our reading we see two groups trying to take charge of Jesus. Up to this point in Mark’s Gospel, we’ve seen a lot going on. Mark keeps the action moving, in the first chapter we see Jesus baptized, tempted, calling his first disciples, driving out an evil spirit, and healing a myriad of people. In chapter 2, it keeps moving. He heals, calls more disciples, and teaches. In Chapter 3 he commissions his called disciples. It’s a blinding pace. It’s a page turner, but there aren’t many pages to turn because it’s a truly short book. One thing is certain as you read. Jesus is in charge. He’s in control of himself and He’s in control of everything that’s going on. Up to here, everyone seems to be going along with Jesus in charge. No one really makes a fuss; no one tries to set a different agenda. It’s here in our text, for the first time in the book of Mark, that people begin to react to what Jesus is doing. They start to react by trying to take charge. They’re afraid Jesus is going off the deep end. They act to keep him in line. So far with Jesus in charge, he’s causing an uproar. Everywhere he goes there are crowds that follow him. And they’ve grown so large and pressing that he and his disciples could not even eat. They’ve pressed in and around the house that they’ve come to. When his family heard about it, they were concerned about his health, so they start out to the rescue. “If he doesn’t eat, he’s going to get sick! He’s working way too hard! He’s not thinking clearly! Someone has to do something for him.” In everything that’s happening around Jesus they don’t understand what’s really going on. They don’t know who Jesus really is, and why he’s really come. Jesus family wants to be in charge of Jesus, instead of Jesus letting him be in charge. The second group that tries to take charge of Jesus is the scribes. They arrive brewing for a fight. They don’t like what he’s been saying. He’s disrupting their “congregations.” He’s getting their members to ask questions they can’t answer. He’s drawing their attention away from the scribes. So, they start trying to discredit Jesus. “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” (That a name for a Philistine, prince of demons). They want to be in control. But Jesus stays in control by pointing out how illogical their statement is. If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. That is to say “Satan’s not going to cast out his own demons. That would be fruitless.” Today he might say something like, “no batter is going to pick up the ball he just hit and throw himself out at first base.” The scribes want to control Jesus because they don’t like what he’s doing, but Jesus stays in control. Jesus’ family wanted to take control of him because he was embarrassing them, but Jesus stays in control. Jesus is always in control. But people trying to “take charge” of Jesus isn’t limited to these examples in our text. As a matter of course we see it every day. It seems every Easter you find Jesus on the cover of Time magazine. It’s usually a story about how “biblical scholars” explain away Jesus’ resurrection. What these scholars are really saying is that they don’t like what the bible says about Jesus. The don’t like what Jesus says about himself, so they have to “take charge” and show that he didn’t say them or that they didn’t happen. It’s a classic strategy, remember the scribes? Jesus is possessed by demons! Well, these scribes of the day like the Jesus who turned the other cheek but hate the Jesus who raises the dead and claims to be God. Jesus puts these critics in their place, and we say, “Go get ‘em Jesus!” But we maybe we might not speak so quickly. We try to control Jesus, too! We are really no better than the folks who went out to “take charge” of Jesus in the crowded house. They were worried about his health. We are just worried. It’s easy to worry about anything, and everything. We worry about the economy, the corn, the weather, or children, school, church… on and on the list goes. What worry really does is gets Jesus down to our size, where we can handle him, where we can be in charge. Worry is not being willing to turn troubles over to God but wanting to hang on to them ourselves. What we forget is that Jesus bound the strong man. Satan causes us trouble, but Jesus has already done him in. Satan doesn’t have any power over us unless we give it to him. The troubles of the world don’t have any power over us unless we let them. When we worry about our troubles, instead of handing them over to Jesus, we hand them over to Satan. We leave the door open for him to push his foot in and use our troubles against us. He whispers into our minds that these things are too big for our God to take care of. He tries to convince us that if God really loved us, he wouldn’t let these kinds of things happen. He tells us that we should be able to handle things on our own. That’s what worry does. It puts us in charge instead of Jesus. It’s controlling Jesus instead of letting Jesus be in control. Besides worry, there are other ways we try to take charge of Jesus. We don’t like the picture of the dead Jesus on the cross. We think that it’s just a little too much. It’s not really a good picture to share with people who don’t know him. So, we try to introduce Jesus in other ways first. We think that if we just tone down Jesus bloody death on the cross, he’ll be more acceptable. One way we do this is to avoid talking about Jesus on the cross. We like to talk about Jesus as our example. In fact, most people like Jesus as an example. That’s because we want to be in control. If Jesus came to be our example, that leaves us in charge. I’m the one who has to do the work then. I work hard to follow an example. I get to be my own savior. The crucified Jesus doesn’t let me do that. Jesus Christ didn’t come to the world and take up human flesh to be our example and show us how to live. He came to pay the price for our sin. He came to bring us forgiveness of sin and restore our proper relationship with God. He comes in complete control. He does it all, and that leaves nothing for us to do. That’s Jesus on the cross. St. Paul says the cross is “folly.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, ESV) It’s much easier to understand Jesus being an example. It’s much easier to understand our responsibility to follow an example. So, we like it much better. It put Jesus where we can control him. But Jesus is in control. He came and suffered death on the cross for your sin. As long as you try to save yourself, you push your Savior out of your life. The worst part of controlling Jesus in this way is that so very often we speak to other people as if Jesus the example is all that matters. We think that the cross is too bloody to be talked about. We’d much rather talk about following Jesus than Jesus painful death on the cross. Mostly it comes across in statements like, “all religions are the same. The most important thing is how we live.” In the end, there will be many good people, people who followed Jesus’ example very well and cared for other people, gave to the poor, put lots of money into charity, gave their neighbors all the help they needed, visited prisoners, etc, who will suffer in hell eternally, because they didn’t trust Jesus for forgiveness of their sins. They tried to earn forgiveness on their own. Instead of letting Jesus be in control, they wanted to do it. St. Paul writes, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing,” (1 Corinthians 1:18, ESV) In other words, people think God is “beside himself” while Jesus is bleeding and dying on the cross. One feminist scholar accuses him of cosmic child abuse. It’s doesn’t make sense that God would save the world that way. That “in Christ God [would] reconcil[e] the world to himself, not counting [our] trespasses against [us].” (2 Corinthians 5:19, ESV) Just as they doubt God would work through plain water. Or that Jesus wouldn’t be present in bread and wine. Or that Jesus would use a plain-speaking preacher to carry his forgiveness into people’s hearts. It’s not the way we would do it if we were in charge if we were in control. Being in control leaves us “beside ourselves.” Depending on ourselves. Working out our own salvation by our own efforts. But our own efforts will always fail us. We can’t keep it up perfectly. When we fail, we hang on to our guilt. When we fall short of the mark, we try to blame someone else. When we are in control, we are alone and lost. “Beside ourselves.” Well, Jesus family couldn’t take charge of him, the scribes couldn’t take charge of him, scholars today, can’t take charge of him, and neither can we. We don’t have the ability or the authority. But Jesus does have the power and authority to take charge of us! In spite of what the Scribes said, Jesus doesn’t work through the power of Satan; he works through the power of God, the Holy Spirit, who is present in Word and Sacrament for you. That’s the power of the same one who created everything. God’s house isn’t divided against itself but working together to save us through forgiveness of sins, given in that Word and Sacrament. Jesus has actually opened God’s house up to people who believe in him. He’s opened to forgive all sins and reclaim all lost sinners. Jesus took charge of our sin. He was the one who came and “first binds the strong man” to reclaim what is his. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection take charge of our sin. As much as we would like we can’t take charge of them. No one says it better than Isaiah. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; We’ve tried to take charge. But, Isaiah continues, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6, ESV) Jesus says to us, “Turn over your sins to me. I’ve taken them to the cross and to the grave. I’ve done what you can’t do. They don’t have to trouble you anymore. I’m in charge.” Oh, but you don’t have to take my word for it. If you want proof that Jesus is in charge, all you have to do is listen to God’s own Words written by St. Paul. He says the proof is in the pudding. Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:12-28, ESV) It’s silly for us to think that we can be in control of Jesus. He rose from the dead. He’s more powerful than even death. Why do we think we can in any way be in control? Being beside oneself must be an awful feeling. If we could only rely on some person beside us, some friend, then we wouldn’t have to be afraid or in despair. We do have someone to be beside us. Jesus Christ is there, and he is more powerful than anything that faces us. He has taken hold of us. He has taken charge of us. Jesus is beside us always. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.