Pastor Simek The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost at Hope, Jerseyville 9/16/18 “Deadly Serious” Sermon Text: Mark 9:14-29
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
There are some days when worship is a very light-hearted, joyous affair. Most of the Easter season is this way. Other times, worship is much more somber and serious, like most of Lent and especially Good Friday. Today, the weight of the Gospel reading makes for a weighty, heavy, serious worship service, especially for me as the father of a son. Today, we hear of a boy possessed by a demon, a boy who cannot speak, who has seizures that cause him to convulse violently, foam at the mouth and grind his teeth. Today, we hear about a boy who has been thrown into fire to burn him up and into water to drown him. Today, we hear about a boy who has been near death time and time again and about his father who is so distraught and desperate over the state of his son that his life and his faith are shattered into pieces so that he has given up hope on a cure, and his prayer is for something, anything, that might make things a little better. This reading, these events, are heavy, weighty, somber, and serious, deadly serious. And of course this is not just a recounting of history, but a narrative and lesson for us today concerning our lives. Today, we hear that…
OUR SERIOUS SIN IS DRIVEN OUT BY AN EVEN MORE SERIOUS SAVIOR
(I. Sin is deadly serious.)
(II. Our Savior is deadly serious.)
And make no mistake, our sin is serious. Our sin is every bit as serious as the demon that possesses this boy and seeks to destroy him. Sin is not merely some character flaw. It is not an endearing or charming trait, or some sort of acceptable vice that a person indulges in. We ought not say, “Oh well there goes Stan stumbling down the street drunk again, you know how he is.” Or, “Well when you talk to Frank you just have to understand that he is going to cuss like a sailor, you know, that’s just him.” Or, “Well, ya, I know Brett is a mean, arrogant, jerk, but he is smart and usually right you know.” Or, “Well, Ryan is kind of a chauvinistic pig and he’ll make all sorts of demeaning, derogatory comments about women, but he sure can build a nice house.” Or, “Well, Andy might tell you a dirty joke every time you see him, but he just has such a great sense of humor.”
Because you certainly wouldn’t say, “Oh that boy, he’s so cute with his little demon possession and all. Did you hear about the last time it threw him into the fire? It left the most amazing, beautiful burn scar on his face. It’s just so cute.” No. Every sin, small or large, is enough to condemn you into the lake of fire. In fact, Luther says that a sin is truly mortal and condemning when it is thought to be venial or insignificant. The most dangerous sin, the sin that will get you thrown into the hell of fire and drown in the waters of the abyss is the sin for which you feel no need for repentance.
There is no Gospel “but” or answer to unrepentance. If the answer to a character flaw or trait is “but that’s just how I am, what am I going to do,” then the answer is not “but Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins.” When sin is taken lightly, downplayed and dismissed, then it is most dangerous. When our guard is down and we are playing with the fire of unrepentance or excuse and self-justification, that is when we are most likely to go head first into the fires of hell. When we hold onto something, some vice, some flaw, some behavior or characteristic we refuse to accept might be sinful, instead of holding on to Christ our savior, that is when we drown into the depths of the abyss. Sin, any sin, all sin is deadly serious. Sin kills you not only in this temporal life, but sin can and will kill you for all of eternity. Just as the demon of this boy seeks to destroy him, your sin seeks to destroy you.
And just as the boy could not get rid of the demon, nor could the father free his son of his possession, not even the disciples could cast this demon out, so you cannot rid yourself of your sin. You cannot let go of those vice, flaws, and character traits that would drag you down into the fiery depths of hell. No amount of grit, will power, and determination, no amount of your own work will ever be enough to escape the power of sin.
So what hope then do we have? How is this demon cast out? Of course it is by and in Christ alone. It can be cast out by nothing but prayer. Sin is answered not in ourselves in any way, but by prayer, by looking to one outside ourselves, by lifting our eyes upon the cross and crying out for mercy and forgiveness. Confess your shortcomings, even your doubt and your broken faith, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And Christ will, does, and has answered. What you cannot do, God does for you in Christ and is received by faith in him for, “All things are possible for one who believes.”
And Christ answers his faithful and commands the demon to come out. Christ answers your confession, works in you repentance and faith and commands your sin to come out of you with these words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I forgive you all of your sins,” and they are gone, cast out, and forgiven. For with these words, God puts you to death. He puts your old Adam to death, that which is in you, which is by nature sinful and unclean, those personality traits, flaws, vices, and excuses which feel so ingrained in you as though they define who you are. Jesus says they are forgiven. Not so that you can return to them or enjoy them without fear, but they are dead like the corpse of a boy whose life and old Adam has been ripped from him and cast out. They are dead like the lifeless body of Jesus hanging on the cross for you. And there is no sin, no matter how big or small, whether mortal or venial, no matter how serious, weighty, heavy, and burdensome that can live through the death of Jesus for you. Your Old Adam, your sin, your flaws and vices, those parts of you that you may seek to excuse or overlook, Christ doesn’t excuse but kills as he kills you.
But you, you are not dead, the boy is not dead, Jesus is not dead. Christ, crucified for your forgiveness, and the casting out, and killing of your old Adam, is risen from the dead. Lent will always end with Easter. Repentance is always met with forgiveness. Serious devastating, crushing, deadly sin is met by an even more serious, devastating, crushing, dead and risen Christ. Christ is risen, and our risen savior raises the dead boy up to live and raises you up a new man to live to all eternity. In Him there is forgiveness delivered to you. In Him there is life, risen from death for you. In Him there is salvation for all eternity for you. In the name of Jesus. Amen.