Deadly Serious

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.)

I.

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.

II.

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.

The Whole Armor of God

Pastor Simek

 The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost at Hope, Jerseyville

9/2/18

“The Whole Armor of God”

Sermon Text: Ephesians 6:10-20

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

I give thanks to God that I have never been in a physical war. I can barely imagine being overseas in battle in World War I or II, in the trenches facing death everyday with bombs and cannons going off and bullets whizzing by your head. Or being in Vietnam where the enemy and death could have been behind any bush or tree. Or being in the Middle East where any car could be a threat, any person a suicide bomber, any step on a land mine and its all over. Thanks be to God for the peace that this nation does have.

But just because we are not in a physical war, in the trenches, the forest, or the desert, does not mean we are not at war, in battle, fighting and wrestling with and against those who seek to take our life. I, you, each one of us are in a fight for our life every day. It is a fight not against bullets or bombs, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” This is a battle and a war that is even greater than any war fought between nations. This is a war and a battle with consequences that last not just for a generation or an era, but for all of eternity. The stakes of this war are not just your life, but your eternal life. The results of this war last forever and are never overturned or changed.

Yet so often, we do not take this spiritual war as seriously as a physical war. Soldiers are trained for weeks, months, even years to prepare them for battle. They are taught strategies for fighting their enemies, they study the history of war and the defining battles that have been won and lost. They are trained, mentally and physically, to be the strongest, best soldiers on the field. They are forced to run, do push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups to get their bodies into shape and their minds able to overcome the obstacles when their bodies tell them no. They are taught how to use their equipment, clean a gun, even blindfolded, and use some of the most cutting edge technology that money can buy.

And they never stop. Even after graduating basic training, they continue to work out to keep their minds and bodies sharp so that they can perform the task set before them. They continue to clean and keep up their equipment. They continue to learn about and study their enemies. They do all of it because they know half a step, or half a second sooner could be the difference between getting out of the way of a bullet or getting hit. They do it because one piece of sand or dirt can be the difference between defeating the enemy or their gun jamming and their life being over.

And if we train this way, and discipline ourselves, our bodies and minds for a war against flesh and blood, how much more should we train ourselves, discipline ourselves, our bodies and minds for a war against an enemy that is greater than flesh and blood and with consequences greater than life and death, but eternal life and eternal death, everlasting joy or everlasting suffering.

And make no mistake, you are in this war “against rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Some of us may know it. Some of us may feel it. We may feel the draining, exhausting fighting as we fight cancer, sickness, and disease, or facing addiction and temptation, facing the overwhelming difficulty of this life. The devil will and does attack us in obvious ways we can easily identify, in a full-frontal attack.

But his best strategies and the wars and battles he is just as likely to win are those where he sets up a false front and flanks us, or those where he sneaks up behind us, plants his trojan horse, and rises up to defeat us even before we know we are under attack. So if you think you’re ok, if you think you’re not at war or in battle, if you are comfortable and content, not worried, thinking you have everything under control and that war and death stuff is for someone else and not me, at least not right now, be careful, you may have already lost or you might be a lot closer to losing your eternal life than you think. Because if you are a Christian, if you do have faith, if you are at peace with God, you are most certainly at war with the devil.

And he doesn’t care if he defeats you with a decisive blow and cuts out your heart and passion for God, or if he defeats you with a death of a thousand cuts, slowly draining your lifeblood without you ever realize it. All he cares is that he gets you. And make no mistake, if you are not careful, he will. He is stronger than you, smarter than you, greater than you in every way. As Luther says in his most famous hymn, “With might of ours can naught be done, soon were our loss effected.” Our might does not and cannot stand in a fight with the devil. We can do nothing by our own power and strength, but soon we would lose our war. We, you need help.

And we, you, have been given help. Actually, not just help, but victory. “For us fights the valiant One, Whom God Himself elected. Ask ye, Who is this? Jesus Christ it is, of Sabaoth Lord.” He fights for us, on our behalf, in our place. He gives to us what is necessary to stand in war and endure against the attacks of the devil. He is and He gives to us the whole armor of God. He gives to us “the belt of truth… the breastplate of righteousness… the shoes… of the readiness given by the gospel of peace… the shield of faith… the helmet of salvation… and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

He gives us this armor in many and various ways, again and again that we might always be ready for whatever attack the devil might launch, that we might never be caught unaware, that we would never realize we are under attack until its too late and the battle has already been lost. “Put on the whole armor of God,” as He delivers it to you in Word and Sacrament. Put on the armor of God as you hear that the victory of Christ crucified and risen from the dead is for you. Put on the armor of God as you hear the words of Jesus, “Your sins are forgiven.” Put on the armor of God as you hear the Scriptures spoken and repeated and read through our liturgy, our hymnody, our readings from the Old and New Testaments. Put on the armor of God as you hear the Word of God applied in Law and Gospel to you through the sermon. Put on the armor of God as you eat and drink the body and blood of Christ, your valiant one, the commander and chief of all of the armies of heaven whom he orders to fight for you and defend you from the evil one.

But don’t stop there. Put on every piece of armor, receive God’s Word and his gifts every way that he gives them to you. Put on the armor of God as we gather together and study Scripture together in Bible class. Put on the armor of God as you have your own personal or family devotions, even if they are as simple as reading a few verses of Scripture, confessing the creed, and saying the Lord’s Prayer. Put on the armor of God and pray. Rise! To arms! With prayer employ you! Don’t miss once piece of the full armor of God.

You wouldn’t go into battle without a helmet, a bulletproof vest or full blown body armor. You wouldn’t step into the ranks without a gun or sword. Do not go into battle against the devil unprepared or unaware. For every time you miss one of these things, you are missing a piece of armor. If you miss service, miss Bible class, neglect devotions and daily prayers, you go into battle vulnerable and ill-equipped. You put yourself at risk, put not just your life, but your eternal life at risk and on the line with a gaping hole in your defense.

Put on the whole armor of God, all of the pieces that God gives you in many and various ways, often and much, to protect you, to clothe you with the victory of His Son for he alone can, and does, stand and preserve you in your every day of battle. No matter how subtle or obvious the devil scowls fierce as he will, that he would be able to harm you none. “And take they our life, Goods, fame, child, and wife, Though these all be gone, Our vict’ry has been won; The Kingdom ours remaineth.” In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Forbidden for Forgiveness

Pastor Simek

 The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost at Hope, Jerseyville

8/19/18

“The Forbidden for Forgiveness”

Sermon Text: John 6:51-69

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Cannibalism. This was one of the accusations that was thrown at the early Christian Church as they confessed to eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. Cannibalism is defined as the eating of the flesh of an animal by another animal of the same kind, or a ritualistic eating of human flesh by a human being. It almost seems to fit and be an accurate description of our practice of eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ in the Supper. If all you heard were the words and the confession without ever going into a church to observe the practice, you could understand why Christians could be accused of being cannibals. Can you imagine the rumors that would have gone around about the early Christian Church? “Did you hear what they do? They eat the flesh and drink the blood of another human! They’re cannibals!” I imagine that would have been a deterring factor for anyone considering Christianity. If we said, today, that in order to be part of this church, you have to eat the body and drink the blood of another person, I think we would not be considered very “seeker-friendly.” Doubly so in the Jewish community that Jesus was in because it was forbidden to drink the blood of any animal, much less that of a human. Many people would likely turn away or never consider Christianity if they thought Christians were cannibals, which was exactly the reason they were labeled that way. And since it was illegal to be a Christian, the Lord’s Supper could only be celebrated secretly, so not many people had seen the practice, but only heard that Christians are cannibals.

Now if you see the practice of the Lord’s Supper, if it is a public thing as it is today, it is easy to combat the claim that we are cannibals. We eat bread and we drink wine. Showing someone what we do is by far the best way, perhaps the only way to convince someone that we are not cannibals because if we try to describe or tell someone we are not, chances are we will say something that is untrue about the Lord’s Supper. We cannot say, “Well we are not eating and drinking the body and blood of a person,” because we are. We cannot deny the real, physical presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Supper especially because Jesus himself says that his “flesh is true food, and [his] blood is true drink.” In the Lord’s Supper, when we eat the bread and drink the wine, we receive the true, real, physical, body and blood of Jesus.

But we don’t want to be called cannibals. No one wants to be called a cannibal. It’s gross and disgusting and, to be honest, even I’m a little offended at the number of times I’ve already used such a sadistic word in my sermon already. Yet we cannot deny that the flesh and blood of Jesus is true food and true drink and that we do eat and drink his body and blood. Even with all the rumors and accusations flying around about the early Christian Church and even though they couldn’t show anyone what they were actually doing because they could have been arrested and killed for being a Christian, still, they never denied the real, true, physical presence of Jesus.

None of the early Church fathers, in any of their writings, ever tried to refute cannibalism by saying that it was simply a spiritual eating and drinking of Jesus, rather than a physical one. None of them ever said that is was simply a memorial meal to remember the flesh and blood of Jesus given and poured out on the cross. None of them tried to dispel the rumors or accusations of cannibalism by denying Jesus in the Supper. It wasn’t until Christianity was legal and that people could publicly see what was happening that the accusations went away. The Lord’s Supper was a hard saying, a hard teaching, that caused many to take offense at Christianity when the Lord’s Supper was a private event.

And now, the Lord’s Supper continues to be a hard saying, a hard teaching, of the Church that causes many to take offense. Today, we are doing what is forbidden in our culture, in a similar way that human cannibalism is forbidden in essentially every culture of every time. The offense over the Lord’s Supper today is not what we eat and drink, not that it is a secret practice, but a public one that is given selectively. Today’s offense over the Lord’s Supper is the Biblical, Scriptural, practice of closed communion.

Closed communion is the practice of only giving the Lord’s Supper to those people who are communicant members of this congregation, a sister congregation of the LCMS, or a sister congregation with which we are in full altar and pulpit fellowship with. That last part refers primarily to churches in other countries who believe what we believe but have their own leadership and structure apart from the Missouri Synod.

Closed communion gets us labeled and accused of being intolerant, exclusive, unloving, even hateful by both Christians and non-Christians alike. Now maybe that’s a little better than being called a cannibal, but in today’s culture it carries with it almost as heavy of a weight and stigma of not being a group that people want to join. It is an accusation that is still offensive and hard.

And it would be easier for us to deny the claim by denying the practice. It would be easier for us not to practice closed communion, both in teaching and in practice. It would be easier for us to invite everyone to the Supper. It would be easier for me not to have to be concerned about who comes to the rail, but just distribute to everyone, but that is not faithful to God’s Word.

Closed communion isn’t a man-made rule, teaching, or practice, it is given to us by God in Scripture. We don’t give communion to just anyone and everyone because not everyone believes it is the actual, true, real, physical body and blood of Christ. Not everyone, both Christians and non-Christians alike, believe Jesus when he says that his flesh is true food and his blood is true drink. There are many who would claim that it is just bread and wine. There are many who would claim that Christ is only present in our memory. There are many who would claim that Christ is only spiritually present. There are many who would claim that bread and wine are not present. There are many who would receive this gift of God, the physical body and blood of Jesus that is true food, true bread, and true drink, true wine, to their harm, perhaps even to their own damnation. This is a hard saying. “Do you take offense at this?

But this gift of flesh and blood is not meant for your harm but for you your good. These words of Jesus, hard and offensive as they may be, are spirit and life, that by the faith granted to you by the Father you would receive the crucified and risen body and blood of Jesus for your good, for your forgiveness, for your life and salvation. So what shall we do? Where shall we go? To a church or a place who would deny the teachings of Jesus to be acceptable? Or to a church that stands with the Church of all time, doing what is hard, confessing what is offensive, confessing that Jesus has the words of eternal life and we have believed, and have come to know, that he is the Holy One of God and that his flesh is true food and his blood is true drink, that this is my body, this is my blood which is given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins, for the forgiveness of your offense, for your salvation, for your eternal life won for you by Christ on the cross, delivered to you by bread and wine, received for your good by faith. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

“Bread of Life”

Pastor Simek

 The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost at Hope, Jerseyville

8/5/18

“Bread of Life”

Sermon Text: John 6:22-35

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Victory. Gospel victory. The Gospel prevailing and winning the victory at every turn in the face of every opposition. Jesus feeding 5,000 men and additional women and children with just a few loaves of bread and a few fish. That is a man I want to follow. But why do we follow him and what are we seeking and wanting by following him? In the Gospel reading today, the answer is bread. They met a man who fed thousands with very little. They ate their fill of the loaves and were satisfied last night, but now it’s breakfast, maybe lunch time, and they are hungry again, so they follow Jesus looking for more bread. They get in their boats and cross the sea searching for Jesus because they want more food. They seek food that fills bellies and leaves them empty again, food that perishes. But Jesus isn’t about to play their game. He’s not going to just continue to fill their bellies, even if that would make him extremely popular. Jesus is not here for your belly. That is not who he is. Instead…

JESUS IS THE BREAD OF LIFE WHO GIVES LIFE TO THE WORLD.

(I. We labor for food that perishes.)

(II. Jesus is the food that gives eternal life.)

I.

Nevertheless, those people are pretty determined to fill their bellies. They get in their boats and sail to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. They find Jesus and try to convince him to give the more food. They are willing to work for it, asking, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Or in other words, “What do we have to do for you to get more bread?” And when Jesus simply says “believe,” they want to know why they should believe. “What sign do you do, that we may see and believe you?

And they make a suggestion, they lay before him and idea, a sign that he could do that they would believe, give us more bread. If you’re from God, like Moses was from God, well Moses fed people for forty years. You could feed us for forty years and then we would believe in you. And again, they seek Jesus not for Jesus, but for themselves and their own bellies. They are smart, devious, and manipulative in the way the try to fill their bellies. Like the student who puts more effort into cheating on a test to get an “A” than if he had just studied for the test. They seek and labor for the food that perishes.

Thanks be to God we are not like those foolish sinners, huh? Or are we? We certainly labor for food that perishes, and that is understandable, at least to some extent. We do have to eat, and to eat, we have to be able to buy food so we need money, and to get money, we have to work, and labor for food that will fill our bellies and will leave it again. That is just a part of life.

But look at the sacrifices and labor we make and go through to fill our bellies. We work, how many jobs for how many hours a week. We spend time working and laboring when we could be doing things we enjoy like spending time with our families, our friends, our hobbies, or just a little time to ourselves. And not only do we spend our time, but we spend our money to make money. We go through schooling, community college or a four year college, maybe even pursue degrees after that potentially driving us into serious debt so that we can get a job and fill our bellies and have every desire of our hearts. We labor for food and satisfaction that perishes.

And I’m not saying we ought not go to work or pursue higher education. There is no sin in that, but when we are so concerned with looking at our own bellies and worried about filling them that we do not see the Bread of Life standing right before us, we are in trouble. When we so quickly, willingly, and voluntarily sacrifice whatever is necessary to fill our belly with food that perishes, yet continue to say no to serving the Bread of Life and serving in his house, what are we doing? When the groans of our mortal flesh for food, or sleep, or leisure drown out and silence our need for forgiveness, we are lost to that which perishes. When we will spend hours memorizing the states and their capitals or the Presidents of the United States or the history of nations who have perished in order to graduate, but memorizing the Small Catechism or Scripture, the Word of the Lord that does not pass away but endures forever, is just too great, when we will spend an hour watching the news of people who have perished or are perishing, but not an hour studying the Bible, we are destined to perish. Is it easier for you to find the right tv channel than the Gospel of John? If we were to compare the time you spend laboring for things that perish and the time you spend laboring for the food that endures to eternal life, would you be ashamed of the way you spend your time?

II.

Thanks be to God that our salvation is not determined by a measuring scale of our time, that what saves us is not having more hours spent on the side of eternal things than on the side of perishable things. Thanks be to God that to be doing the works of God is not sacrificing everything that we are and everything that we have for the Bread of Life, but is believing in him who was sent to sacrifice everything that he has and everything that he is for us.

He sacrificed His throne in heaven to be enthroned in a virgin’s womb. He sacrificed his eternal immortality and took on mortal flesh. He sacrificed the fullness of his divine glory, humbling, humiliating himself as he hid his unlimited power in human skin and bones. He sacrificed even that very body and blood for you upon the cross to make up for every moment you have been more concerned about the bread that perishes than the bread of eternal life.

And despite your continued care and concern for the things of this world, he comes to you to be your bread from heaven which endures to eternal life. He is your forgiveness. He is your salvation. He is your eternal life as he took his life up again to give you a throne, an immortal flesh, an honor and power and kingdom with him. He is your bread from heaven that you would never hunger nor thirst again for all eternity.

So we pray with those misguided Israelites, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Yet we also pray, “Our Father, give us this day our daily bread.” And we know, as Luther teaches in his Small Catechism, that “God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.” We trust that God will provide daily bread for us on account of the eternal bread of his Son, and we give thanks for daily bread that perishes and for eternal bread that endures.

We give thanks and give back, not sacrificing of ourselves that which belongs to us, but returning and spreading the gifts which God gives to us through Christ, the gifts that truly belong to him in the first place. We give back to God that which we he has given to us and we give to our neighbor both the food that perishes and the food that endures for God’s food and his gifts will never run out. His gifts, his bread, his Son is eternal, and through him you have eternal life. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Satisfying Shepherd

Pastor Simek

 The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost  at Hope, Jerseyville

7/22/18

 “The Satisfying Shepherd”

Sermon Text: Mark 6:30-44

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

We are almost done with July now, just today and one more Sunday left, and I am still yet to preach a sermon I had actually planned. Last week, my plan was changed by an Elders meeting, the week before, by the Higher Things Conference, and the week before I was not here. But today, I am getting back to my plan, which probably needs a little context. In the month of July, our Gospel readings have been a continuous reading from the second half of Mark chapter 5 straight through chapter 6, in order, without missing one verse. We will finish next week, the last Sunday of July, with the last verses of Mark chapter 6. This wasn’t by my design, but is the layout of the lectionary, the appointed readings for each Sunday. And as this is a continuous reading through Mark’s Gospel, we have seen Jesus and the Gospel continuously and consistently face opposition. The first Sunday, it was almost an opposition of being too popular where a crowd surrounded him so that he was not able to reach the girl, Jairus’ daughter, before she died. Then Jesus went home where the Gospel and Jesus as a prophet was without honor. He was seen as nothing special so there was no respect or honor for him or for the Gospel just as the Gospel and its proclamation is without honor in the world today. Actually, we draw nearer and nearer to being in the shoes of John the Baptist. When he preached the Gospel, it was not simply without honor, but it was met with reluctance, even hostility and punishment which resulted in his beheading. At every turn, the Gospel has faced opposition, yet it is opposition that it has, can, and will overcome. And so it is today and next Sunday, that the Gospel continues to meet more opposition. Today, the opposition of the Gospel comes not from others, but from ourselves and our own needs, yet…

OUR SHEPHERD SATISFIES OUR NEEDS

(I. The Gospel is threatened by the needs and desires of this life.)

(II. Jesus satisfies all our needs.)

I.

If I hadn’t been looking at this Gospel reading with the build-up and context of the opposition of the Gospel, I’m not sure I would have thought about this feeding of the 5,000 as opposition to the Gospel. There are so many other things in this reading that are absolute gold, many of them I won’t elaborate on in an attempt to stay focused, but these golden nuggets also can distract us from the context of this opposition to the Gospel. Have you ever considered that the Gospel was in danger, it was on the verge of being silenced and not preached because of the hunger of these people?

I hadn’t, so I had a sort of “Aha!” moment, which are always fun. But the Gospel almost didn’t reach the ears of these 5,000 men (plus the additional women and children), because of their hunger. The disciples were ready to dismiss the crowd. They were ready to end the service, call it a day, go get dinner, and settle down for the night. These people were about to be deprived of hearing the word of God preached by the Word of God, being fed the Word, because of their bellies needed to be fed.

And so often today, the Gospel is opposed or threatened in the very same way. By the needs of our body and our desires, the proclamation of the Gospel, even the faithful reception of the Gospel and God’s gifts are stopped. Church cannot last forever (despite my best efforts). At some point, I will have to stop preaching for today, you will have to be dismissed from here to fill your belly with food.

It’s not your fault, it is not a sin to get hungry. That is a result of our frail, weak, human flesh and a result of the fall into sin. It is not because of your particular sin of this or that, but because we are conceived and born sinful in a fallen sinful world that our bodies will hunger and die if we do not feed them. And while this is the most common and widely shared experience and feeling by all of us, it is not the only frailty of the body that opposes the Gospel and prevents its faithful reception.

There are several people, people you probably know, who cannot be here because of the frailness and weakness of their bodies. There are people, our members, our brothers and sisters in Christ, who cannot get out of their homes, or sometimes even their bed or wheelchair without the help of others. There are some that cannot sit in those hard, uncomfortable pews for an hour. There are some that can get here, but cannot get from their pew, up these steps, to the altar to receive the Gospel, the body and blood of Christ. Again, this is not their fault, not because they are a greater or lesser sinner than any of us, but the reality is that our own frail flesh can be an obstacle for the Gospel. Many of these people actually desire to do these things and try to do them even at the further expense of their bodies.

The Gospel is opposed by forces outside and inside of ourselves because while there are some that are willing and even desire to suffer the pain and struggle of getting here to receive God’s gifts, there are just as many if not more of us who are able to be here, whose bodies are not weak, but capable, yet despise or neglect these very gifts because we are hungry, because we are too busy, because we didn’t get enough sleep last night, because we have other, higher priorities than receiving the higher things of God.

II.

Yet as much opposition as the Gospel faces, as much self-centeredness (like keeping Jesus from a dying girl), as much humiliation (like preaching a Gospel without honor), as much punishment or threat of consequences (like being beheaded for the Gospel), as much weakness of the flesh (like starving, broken bodies, and hardness of heart), the Gospel does not stop.

Jesus raises the girl even though she dies. Jesus preaches, heals, and sends his disciples though their message is without honor. John continues to point to the ministry and work of Jesus even in his death. The service in this desolate place does not end, but Jesus becomes their shepherd, sitting them down in green pastures and providing, creating, food for them that the Gospel may prevail and its proclamation continue. The Gospel, Jesus, continues and nothing can stop him.

Even when he faces his end, even when he dies and his frail, weak, human body dies, he continues. Even the opposition of death itself, the ultimate sign of our mortal, fallen bodies, cannot stop Jesus. He continues to deliver his gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation, won as he conquered mortality.

And so he continues to deliver those gifts. He provides for you, in this very service, the food and drink of his body and blood. He reaches out to those who cannot come up these steps. He reaches out to those who cannot sit in these pews. He reaches out to those who cannot leave their homes. He reaches out to those who cannot leave their beds. He reaches out to those who cannot hold a cup because their fingers shake or do not work. He reaches out to those who cannot remember their names. He is their Good Shepherd, laying them in green pastures, leading them to still waters, restoring their soul with his body and blood and every word that comes from the mouth of God. “This is my body for you.” “This is my blood for you.” “This is my Son for you.” “Your sins are forgiven.”

So no matter how broken your body or your mind becomes you are still a child of the crucified and risen God. You are still a sheep of the Shepherd who satisfies our needs and gives eternal life in glory. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Love in Hostility

Pastor Simek

 The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost at Hope, Jerseyville

7/15/18

“Love in Hostility”

Sermon Text: Mark 6:14-29

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

About three weeks ago, I began planning for this service and this sermon, which is really not unusual for me. My plan then was to preach, in essence, a funeral sermon for John the Baptist as we heard in the Gospel reading about the events surrounding his imprisonment, death, and burial. That was my plan until Wednesday night when I met with our Elders, and overnight my plan changed, so if my sermon today isn’t quite as organized and structured as I usually try to make them, you can blame the Elders. But, the reason my plans changed is because there is something that I want and need to tell you today that I wouldn’t have explicitly done if I had preach a funeral sermon for John the Baptist. The thing that I need to explicitly tell you is this: I love you.

I wrote this sermon on Thursday morning, July 12. This is an important date for me and for us because three years ago, July 12, 2015, I was ordained and installed as your Pastor here at Hope Lutheran Church, Jerseyville. I still remember the first time I visited here, on Mother’s Day, and sat right over there with Nicole and Joel, and after the service I stood up to say a few words. I have no idea what I said, but as I looked out to each of you I remember nearly being brought to tears and I remembered the words of the first President of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, C. F. W. Walther in “The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel” where he is lecturing to seminary students and he tells them that when a candidate has been assigned a call, “that place ought to be to him the dearest, most beautiful, and most precious spot on earth. He should be unwilling to exchange it for a kingdom… To him it should be a miniature paradise.” So as I looked out over you then and as I look out over you today, this is my paradise. You are God’s gift to me and I love you.

Over the last three years, we may not have always seen eye to eye. There may have been times or moments or situations where you wished I would have handled something differently or done something or not done something that I did do. There may have been time when we were frustrated or angry with one another. Times when I have not loved you as I should and times you did the same. Times when you felt more like God’s gift to Paul, that thorn in his side, than God’s gift to me, and times when I felt more like an uncaring, unloving, selfish human being than God’s gift of a shepherd and pastor He has given to you, the man that God put before you in His stead and by His command to deliver to you Christ and Him crucified for the forgiveness of your sins, your eternal life and salvation.

There have been times where I have sinned against you and times when you have sinned against me and times when you have sinned against one another. There may have been times when you’ve wondered if I or anyone at this church really even cares about you at all much less loves you. Today, let there be no doubt. We love you. I love you.

And I expect there are some of you that may be think that it is all well and good that Pastor says he loves me, but he needs to show me he loves me. Actions speak louder than words. And you are probably right, I may not have shown you I love you in the way that you think I should, but love is shown in different ways. Some of us show that we love one another by being explicit: greeting you with a big hug and saying “I love you.” It is wonderful to know and to feel that kind of unapologetic explicit love, and it would probably do us some good to hug one another and tell one another “I love you.”

But that isn’t really quite the old German/Lutheran way of doing things now is it. I’m not saying we shouldn’t. By all means hug someone today that you have not hugged before. But if no one gives you a hug, do not think you are unloved. You are loved. I do love you. And you can know that I love you and that my love for you and God’s love for you has not changed not based on whether or not I hug you or wave or smile at you, but by this. This is my goal. This is the way I show you I love you: I preach, I teach, I urge you to come to church, I urge you to come to Bible class, I urge you to be and remain in the Word. The way I show you I love you and I care about you is by pointing you to Jesus, the one whose love for you is the greatest. The way I see it, what more loving thing can I do for you than to show you God’s love for you, show you a Jesus bleeding and dying on the cross for you, show you a Jesus risen from the dead for you for the forgiveness of your sins. When you hear me say “I forgive you all of your sins” or any variation of that whether it is in a sermon or any other point in the service, know and hear I love you, God loves you.

Which will finally bring us back around to our Gospel reading for today. I think Herod loved John the Baptist, and I am certain John the Baptist loved Herod. I know John the Baptist loved Herod because He told him so in our Gospel reading. He told him not by giving him a big hug and saying “I love you,” but by telling him God’s truth. Speaking the truth is the most loving thing we can do. Speaking the truth in love and not being a jerk about it is the hard part about it. John spoke the truth. Even when it cost John his freedom and landed him in prison, John spoke God’s truth and pointed to Jesus.

And Herod, when he heard the truth “was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.” Herod loved John the Baptist because he heard him preach and refused to put him to death until he had backed himself in a corner and was forced to do it. But to the very end and even beyond his death, John the Baptist pointed to the truth, to Jesus. Even in a place and a time when the Gospel was not merely without honor, but it was opposed and attacked in a hostile environment and situation that eventually cost John the Baptist his life, John showed love by preaching the truth, preaching Christ.

So that is what you and I ought to do and how we ought to love one another and our neighbor. In a world today where the Gospel is not merely without honor, but where the world, the culture and the people are hostile to the Gospel, say “I love you.” A favorite quote of mine from our Higher Things conference that I am totally stealing from Pastor Riley (since I love him) is the very thing we ought to say to show our neighbor we love them, tell them that “God loves you Jesus much.”

So as long as I continue planning sermons and services two and three weeks in advance and preparing Bible class and catechesis classes, and doing things and issuing challenges to you that you might hate, and pushing you, urging you, and annoying you with my insistence that you should come to worship more often and Bible class more often so that I can give you more Jesus, know that I love you. This is how I show my love for you, that I point you to Jesus. I desire and want nothing more in this world than for you to hear, read, mark, learn, and take to heart Jesus.

And if you are uncomfortable hugging me and telling me “I love you,” you don’t have to, just come. Tell me you love me by hearing more Jesus. Even if we disagree, even if you hate me, even if you want my head served up on a platter, every time I see you here or in Bible class or in the Word, all I am going to see and hear is “Pastor, I love you.” And every time you hear me telling you about God’s love for you, His death for you, His resurrection for you, His Baptism for you, His Word for you, His Supper for you know that God loves you. He loves you Jesus much. I love you Jesus much. Let us love one another Jesus much so that every time the name of Jesus is spoken we hear “God loves you. I love you. God forgives you. I forgive you.” In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

“A Gospel Without Honor”

Pastor Simek

 The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost at Hope, Jerseyville

7/8/18

“A Gospel Without Honor”

Sermon Text: Mark 6:1-13

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

This past week was another great week at Higher Things. Every conference I go to is the same, but different. Every conference preaches the same Gospel, the same Good News, the same Jesus, but in a different way. One thing that was different this week especially was the worship space. Most of the people attending the conference probably didn’t realize how the worship space was different or special, but since I got there early to help set up, I got to be part of transforming the chapel into something that looked like a Lutheran church. When we got there, the chapel was not Lutheran. Actually, I would go so far as to say that when we got there the chapel was not Christian, but Unitarian. By that I mean it was a chapel that could be (and was) used by any religion. There were Muslim and Buddhist prayer rooms in the basement with signs requesting you take off your shoes before entering. They posted worship schedules around the chapel on bulletin boards listing the times of different worship services. Jews got their turn along with Muslims, Buddhists, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Unitarian Universalists, Christian Scientists, Scientology, Druids, Interfaith services, and Ecumenical services. You name it, everyone was welcome as though all paths and religions were the same, leading to the same place, and the same god. There were even posters around this chapel demanding religious pluralism. Christianity, whatever flavor you were, was just one among many seemingly equal options. It reminded me of our Gospel reading for this Sunday in that Christianity and Jesus was without honor. Christianity was viewed as just another version of the same thing, the same as every other religion.

It was bad. This was a chapel whose god was knowledge and wisdom even if it was without truth. There was no cross. There was not even an altar, only a pulpit, front and center as though the only thing that was valued was the knowledge that was spoken there. I have pictures I can show you later if you’d like. The Gospel, Jesus, was without honor in this chapel in much the same way that Jesus is without honor in his hometown, out in our world today, even out in our own community of Jerseyville.

A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” The people said to themselves and one another, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” The people knew Jesus and his family. Notice how they mention his mother, Mary, and his brothers and sisters, but not his father. They knew about his suspicious birth, that Joseph wasn’t his father. And they knew the way he grew up, his education, and all of his childhood, and every story about him and because of that, “They took offense at him.

They took offense at Jesus because they knew all about him, even though he was different from every other child in that even as a teenager he always honored his father and his mother. He never disrespected them or talked back to them, and was always obedient and perfect, yet still he was without honor. And if people are going to take offense against the perfect Jesus preaching God’s Word because they knew everything about him, people will certainly do the same to you.

Who are you to tell me what I should do and believe. I know what you were like when you were a kid. I know the trouble you got into. I know your little secrets, all those stories you hid from your parents. You’re no different than me. You’re no better than me, so why do you think you know better than I do? You are without honor here as you try to talk about Jesus and invite people to church and Bible class. Because of your sins, your mistakes, your background, and history, because people here in your hometown know who you really are or at least you who really used to be Jesus and the Gospel are without honor here and really everywhere.

So what are we left with? Why should people listen to us who have no honor when we speak of a Gospel and a Jesus without honor? What hope do we have in fulfilling the work God has given us to do as we are sent just as the disciples were sent to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them when there is no honor or respect in any of it? How must the disciples have felt when they were sent out to do the very thing that Jesus just failed at doing? What chance do we have as a prophet in our own town if Jesus failed as a prophet in his hometown?

Well, Jesus didn’t fail. Even where Jesus is without honor and people take offense at him, still he was able to heal the sick. Still his disciples were able to go into the surrounding region and cast out demons and heal the sick. In fact, when Jesus is without honor, when he is in the greatest dishonor, he is doing his greatest work. When Jesus is stripped naked and publicly hung up on a tree as an example of shame, dishonor, and disrespect, counted among the greatest of sinners and worst criminals, Jesus is doing his greatest work to save.

Even without honor, the Gospel will do what God sends it forth to do. Even stripped naked, Jesus is not stripped of his power to save you. Even if you doubt that the Gospel without honor can change anything, even if you dishonor Jesus, even if your history and your reputation are what stand in the way of others hearing the Gospel, Jesus and the Gospel will still do what Jesus and the Gospel does: forgive sins, rescue from death and the devil, and give eternal salvation to all who believe.

Even in a Unitarian chapel on the campus of a liberal college, plastered with signs of religious pluralism, environmental idolatry, and “Abolish ICE” propaganda, the Word of God impacted, and made a difference in the life and faith of our youth and the 600 others who were there. Even in a place so bad where the Gospel was in such dishonor that the pastors in charge of worship thought it was necessary to bless the space before using it for worship, Jesus, the Gospel, and the forgiveness of sins triumphed. Even if it took 3 or 4 men to physically lift the pulpit off the ground to move it in order to then lift the cross to its proper place, Jesus was right where he needed to be, doing what Jesus does. Even if it took hours to transform the blank generic, bordering on demonic, chapel into something distinctly Lutheran where the crucifix was ascended high in glory, the body and blood of our crucified and risen Lord was given for the forgiveness of sins. Even with a broken organ, sometimes with nothing more than a piano and actually quite often in acapella, hundreds of teenagers lifted their voices to sing of the salvation accomplished for them by Christ on the cross.

Even when the place, the world, and the people are reluctant to hear about Jesus and eager to dishonor him, even when you are reluctant to follow him and eager to satisfy the desires of your flesh and your old Adam, Christ reigns victorious, the Gospel does what the Gospel sets out to do, your sins are forgiven. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

“A Word of Growth”

Pastor Simek
The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost at Hope, Jerseyville
6/17/18
“A Word of Growth”
Sermon Text: Mark 4:26-34

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
I am not a farmer, not even close. And as far away as I am from being a farmer, I am equally far from being a gardener. If you want a plant to die, bring it to my house and let me take care of it for a little while and it will probably be dead before you would think it would have time to die. Now I know a little bit about farming and gardening and the way plants grow. I remember my grade school and high school classes well enough to talk about a seed germinating and growing and rotating crops to keep the soil healthy in order to make you think I know what I’m talking about, but when it comes to the actual care of a plant you can pretty much forget about it. Other than knowing it needs water and sunlight, I’m pretty much useless. And I do think there is a difference between having the intellectual knowledge about the planting and growing of something and having the actual practical ability to make something grow. However, even if you have both of these things, it is still a little bit of a mystery. How is it that a seed knows when and how to do what it has to do in order to survive? How does a tree or a corn or bean stalk draw up water and the nutrients it needs from the ground through its roots to make it grow? It can’t think or decide anything for itself, yet it grows. And if the soil is so important for growth, can someone please explain to me how a weed can grow in a crack in my driveway or between two slabs of concrete? As much as we study and know about plants and their growth, there is still an element of mystery that we just do not understand because…
GOD GIVES THE GROWTH
(I. We do not understand or doubt the way things grow.)
(II. God grows even the smallest seeds.)
I.
But this is not a sermon about planting, watering, growing, and harvesting a crop out in your field. It is a parable. “With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.” “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it?” The kingdom of God is like a seed.
We can study the seed and its growth. We can tell you the things that contribute to the healthy growth of the kingdom of God and faith in a person. This I’m quite a bit more familiar with. I can tell you that if you want to maximize your chances for a seed to produce fruit, for a person to remain a faithful Lutheran their entire life, then the key is leading by example and bombarding them, and yourself, with Lutheranism as much as you can. A faithful mother to see, yes, but especially a faithful father or, better yet, both parents to follow faithfully in worship, Bible class, and involved in church. Baptizing them, having regular, daily family devotions with them, teaching them the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer, praying with them and having them pray with you so that prayer becomes comfortable, reciting with them Luther’s Small Catechism, singing hymns with them, being in church with them whenever the Church gathers, going to Bible Class or Sunday School with them (not just sending them on their way while you do something else, but being there with them or in class yourself), showing them that faith, church, and the distinctly Lutheran study of God’s Word is important in your life, increases the chances it will be important in theirs. And this goes not just for raising children in the church, but sustaining the faith of an adult as well.
And there is probably even more that could be added and said about that, raising Lutheran children and nurturing the faith of Lutheran adults as children of God, but I also suspect that our childhood and adulthood doesn’t look like that. I know mine didn’t, yet here I am and here you are. How did it happen if the seed wasn’t in good soil and provided proper water and sunlight? God gave the growth.
And as it was with a plant and was with you, it is also true of the entirety of the kingdom of God and his church. We know what aids in the growth of faith, the Word perfectly delivered, but much of the growth is a mystery. It is God working in mysterious ways that cannot and will not be understood. And not only do we not understand it, we also often times doubt it.
We doubt that a seed as small as a mustard seed, as small as a seemingly insignificant act of love or a simple invitation to come to church could possibly work. We downplay our role in planting the seed as insignificant or insufficient to bring faith. We think that we can’t possibly make a difference because we are not God or Jesus or a pastor. We convince ourselves we don’t know enough about the faith to be a faithful witness to it so it would be better if we didn’t say anything at all.
Or we have planted a seed there once and nothing grew. I invited them to church before and they never came so why would I invite them again. They know they are welcome any time, knocking on their door and inviting them again isn’t going to make any difference. My pathetic defense of the faith won’t make any difference in their life. Who am I to invite someone to church or proclaim the Gospel to them when I don’t even go that often?
II.
And you’re right. I have no idea how a half-hearted attempt or invitation to church can make any difference whatsoever. I have no idea how me living my life is going to bring my neighbor to faith. I have no idea how a sinner like me or you can be used to plant the seed of faith that it might take root and grow into a tree larger than all the garden plants. It seems impossible and makes no sense, yet here we are.
God gives the growth. God grows even a mustard seed, the smallest of all the seeds on earth, into a tree larger than all the garden plants. We don’t know what that seed is going to do. It may grow it may not. The perfect seed raised in the perfect way under the best possible circumstances we can offer may not grow or may grow up and fall away, even while another weed might grow up between two slabs of concrete. I can’t explain it other than to say that God gives the growth.
We don’t know how an invitation to church or a life of loving our neighbor will be taken or perceived, but we don’t have to. God gives the growth. It is His seed to bring forth life from even as He planted the body of His crucified Son into the tomb and raised Him up again that through Him the kingdom of God would grow and bear fruit through the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation which he won.
No one expected the seed, the body of the dead Jesus to rise, yet the Word lives. We may not understand or expect the seeds of the Word which we plant to sprout forth and bear fruit, but that is the Holy Spirit’s job to worry about and not ours. We scatter and plant the seed, the Word, and trust the Holy Spirit to work through that strong Word to grow the kingdom of God and save all people no matter how small that seed might be and how frail and weak we, the ones scattering it may be. God gives the growth.
So when the grain is ripe and God puts in his sickle to harvest what is his, you shall be gathered to him, not because you planted so many seeds and this many grew and that many didn’t, but because the Word was planted in you, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and the forgiveness of sins were given for you to you and God gave them the growth. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Whose Side Are You On?

Pastor Simek

The Third Sunday after Pentecost at Hope, Jerseyville

6/10/18

“Whose Side Are You On?”

Sermon Text: Mark 3:20-35

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

It’s about summer, which means its baseball season again and time for the Cards/Cubs rivalry to return, if it ever really went away. Whose side are you on? Are you a Cards fan or a Cubs fan? This close to St. Louis, most of us probably side with the Cardinals, but not all. You may have friends as I have brother pastors of mine even in Southern Illinois, even as near as Godfrey, who are, regrettably, Cubs fans. Whose side are you on? Or maybe it’s not baseball that you really get into, maybe its soccer and Arsenal against Man United or Barcelona against Real Madrid, or maybe it’s hockey and the Blues against the Blackhawks. Name your sport or your game and there is probably at least one rivalry that peaks your interest and makes you maybe just a little bit more competitive than usual. But have you ever considered that we are caught in the middle of another rivalry, another contest and battle, between God and Satan? Whose side are you on? Who do you support? Who do you cheer for or work for to bring them home a win? Whose house do you belong in? How do you know? How do you know you’re not actually in the other house and supporting the other team? Simply put, it is because…

JESUS CALLS US HIS BROTHERS AND SISTERS

(I. We struggle with the fear of not being on God’s side.)

(II. Jesus forgives the sins of all His brothers and sisters.)

I.

And this is a very good and important thing if we are considering whose side we are really on, especially because sometimes the sides and the lines get blurred. That is what we see in our Gospel reading for today. In Mark chapter 3, Jesus is out teaching and preaching, healing many and casting out demons. He is clearly doing the work of God, the work of the Christ, overcoming sin, sickness, and evil which is the work of His death and resurrection, yet credit and glory is not given to God.

Of course the scribes are going to try to discredit Him and we’ll get to that in a minute, but even His own family, those in His own home say that, “He is out of his mind.” Literally, according to the Greek, that are saying that He is changed, not Himself, not doing His normal work. He is out of His mind and of another mind, another opinion, and another work. He is not of the mind and work of God, but of another, which of course could only mean the devil. The family of Jesus, His own mother and brothers, believe Jesus is being driven to exhaustion and deprived of food and drink by the devil. That it is Satan’s work to overwhelm and overcome Jesus, rather than Christ’s work to heal and provided for all of these people. And then it is the scribes who jump on this and say Jesus is possessed by Beelzebul which is another name for Satan or the devil. They too attribute God’s work to Satan.

It takes Jesus and His word to set things straight and show how things really are. He speaks and makes it clear where the battle lines are and whose side He is on. But apart from His word, just looking at the events, the things happening and being said, it seems no clear distinction can be made.

This is definitely true for us as well. If someone were to watch us, what we do, what we say, and especially what we think, whose side would they say that you are on? Whose will do you do and word do you follow: God’s or Satan’s? We sin in thought, word, and deed and work against God and in favor of the devil. We criticize and tear down our neighbors, we look the other way when they are in need and offer them no help or support. We have higher priorities of our own than loving our neighbor and doing the work of God.

We criticize those we have been sent to serve, and we even criticize those who do serve. We may think something shouldn’t be done that way or that this or that is not a good idea or project or goal to try to do. We may tear down one idea after another of things we as individuals and we as a church could try to do to serve God and neighbor, all the while not offering any of our own ideas. Offering simply criticism rather than any sort of constructive support, criticizing those who do and are trying without doing or trying to do anything ourselves.

And as much as we criticize the way we reach out, we criticize what we do in the church. We criticize our brother and sister members in what they say and do. We judge and critique our liturgy and hymns, the preaching and teaching, even perhaps going somewhere else if the church or her pastor doesn’t suit our preferences. And all of a sudden we are causing divisions among the church and in the word and work of God, judging and criticizing the way God serves us, saying that God is out of His mind. Jesus and the Holy Spirit don’t know what they are doing. We credit the work of God to the devil or stand in opposition to His Word. Isn’t that what Jesus describes as the sin against the Holy Spirit?

Are you so sure you haven’t committed the unforgiveable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit for saying that those trying to do the work of God have an unclean spirit or malicious intent? Are you so sure you have the forgiveness of any of your sins, especially when you keep doing them, keep criticizing, keep tearing down without building up? Whose side are you on?

II.

Well as it for the family of Jesus and for the scribes, if we want to clear this up, if we want to know for sure, we have to listen to what Jesus has to say. Who does Jesus says is in His house and on His side? What does Jesus say about you? Jesus describes His work for you as He describes His work against Satan.

Then hear what Christ has done for you. He has come into this house of doom and hall of death and bound up the strong man, bound up Satan, and plundered his house. Jesus was bound, nailed to a cross, crucified, died, and descended into hell to defeat Satan. Jesus has come into this kingdom of sin, bound up the devil, and stolen from him that which he owned, you. You have been stolen out of the house of Satan by Christ. He has made you His own and forgiven you all of your sins.

And if you are worried about that unforgiveable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, then you have not done it. The very fact that you are worried about your forgiveness means that you can be forgiven and you have not committed this sin.

And not only can you be forgiven, but you are as Christ Himself calls you His brother or sister. Here are the brothers and sisters of Christ. “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” This is what Jesus says of the crowd sitting around Him hearing His word just as you sit here and hear the Word of God. That is His will. That you hear Him and receive His gifts and be forgiven.

So whose side are you on, what house do you belong to, and how do you know? We must hear what Jesus has to say and look to Him to clear things up. He says you are His baptized child. He says you are a member of His body even as you eat His body and drink His blood. He says you are His brothers and sisters who are forgiven all of their sins. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Sabbath

Pastor Simek

The Second Sunday after Pentecost at Hope, Jerseyville

6/3/18

“The Sabbath”

Sermon Text: Mark 2:23-3:6

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Third Commandment: Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. What does this mean? Well if you asked that question to most people, I think they would probably tell you that it means we need to go to church on Sunday. However, that is entirely too simple of an understanding because the Sabbath has nothing to do with Sunday at all. The Sabbath day, the day Jesus is plucking heads of grain and healing this man’s withered hand, would have actually been Saturday. Sunday wasn’t the day of worship until after Jesus when we began to observe the resurrection of Jesus and celebrate mini-Easter Sundays in our worship, rather than the seventh day of creation when God rested. But even when the Sabbath was on Saturday, the Jewish observance of the Sabbath wasn’t to go and worship, but to rest. Sabbath means rest, not worship. The idea that remembering the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy meant go to church is much more modern than most of us probably realize. So if the Sabbath isn’t about us going to church, what is the Sabbath about? It is about this, that:

GOD KEEPS THE SABBATH FOR US

(I. Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.)

(II. The Sabbath is made for man.)

I.

But even that wasn’t understood by the Jews. For the Jews, the Sabbath was about rest. The Sabbath was about their work, or lack of it, for God, to remember His creation in six days and rest on the seventh. Resting on the Sabbath was how you kept it holy and was an absolute necessity. It was so much so that they defined exactly what they meant by rest and when you were no longer resting, but working. They limited the amount of work that you could do. You could only travel so far. A phrase that shows up in the Acts is “a Sabbath day’s journey,” which was probably less than a mile. There were restrictions on what you were allowed to do to prepare food. You weren’t allowed to butcher or harvest in virtually any way or any part of the process. This is one way Jesus gets in trouble in our reading, as He and his disciples pluck heads of grain to eat.

There is one exception, however. There is one case where you can actually do some form of work on the Sabbath: if you were saving a life. Yet even this exception, Jesus pushes farther than the Jews are comfortable with, and He knows it. He even asks them if He can do it, if He can heal this man’s withered hand, and they have no answer for Him. He finds the perfect opportunity to show them how they misunderstand the Sabbath. That even David ate the bread that was unlawful for him to eat when he was in need, and the hypocrisy of prohibiting good, saving works because they were trying to define “rest” and “work.”

But I don’t think our understanding of the Sabbath today is much if any better. I don’t think our understanding of the Third Commandment is more accurate than the understanding of the Pharisees. Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy does not mean go to church. It means that we should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. The word “church” is not used at all. The Third Commandment, instead, is about our relationship to the Word, and this relationship not just on Sunday, but every day.

Every day, we ought not despise the Word of God, but ought to hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. Every day we ought to be in the Word, remaining in the Word, abiding in the Word that it might remain and abide in us. Every day we ought to read the Bible. Every day we ought to confess the faith. Every day we ought to pray. Every day we ought to set aside time for devotions, for the Word, for ourselves, and for our families, lest we despise the Word.

This is especially true on Sunday’s and whenever the church gathers for worship, whether it be a Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, or any other day. And it is sinful to despise the preaching of the Word done in worship and the forgiveness and Sacraments which are offered there. As a command of the Law, remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy, go to church every time we have church, read your Bible, confess the faith, and pray, or else.

 

II.

And while we can try to use the Law to motivate, curb, or guide behavior, it will ultimately be unsuccessful. Good works flow from the Gospel alone and God, and Jesus, know this. For “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Going to church, holding preaching and God’s Word sacred and gladly hearing and learning it is not just a command of the Law, but an invitation of the Gospel. God’s Word is of greatest benefit not to God, but to you. It is for your benefit, for your good that you hold preaching and God’s Word sacred and gladly hear and learn it. It is for your benefit and the benefit or your neighbor, your brother or sister in Christ, or the person that does not know and believe in Jesus that they come and hear God’s Word.

We can threaten with punishment all we want, but that will only get us very limited results. Instead, we show the benefit and invite them and remind ourselves that we come not to avoid hell, but to receive God’s good gifts. We remain and abide in God’s Word, in church, Bible class, and devotions because it is in these things where the gifts and benefits of Christ are given. The Word and Sacraments are the means of grace. They are the means, the tools and instruments, that God uses to give to us His grace.

Hearing the Word and receiving His Sacraments are the way in which we receive Christ. Jesus, our Savior, who was crucified to remove our guilt and sin of despising preaching and God’s Word, is given to you right here, right now. He feeds you with grain, with the bread of His presence that is His very body and gives you to drink wine which is His very blood for your forgiveness. He heals you, not your hand only, but the whole of your body and soul as you are made holy and righteous by His work to serve you and save your eternal life.

Here, the Sabbath, preaching and the Word are the works of God. The Sabbath is not about your rest or your work or your lack of work, but God’s work for you, God keeping the Sabbath for you, God keeping His promises for you, that just as Jesus was dead and risen, so too will you rise from death to live an eternal life. That is the benefit, the gift, of the Sabbath, of the Son of Man who is lord even of the Sabbath. He works on the Sabbath for you, for your good, to save your life and for the good and life of all who hold preaching and His Word sacred and gladly hear and learn it for it is there where the greatest benefit of eternal salvation is given. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.