One criteria that makes a movie good is that it has a really good bad guy. A good…bad guy makes for a good movie. The worse the bad guy is, the better the hero is for stopping him. Emily and I saw the movie 15:17 to Paris. Seemingly ordinary men skyrocketed to fame for defeating a very bad terrorist bent on murdering many people. How about Heath Ledger as the Joker in Batman. Hanibal lector Silence of the Lambs. Cruella Deville in 101 dalmations. Lex Luther. There is no shortage of good enemies. A good enemy makes for a good plot.
Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. Consider the enemies that have been at the top of the headlines these last few weeks. The murderer in Parkland Florida who murdered 17 people at a school.
Or how about the man who murdered the Richardson police officer two weeks ago? Well today our readings teach us who it is that is the enemy of God and what he does about it.
First consider our Gospel reading. Here we have someone who we might not consider such a good villain. It is Peter. At first Peter is seen as a hero! Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do yall say that I am?” Peter steps up, answers for all the disciples, he’s not afraid to play the part of spokesman for the apostles, Peter stands up, “You are the Christ.”
This is true. Even the devil confesses this. It is an accurate answer But Jesus takes it further. Jesus begins to teach. Jesus begins to answer the question that I drill in my confirmand's heads, “What does this mean?”
The disciples knew who Jesus was, but what does that mean?
Jesus begins to teach them “that vthe Son of Man must wsuffer many things and xbe rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and yafter three days rise again. 32 And he said this zplainly.”
There he is. There is the enemy. The elders, chief priest and scribes! They must be the enemy.
Peter speaks up again. Matthew tells us Peter says, “No Lord this shall not happen to you.” Peter rebukes Jesus. The enemy cannot win Jesus! They cannot kill you. You are too good. You are the hero not the villain. You are the Christ! The chosen one. The anointed one. We just saw it at the Transfiguration. We heard it. We know you were baptized by John. Not possible Jesus. You don’t know what you are saying, death is for the villain not for you.
In Peter’s opinion, Jesus makes for a pretty poor villain. No one would cast him for such a role. Yet this is what he is to do before his father in heaven. Jesus becomes your sin. Jesus, one who is no villain, in fact he is perfect, tells us and the whole world what it is he has come to do. Jesus becomes the worst villain in order to save you.
But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, a“Get behind me, Satan! For you bare not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” The brave Peter is now called Satan by Jesus. Peter was teaching the wrong doctrine. Peter was misusing God's word. Peter was breaking the 2nd commandment.
You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man. Now consider what Jesus is saying is the mind of God. The mind of God is for Jesus to die. To die, not for himself, but to die for the sins of the world. The sins of the elders, chief priests and the scribes. This is the mind of God. In death is victory.
If you could take the lethal injection for Nicholas Cruz to be spared would you do it? Would you take his place and die for your enemy?
No you wouldn’t. Neither would I. We do not have the mind of God.
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him cdeny himself and dtake up his cross and follow me. 35 For dwhoever would save his life4 will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake eand the gospel’s will save it. 36 fFor what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For gwhat can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For hwhoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this iadulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed jwhen he comes in the glory of his Father with kthe holy angels.”
We do not have the mind of God. The cross, our crosses are not our joys. Jesus went to the cross and it was his joy to endure the cross. To die for his enemies, for while we were enemies we were reconciled to Go dby the death of his son.
Son dead. Enemies saved. The perfect movie. The perfect director. The perfect writer, but this show won’t ever win an Oscar. The one who would be the worst choice for a villain in the history of the world turns out to be the best one cast for roll of Savior. For he comes to rid himself of all his glory so he could take your sin. All the times you have not desired to die to your selfish wants and would rather other people cater to your whims.
Jesus came to play your part as enemy of God, taking your sin of not having the things of God on your mind. Instead your mind is more content to think of how bad everyone else is. Perhaps you’re more content to whisper and gossip rather than speak openly with a fellow Christian. Maybe it is easier to not have devotions at home as you teach one another and bring your children up in God's word, but it certainly isn't faithful to Christ. Yes those sins of thoughts, words and deeds. Our villainous past laid upon the back of Christ. Yes we would be the better choice for villain, enemy number one. So we repent. For that is when we do not role play. That is when we speak the truth. When the Holy Spirit opens our lips. When we confess our sins. When is a liar telling the truth and not playing a part? When he says, “I am a liar.”
When are enemies of God no longer enemies? When God declares us forgiven for the sake of his son Jesus. You. You my dear friends are forgiven. Sins gone.
Are you an enemy of God? Yes my fellow sinners we are. But thanks be to God we are precisely the ones Jesus has come for. In his cross we are declared forgiven. In baptism that declaration of God’s forgiveness becomes personal. Do you still sin? You want more forgiveness? Good. For here in his supper he forgives you again. Personally. Again and again. Jesus’ body and blood seals his promise to you every time you eat and drink. In that declaration of God you receive a promise that you sins are forgiven and he will always take care of you.
This is where our OT lesson comes into play. Consider Abraham. God promised him a son in today’s reading but Abraham didn’t see this promise come true for 24 years. 24 years. It didn’t look good while Abraham was waiting, our crosses never do look good. So we too the church. The same position as Abraham. We trust in God’s promises. Even though it looks as if villains and enemies will win the day. Even those crosses that seem like enemies, crosses of sickness, cancer, bodies failing. Crosses of taking care of kids, taking care of parents, taking care of spouses, working at a dead end job, not finding a spouse, these crosses are crosses that God has put upon you. The cross is the enemy of our sinful flesh. He brings these crosses and he knows for how long they will weigh you down for it is only in these times we begin to die to our selfish desires and call out to him for forgiveness.
In the midst of your suffering and crosses you have peace with God. He gave his son up for you so that he would not give you up. The villains will not win. The enemy within your own heart won’t win, your sins have no claim on you. Jesus doesn’t just play your part, he has become your sin, taking your crosses and shown you how he is victorious. He becomes you in order for you to be sinless child before the father. What a script! What a show, but this is no movie. It is real. Real enemies. Real sinners, a real Savior, for you. It turns out that Jesus is the perfect villain, for he becomes our sin before God. He takes our place and we who were former villains, enemies of God are made perfect children by faith in Christ. Amen.
Lent 1B Genesis 22:1-18; Mark 1:9-15; James 1:12-18
Suffering is God pleasing when it points us to the promises of forgiveness and eternal life in Christ Jesus.
To many people, including ourselves, too often the greatest problem in life in our eyes is suffering. IF you want to convince someone to buy a product or pass legislation appeal to a part of their life where they are suffering in some way. Euthanasia and Dr assisted suicide is growing in popularity faster than any time in history. Just stop my suffering. Death even begins to look like a friend. People who suffer from chronic pain of some sort have a special cross to carry in this life. It’s hard to just function in life. Something just doesn’t look right.
Now consider Abraham. God called him to seemingly inflict one of the worst kinds of suffering in this life upon himself. Sacrifice your son. This was a dreadful command not because it caused so much suffering but because we can imagine Abraham saw the suffering that was to come for the rest of his life. But Abraham goes and he takes Isaac.
(We must first immediately address the question of whether God speaks to people telling them to murder their children. The answer is no. God does not speak to us apart from his word. Hebrews teaches that God spoke to his prophets of old in many and various ways, but now he speaks to us by his son. This is especially true when it comes to how we live our life in regards to our neighbor. God does not and will not ask us to murder anyone. In Isaac's case, God had attached a promise to this child. That from this child will come the Savior of the world. The temptation for Abraham was to worship this child. Not only that, but remember Abraham and Sarah pleaded with God for a child but they were barren. Then God came and told them they would have a son by his hand. So we can imagine the temptation to turn this child Isaac into a false idol. God tested Abraham because of the promise attached to Isaac. God does not attach promises to our children. Therefore this instance will never happen again. But Abraham even trusted in this instance. He knew God would raise Isaac. Abraham lived by faith. God does not ask us to take our children's lives but commands us to give our life for his children.)
Isaac’s name means he will laugh, there was not much laughing going on those few days between when God came to Abraham and they arrived at Moriah. Abraham was steadfast, not a time for grins and giggles. Neither did Isaac laugh. Isaac was a young man, he was not a toddler, he was not a boy. The youngest most commentators think he was is around 20. We many times just consider Abraham in this story but today let us also reflect on Isaac, he will laugh. Something just doesn’t look right.
Abraham was tested as was Isaac. I am always reminded when I hear this reading of Jesus’ haunting words Matthew 10:37, “If you love mother or father, son or daughter more than me you are not worthy to follow me.” Isaac didn’t need to be bound to follow his father. The young man at the peak of his physical stature Isaac followed. Abraham was no spring chicken either at over 100yrs old. He commanded his son and he followed. We think of trying to convince 20 yr olds to finish school work or not waste their lives. It would've been no contest with the old man and the young buck.
Isaac carried the wood up the mountain. Not only did he carry the fire for his sacrifice but he also willingly let his father Abraham bind him up when the time came. Isaac was silent as a sheep before the slaughter. Both men were being tested. It was a prayer, a petition that Isaac asked his father for clarification, or perhaps it was to confirm what he had already realized in his own mind as he saw it unfold, “Where is the lamb?” If it possible father take this cup from me. Something just doesn’t look right.
There is no easy answer for this story and I believe that is part of it’s purpose. God’s word doesn’t explain this story as much as we would like. All we know is that Abraham did this by faith in God’s promise. How does this make sense? But isn’t that precisely what we say when we face such a situation in our own life when we are tested? Why am I suffering so much? Why do I see my loved one suffering? We are tempted because we forget God’s promises to get us through.
God’s word is plain and simple, however it doesn’t always seem that way to us. Abraham could have certainly said, “Well God must just be speaking figuratively.” But no, Abraham trusted and believed what God had clearly called him to do. It seems wrong to us, but Abraham knew by faith it was right to obey God. Abraham did not doubt God in this instance. Abraham was willing to trust in God despite the suffering he saw coming. Isaac was willing to trust in face of suffering. Abraham knew that God would raise his son because he had a promise that from Isaac would come the Savior, Jesus. We though too often think our suffering is unjust. We do doubt. That we should for some reason be sparred suffering. That we don’t deserve it. That it is God who is wrong. That God has shorted us. It just doesn’t look right from our side of heaven. We demand some sort of perverted justice, we shake our fist at God and demand to be treated as we deserve. Thank God he doesn’t listen when we tempt him.
Contrast this with our Gospel reading that reminds us that Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. What had he done to deserve this? Jesus was true man. He could be tempted but it wasn’t as if he doubted. He went out to the wilderness to be tempted. To be brought low. To hunger. To be left alone but not to fend for himself but so that all he had was the promise of the Father spoken to him at his baptism, You are my beloved son. This was all he needed because there is nothing greater to have than to be promised to by God. He was satisfied to only have the promise. We desire when we are tempted because sin in us creates desire for more than God’s promises. We demand proof.
If you are on a diet rice cakes smothered in dirt and sewage is not all that appetizing. We aren’t tempted by that gourmet offering because we know it is disgusting. In past times this analogy would work, but today we are seeing people eating Tidepods so I don’t know what to say. I guess it is beyond any reasonable explanation…I think my parents said that about me once or twice but I digress. But we have no desire for things that are disgusting. Jesus was without sin and so he knows how disgusting sin is. Jesus suffers in his temptation. He is hungry. He is weak and yet even in this weakened state he does not desire to sin. Jesus does not desire to sin when tempted because he sees sin for what it truly is, rebellion and unbelief in God. Every sin is the middle finger to God. It is disgusting. It is vulgar. Yet when we are tempted, sin begins to look desirable because we doubt God and temptation turns to sin. We don’t think sin is disgusting. We are blinded by sin itself. We somehow legitimize sin, we explain it away.
Some animals will eat their own. Fish and other species somehow see fit to eat one another, it is strange and disgusting to us. However we humans in our fallen condition think it acceptable to eat one another in gossip and speaking ill of one another so we don't have to confess or repent to one another. "But pastor, It’s a dog eat dog world." but let it not be so among you Christians. Contrast this with Jesus going to the cross. Who considered it joy to endure his cross so that we would live. He gives up his life, willingly that we would live.
Consider this in light of Isaac who carried the wood. He bore his cross as did Abraham but Isaac is more of the Christ figure. Both Isaac and Abraham trusted God when things did not look right but knew that God would keep his promise. It was a promise that Jesus would come. Jesus tells us in John that Abraham saw him and here is where Abraham saw Christ’s day when he saw the lamb caught in the thicket.
Even in this instance Abraham never bragged about his willingness to sacrifice Isaac because he wasn’t doing it to earn God’s favor. Abraham did it because he knew God was faithful. Abraham didn’t fear suffering, he feared, loved and trusted in God above all things. And yet Abraham’s faith was still tainted by his flesh. Abraham still yet faltered in his perfect trust of God. This example dwarfs any victories in our own life we might be tempted to lift up before God. We are humbled by Abraham’s example and yet it was still not without sin.
So Abraham looked forward to Jesus’ day and he saw it. Abraham called the mountain, “the Lord will provide.” It is future. Abraham believed and it was credited to him as righteousness. Jesus is led to this mountain to be sacrificed. He carries the wood for the fueling of the fire of God’s wrath and on his altar with the wood he carried he was slain.
The one who avoided all sin even in the face of temptation takes our sin upon himself. We demand justice, we demand God give an answer for all the wrong things in this life and he does. He gives his son to end all suffering and the son willingly is bound, nailed, crucified. Jesus answers for all the times you have doubted. Jesus stands up and quietly goes to the cross carrying your sins. On his back he receives the just reward for your sins. Isaac was spared but Jesus is not. You are spared because Jesus was caught up in the bush of God’s wrath. Jesus endures your death for your rebellion. The father does not hold back his hand and his son dies for you to be spared. Jesus knew the suffering he would endure. The physical side of it was only half the pain. There was also the injustice of an innocent man suffering and dying for sins he did not commit. You are forgiven all your sins.
Suffering is not our worst enemy, unbelief is. Like Abraham and Isaac we see suffering coming but we do not lose heart. We’ve seen God’s faithfulness so we have no reason to doubt. So we willingly suffer if that means our faith is strengthened. We suffer scorn for believing that in baptism we are forgiven our sins. We are laughed at for believing that the Lord’s Supper is Jesus’ body and blood. We suffer for being faithful. We suffer now during Lent as we avoid certain pleasures so we can spend more time praying. Perhaps you avoid sweet treats but do so not for the smaller waste line but to tame your desires so when you are tempted you can withstand the attacks of the devil. Our lives are not lived with the goal of minimizing suffering but our lives are lived with the goal of faithfulness. we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been poured out upon us generously in baptism.
4th Sunday after the Epiphany - Mark 1:21-28
- Today God is revealed to us as a God who is not out to get us but desires to proclaim his forgiving word to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God desires his word to be proclaimed. He spoke at Sinai, he told the Israelites that he would be on the mountain and speak to them from there. Today he speaks in the Gospel. He goes to the synagogue, a new Sinai where God speaks to his people and he taught. The location was right. The people expected to go to the synagogue to hear God's word. They gathered on the Sabbath to hear and God would speak from his word. This was common. However, as Jesus comes something uncommon happens in what should have been a common Sabbath. He teaches as one with authority. A new type of teaching.
It is always nice when a preacher can bring something new. I too, even as a pastor am always interested when a preacher teaches something new. It's exciting. However, new doesn't always mean good. Today's new is tomorrow's old. There is a part of us that is always looking for the newest and greatest. The newest iPhone, newest home, car or even church. "Have you tried that new restaurant?" You don't need to read a lot of reviews of a restaurant before your interest is peaked. The fact that the restaurant is new is enough to get you a little excited. IN our gospel reading people expected to hear God's word and receive teaching, it is also why you are here today. It should be anyway.
However, our text tells us something is new and different in the synagogue. A new teacher. A new message that will never become old. One who teaches with authority. Not exactly a kind of new teaching we in the good ole United States really like to hear about. We have a certain bias against authority. Speed limit 55, I'll go 59. Authority? No thanks. We’re the land of the free. James Dean, tattoos, rebels without a cause. We don't like authority because authority implies accountability.
We want to be left to be our own authority. To be the one responsible for our own well being. Therefore, Christianity that neglects the church and talks about me and Jesus only, is so popular. We don't need any authority thank you very much. Can't you hear in the demon's question that little voice in your head, "Who do you think you are God, meddling in our business?" Who do you think you are God causing my life to not go as I planned? Delaying surgery. The Flu. Slow healing. Why don't you make my kids listen? Why am I stressed at work? Why is the building project not going as we had hoped? What God do you have to do with us? Have you come to destroy us? To toy with us? To play with our feelings? To torture us? To lift us up just to let us down?
Why yes as a matter of fact that is what he has come to do. To mess our lives up. To cause us to stop. To cause us grief in this life. For you see this is precisely what he did to the man with the unclean spirit. He interrupted his day. And how ironic it was at the synagogue! And so, Jesus comes.
Jesus does come to afflict us with suffering. He has come exactly to mess up what we think are our perfect lives so that we do cry out to him. For you see it is only in these times that we realize, we need someone who has authority. That we do realize that we are indeed sinners in rebellion even when life seems to be going just fine. God comes and intervenes. He stirs our life up. He visits us in his mercy.
The demon was just fine without Jesus coming. But here comes an outsider. A visitor. And the demon is right. "Have you come to destroy us?"
Jesus, the holy one of God has every right to destroy. To destroy all evil. To destroy us. To sweep us away as in a flood. This is why we fear so much in this world. Why at night when there is a sound and immediately we think, "Someone is here to do me harm." How often when you hear a strange, unusual sound do you think, "Huh. Someone is here to give me some Blue Bell ice cream." No. We know deep down that we deserve destruction. Like Adam and Eve, we hear God and hide. Like the Israelites at Sinai, "Don't speak to us God."
But you see we need God to speak. We need the creative ordering authoritative word of God to come to us because we are in chaos. The devil has his way. Demons run rampant. Death seems to be victorious all around us. Evil seems to be winning the day and too often we are the ones going right along with it in our sin. But a foreigner comes. A prophet like Moses. A Hebrew among Egyptians. A holy man among sinners such as us. He comes as a stranger and does not come to destroy us, but to destroy sin and the devil. He by his word casts out demons. Defeats the devil.
Jesus comes and teaches his word. He speaks again and a new creation comes. A prophet is one who speaks. Who brings God's word. God will not stay silent. For he will come and be the authority he is. He will be held accountable, but not for any sin he committed, he doesn't sin. God comes to be held accountable for your sin.
Jesus doesn't come to the synagogue and offer a new way to God. Jesus doesn't come with new techniques to avoid sin. Jesus doesn't come to dazzle with miracles that are only there to get your attention and impress. Jesus doesn't come just to itch the ears of people who are just looking for the newest thing. Jesus comes and teaches with authority. He speaks and breaks the darkness.
Besides the same old song and dance, he brings a new song. A song of deliverance. A song of forgiveness. A song of authority. A song of the father's love for his fallen creation where he comes not to destroy but to save. He saves by giving himself for you. That God is not coming to destroy you. God does not afflict you to destroy you but to save you. To turn you from unbelief that God is angry and ready to kill you to see his Son Jesus dying in your place on the cross.
The people heard Jesus teach as one with authority. With authority comes accountability and he holds his son accountable for your sin.
God comes to us not to put us to death but to put to death your sins. Your guilt is gone. God comes in the night, the middle of our dark, silent night and brings the light of his forgiveness and promise of eternal life.
God is not out to get us. We see from our reading today. The man overcome by the demon is not destroyed by Jesus but rescued. No word of rebuke from Jesus to the man. No, it’s too bad you really should get your act together. Jesus doesn’t come to destroy the man but to save him. Jesus knows how powerless we are against sin and death so he comes to save us. And he comes among us here, a new Sabbath, in his father’s house just as he came that Sabbath day. He is here not to scare you into submission but to free you from your demons. Those sins that seem to have authority over you. Though you try and try and try he speaks and you are clean. Forgiven. It turns our sin and death does not have authority over you.
The new thing today is that because of Jesus’ death on the cross you are considered as new before God and that never wears out. That Jesus’ death on the cross was for you, for you to be baptized into. This is what our ears should be itching to hear and receive from God. Your old sins are gone. Our ears should itch to hear and our tongues pant to receive in his body and blood shed on the cross. Because of Jesus’ authority over sin and death he comes to free you from your guilt that you would live by faith, to live without fear of the devil nor of the evil in the world and our own flesh.
We have a right fear of God. The Psalmist today echoes that passage we all remember from Proverbs, "The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."We are not afraid of him as the demons are, but we do fear him rightly. The difference is like this, being afraid is fear that God will come to us. True fear of God is fear that he will leave. It is not enough to know God, even the demons do that. Faith is trusting that since Jesus’ death was for our sins, that in all things God works for the good of those who believe.
3rd Sunday after the Epiphany
Jonah 3:1-5; 10 Mark 1:14-20
Growing up on the playground, at a time when we got together with our friends at recess to play sports and not sitting in front of computer screens, there was always the liturgy of picking teams. You had team captians who would choose according to who was the best at whatever sport the playground mob chose at the time. Skills became the basis for choice because you always wanted to win. Our readings today reveal to us that God desires above all things to save us. To forgive us. To teach us his truth. For us to hear, because faith comes by hearing. God's goal is not to win but to give his life as a ransome for all and teach us so that we would endure to eternal life. God desires all to be saved. So one might wonder if God is so set on saving us why is he so backwards sometimes?
Take for example our Gospel reading. Jesus is choosing his team of apostles. His representatives. His first shepherds. Jesus who had his choice of all people chose today Peter, Andrew, James and John. Fishermen who were just doing their jobs. They weren't that great at fishing anyway, remember they were skunked a number of times fishing having empty nets. Their fathers perhaps were good fishermen, they had fishing buisnesses, but we have reason to believe the apostles weren't that special. So why did Jesus choose them?
These men weren't always so personable. Peter when questioned by a little girl at Jesus’ trial cursed her in front of people when she asked if he was part of Jesus' band of rebels. James and John argued over who was the greatest. None of these men we would probably choose to be part of our team however our Lord is not interested in the same things we, nor the disciples often are. If anything our Gospel reading starts out quite appropriately to warn us to not make too many assumptions about being someone who follows Jesus, "After John was arrested."
John the Baptist, the greatest one born of women, arrested. The one who had the priviledge of announcing that the Lord is nigh, arrested. Imprisoned. Probably scorned by passers by when they see him in the jail, parents telling their kids, "Don't be like him.” I think there is a song somewhere in Jerusalem, Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be prophets.”
John was arrested and what does Jesus say, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” The kingdom of God is at hand and the number two guy is thrown in jail. Some kingdom. Is this what it looks like when the kingdom of God comes? Even John the Baptist sends an entourage to ask Jesus, “Are you the one because it doesn’t look like it?”
Our OT lesson is from Jonah. Jonah was of such fine upstanding character when God spoke to him and told him to go to Nineveh he said, No thanks. I'll go this way. Jonah would rather be thrown into the ocean in the middle of a storm than go to Nineveh. Why did Jonah not want to go to Nineveh? Because he knew God's word works. God is no respecter of men. When GOd's word is preached people repent and believe and Jonah hated the Ninevites. He hated them because they were vicious people. They tortured people they conquored. Jonah didn't want them to hear God's word, not exactly a team player.
From our readings today it almost seems as if Jesus looks for the worst candidates for his team, the worst team players and says, “Yes these will do.” AS if Jesus asks us, “Who would you not choose?” and then he chooses those. And this is precisely why our Lord can choose as it were, losers, because it is not how good or how bad we are that gets us into God’s kingdom, but how great is his love for us.
And yet if we rightly reflect on our own lives we can see Jesus working this way in our own lives. We aren’t directly called by Jesus. Jesus doesn’t appear to us in the flesh and call us directly, but he does call us indirectly through the word. Jesus calls us to follow him through means indirectly. This is one reason we don’t throw the term apostle around. We consider the title apostle to be very special, a term reserved for those sent directly by Jesus. Apostle is a specific office of being sent directly by Jesus, but we too retain some of this office. We are sent. We are called by the Gospel. The Holy Spirit calls us into the faith and then we go to live our lives according to our callings. We are called to go forward and follow our Lord in faithfulness wherever he calls us.
And it’s never as bad as Jonah is it?
We wouldn’t be so brave as to neglect God’s instructions for our life would we? The fact of the matter is we’re pretty stubborn ourselves when it comes to getting along with people we don’t like. Jonah had the Ninevites, the scourge of humanity in his opinion and you have, them. You have that coworker, that relative, that neighbor. No thanks God I would rather not and we walk to the harbor of our own heart, board that boat pride and sail into anger and resentment for a three hour tour. And that itinerary is certain to end in a drowning of unrepentance. Do not bury your anger with one another, neither try to swallow it, repent. Confess.
The apostles this morning don’t question Jesus. Follow me. They drop their nets and go. Jesus calls us to forsake the ways of this world. To leave behind the desire to be first in all things and even to not desire to be second but to consider yourself least in all situatuations. Jesus hasn’t called us to be apostles but he does call us to come along side of him. To cooperate with the Holy Spirit and lead godly lives. To turn from temptations. To not be so angry. The men Jesus called to be apostles, they weren’t perhaps what we consider the best representatives but they did want to serve the Lord in faithfulness and they ultimately were willing to give their lives for the gospel. They could’ve given up. They could’ve given in to sin, but they didn’t and we should follow their example. To not become saddened where God has called us even if we don’t like where God has put us. Repent, for the kingdom of God is here.
“Yes pastor we’ve heard it all before. Repent, confess believe” But you see this is how Jesus says his kingdom comes. Die to your self righteousness and pride and hear the Gospel that Jesus forgives you. Again. Yes as often as you sin Jesus desires to claim you as his again and again. Calling you to die in repentance, remembering your death in baptism and being raised to life again in his kingdom.
God's word accomplishes what he desires and brings his kingdom. Faith comes by hearing. It isn't "faith came by hearing" but faith comes, continually to you. God's kingdom comes to us through his word and the visible word, his sacraments. God's kingdom continually comes to you to bring you back.
The OT lesson begins, “And God’s word came to Jonah a second time.” A second time. You see Jonah ran but God caught him by the whale and brought him back. The disciples over and over again doubted, didn’t trust and yet our Lord still called them and kept them in his possession. He forgave them and he forgives you, a second time, third and even more. For as sure as you sin, Jesus Christ has died for those sins, crucified for you, raised for you to see his kingdom cannot be shaken. For Christ did not come to win as we would consider winning. He came to die for sinners. When we would choose only winners so our enemies would die, Christ chose to die that we would all win. And yes we run to wrong way too often. Yes we sometimes refuse to leave the comforts of the life we know, but Christ has forgiven all you Jonah’s, all you Peter’s, James and Johns. Christ’s kingdom is victorious when sinners are forgiven.
Jesus can choose unimpressive apostles because it is his word that cannot be defeated. His word that even though you may feel beat down, lost, perhaps even beyond God’s forgiveness, he will not forsake you for he has already placed you in his kingdom by the word and the waters of baptism. A call to follow him in his kingdom trusting in his mercy. A kingdom not of struggling and fighting to win, but a kingdom that already has the victory and now we enjoy the spoils of his love, his protection. His promise that everything will be just fine. You are safe in his net of forgiveness caught by his apostles preaching passed down even into your ears this morning. For this is how his kingdom comes, repent and believe even as we pray, thy kingdom come.