Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sermon Sept 29-30, 2012

Title: God opens the mouth so that we can sing His praise!

Text: Mark 9:38-41

38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.”

Dear friends,

During his days as president, Thomas Jefferson and a group of companions were traveling across the country on horseback. They came to a river which had left its banks because of a recent downpour. The swollen river had washed the bridge away. Each rider was forced to ford the river on horseback, fighting for his life against the rapid currents. The very real possibility of death threatened each rider, which caused a traveler who was not part of their group to step aside and watch. After several had plunged in and made it to the other side, the stranger asked President Jefferson if he would ferry him across the river. The president agreed without hesitation. The man climbed on, and shortly thereafter the two of them made it safely to the other side. As the stranger slid off the back of the saddle onto dry ground, one in the group asked him, "Tell me, why did you select the president to ask this favor of?" The man was shocked, admitting he had no idea it was the president who had helped him. "All I know," he said, "Is that on some of your faces was written the answer 'No,' and on some of them was the answer 'yes.' His was a 'Yes' face."

C. Swindol, The Grace Awakening, Word, 1990, p. 6.

God opens the mouth so that we can sing His praise!

In our Gospel reading today we have an interesting story. John, one of the disciples of Jesus and - an impetuous son of thunder – which simple means he usually acted first and thought later - was bringing to Jesus a story:

“Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” Mark 9:3

The thought of serving the life of the world from a Christian worldview is often the work of the church. Churches often bring food, and aid during times of disaster and we saw this faith put into action during the Tsunami that devastated Japan, the earthquake that paralyzed Haiti as well as the many tornadoes that destroyed cities and towns, like Joplin Missouri and others in and around the mid-west. Our own church members have been involved in bringing aid to those affected by the destruction following Hurricane Katrina and to the victims in Biloxi, Mississippi.

At these times as well, churches offer the good news and share the love of Christ with those that are hurting and through the word of Law and Gospel, found in the Holy Scriptures, God, through the power of the Holy Spirit brings to faith those who will believe and trust in Jesus.

John here was confusing who was truly at work in the casting out of the demons. His nature was fixed on the tiny band of disciples that Jesus gathered together and their calling to do the work appointed by Christ. So I’m sure that there was a smile on his face for the good that he the others had tried to do - in stopping one not of their group from casting out demons in Jesus’ name - that smile soon fell to a frown as Christ began to speak.

“Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us.” Mark 9:39-40

Christ in a very concise way draws the distinction of who is really the active agent in casting out of demons or in the bringing of others to faith. It is God by His word and through the Holy Spirit who points us to Christ so that we trust and believe. God certainly uses the failed and flawed sinners that we all are to work through but it still remains His work and in His time how and when He draws those who will believe to faith. It is through that same faith that:

God opens the mouth so that we can sing His praise!

In our day we too must be prepared to speak the truth in love. I’m just finishing a biography called Bonhoeffer – Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. The story revolves around pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran Pastor in Germany during World War II and the trials that he would endure for the Gospel during the war that ultimately led to his murder at the hands of the Nazis. His life changed immeasurably, because of the reign of terror inflected upon the Jews and the people of Germany, from 1933 until just before the war ended in 1945. Bonhoeffer worked to put His faith into action as a member of the Confessing Church against Hitler and the State Church during the unforeseen tragedy that became the Jewish problem – as the Reich referred to it - as he actively worked in the resistance culminating in the plot to remove Hitler by any means possible – and in Hitler’s case -even by assassination.
Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit should move us all to action in love when confronted with this sin infested world; especially for our neighbors who are persecuted and mistreated.

5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

And we are moved to action, not by a sense of duty or by thinking that our actions merit thanks and a pat on the back – that was what John was expecting - but motivated by joy and the love of Christ that was shown to us at the cross:

8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Rom. 5:8
So we also in love share that good news with others.

Martin Niemoller, a Lutheran pastor and a fellow member of the Confessing Church with Bonhoeffer, at first was sucked into the joyous nationalism that was Adolf Hitler and his minions. But, many years later and after being imprisoned for eight years he wrote these still haunting words:

First they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

Let us all pray that:

God opens our mouth so that we can sing His praise!

The disciples missed the Lord’s will and desire in His saving work … To reach the lost and to strengthen the saved. Yes, God works through His ordained servants of the word, who proclaim the truth of His word through the Law of condemnation and through the blessed Gospel of forgiveness while also rightly administering the sacraments for our good and for the good of all His church; but also God uses us all- you and me - in the places of His choosing to bring the comfort of forgiveness in Christ to those who need to hear.

Just prior to World War II -- Jesse Owens seemed sure to win the long jump at the 1936 Summer Olympic Games. The year before he had jumped 26 feet, 8 1/4 inches -- a record that would stand for 25 years. As he walked to the long-jump pit, however, Owens saw a tall, blue eyed, blond German taking practice jumps in the 26-foot range. Owens felt nervous. He was acutely aware of the Nazis' desire to prove Aryan – white superiority, especially over people of color. At this point, the tall German introduced himself as Luz Long. "You should be able to qualify with your eyes closed!" he said to Owens, referring to his two jumps. For the next few moments the black son of a sharecropper and the white model of Nazi manhood chatted. Since the qualifying distance was only 23 feet, 5 1/2 inches, Owens qualified easily. In the finals Owens set an Olympic record and earned the second of four gold medals. The first person to congratulate him after his win and in full view of Adolf Hitler was Luz Long. Owens never again saw Long, who was killed in World War II. "You could melt down all the medals and cups I have," Owens later wrote, "and they wouldn't make the platting on the 24-carat friendship I felt for Luz Long."

David Wallechinsky in The Complete Book of the Olympics.

Christ has redeemed you. He has covered you and as Luther says in the explanation to the second article of the creed:
… not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
He has washed you clean through the water of your Baptism and given you the Spirit to go and to sing His praises!
James reminds us in our epistle today:

19 … if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20

We are mandated to seek the lost (though it’s God’s work alone); we are called to spread the Good News (though it’s the work of the Holy Spirit who brings one to faith); and even more we are blessed by God and through this same Spirit to have success (though the true success was won at the cross over sin, death and the power of the Devil by Jesus Christ our Lord).By this same victory and this same Spirit we too can sing His praise as:

God opens our mouths so that we can bring this Good News to others!

May we all, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and in keeping with the message of forgiveness in Christ, shine forth the praises of God’s love as others see our actions and hear our words echoed in the proclamation of Titus Chapter 2 verse 13.

13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. (NIV)

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit! Amen.

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