Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pentecost 9 (Proper 12B)

Sermon on Mark 6:45-56
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
July 29, 2012 (The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, Series B)

“They did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.”  The disciples had witnessed a miracle in which the Maker of heaven and earth had provided for His people in their hour of need.  Here they witness another miracle in which the Creator shows that He is master of those things that He has created.  And they still don’t get it.  They still don’t understand that the one who was walking around with them, talking with them and teaching them was not just an unusually gifted rabbi.  He’s not just a prophet.  He is God the Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.  He is God become man, to save us.

How often do we forget exactly that?  How often do we fail to keep in mind that the One who meets us here, in this very room with His Word and His body and blood is none other than the Creator of Heaven and earth, the one who made and continuously upholds reality itself?  After all, we gather here every week, and millions upon millions of Christians gather week after week in thousands upon thousands of houses of worship each Sunday, not to mention other services that are held on other days of the week.  It all becomes very ordinary after a while.  But that doesn’t change the fact of who it is we are here to meet.  We are here to meet with none other than the creator of heaven and earth.  We are here to eat and drink the body and blood of God Himself.

And what’s more, we carry around within our hearts, within our very bodies, God Himself.  As we go about our day-to-day lives, we are still those who have eaten the body and drunk the blood of God Himself.  We are still those who have in our minds and hearts the very Word of God which creates the reality it describes.  And this is true no matter what we are doing, whether we are asleep or awake, while we take a shower in the morning, when we eat our meals, as we go about our jobs or other daily tasks, doing the laundry, driving around town, walking around the grocery store, talking on the phone, working at our jobs, and whatever other things we do as part of our respective vocations in life.  We carry around within ourselves the very being who created the world itself and everything in it.

It’s bad enough that we sometimes forget that fact, but what happens because we forget that fact is often worse.  We lie.  We steal, if not overtly, at least in terms of coveting what belongs to our neighbors.  We get angry and even hateful towards our closest neighbors in life, the members of our own family.  We lust.  We speak evil about our neighbors, we use filthy language, whether that be taking His name in vain or whether it be simple vulgarity, or both.  We fail to help those who need us.  We waste the time for which our employers pay us, thus stealing from them when we get the paycheck.  We may even act doubtful or despairing of God’s goodness, reacting to problems and evils that happen to us as if God is no longer Lord of creation and we are helpless and hopeless in the face of whatever it may be.  And all this using the brains, mouths, eyes, ears, hands, and feet in which God has come to dwell through Word and Sacrament.

But it is precisely because we do all these things that He has come to us.  You see, He comes not in judgment but in forgiveness.  He comes not to strike us down for our unbelief, despair, and other great shame and vice, but to forgive us and heal us of it.  That’s why He became one of us and died in our place: so that we can be saved from the punishment we deserved by our sin and rise with Him to live eternally.  His entire point in becoming man was so that we could be saved, rather than destroyed, by His presence among us and within us.

And that’s the unique thing about Christianity.  We have a God who partakes of the best of both worlds.  Some religions claim to worship a god who is high, holy, and remote.  Islam is probably the most obvious and prominent example of this sort of religion.  In Islam, their false god is always far away, looking down at his worshipers, judging them for every little infraction.  Even those who reach the Muslim version of heaven never really get to meet their god face to face.  Other religions deny that there is a holy and transcendent creator who is distinct from his creation, but instead worship as god the creation itself.  The New Age movement, Wicca, various eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, and so on, fall into this category.  These religions have a god, or gods, who are not almighty and all-powerful, but have a god or gods who need our feeble help to flourish and thrive, if they even believe in a being called “god” at all.

Only Christianity believes in the God who is distinct from His creation, transcendent over it, who controls and upholds reality itself, even time itself, from outside of it, while at the same time believing that this God is not only knowable but that He has become a human being like us, walked among us, given His life for us, and now comes to meet us on a weekly basis, and dwells within each of us believers.  Only Christianity believes in a God who is absolutely powerful and transcendent and whose promises are thus reliable and dependable, and who at the same time dwells among and within His people, guaranteeing that His promises are not of punishment and destruction but of love and salvation.  Only Christianity gives you the almighty God in human flesh.

That’s what the disciples didn’t understand time and time again in the Gospels.  That’s what we find it so easy to forget as we meet here every week and go about our lives every day.  We are privileged to have living among us and within us the almighty God, the Creator of heaven and earth.  We eat with our mouths, hear with our ears, and speak with our lips the one who continuously upholds and sustains the entire universe.  And the point of all of this is that He loves us.  He wants us to have a relationship with Him.  He wants us to see His face for all eternity.  He, in short, loves us.  He loves us such that He’s willing to become one of us and die in our place.  He loves us such that he’s willing to suffer even death so that we can be resurrected to eternity and spend forever with Him.  That’s what we preach.  That’s who we are.  Those who are loved by the Creator Himself, and will dwell with Him forever.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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