Service of the Servant

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and living Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Before I begin this morning’s sermon, I want to express my appreciation for your kindness and concern and your interest in my well-being. Some of you asked last Sunday, “Are you tired? Are you alright?” and you know you don’t want a supply preacher to come in his first Sunday with you whining, but in my neighborhood last Saturday, someone had leftover fireworks, and they started going off around 11:30 and they stopped around 4:30, and at 4:30 I just decided to stay awake make some coffee and go over my sermon one more time, but apparently my insomnia showed at least to some of you. So, thanks for caring. I appreciate that and I want you to know that last night I got eight straight hours of sleep, thanks be to God. It was a busy Sabbath for Jesus in Capernaum, was it not? Earlier that day, he called his first four disciples, James, John, Andrew, and Simon Peter. He went with them to their synagogue and didn’t just sit and observe, but he served as a guest teacher, and as we heard last Sunday, there he taught with authority that none of the synagogue scribes had ever demonstrated, for they were mere mortals. And on top of all that, while in the synagogue he healed the man possessed with an unclean spirit. It was a busy day. And then our Lord goes with Andrew and Peter to their house after being at the synagogue. That shouldn’t surprise us. Many Christians like to go to their favorite restaurant for breakfast or lunch after morning worship to spend more time with their Christian brothers and sisters. Now you may even have servers at your favorite restaurants that call you by name when they see you walk in, Wecks, Gardunios, Flying Star or The Range, and perhaps some of you still have that, I think, very sweet older tradition of simply inviting fellow members over to your house for a meal after the Divine Service for extended fellowship and conversation on the Lord’s Day. So, it’s not a surprise that Jesus went to the home of Andrew and Peter. They were showing hospitality. And in their home another healing occurs, not as dramatic as the healing of the man with an unclean spirit who cried out, but a healing nonetheless. This time it’s Peter’s mother-in-law. She’s in bed with a fever. Jesus took her by the hand and helped her up. The fever left her, and she began serving them. Jesus heals with a word, with the touch. As we heard last week our Lord is the author of life who has all authority. His words have authority, his touch has authority, his mere presence has authority and power. So, let’s consider what Mark tells us in this portion of his gospel. Peter’s mother-in-law was there. Now in order for Peter to have a mother-in-law, he had to have a wife, right, and in order to have a wife, he needed to be married. Now some of you know the Roman Catholic Church considers Peter as the first Pope, the Bishop of Rome, and it’s no secret that many early bishops and priests had wives and children. It was not until 1123, during the first Lateran council that the Roman Catholic Church issued what they consider to be a universal requirement of celibacy, imposed on all clergy. All married clergy were ordered to renounce their wives and dependents and those marriages were declared illegal and invalid. Thanks be to God, the Lutheran reformers rejected this cruel, non-biblical requirement, and as most of you know Martin Luther, who had been an Augustinian monk, married Katharina von Bora, who’d been educated by the Benedictines, and then took her vows as a Cistercian nun. They were united in marriage. He was 41, she was 26, and Luther said of his marriage to von Bora that it would please his father, rile the Pope, cause angels to laugh, and devils to weep. Brothers and sisters, while it’s true that Peter was married, it’s certainly not the central theme of Mark’s gospel, this I know. But it does remind us that our Lutheran Confession is not based on the opinions or the changing ideas of man, but on the inspired, inerrant Word of God. This is clearly stated in Article 23 of the Augsburg Confession, on the marriage of priests. This Article affirms that there are men who are certainly given the gift of chastity, but the view that the church can and should forbid all men who are called to be priests from being married is rejected. So we confess that both lay people and clergy should honor the gift of marriage as an order of God’s creation. And Jesus healed this mother of peter’s wife, and she began to serve the people in the house , immediately as the fever left her. Now some of these days, some, have said that this action, the healing and her jumping up immediately to serve, illustrates the evil, patriarchal, misogynistic oppressive society of Jesus’ day ,and that in some perfect, egalitarian culture, without male oppression over women, Andrew and Peter would have done the serving, while Peter’s mother-in-law would have rested, and been waited upon herself, during her convalescence from the fever, but she didn’t need time to recuperate did she? Our Lord healed her completely, and she did what she wanted to do. No one ordered her out of bed, snap, snap, snell, snell, wait on these people. It was in her heart to serve the guests. We must not, as is the habit of so many these days, even those who call themselves Christian, read things into the Bible text that simply are not there. Peter’s mother-in-law showed kindness and hospitality in her service to the Servant, and that’s who Jesus is. In fact, the suffering servant of God, foretold in Isaiah 53 “He was despised, and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with his wounds we are healed.” Peter’s mother-in-law was healed that Sabbath day by the mere touch of our Lord. You and I are healed of sin. You and I are saved from death, by his wounds. Those who would protest this woman’s service to the guest in her house forget the service of the Servant. Look how Jesus was serving others that day. The whole city gathered at the door of this house. Historians estimate that the population of Capernaum when our Lord was there doing his earthly ministry, was somewhere between 1200 and 700 people. We don’t know for certain, but we do know that it wasn’t a small group that showed up. And even if it was only 500 people, even if it was only 500, imagine a crowd like that at your front door. What would you do? I think it would seem a bit overwhelming, but Jesus continued to bring healing. He made many sick people well, and cast out the demons. The suffering servant continued serving, and this is all on his first day in Capernaum. These days there are many who speak of rights, not RITES as in liturgical rites, but rights, RIGHTS. There are many who speak of animal rights, human rights, civil rights, and Lord have mercy, I’ve lived long enough to find out that there’s even universities with professors and students now crying out for plant rights, and that’s not the right of a business factory or a manufacturing plant. These people seriously get very emotionally involved talking about the rights of tomatoes, corn, dandelions, and cacti. But who these days, dares to speak of Gods rights, Gods authority, Gods sovereignty. The author of life has authority and does not need our permission or empowerment or advocacy to do anything. We do not grant the Lord his power, his authority for his right to do as he pleases with his creation. When I served as an army chaplain, there were many soldiers, and many other chaplains, as well, who took issue with the sacrament of Holy Communion. They insisted that there’s just no way Jesus can give us his own body and blood in the sacrament of Holy Communion, and I said “Well why?” “Well, they said, because that would be impossible.” And so I would ask them “Is it possible for Jesus to born of the virgin Mary?” “Well yes, that’s not impossible. No God can do that. God did that.” “Did our Lord have the power to raised Lazarus from the dead when he was already beginning to stink in his tomb?” “Well of course, he’s the Lord of creation, he can raise anyone from the dead he so chooses.” “Does Christ have the power to walk on water,” I’d ask them. “Well yes?” “Even though it violates our understanding of gravity and viscosity?” “Well yes, he can do that because he has power and authority. He can heal the blind man by the pool of Siloam, by taking some dirt, spitting in, it putting it on his eyes telling, him to wash his eyes in the water and his sight is restored. Amen, he can do that Chaplain Wilder.” “But the same Lord Jesus who can do all that cannot give us his body and blood in the sacrament of Holy Communion?” “Well no.” “So well why?” “That would be impossible.” Go figure. So, with authority, Jesus served. With authority and grace. Today he gives you his true body and true blood. The same Jesus who told demons to be silent and they were. And he chose to leave Capernaum the next day even though the crowd was still looking for him. Because he does, with authority, what he chooses to do, and what he came to do, and that’s why he came out, as Mark puts it, he came out of Nazareth, after being a carpenter there, until he was about 30 years of age. He left his home in order to fulfill his mission. It was all about obedience. Obedience to death on a cross. Mark tells in verses 38 and 39, “And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns that I might preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee preaching in their synagogues, and casting out demons.” Yes, the servant came to serve. He told those first four disciples it’s time to move on move out. We’ve got to go to other towns in fulfillment of God’s plan, according to the Father’s will. God has chosen in Christ to serve for your sake. Jesus the suffering servant, went the way of the cross, for your sins and to save you from death, the man healed in the synagogue, Peter’s mother-in-law, the people that were healed standing outside the house, they all eventually died. We all die, and the Gospel tells us that we have died with Christ, in baptism, and that we have been raised with Christ in the same, and that we will live with Christ forever. And as for those who would dare to criticize Jesus for perpetuating some so-called patriarchal structure in which women were subservient to men, well we know better, because we know what the suffering servant Jesus did. He knelt before his disciples and washed their feet, something only a slave would do, the lowest ranking slave. In Mark’s Gospel, chapter 6, the servant Jesus saw that the crowd of 5000 was hungry. He made sure they were served a miraculous meal of fish and loaves. First Christ said of himself in Mark chapter 10 “The son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Suffering servant served perfectly according to the Father’s will. We serve him by grace, by God’s mercy, by God’s calling, and all the ordinariness of our daily lives, what Martin Luther referred to as our vocation, our ministry, our witness, our service, right where God has planted us. I’m going to conclude this sermon with a quote from a Lutheran theologian that many of you may know, the Reverend Doctor Robert Kolb, a Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at our seminary in Saint Louis. Please listen to what he says and how it describes you in Christ. “Luther’s teaching on vocation is valuable today as an aide for concrete instruction. It is important to reflect the Biblical truth, that God’s commands are not arbitrary, but rather the plan designed by the Creator who determined the reality of life as he shaped his creatures. God provides and cares for his world in significant ways through calling people to their places in society, recognizing that God call gives us a place, several places in fact. Comfort to those who feel adrift in our society, for those who wrestle with tarnished images of their own worth and dignity in the world. A sense of calling provides strengthening for our new identity that God gives us when he brings us to faith in Christ. There is no greater worth than dignity than that accorded those who God has chosen as his own and brought to new birth through Christ blood and his reclamation of life to the resurrection. But a secondary level of worth and dignity arises out of service according to God’s plan at the behest of this calling creator as the Holy Spirit bestows the ability to respond to others needs, and live with them in the conversations and in the communities for which God made us in the first place. So, God bless you servants of Grace Lutheran Church. God bless you servants of the servant. God bless you and your service to the Lord, for the sake of one another, and for the sake of the world that is still in darkness, that does not know the light who is Christ. God bless you servants of the Lord. God keep you in faith, hope, and love. And may the peace which far surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord this day and until we see the Savior face to face. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Authority of the Author

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus the living Christ, Amen. Our gospel reading from Mark begins with these words “They went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.” Who are they who went into Capernaum, and why might they be there? Mark tells us that Jesus has left his hometown of Nazareth, he’s been baptized in the Jordan river, he’s been tempted in the wilderness by Satan, he then traveled to the Sea of Galilee, and we know from our gospel reading last Sunday that Jesus then called James, John, Andrew, and Simon, also known to us as Peter, to drop their nets and follow him, and that’s exactly what they did. These four fishermen worked the Sea of Galilee and made their homes on the north shore in Capernaum. They’ve been in the synagogue before. This time they entered with a fifth person, a guest, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is the first place they followed him, a place they had been before, but now brothers and sisters, listen to these words of truth and life recorded in the third chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Peter and John have indeed followed Jesus for over three years. They have learned and witnessed so much during their time with the son of God. They have witnessed his death and resurrection, and now we find them in Jerusalem.  I begin at verse 3. “Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.” It was Jesus, the Author of Life, who did this beautiful thing at the beautiful gate, making a lame man strong, giving him perfect health. It is the same Author of Life who speaks to us with authority in the healing and restoration of the man afflicted with an unclean spirit in Capernaum. Yes, the Author of Life has authority, the authority to rebuke and heal. This Authority utterly astounded people at the portico of Solomon, on the eastern side of the temple’s outer court in Jerusalem. The same Authority amazed the people gathered at the synagogue in Capernaum. To most it was just another day by the sea of Galilee, just another Sabbath day in Capernaum located about 40 miles or so to the north and east of our Lord’s hometown in Nazareth. Some of you know, this is where our Lord spent most of his time during his earthly ministry, a second home if you will. James, John, Peter, and Andrew show up at the synagogue, but this time they have a guest, and that guest is Christ, and something unusual took place. That day worship was interrupted by a man with an unclean spirit crying out. He interrupted the guest teacher, Jesus, in the middle of his message. In my 40 years of ministry, there have been more than a few interruptions, disruptions during worship. A fire alarm going off in the middle of a sermon due to bad sensors, and usually a baby crying, a toddler making a fuss, but once a brother in Christ with a hearing problem said in a loud voice to his wife while I was preaching “How long is this sermon going to last?” I could see the people bouncing up and down around him trying to control the urge to laugh as you just did so I said “About another 5 minutes Bob” and kept right on preaching, but these interruptions are nothing like, nothing like what took place in Capernaum that Sabbath day. The people were understandably amazed by what they witnessed in this exchange between Jesus and the man with an unclean spirit, because the people in Capernaum had never witnessed anyone like Christ before. How could they? There’s no one else like him. Jesus spoke with an authority none of their scribes had ever demonstrated, for how could they? Those scribes were mere mortals at first busying themselves with a laborious task of making copies of the Hebrew scriptures on scrolls, and then over time not just making copies of God’s word the Law, but then becoming interpreters and teachers of the Law and that’s why sometimes you see the scribes being referred to as scribes in the word of our Lord. The people at Capernaum we’re rightfully amazed and astounded by Jesus. What is this? What have we just witnessed? What is this authority that we’ve never seen before? And it is the unclean spirit who provides the answer. “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? I know who you are–the Holy One of God.” The Author of Life had power over the unclean spirit, who knew he was not just a gifted rabbi, or some extraordinary scribe had come to visit that day. The unclean spirit spoke the truth about Jesus, the one with authority, “you are the Holy One of God” and the unclean spirit asked “Have you come to destroy us?” The answer to that question is a wondrous and mighty yes. The Holy One of God comes to destroy the power of every unclean spirit, and the power of the evil one, for it is written Genesis 3, the Author of Life will bruise your head. Romans 16, the Holy One of God will crush Satan under your feet. Yes, the unclean spirit rightly identified Jesus as the Holy One of God, while the people, gathered in the synagogue, wondered who he might be or where he got such authority and power, and yet even though the unclean spirit rightly identified Jesus, it did not confess him as Lord and Savior. For it’s one thing to know about Jesus. It’s another thing to know him as Lord and Savior, and worship him in spirit and truth. And the ability to worship the Lord rightly is not something we can do on our own. Even as in a moment we confess our faith through the words of the Nicene creed, we cannot take credit for coming to such knowledge and faith in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, for we know well what the Catechism teaches I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlighten me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. Brothers and sisters God has called you, the Lord of life has enlightened you, the Holy Spirit has sanctified you in making the faithful confession, and God keeps you in the true faith, he forgives you all your sins, he gives you eternal life, and none of this is by your own doing, and none of this is by a so-called personal decision to invite Jesus into your heart. Why would Christ want to take up residence in my sinful heart or your own? Who are we to think that we have the authority to tell the Author of Life where he should be, or the power to tell him where he cannot go, without our invitation? The Author of Life fulfills the promise we hear from the prophet Ezekiel, chapter 36, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.Thanks be to God it is Christ who has given you a new heart. It is Jesus who has made a decision for you, and that decision is to die the death that you deserve, to take your sins unto himself, to make the unrighteous righteous, to cleanse you through the power of his innocent and holy blood. The Author of Life declares to us his power in those familiar words to the eleven disciples gathered Galilee, in Matthew 28, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age.” The Author of Life has authority, all authority, authority over you, authority for you, authority for your blessing and benefit. This is grace upon grace. The unclean spirit, yes, rightly identified Jesus, but had no faith in him, no trust in him, no love for him. You do and this is not your own doing, for God has brought you to faith, God has delivered you from darkness to light, God has changed you from being enemies of Christ to those he now calls his friends. The same Jesus who did a beautiful thing at the beautiful gate in Jerusalem, who did an amazing thing in the healing of a man with an unclean spirit, meets you today, right here, right now, in his Word, in the sacrament of Holy Communion, that declares you forgiven of your sins, all of them, even those you may have been trying to keep secret from others for years. For the one with authority knows you and knows everything about you. The one with authority did not come to negotiate for your release from this imprisonment, from your bondage to sin and death. The Holy One of God did not take on human form to sit down and make a deal with the devil. The word did not become flesh, become one of us in order to seek out some political peace treaty with the one who wants you dead. He did not come to bargain with the prince of darkness, no, he came to win your freedom from sin and death completely, to defeat the evil one, to crush him under foot, not to bargain with, but to banish this liar, this father of lies. In his presence, the demons can only cry out and shriek in fear, but by his grace and mercy we sing his praise in faith, hope, and love. One of the many beautiful, precious things about our Lutheran tradition, is our Lutheran hymnody. Our Lutheran hymns have such solid theological words, the text. The words of our hymns, do they not teach the faith, do they not draw us closer to Christ, do they not proclaim the truth of God’s holy word, and sometimes our hymns are not just hymnic but prayerful. So, I’m going to ask you to do something now. Please turn in your worship books again to hymn 541. Would you be so kind? And 541, I know we just sang it together, but I’d like for us this morning to pray it together, and we will pray this antiphonally so boys and men we will read verses one and three and then girls, sisters in Christ, you will read verses two and four, and then we’ll all pray verse 5 together in unison. So, men let us begin. (Please listen to the copyrighted words in the sermon recording).

May the peace which far surpasses all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord this day and until we see the Savior face to face. Amen.