Monday, November 23, 2009

It's about Truth (not Power)

Someone asked if I could publish my sermon from yesterday.  Here are my notes.  Much of this is a repetition of what I wrote earlier last week.  You can listen to the sermon by clicking here (mp3, about 17 minutes).

What kind of king is Jesus?

Hauled to trial, he stands under the judgment of a small time governor! Later that day he is tortured and killed.

What kind of king is this? 

Would you want to be one of his people? This world, you see, is NOT God’s kingdom and it will never be.

Crusades and inquisitions, going to war like Christian soldiers, voting for Christian leaders…
—none of that will change this world.

The world has another king… this world has a powerful, fearful king who can’t be overcome by human beings.

Back in the beginning we human beings turned this world over to the devil… God gave us responsibility for this world but we rebelled… and this world has been under the devil’s authority ever since… as it says in the hymn: The old Satanic foe has sworn to work us woe… No strength of ours can match his might. We would be lost, rejected. This world’s ruler is the master of sin, and because you & I sin, we’re rebels and on the devil’s side.

There is no way to change the kingdom of this world—the kingdom of the devil—there’s no way to change this world into the kingdom of God. We can’t even change ourselves. What that means is that those of us who want to be with Jesus are going to be on the losing side! We are not going to win in this world. Signs of his power, yes. But victory? No. Jesus was brought to trial and killed. Do you think his followers can expect any less?

So what can we do? Really, there is only one thing. It’s the same thing Jesus did in his trial. We can tell the truth—we can admit that we’re rebels—we can hear, and believe and speak the Word of God which convicts us of our sin and raises us up with new lfie.

What should we do? Turn with me for to Ephesians 6. In this chapter we hear about the “armor of God.” In another place (First Corinthians 10) it talks about the “weapons of our warfare” in this world.

Eph 6:10 -- “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” We can’t do it on our own. Verse 12: “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh”—it may seem like some people are bad and others are good—but that’s not true. Instead our struggle is “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

The spiritual forces of evil have the high ground in this world and we will not be beating them back… we will not win—not in here (heart), and not out there.

“Therefore,” verse 13, “take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” and then it goes on to list armor… the belt of TRUTH, the breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS, shoes to bring GOOD NEWS…, (verse 16) the shield of FAITH, the helmet of SALVATION and, finally, after all the defensive armor, ONE OFFENSIVE WEAPON—only one—the sword of the Holy Spirit—and what is that? The WORD of GOD.

The Word of God is the ONLY weapon you and I can use in this world if we’re going to follow Jesus. The rest is all defensive stuff—holding our ground so we’re not completely overwhelmed.

The Word of God is the ONLY offensive weapon we have. It’s like in our gospel—in John 18:33-37 Jesus comes face to face with a representative of evil—governor Pontius Pilate. And what weapon does Jesus use?—look at John 18:37—half way through that verse it says “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, TO TESTIFY TO THE TRUTH. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

What does Jesus use as a weapon when he comes face to face with evil? He TESTIFIES TO THE TRUTH—he SPEAKS with his VOICE—and, because, as we have been learning in our Bible study these days—because Jesus came into this world from God in a totally unique way—Jesus speaks not only with his WORDS—no red letter edition when it comes to Jesus—Jesus speaks with his LIFE and his LOVE even more.

Jesus speaks as he brings love to the loveless and hope to the hopeless, healing to the broken and belonging to the rejected. Jesus speaks as he refuses to take up any other sword—at the beginning of this chapter, at the beginning of John 18—Jesus does not let his followers fight for him. Put away your sword he says—put it away. That’s not the way my kingdom is going to come.

The only weapon he has—and all we have… all we have is the Word of God. It convicts us of our sin and raises us up with the news that he paid the penalty for us on the cross!

That’s why some of us are so concerned about the some recent decisions of our church body, the ELCA.

No one who knows Jesus can hate or reject or discriminate against anyone on the basis of their sexual orientation. We need to be totally open to having people of all kinds come to the Lord here… But, because, from the Word of God—and from the testimony of God’s creation, we see that God has blessed the bond of one man and one woman as the way life comes into the world we cannot say that same sex marriage is the same.

It’s just not according to the Word of God. It’s because we can’t find scripture to bless same sex marriage that we cannot support this move. It’s not because we want to discriminate or because we’re homophobic or hate gays. If that’s why we have a problem with gay marriage we must repent. The love of God for all people is not up for debate. But neither is the truth of God’s Word.

That’s what the Common Confession is about. Look at the seven points… The Lord Jesus Christ, the Gospel of Salvation, the Authority of Scripture, a Common Confession of Faith, the Priesthood of All Believers, Marriage and Family, the Mission and Ministry of the Congregation. Please spend some time studying this and the commentary that goes with it.

This is not about power. You may like Lutheran CORE and the 16 other groups who have proposed this statement-- Mount Carmel Ministries, World Mission Prayer League, the WordAlone Network, the Fellowship of Confessing Lutherans, Youth Encounter. Or, on the other hand, you may consider those groups to be troublemakers and fear mongers…

But please do NOT think of this as about power or politics. We can adopt this Common Confession and NOT become a part of CORE or make any other changes to our church affiliation—honestly—this isn’t about that.

What is important is that the Word of God be proclaimed and that the truth be made known—that’s what the Common Confession tries to do. That’s what the Bible study we’re doing at 10:00 is trying to do also—to focus on the truth—truth that centers in love.

We’re never going to take this world and make it into God’s kingdom. Those who are with Jesus will never really be in control. We will always be, in some sense, on the losing side. Sometimes, all we can do is stand.

Oh yes, there will be signs of God’s kingdom. As you and I reject other loyalties and receive God as our Father, Jesus as our King, and the Holy Spirit as our only power, as we take up the sword of the God’s Word—we will share God’s love with the lost and they will be found, we will pray for the sick and they will recover, we will stand with the oppressed and they will be set free.

When we dare give up our old life and receive Jesus as our king his authority will be ours—together with his sufferings. We will have some victories—and praise God for that—but, like our King, we will be mis-understood, we will be rejected. We may DIE in his service. But someday the true King will take up his authority, all evil will be done, truth will be revealed, and God’s people will gain a share in God’s wonderful kingdom—God’s kingdom—Jesus’ kingdom that is not from this world—His kingdom that will never end.

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