Thursday, March 29, 2012

To drink His cup... and enter His baptism...

Sermon preached for Lent 5B (also the Annunciation), on Sunday, March 25, 2012.

    Today is both the Annunciation of our Lord, the commemoration of the visit of the angel to Mary when our Lord was conceived within her womb, and the fifth Sunday in Lent.  The Sundays in Lent take precedence.  The traditional name for the fifth Sunday in Lent is Judica; it comes from the traditional Introit of the day: "Judge me, O God."  I think most of us would rather talk about the event that comes nine months before Christmas than inviting God's scrutiny over us.  But here we are in Lent, calling God to judge us.
    Who would dare invite the scrutiny of God over our lives?  Why we have forgotten more sins than we remembered to confess.  Who would be foolish enough to ask the IRS to take a second look at your income tax return?  That is exactly what this Sunday is all about but we are not the ones asking for God's judgment.  Jesus is!  He is headed to Jerusalem with a face like flint to face the judgment of God for our sin.  Who dares to face sin and death square in the face?  Not me.  Not you.  But Jesus is determined to face them for us – even if it means His death.
    The disciples did not get it.  They were too busy daydreaming about glory while Jesus spoke of His coming betrayal, death, and resurrection.  They did not hear Jesus say: "I am going to die..."  Blinded by dreams of glory, they were focused on who would get the good seats in glory, the places of honor in heaven, looking down from on high on the common saints below?  They were so focused on this glory, they did not hear Jesus speak of the glory of the cross.
    What about us?  Which glory is our focus?  Are we just as blinded by the dreams of present glory that we miss the glory of the cross? Blind to the glory of His suffering and death, are we as caught up in the moment as those disciples of old?
    The truth is our focus is always on the present moment.  We are always asking Jesus to do this for us or give us that – as if these things were the most important things of life.  We treat the things of the moment as if they were the greatest treasures and then we treat the gift of heaven as if it were a dollar store trinket.  It is simply the nature of our sin blinded hearts that we suffer from the short sighted vision that sees today clearly but eternity only darkly.
    Like the disciples of old, we are always tempted to choose the happiness of the moment over the eternal contentment and peace Jesus has come to give.  But Jesus loves us enough to awaken our hearts and minds to the glory of the cross.  He loves us enough to point us to the cross even when we don’t fully understand what we are looking at.
    James and John did not hear Jesus talk about the cross but they knew well enough that Jesus had the power to do mighty things.  When they asked for seats of glory, the other disciples kicked themselves for not also asking Jesus to make their dreams come true.  Jesus could have dismissed the whole thing as foolishness but He took James and John seriously.  "Are you able to drink My cup or be baptized with My baptism?  Asked Jesus.  Just as blindly, James and John insist they are ready, willing, and able to do what it takes to get what they want.  They did not realize that Jesus' cup and His baptism were the cross and death He had spoken about.
    Jesus loves us so much that He sends us His Spirit to break the binders of sin. He not only awakens us to the eternal things of His kingdom.  He offers us eternal things in this present moment.  He allows us to drink from His cup and to be baptized with His baptism – not as a Savior who dies for the sins of the world but as the saved who receive what His death has won and as those baptized into His death to receive His gift of life.
    None of us can die for the sins of the whole world but all of us will surely die.  Each of us will face the scrutiny of God's judgement.  Either we die alone and face God's judgment alone or we die in baptism our death with Christ to rise with Him to new life and we face God's judgment wearing the new clothing of Christ's righteousness in that baptism.  None us will drink the cup of death for sin on a cross but in Christ we come today to drink Christ’s cup and receive the blessing won on that cross in forgiveness, life, and salvation.
    Jesus dares to invite the judgment of God for our sin upon His shoulders.  He willingly walks to the death of the cross for you and for me and for our salvation.  We who share baptism into His death and who drink here the cup of His blood stand with Him both as the recipients of all that He won for us and as His people sent forth in His name to serve others as He has served us.
    Apart from Christ the only glory there is empty glory, false dreams, and illusions that never come true.  In Christ we have the true glory.  From the cross His glory shines to us.  It is not the glory of our dreams but the greater glory of His gift.  He gives us the privilege not only of receiving its gift, but bearing that gift in cross shaped lives toward our neighbors.  We daily die to self and rise up in Christ to manifest this profound love back to the Father from whence it came and out to the world for whom Christ also died.
      That brings us back right back to Judica, to those who invite God's judgment and scrutiny upon them.  In Christ we have no fear of God’s judgment or His scrutiny.  Baptized in Christ, we rise up in righteousness to stand before Him and serve Him.  Drinking the cup of Christ in this Holy Supper we are made new through forgiveness.   As the baptized and those who drink from Christ’s cup, the Lord recognizes us as His own... for today.... and for eternity.  Amen.


Chris said...

As long as Lutherans keep finding "reasons", trumped up as they are, to ignore and/or remove the feast days associated with the Blessed Virgin, then the more ignorance will prevail in Lutheran congregations and the lesser chance there will be of finding Mary restored to her proper place in the context of the faith.

Anonymous said...

“The disciples did not get it….

… What about us?”

I have lost count of the many times I have heard this homiletic device, and it makes me sick each time I hear it. It is used because there is no meaningful doctrine of the Holy Spirit in the Lutheran Church.

The Disciples did not “get it” because nobody could “get it” without the Holy Spirit. They could not help it; therefore they should not be faulted. Our Lord could fault them, because He is perfect. We can fault them if it is our own achievement when we “get it.” The Disciples only received the Holy Spirit when our Lord breathed on them on the day of His resurrection. After that they began to understand, but they only understood fully when they were given that special, Apostolic gift on Pentecost.

We should not compare the Apostles before the Resurrection to ourselves, because they did not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, and we do.

We should not compare the Apostles after Pentecost to ourselves, because they received a unique gift at Pentecost, which qualified them to have their names engraved into the foundation of the New Jerusalem.

They were like ourselves for the 50 days between the Resurrection and Pentecost, except that they had seen the Lord face to face and had been taught by Him.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Pastor Peters said...


I am not sure what to say. Do you mean that the disciples had no Spirit prior to Pentecost? So then what did it mean when Jesus breathed on them the Holy Spirit right after Easter (John's Gospel). What about Peters whose confession is claimed not to come from him but from above? Or that their names were written in the book of life? Of that the Spirit abided in them John 14.

George, the disciples were just as easily confused to the purpose of God after Pentecost -- consider the Council at Jerusalem.

Are we not as easily tempted by the glory of the moment as were James and John?

I meant only that as soon as we take our eyes off of Jesus, we end up in the murky areas in which God and His purposes are confused to us.

Anonymous said...

Dear Pastor Peters: Here is what Scripture says in answer to your first question:

John 7: 37 On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, "Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.' " 39 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

John 14: 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

Please note especially our Lord’s careful use of words, “He abides with you” and “He will be in you.” In John 14 He does not abide in them, but He will abide in them. I cannot tell you precisely what it means that the Holy Spirit “abides with you” but it is different from “will be in you.” The latter is what Scripture claims is the gift every believer receives. With few exceptions, in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit is spoken of mostly as “being with”.

On Easter Day our Lord gave the Apostles the gift of the Holy Spirit, to “be in them.” Their names were written in the book of life before the world was created, Matthew 25: 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;…” What is the problem with that? That at some point they were unbelievers and did not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them? No problem. It is the same with each one of us, but we don’t have our names written in the Book of Life only after conversion.

I cannot quantify the ease of temptation either before or after conversion. But my point is that at the time when the comparison was made, they did not have “the full armor of God”, but we do. Moreover we have the fullness of God, in the Person of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, Who intercedes for us. So we are not alone in our temptation.

“Keeping our eyes on Jesus” is a very general admonition. On the other hand, apparently not everyone favors the “What would Jesus do” concept. So how are we to translate this “keeping our eyes on Jesus” into practice? I am not sure precisely what it means. But I do know what God says to us in His Word because of the Holy Spirit Who dwells in each of His children, and I do know that He strengthens us against temptation through prayer, hearing of His Word, and by eating and drinking His Body and Blood, and possibly in a variety of other ways we are not even aware of.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Anonymous said...

Keeping our eyes on Jesus is not general at all. It is as specific as being in His Word, participating in confession and absolution, and being faithful in the Eucharist.

WWJD almost presumes that Jesus might have several options before him and we have to guess which one he would choose. Jesus always chooses the right and the right is clearly disclosed in his Word.