Wednesday, July 10, 2013

He who hears you, hears ME...

Sermon for Pentecost 7, Proper 9C, preached on Sunday, July 7, 2013.

    In the movie The King’s Speech, the teacher works with a stuttering king and in one scene goads him until the king insists that he must be heard because he has a voice.  So often we think that is perhaps what the church needs – someone to teach us to get past the stammer and hesitance and speak authentic witness, with our own voices.
    Perhaps the most shocking thing Jesus does not speak His own voice.  He insists He is come not to speak His own words but to speak the word of the Father in heaven.  The Father makes Himself known in Christ or not at all and Christ speaks to us His Father’s saving Word.  In the incarnation the Father speaks of Jesus to us: He who hears Jesus, hears me. The glory and work of the Lord Jesus are not independent of the Father nor does He manifest a will and power independent of the Father.  Jesus has come to do the Father's bidding.  As witnesses, we must learn that we are here to do His bidding.
    He who hears you, hears Me, says the Lord.  We know God through His Word, the Word made flesh in Christ and the written Word that speaks Christ to us.  Jesus is the Word of the Lord.  In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old through the prophets but NOW He has spoken through His Son.  God has not spoken various messages to various people.  God has spoken His one saving voice in Christ Jesus.
    Children growing up often learn that it is easy to pit one parents against the other, to get different answers from different dad or mom.  There is no such division in the Lord.  Christ is the Word who fulfills all the promise of the Father.  If we attempt to pit one part of Scripture against another, we have the whole word wrong.  Christ is the message of and the very key to the Scriptures.  It is all about Christ.  There is no word of God apart from the Word that is Christ.
    You and I are not sent by God to tell the world what we think or feel. Opinions do not count in the call to witness.  The authority of God lies in His Word.  The only authority that we have, indeed the only authority that matters, is the Word of the Lord.  He sends us forth to speak not what we think or feel but what He has said.  The Word is the Lord IS our message.
    Likewise, as tempting as it is to make it all about us, the reception of the Word is due to the work of the Spirit.  The rejection of the Word of the Lord is not a personal rejection of us but the refusal of the grace God has made known through His Son.  The great personal weakness of every Pastor is his desire to be liked and his great temptation is to soften the edges of God’s Word to make the Pastor more likeable.  The same is true of you, the witnesses whom the Father has sent to the world.  You like to be liked and it bothers us when it seems people reject us.  We are gravely tempted to soften or be superficial in witness out of our fear of rejection.  But this is not about you or me.  We are merely the messengers – the Word is the Lords and the witness is His.  The voice may be the Pastor’s here and it may be our voices speaking in the world, but the Word is always Christ’s or we have nothing to say.
    When the Word of the Lord is rejected, it is the Father who is rejected.  When we faithfully speak God's Word and it is rejected, we are not being personally rejected but Him who sent us – the Lord Jesus and the Father in heaven.  We do not have anything to speak but Christ for there is no other word that forgives sins, builds hope, and bestows life.  It is Christ or no god at all.  It is the Word of the Lord or nothing worth saying.  His Word is our message, our power, and our glory.  There is only one word that speaks salvation and that is the Gospel of Christ.
    Part of us often fears witnessing because we do not know what to say.  If we do not know what to say, it is because we do not know the Word of the Lord.  There is no magic formula to witnessing.  We speak God's truth in love, as it was spoken to us in Christ by those who taught us the faith.  The greatest danger to the Church today is not that people will faithfully speak God's Word in witness and nothing will happen.  The greatest danger to the Church today is that we will substitute our own words for God's Word and our own message for the Gospel.  But the outcome will be the same – nothing will happen.  If anything is to happen, we must faithfully speak the Word and trust in the Lord whose Word it is to bring about the results.
    We only worry about the message because as the messengers we do not want to be rejected.  How effective can a witness be who is motivated by fear?  The disciples whom Jesus sent forth in the Gospel reading for today had the authority of His name, the Word of the Kingdom, and guess what – it was enough to make Satan fall like lightening.
    Even then the disciples were tempted to glory in the what instead of the who.  Jesus pulls them back to earth by saying your glory is that the Gospel is for you, that your names are written in the book of life.  This is our joy.  When numbers and success become the criteria for witness, the witness itself is corrupted and its value is lost to the Lord who sends us.
    We are always trying to make it more about the messenger than the message.  We always try to make it personal as if we made people believe or we prevented them from faith.  Our confidence lies in the fact that the Spirit works through the Word to make known Jesus Christ who reveals to us the Father.  We are sent forth to proclaim THIS word.  This Gospel is what we proclaim, motivated by the joyful knowledge that we belong to the Lord by baptism and faith, and in confidence that God works as He has promised, He works through His Word.
    We neither apologize for Christ nor make His Word more palatable to the ear.  We speak it faithfully, from the conviction of those who know its joy in sins forgiven, lives reborn, and death overcome.  We dare not get in the way of speaking this saving Word to the world nor should we allow ourselves to become for focus of what we speak.  The Word is the Lords.  The Gospel is His.  The fruits of our witness are His.  This is our glory and no other.  The Word that saves is Christ our Lord.  Amen

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