Thursday, April 21, 2016

You did not even ask where I go?

Sermon preached for the Circuit Pastors anticipating Cantate, one year series.

I miss the old Latin names for the Sundays.  Next Sunday would be Cantate – from the introit for the day: O sing unto the Lord a new song.  But, of course, none of the disciples wanted to sing.  They did not even ask Jesus where He was going.  They had had enough of all this talk of betrayal, suffering, death, burial, and resurrection.  They were sick and tired of hearing about it.  So in John’s record of the Upper Room they sat there like lumps on a log while Jesus waxed eloquent about His departure into death and how it was expedient for them for Him to die.

“So you are sad,” says Jesus to His disciples.  But your sadness is misplaced.  You are sorrowful over the wrong things.  You are sad that the Kingdom of God comes only through betrayal, suffering, and death.  You are sad that the shepherd will be struck and the sheep scattered.  You are sad that your three year apprenticeship as disciples will seemingly end in the defeat of your Rabbi.  You are sad that you have left home and career and hitched your wagon to the God who has come to wear the dirt of sin, die its death to pay its awful price, and lay in the belly of the earth for three days.  You want Easter without Good Friday.  But this cannot be, says Jesus.

Well here you are living 2000 years later and we are still sad and mopey for the exact same reasons.  You want a happy church, a happy faith, and a happy life.  You want secret wisdom to turn enemies into friends, to get ahead in the competition for things and pleasure, and to prevent illness and pain.  You do not want a crucified Jesus but a joking Jesus who will make you feel better about yourself, your life, and your desires.  You want a God who will approve of whatever sick and sinful things live in your heart and not one who will challenge you or expose your secrets.  Well, guess what.  I want that, too.  We are in the same boat, folks.  But that is not why Jesus has come.

He has come to go where we do not want to go.  He faces temptation and does not fall.  He lives obedient to the Law we could not keep.  He does the will of the Father we refuse.  He goes willingly to suffer as the innocent for sinners, and to die the death that was not His but ours.  He rises not to put it all behind Him and forget its painful memory but to proclaim this death to dying sinners that they might have life and to join these dead shells of bodies to His body in baptism.  He rises not to put the cross away but to raise it up until we cannot be see it and believe it.  He rises to give us His crucified flesh in this meal and to give us His shed blood in this cup.

He dies and rises and soon ascends so that the Spirit may come – and not merely to enable faith in our dark and dank hearts but to convict us concerning our guilt for sin, our lack of righteousness, and to remind us that we are subject to judgment.  The Spirit will give to you what is Christ’s.  He will wash your sins away in Christ’s blood.  He will clean your ears so that you may hear Christ’s voice.  He will clothe you in the white robes of Christ’s righteousness.  He will seal in You’re the life the grave cannot steal and keep your remains until Christ gives you the new and glorious flesh of the ever-living.

But you don’t want to hear about that and neither do I.  We would all rather hang our heads in disbelief that sin is really so bad somebody had to die or that death is not some how a natural and normal part of life.  We would all rather spend our days pondering how to grab all the gusto we can so that we can empty our bucket list before our bodies become weak and our memories frail.  We would all rather have God whisper in our ears how to win the lottery and live large than to seek righteousness and live holy.  We are not ready to ask Jesus where He is going because we fear the answer.  And that is why He must go and the Spirit must come or we will be spectators of God’s salvation and not participants in His merciful redemption.  Repent and believe the Gospel!

The Spirit will take all that is Christ’s and give it to you.  And that begins with a real and objective take on who you think you are, what sins you have done that you deny, how horrible death is, and how little you can do about any of this.  But from the depth of this despair, the Spirit will raise you up new, wash you clean in living water, clothe you in righteousness not your own, place a new song in your heart that trusts the Lord for all things, and give you the courage not to fear and the joy that nothing can diminish.  The Lord your God is your strength and song and He has become your salvation.  Cantate!  O Sing Ye!

Christ is Risen.  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

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