Trinity News and Sermons

2015/3/1 Sermon Bullets

 

  • Just before the text we have for today’s gospel lesson, Jesus has asked the disciples who people think he is, and more importantly, who do THEY think he is.
  • Peter responds, led by the Spirit (according to Matthew’s version), that Jesus is THE CHRIST – that is the long-awaited Messiah.
  • In today’s lesson, Jesus tells them that what it means to be THE CHRIST is to be rejected by the religious leaders of their day, suffer and die, then rise three days later. “He said this quite openly” Mark tells us.
  • He is rebuked by Peter, for this is NOT what is expected of the Messiah.
  • Jesus then rebukes Peter, and begins to instruct the crowd about what it means to be his followers.
  • When Jesus talks about following him and taking up our cross to do so, he is NOT talking about the burdens that we carry in life.
  • We all have burdens and sometimes we call these our “crosses to bear.” I am not belittling these burdens which can be quite heavy and torturous.  They are difficult and we call upon the Lord to help us with these burdens, and hopefully have others in the gathered community to assist us in carrying the load.
  • What Jesus is talking about in today’s gospel lesson is quite different.
  • Following Jesus, taking up our cross, means being ready to die. Lest I get us all mixed up and make us think that carrying the cross is something that we can do to earn our place in God’s kingdom – thus falling into the trap of works-righteousness, that is, I can somehow please God and do something on my own to get my place in heaven – it is better for me to spend part of today reading to you from a sermon written by a MASTER of understanding about this cross bearing, this life losing.
  • Gerhard Forde was an American theologian who taught at Luther College in Decorah Iowa. Here is what he says about Dying and Rising in his sermon on The Death of Self:
  • Can you see that this death of self is not, in the final analysis, something you can do? For the point is that God has once and for all reserved for himself the business of your salvation. There is nothing you can do now but, as the words of the old hymn have it, “climb Calvary’s mournful mountain” and stand with your helpless arms at your side and tremble before “that miracle of time, God’s own sacrifice complete! It is finished; hear him cry; learn of Jesus Christ to die!”
  • Can you see it? Can you see that really the last, bitter death is there? That in that cross God has stormed the last bastion of the self, the last presumption that you really were going to do something for him? Can you see that the death of Jesus Christ is your death? He has died in your place! He has done it. He made it. He created a salvation in the midst of time and his enemies. He is God happening to you. It is all over, finished, between you and God! He died in your place that death which you must die; he has done it in such a way as to save you. He has borne the whole thing! The fact that there is nothing left for you to do is the death of self and new birth of the new creature. He died to make a new creature of you, and as he arose, to raise you up to trust God alone.
  • If you can see it, perhaps then you can see, or perhaps at least begin to see, what is the power of God’s grace and rejoice. For that is the other side of the coin once you have gotten out of your self-enclosed system.
  • Then perhaps you can turn away from yourself, maybe really for the first time, and look upon your neighbors.
  • Maybe for the first time you can begin to receive creation as a gift, a sheer gift from God’s hands. And who knows what might happen in the power of this grace? All possibilities are open.
  • You might sell your car, or even give it away – for someone else.
  • You might find even that you could swallow your pride and stage a protest march – for your neighbor – or begin to seek to influence the power structures!
  • For in the power of his cross the way is open! The way is open to begin, at least, perhaps in faltering ways, in countless little ways, to realize what it means to die to self.
  • For that, in the final analysis, is his gift to you, the free gift of the new man, the new woman, the one who can live in faith and hope, for whom all possibilities are open!”
  • Wonderful words! Sometimes as a pastor you just have to let the MASTERS speak and stand back in awe.
  • Christ Jesus dies for us, and that is the death. We live in his death and life.
  • Paul says boldly in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh, I live be faith in the Son of God.”
  • The hymn we are about to sing is one of my favorites, and I discovered it a number of years ago. The words are quite powerful. “We hold the death of the Lord deep in our hearts.  Living, now we remain with Jesus the Christ.”  And the last verse says: “We are the presence of God; this is our call; now to become bread and wine, food for the hungry, life for the weary; for to live with the Lord, we must die with the Lord.” (ELW #500 – Now We Remain)
  • I believe this is what Jesus is calling all who follow him to do – to walk into his death and resurrection, acknowledging our total dependence upon him – and then to give ourselves away for the sake of the world.
  • Forde, in another place, says it best: God comes to set us free and to give us that destiny which he himself has planned for us as his creatures.  He comes to set us free from our bondage, our illusions, dreams, and fictions, our enslavement to our own ideals, to the law.  He comes to give us the freedom to live, to bring forth life out of death.