Showing posts from September, 2015

Sermon on Mark 9:38-50, for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost, "Hell and the Kingdom"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. In today’s reading from Mark 9, Jesus speaks to His disciples on a range of issues, from spiritual warfare to the deadly danger of hell. First of all, Jesus disciples try to stop a man from casting out demons in Jesus’ name. Apparently this stranger was not among the main group of Jesus’ followers, but was successfully casting out demons by the power of Jesus’ name. Jesus says that if he is doing these mighty works in His name, he can’t at the same time be an enemy of Jesus. In the same way today having the same earthly leadership and organization is not what matters—but whether one is under Christ’s authority and leadership. Jesus’ true followers are scattered far and wide, and what links them is true faith in Him. Even the smallest act of service for the sake of Jesus Christ, even offering a cup of cold water, will not go unnoticed or unrewarded by Christ. All true service for Christ is honored by Him, not wh

Sermon on Mark 9:30-37, 17th Sunday after Pentecost, "From childish to childlike"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Today in our Gospel reading from Mark chapter 9, there is a strong contrast set up between Jesus teaching His disciples about His coming death on the cross, and His resurrection—and a petty argument the disciples fall into on their journey along the road. The contrast is between the way of humility that Jesus Himself lived, and the way of selfish ambition or self-promotion and rivalry, that the disciples were acting out in their little argument. Like children “caught in the act” of doing something they know is wrong, Jesus called out the disciples, who were arguing with each other about who was the greatest. We don’t know quite how it went down. But we do know from other arguments, that they wanted to gain the highest authority and respect in Jesus’ kingdom. We know how it goes—we’re familiar with how people compete for position, for advantage, for recognition, or for power. In a way, it’s very childish and

Sermon on Mark 9:14-29, for the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, "Faith, Prayer, and Spiritual Warfare"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Last week we heard how Jesus healed a man who was deaf and mute. But there was no hint that his condition was anything but physical problems with his ears and tongue. Today, Jesus commands a “deaf and mute spirit” to leave a young boy, who is being tormented and abused by this demon. Both the boy’s desperate father and Jesus also, clearly recognize the demon is causing the boy’s physical afflictions. Comparing the two readings seems to show that some physical illnesses have simple physical causes in the body, while at other times, a spiritual cause can produce physical symptoms. The skeptic in us might already say the young boy was just an epileptic. We’re not to assume that everyone who has epilepsy or seizures is demon-possessed, are we? That would certainly go beyond what the passage is saying. But on the other hand, are we ready today, to acknowledge that some afflictions may h

Sermon on Mark 7:31-37, for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost, "The Secret that couldn't be kept"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Today Jesus performs a miracle to heal a man who is deaf and mute, or unable to speak clearly. For people who are deaf or unable to speak, this passage may speak very clearly and with great comfort, to know that Jesus cared for and noticed these people—that they were included in His ministry. In everyday life, these people are often hidden, marginalized, or unnoticed by us. Did you know that only about 2% of deaf people in the United States attend church? Even today they are largely overlooked and unserved. However today’s reading shows Jesus’ compassion reached them and healed them. And in the story, it was partly because friends and neighbors brought the man to Jesus. But do you here, as hearing and speaking Christians—does this passage speak to you? You’ve probably never imagined the world of total silence, and of having to communicate through sign language, lip reading, or