Sunday, July 12, 2009

Here’s What Will Happen

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
July 12, 2009
Mark 6.14-29

On the TV show Monk, the main character is a homicide detective who is on psychiatric leave and works as a consultant for the police department. He is called upon when there are particularly difficult murder cases and he always figures out the crime even though each one is done in some ingenious fashion. He has several idiosyncrasies stemming from phobias and compulsive behaviors. He has certain memorable sayings he uses over and over, such as when people marvel at his uncanny abilities, he will say, “It’s a gift …and a curse.” Or when he does something that makes people scratch their heads he’ll say “You’ll thank me later.” At some point in the show before he’s figured out what happened he’ll know who did it and he’ll say, “He’s the guy.” But his best line is what he says at the end when he has solved the case—he says: “Here’s what happened,” and then proceeds to lay out every brilliant detail of the plan.

Now Adrian Monk is no prophet. He’s a detective and tells what happened after the fact. The remarkable thing about him is that he’s the only one who’s able to figure it out, but he nevertheless can only tell you what happened after it has happened. Prophets in the Bible do that but also speak of what will happen. They won’t just say, “Here’s what happened,” they will also say, “Here’s what will happen.” But what about when people today make these kind of predictions? The Bible says that we aren’t to add anything to the Bible, so if anyone is making predictions that go beyond what the Bible has already said will happen, then that person is a false prophet. There’s nothing to make known beyond what is already given to us in the Word of God.

That’s why it intrigued me on November 3 of last year, the day before the national election of president, when a Lutheran pastor made this proclamation: “Tuesday’s Winner Prophesied.” There’s nothing wrong, of course, with predicting who will win a political race; people do it all the time, just as they do in sports and many areas of life. But if a man who is called by God to proclaim God’s Word makes such a prediction speaking under the authority of God, then that man is a false prophet. So, intrigued, I read what he had to say. Here it is:

Here is what will happen…

the Church will win. The Lord will provide. All things will work together for good. The Lord’s man will win the election tomorrow. It will be for the good of those who love God.

That is not to say that the winner will be good. I don’t think that is an option in our system. But what will be good is the will of the Lord that He will work for His Church.

Think on the good the Lord did through Caesar, through Leo X, through Napoleon and Hitler and Sadaam Hussein. Sure, I’d prefer restful days of peace. But the reality is that restful days of peace are dangerous. They lull us into complacency. The Church militant does not have the option of resting or suing for peace or finding a compromise. She fights until she is relieved of her burden. And when she is too weak to fight, when she gives in to temptation, when she tries to make her own way, then the Lord in His mercy brings the fight to her in the form of persecution—from within and without.

[He goes on to describe this persecution and then continues] I don’t see any easy days ahead. But I do see good days. I see days when men confess the Truth and learn to love not their lives to death, days when priorities become clear and the Word of God is cherished.

Trust not in princes. Empires fail. The Word of the Lord endures forever. He will provide. One way or another, there is always a Ram in the thicket, Our Lord in the wrath of His Father that we be spared and inherit the Kingdom for free. That Kingdom will not be overcome or cease. So cast your ballot tomorrow and then cast your cares away. It does not matter if your candidate wins or loses. The Lord will provide.

It’s been several months now since then and it’s easy to think about the political ramifications of what happened on election day and what has happened since then. But the reason I bring this up is not to talk politics, because that’s not what prophets do. Prophets proclaim the Word of God. And they don’t do it by involving themselves in the political realm. They do it, simply, by proclaiming the Word of God whenever and wherever they are called to do it. Amos was minding his own business as a shepherd when God called him to prophesy. The priest Amaziah didn’t like what this country boy was prophesying to the king and those in power so he told Amos to take a hike. It would have been very easy for Amos to cut and run but instead he said that he was simply doing what God had called him to do.

John the Baptist did likewise. You think he wasn’t a little bit nervous telling, in his case, a pagan king that he was sinning against God by committing adultery with his brother’s wife? But God didn’t call John to tell King Herod what he wanted to hear but what God clearly says in His Word. Amos said to the king, Here’s what will happen. That’s what God had given him to say. John said to the king, Here’s what you’re doing, and it’s wrong. It’s what God had given him to say. What the Lutheran pastor said in his “prediction” was right on. No matter who was to win, or what happens in this lifetime, the Christian Church always wins. God sustains His Church.

He has given us His Word and we have no predictions to make. We simply have the Word of God to proclaim and make known. That’s what the pastor was doing, just like Amos and John the Baptist. That’s what we do in our lives. We are all called by God to make known His Word in our neighborhoods and places of work and our families.

But here I will make a prediction. I will tell you straight out: Here’s what will happen. But it is really simple proclamation. It is a stating of what the Word of God says will happen. So it is not a prediction on my part but on God’s. What will happen to you is what happened to Amos and to John the Baptist. The faithful making known of the Word of God will do its work. The Holy Spirit will work on the hearts and minds of those who hear it.

But it’s not all that appealing how things turned out for Amos and John. When you share the Word of God with people, some, perhaps even many, will be resistant to it. Some will persecute, even to death. What will happen is that God will take you out of your comfort zone and into the lives of others. Just as God came into the lives of the people He created in the person of Jesus, He sends you into people’s lives. King Jeroboam needed to hear the Word of God and Amos proclaimed it to him. King Herod needed to hear God’s truth and John the Baptist spoke it to him. You know the people in your lives. They need to hear the Word of God. Bring it to them. Don’t worry about your life. God will guard you and guide you.

You don’t need to worry about if people will act like they’d sooner read the phone book than listen to what you have to say about God and His love for them in Jesus Christ or if they begin to hate you as Herodias did John. The Holy Spirit will work on their hearts and minds just as He did with Herod, when he was perplexed by John’s message and yet enjoyed listening to him. You don’t have to worry about what the world says, as Herod did, when he let his pride get the better of him rather than doing the right thing and not make his foolish vow in the first place or after he did to not carry out such a gruesome act.

You do not need to worry about what may happen because although it could turn out as badly as it did for John the Baptist it can’t turn out worse. God will guard you in your life even to death, even as He did John. Although the tragic story for John’s disciples ended in them laying their teacher in a tomb, this was the beginning of life without persecution or imprisonment or hatred or pain for him. They laid him in a tomb, even as a stranger did our Lord and Savior. John has not yet risen from his tomb. But he will on the Last Day. We know this because we know what happened to our Lord and Savior. He rose from His tomb. He is alive and lives forever.

Here’s what will happen. We will too. Amen.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I heard you talking about this sermon, I'm glad I read it - very good.