Sunday, July 5, 2009

Love Is Patient, Love Is Kind… Love Offends

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
July 5, 2009
Mark 6.1-13

It’s a common mistake. One we all can easily slip into. We want to be loving. We want to care for others. We love the words of 1 Corinthians 13, love is patient, love is kind. We want to be patient and kind. But in these good intentions we end up avoiding telling people what they need to hear, telling them rather what they want to hear. But this is not love. This actually is not caring for the other person. What we ought to do is ask ourselves how we can humbly tell others what they need to hear even though they may get offended and even cut us off.

And what about when we’re offended? Do we immediately assume the other person is being unloving or judgmental? Rather, what we ought to do is ask ourselves if the reason we’re offended is because the other person is trying to hurt us or if we just don’t want to admit that we need to hear what they have to say.

Jesus has no such issues. He simply does what needs to be done. He tells us what we need to hear. It’s not surprising that people are offended by Him. Who He is. What He does. What He has to say. We don’t want it to be that way. We want His being loving toward us and caring for us to make us feel comfortable. We don’t want to be offended by Him.

In the Old Testament reading God told Ezekiel to tell the people what they needed to hear. He also told him that they wouldn’t like it. They would, however, know that a prophet had been among them. Did the people of Nazareth know that a prophet had been among them? When Jesus had returned to His hometown they knew that someone had been among them—someone who wasn’t the person they were wanting to be among them. They wanted their own Jesus back. Not some miracle worker. Not one who presumed to be a wise man.

To them, Jesus was not a prophet. He was just Jesus. The kid down the street they used play with in the street. The kid they had walked to school with all those years ago. The kid who had helped His dad make the end table still sitting in their house. The kid who was, well, just like them. Only now He was different. But different in a way they didn’t like. Different in a way in which they were still the same old people they used be and He was now suddenly different. Preaching to them. Doing all kinds of miracles. Who was He to preach to them? Who did He think He was that He could do that kind of stuff?

They were offended. They wanted nothing to do with this man who was no longer just Jesus, the kid from down the street. The kid who would have made a great carpenter if He had just stuck with it. He might have thought they needed Him but they would show Him that they were just fine, by themselves. They would be fine being the way they always were. They way He had been once. Now He was different.

So there was nothing for Him to do there, except marvel. Marvel at their unbelief. Marvel at their unwillingness to hear the Word of God, even from a source that was admittedly unexpected. But is that so different from us? Are we satisfied that Jesus comes to us in ways that are different from what we’d expect? How are we given the vault of heaven in simple water that is connected with God’s Word? Why is Jesus saying that He gives His very self, His true Body and His true Blood in a piece of bread and a drink of wine that is consecrated by His Word? This can’t be the way the God of the universe operates. And so we’re offended that we have to rely on our Baptism, that we need to receive the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness of our sins.

But Jesus is not deterred that we’re offended. He wasn’t deterred that the people in His hometown were offended. He just continued on. He kept on doing what He does. He comes to bring to people what they need, not what they want to hear. And so He sent out His apostles. Do you think maybe they had a few questions themselves about Jesus? Why was He sending them out with nothing but a staff, a tunic, and sandals? How could they be sure people would take care of them? And why did He send them out knowing that they would be rejected by some? Well, maybe it’s because He sent them out with another little thing called authority. He gave them authority over all kinds of things people have no business having authority over: unclean spirits and diseases and things that human beings are powerless against.

They also were given authority to do something else. To walk away. To shake the dust off their feet. To testify against those who were offended. To not change the message to what people would want to hear so as to keep the peace. To to preach the message of repentance. To preach that they are lost in their sins and dead in themselves.

We’re not comfortable with the way Jesus comes. Whether it’s in water or bread and wine or His servants. People don’t want what Jesus offers, because they prefer their comfort zone. The people from His hometown had gotten comfortable with the Jesus they knew. That’s the Jesus they wanted. Not the Jesus that came to them with what He had in mind. Some of the people the apostles preached to had gotten comfortable with preachers that affirmed them for who they were.

We Christians tend to get comfortable with Jesus. Why do we need to rely on our Baptism? Why do we need to wake each morning with the knowledge that we are by nature sinful and unclean, that we deserve nothing good from God? That daily we need to drown to our sinful flesh and repent of our sins? Why do we need to examine ourselves and acknowledge our need for Christ and His sacrifice of His Body and Blood, His giving of His very Body and Blood to us in His Holy Supper?

Jesus has no interest in just offending us. His purpose is not to tick us off. He wants to wake us up. He wants us to see. He wants us to know that we’re in a world of hurt in our comfort zone. The only way He can do that is by telling us what we need to hear. That’s what brings us to repentance. Jesus isn’t just any old person. He’s not just a person we can feel comfortable with. He’s our Lord. He’s our Savior. He comes to take us out of the comfortable life we have and give us new life.

Life in which we serve one another and care for one another. Caring and loving enough to risk offending them. That doesn’t give us license to needlessly offend others. We aren’t to be harsh with others just because we’re right. Speaking the truth is loving, but we must also do it in love. The only way this can be done is in humility, knowing that we ourselves deserve nothing but judgment from God for how we act and the wicked thoughts that flow through our mind.

On this weekend in our nation we give thanks for freedom, with our celebration yesterday of Independence Day. We enjoy a wonderful blessing in being able to live in a country where there’s dynamic interchange of ideas and the privilege of having a say in how things will be run. We give thanks to God for this gift. But especially as Christians we see that any freedom given to us is ultimately an opportunity to serve others. And there is no greater freedom we have than that which comes not through living in a free country but through repentance. If we stay in the comfort zone of our sinful flesh we are bound up in sin, we have no freedom at all. But in repentance, in dying to sin, and being raised up to new life in forgiveness, we have freedom in which we are not bound by our sinful desires.

We see Jesus for who He is. He is our Lord and Savior. He loves us. He is patient and kind. And His love is so far-reaching that He is willing to offend us. He is willing to call us to repentance so that we may see our sin and turn from it. He is ever willing to do this so that we may then see our Savior, Himself. When we look to the cross we will see there the Savior who was not offended by any means by His Father but was forsaken by Him. Eternal love for the world drove Him to suffer in such a way and the Heavenly Father to condemn His Son in our place. When we daily live in our Baptism we see the Savior who is bound up in our life, giving us His righteousness to live. When we partake of His Body and Blood in His Holy Meal we see the Savior and indeed receive Him, participating in His very life so that we may serve Him and live forever. Amen.


1 comment:

Jeff Caithamer said...

Excellent sermon, Paul! We so desperately need to hear that words of love often offend. And our saying of them isn't dependent on what will come of our saying of them, but rather that they need to be said. And you made that very clear. Thank you for your words and for proclaiming God's Word, all of it!