Saturday, July 05, 2008

Which Christ? Sermon for Pentecost 8

Which Christ? // Zechariah 9 and Saint Mark 9


Over several evenings this past week I enjoyed watching a DVD entitled John Adams. It is a mini series about the development of our nation, as seen through the eyes and the life actions of the second president of our nation. This being the Independence Day holiday we should consider the perceptions we hold about our founding. As for me, and maybe you as well – the framing of our Constitution, the development of a free society and the establishment of our government – well, I thought it to be filled with the same joy and frivolity with which we celebrate the 4th. If however this series, based on a biography of John Adams, is anywhere close to the truth – the work of our founding fathers was one of frustration, loss, frailty, wrongdoing, selfish indulgence and all manner of less than 4th of July type ideals.

I raise this question of how it was to point you to a great question of how it is with you and with your faith in Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God for those who endured hardship and persecution – for by it we have a free nation to this day. Thanks be to God that we have been given faith to believe that our Lord Jesus Christ is the creations Savior from the consequence of sin and of the prison of death.

There are two texts I would like you to consider today. One written in the Prophet Zechariah, the other in the Gospel of Saint Mark, chapter 9.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.”

Both define and describe the Lord Jesus. Which Christ is the Christ for you? Which of these would you have be your Lord? I will admit that this is trick question. Yet, knowing that -- take a moment to honestly answer the query. Where would your heart fall? Does it side with the humble or the high? Will it take its home with power or with poverty? Does the soul of a fallen humanity seek a cross or glory?

Truly, examine your heart and life. We all know, what I call the Sunday School answer – the cross, of course. We search out the Jesus of humility and service. What then of the action of your lives, mine, as well. Sinful human beings seek glory. Brett might be back. Glory. Promotion at work. Glory. Pride. Glory. Vanity. Glory. Achievement and advancement. Glory. Having the best life now. Glory.

A twist on a commercial you all know. Worldly fame and advancement, the cost of time with your family. Worldly gain, price, often your conscience. Self-righteousness? Worthless.

An honest evaluation of life and priority must lead us to conclude that though we confess the right answer of cross, our lives more often reveal our true desire – Glory.

This is the sad and eternally condemnable situation in which all find themselves. Human nature is such that it seeks its own glory and shuns all that is contrary to glory. Saint Paul reminds you of the struggle that ensues,

“The good that I would I do not and that which I do not want to do, this I do”

Endeavor as you will to lead a selfless life, before God and before the world. At the end of the day – we still must admit our failure. Acts on behalf of others are often motivated by self interest. And good intention before the Throne of the Almighty God, does not stand.

The best of intention, here we find Peter in the account of the transfiguration. I will build three shelters…Peter is reveling in the glory that is revealed. Here is the glory of the coming Kingdom of the Christ! Let us remain here. We must not return the plain, for down there the world seeks to turn us away, to reject – to kill. The way of the cross is no way for the King of Heaven. Glory.

The Triumphal Procession – the crowd seeks to make Jesus a king – perhaps a king as the world sees kings. Glory. The prophecy in Zechariah is here fulfilled, but it is not fulfilled as mankind would have it accomplished.

Again, in the garden, Peter takes up his sword to thwart the cross. Malchus, the guard, his cleaved ear lay in the dirt. Glory.

Consider the other avenue; that which Jesus the Christ walks. His is a path of willingness and obedience. He does not seek the glory of His own will. Rather, His will is subservient to that of God the Father. Where Adam and Eve sought to fulfill their glory seeking will over against that of God, their and our, Creator - Jesus Christ seeks the humility of obedience. Here in lies the difference. Glory is not as the world offers it – glory is found when we fulfill the will of our God.

And it was the will of God, that Jesus Christ, confessed by Peter and the others, as recorded in the Gospel of last Sunday, would suffer and die. No glory, only cross. This desire and plan of God is not a confession of His inability to redeem you and His beloved creation. It is instead, a confession of the great love that He has for you. We would seek to do it differently. That thought betrays our sinful desire for power and authority that belongs to God alone.

There was no other way that God would be satisfied. Sin calls for the shedding of blood. Sin must be punished – or God is not God. And in this seeming contradiction you must see the love that is given you. Love for you allowed the Father to offer His Son. Love for you moved the Son to offer His life as a sacrifice for your sin, and that of the whole world. Humility, obedience, yes, even suffering and death – here we see real glory revealed. It is by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – that the Father’s expectation of righteousness and holiness is fulfilled.

Glory is yours in abundance. You possess it even now. Your world and life may not be all that you desire. Take heart. Your success may not be success as the world defines success. Your glory – that is the glory granted you in Christ – this is hidden. It will be revealed in fullness at the coming again of our Lord Jesus at the Last Day.

Although, you endure the pains of suffering and struggle – The LORD offers glory in and through the gifts of His Church on earth. In, and among you is the glory of God. Common bread – Christ gives His body as the assurance of the forgiveness of sin. Everyday wine – the shed blood of Christ that drowns death. Simple words – read and preached - that speak and create the Truth of the grace of Christ in your lives. Water, so often taken for granted, gives life eternal, as the words and promises of God declare. You, like Peter, John and James witness the revealing of the glory of God, right here in the Divine Service.

This glory that is revealed to you is also revealed in you. There is a world filled with the consequence of sin and death. You hold within you by God’s Holy Spirit – the glory that can and does overcome such corruption. As you share this grace – for God’s glory is His grace – the Father bless you to the end that you bear the cross of Christ, faithfully. The glory of the Kingdom is here – pray earnestly for it complete revealing – when the King of Glory Jesus Christ returns. Amen.


Peter said...

Yep, we like glory; we are just a bunch of enthusiasts like our father, Adam. We want what's best for us, rather than seeing what God is doing for us in Jesus Christ. Unpacking God's salvation history as it unfolds throughout the Scriptures is the humble task as opposed to the glorious task of basking in limelight. Thankfully, Jesus walked the path of the theology of the cross rather than that of the theology of glory.

Pastor Kelly J. Leary said...

thanks for the support, Peter.