No comments yet

Same Old, Same Old – a sermon – 2 Cor. 4:13

For the second week in a row, the sermon at Our Redeemer has been read by a layman of the congregation. Below are the assigned readings and the message he read.

Pentecost 3
June 10, 2018

Sermon: Same Old, Same Old
Text: 2 Corinthians 4:13
Theme: We proclaim the same faith that began in the Garden of Eden (The devil is about “new and improved,” God is about “tried and true,” when it comes to faith.)

Lections: Psalm 130 (7); Genesis 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20–35

Psalm 130 (antiphon: v. 7)
O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!
2 O LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the LORD
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
7 O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
8 And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.

O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.

Old Testament Genesis 3:8–15
8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 The LORD God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

Epistle 2 Corinthians 4:13—5:1
13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

5:1 For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Holy Gospel Mark 3:20–35
20 Then [Jesus] went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.

28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

 

Grace, mercy and peace be yours in the name of our Lord Jesus. Amen.

Today’s text is taken from our epistle lesson. I read again 2 Corinthians 4:13.

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak…

Here ends the reading of our text. May God add His blessings to the reading of His word. Amen.

In last week’s message, we had a chance to consider the Third Commandment. This was a natural thought because the Old Testament lesson was the Third Commandment. This week’s lessons, while not as obvious as last week’s readings, give us a chance to consider the Second Commandment.

In the translation found in our hymnal, that Commandment is: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord Your God.” Luther’s explanation is: “We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks” (LSB 321). That may not be the exact wording you learned when you were in your confirmation class, but you should recognize the same ideas, even if the words are not the same.

This commandment focuses us on God’s Name. In the Old Testament, God revealed His name as “Yahweh,” which means “I Am” (Exodus 3:13-15). In most English translations of the Bible, when you see the word “LORD” in all capital letters, the Hebrew being translated is “Yahweh.” In the New Testament God reveals the fullness of His grace with a new personal name: Jesus. “Jesus” means “Yahweh saves” (Matthew 1:21). Christians also confess that Jesus is Lord, which means “Jesus is Yahweh” (1 Corinthians 12:3). The simplest understanding of this Commandment is that we use these names properly. Improper use would be: carelessly using God’s name, such as in cursing in his name, calling God to be a witness to a lie, and the like. Proper use of his name would be: to pray to God, thank God for his many blessings, and the like.

That proper use begins with faith. One cannot properly use God’s name without faith in Him, specifically faith in Jesus. So, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also (John 14:6-7). To have faith in Jesus is to have faith in the Father. To reject faith in Christ is to reject faith in the Father. As far as that goes, to reject faith in Jesus is also to reject faith in the Holy Spirit. To put this another way, all those who claim to know God apart from Jesus are, at best, deceived. Those who teach some other way to God other than Jesus are teaching false doctrine. To put that in the words of Luther’s explanation of this Commandment, they are lying and deceiving by God’s name.

This is the consistent message of the Bible. For example, Saint Paul told the Corinthians, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:21). He wrote to the Galatians, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). Those are strong words! He is saying that those who preach something other than Jesus can go to hell!

While this is a Commandment for all believers, it is of special concern for all who preach. James wrote, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1). James is warning preachers to not lie or deceive in God’s name. So, the words of our Lord recorded in Matthew are a special warning to ministers: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Then there are the frightening words in Jeremiah, “Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the LORD.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the LORD, and who tell them and lead My people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:31-32). It is bad enough to believe false doctrine, but much worse is to teach it and lead others away from the truth of God in Christ Jesus.

So, while this commandment to not misuse the Lord’s name is for all, and certainly the words recorded by Moses, “the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain,” causes us all to examine how we use God’s name, it is a special warning to all who teach, either from a pulpit, or in a class, or in writing, or on the internet, or however (Exodus 20:7). Such teachers are called to teach and preach nothing new, but what has been revealed by God.

That is why today’s message is titled “Same Old, Same Old.” Christ’s Church proclaims the same story, the same old message, we have been teaching and proclaiming from the very beginning. Luther held to this so much that he could say that the entire Bible is contained in the Book of Genesis and that everything else in the Bible simply spells out and makes clearer what is revealed in that Book.

Words like “Law and Gospel” sum up the old, old story. Consider our Old Testament reading from Genesis. I know you recognize it as the tail end of the story of humanity’s fall into sin. The account picks up after Adam and Eve have sinned. Sin produces a desire to hide from God and to blame others for our own sin. Sin breaks the living relationship with God, producing death. This is all Law. But, in the midst of this, God promises Jesus. This is the offspring spoken of in verse 15. Satan will crush the heal of Jesus, which is the murder of our Lord on Good Friday. Jesus, though, will crush the head of Satan at the same time. This is the Gospel. Now we have the rest of the Bible to help us understand this prophecy, but it is right there in Genesis. Our hope for redemption, then, is presented immediately upon our fall into sin.

So, our Psalm today reminds us to “hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption” (Psalm 130:7). Remember, the LORD is the Lord Jesus. That redemption then is the redemption we have in Jesus, the promised offspring of Genesis 3. This is true especially when we are in desperate situations, like our Psalmist or Adam and Eve in our Genesis reading. In harmony with the Second Commandment, the Psalmist pleads for the Lord to hear his voice. The same old message is being proclaimed, the message of sin and redemption.

We see this in our Gospel lesson, where the Pharisees reject Christ and therefore are rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit. There is no Holy Spirit among those who do not know Jesus, just as there is no God the Father. Again, while the Trinity is taught in plainer words in later books, it is found in Genesis (Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 4:1-7). In Genesis one and two the noun translated as “God” is actually plural, though the verbs are singular. The plural noun reflects the Three Persons of the Trinity while the singular verbs reflect the unity of the Trinity. We also have the Father as the Creator, Jesus as the Word by whom all things were made, and the Holy Spirit over the face of the deep. So, we have the same old message of our Triune God in the very first pages of the Bible. The Bible doesn’t deviate, nor should we.

As we consider our Epistle lesson, we notice this same Second-Commandment accent of faithfulness to what has been revealed, faithfulness to Jesus, faithfulness to a Law and Gospel message. So, Paul directs us to “what has been written.” This directs us to faith in the True God, and a true message to preach. This true faith assures us that Jesus has been raised and that we find life in Him. That life never ends. The grace of God in Christ Jesus, then, extends to more and more people, causing us to give thanks to the Lord. Even when we face difficult times, we do not lose heart, for God surrounds us with His forgiveness, His mercy.

The impact of sin still clings. We still get sick. We still die physically. We still live in a sinful world, where there is misunderstanding and even betrayal. But Christ is also in this world, bringing forgiveness and redemption. His promise of an eternal home in heaven for all who trust in Him stands firm. This is our message, the message of God and His Church.

Let us circle back to the idea of our Sunday worship and especially the sermon. As it has been true in every generation, so it is true today, the preacher is tempted to pander to the congregation. There is the temptation to be “relevant” to be “trendy” to be “engaging.” But, to be honest, there is nothing more relevant than the Gospel. God’s Word is seldom in harmony with the latest trends, and when it is, that is so because the Gospel has become preeminent in the culture. And as far as “engaging” goes, the Law is always rejected by our Old Nature. No one likes to be called a failure, a sinner, a victim of the devil. The words of Saint John, “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us,” will never be welcomed by a sin-hardened heart (1 John 1:8). But once those words have done their work, the very next words of John are received as a wondrous gift from God: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). We are to preach that same old message.

This doesn’t mean that the pastor can’t preach a sermon about marriage. Of course he can, and should. But the message will illustrate sin and grace, and point us to Jesus. The same is true if the message is themed around vocation, or politics, or money, or whatever. If you want a medical view of this or that illness, go to a doctor. The pastor deals with the root cause of all illnesses: sin. A sermon about money should warn you that gold can easily become an idol, something we trust in instead of Jesus for our security. Don’t expect the pastor to tell you which stocks are going to go up or down in a sermon. That isn’t his calling, his job.

Now, a pastor may have ideas about such things; they may even be good ideas, but when he steps into the pulpit he is to proclaim the same old story that preachers have been proclaiming since Genesis. He will certainly seek to do this to the very best of his ability, but in the end, it is the content that counts, even if his presentation isn’t all that compelling. That content, to sum it up in one word, is “Jesus.” He is the answer to sin. He is the answer to our future. He is the one in whom we hope. He is the face of God. He is the subject of Genesis, He is the subject of Revelation, He is the subject of all the books in between. Jesus is who the Holy Spirit leads us to and through Jesus we know the Father. A preacher who seeks to remain faithful to the Second Commandment must remember this.

I’m reminded of that 19th Century hymn, “I Love to Tell the Story”:

I love to tell the story
Because I know ’tis true
It satisfies my longings
As nothing else can do

I love to tell the story
For those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting
To hear it like the rest

And when in scenes of glory
I sing the new, new song
‘Twill be the old, old story
That I have loved so long

Yes, to honor the Second Commandment, the preacher preaches the same old story the Church has always proclaimed. Amen.

May the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

Post a comment