7th Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
He marveled at their unbelief. [Mark 6:6a]
Last month the principal of a Rochester, N.Y., charter school reportedly refused to allow the school’s first-ever black valedictorian deliver a graduation speech. The high school graduate cited a poor relationship throughout the years with the principal and claimed that was the reason he was denied a chance to speak.
A Connecticut man who was assaulted by three juveniles while at work has been sentenced to prison for stabbing one of the attackers. [The man] was working at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Norwalk last October when he was jumped by three males. During the assault, [he] stabbed one of them in the leg.
A Texas mother said she didn’t think twice about shooting a would-be carjacker when the man jumped into her vehicle at a Dallas gas station while her two sons were in the backseat. “I’m not a killer but I do believe in defending what’s mine,” the mother of two said. “I hope that woke him up.”
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I marvel at these and other unbelievable acts; acts such as war, murder and hate. For an advanced civilization, we are woefully backwards in our humanity. We have been given the gifts of our Creator to heal the sick, feed millions and even explore the solar system and beyond. Yet we still decline in our morality to our basest of forms.
It is a wonder we still exist. In the past, when our ancestors reached equal pinnacles of depravity and degeneracy, the mighty hand of God brought flood to all the earth destroying all humankind except for eight souls. As it is written in Genesis chapter 6:
And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” [Genesis 6:13]
Later, God rained down fire from the heavens on the cities and peoples of Sodom and Gomorrah because, “…the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord.” [Genesis 13:13]
This past week, as we celebrate the independence of our nation from those who would oppress our inalienable rights of life, liberty and the freedom to worship the One True God, we marvel at the unbelief of this world. This unbelief (of the Triune God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, not being in command of all creation) has come into the world through our sin. The unbelief that God is not the almighty, all-powerful God, who commands the heavens and the earth, is the downfall of the human race.
In the days of Ezekiel, God would send His prophet into the midst of unbelievers and say:
“Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. For they are impudent and stubborn children. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse—for they are a rebellious house—yet they will know that a prophet has been among them. [Ezekiel 2:3-5]
We are the children of God who have become a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Him. We transgress against Him to this very day.
In the past, at various times and in various ways, God spoke to the fathers by the prophets. [Hebrews 1:1] When Christ came into the world as God incarnate, he spoke directly to his people with all authority and glory.
God no longer speaks to us through prophets. Christ no longer walks the earth according to his human nature. Now we have the Holy Spirit, given to us by Christ to guide us and counsel us. We have the Holy Scriptures, which reveal that which God desires us to hear and proclaim.
When a student completes his work at the seminary, or should I say, when seminary completes God’s work in the student, that student is given a ‘call’. This means that some church desires a pastor and asks to have one provided for them from the seminary.
This process is labeled a ‘call’ but I find it more apt to be defined as a ‘sent’. That is, the newly formed pastors do not have much choice in the ‘call’ and are sent by the selection of a board of clergy at the seminary.
Now, to where the newly formed pastor will be sent is not known to the candidates for ministry. In a formal ceremony, the name of the pastor is called out and the destination of his new parish is announced.
My name was called and Polson and St. Ignatius, MT. were given to me as my new home. I was certainly happy to return to my old stomping grounds but then today’s Gospel reading came into my mind. I grew up in the Flathead valley and all I could think about was how I would be received in my hometown.
I imagined people making the same comments and asking the same questions as they did in Nazareth. “Who is this guy? Don’t we know his parents? I knew him and his brother; they lived down the road from me. Why should we listen to him?”
We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. [Romans 3:23] This is why we believe that our salvation comes from Christ alone and not from any man. Therefore, it does not matter who my father was or who my brothers and sisters are or even who I am because it is the Holy Spirit given to you by the grace and mercy of God our Father through the saving sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ who now saves you.
I stand before this assembly now to proclaim the Word of the Lord Our God. I am no prophet. That time is past. However, all of us can see what is happening around us and it takes no prophet to see that it is going to get worse. We hope it will not take the shooting of a gun or the stabbing from a knife to wake up. Do not be caught off guard, do not be caught sleeping, do not be caught in unbelief.
St. Peter and St. Paul warn us that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. When people declare peace and safety, then sudden destruction comes upon them and they shall not escape. [1 Thessalonians 5:2-3] We are not of the darkness that envelopes this world. We are not in darkness because we are children of light. Therefore, Paul tells us, do not sleep as others do, but watch and be sober.
“…let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.” [1 Thessalonians 5:8-10]
The hope of salvation is in Christ alone. We cannot extricate ourselves from our sinful condition. The shadow of sin and death covers the earth and we have no place in which to escape. These bodies of flesh and blood will decay or be destroyed by the sin into which we are born.
The same God and Lord of all creation, the same God and Lord who saved a remnant of His people through the destruction of the flood, this same God and Lord sent His only Son into this dark, dark world to bring us the light of salvation. Though blind in our sin, we see through Christ Jesus. He came into our flesh and blood to be slaughtered by our sin. This was the sacrifice given for our atonement so that we would be declared forgiven and enjoy the righteousness of God’s heavenly kingdom.
Jesus Christ is the same God and Lord of all creation. He was in the beginning and he is God. Jesus Christ is our hope of salvation. Our body and blood fail us, but his body and blood heals us. Our wisdom deceives us; God’s wisdom preserves us. Do not marvel in your unbelief but know that Our Redeemer lives! Sin, Death and the Devil have no power over us. We belong to Christ Jesus.
The Gospel according to Mark says that Jesus went about among the villages teaching. [Mark 6:6b]
“And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. …So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent.” [Mark 6:7, 12]
You also have been called by Jesus. You too have been sent out in his authority by the Holy Spirit. You are to proclaim the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. You are to go about among the villages teaching all that the Lord God has commanded you.
All the honor and glory will be to God even in your own hometown and your household.
And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:
“Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!” [Revelation 5:13]