Rev. Todd Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Trinity 5 (July 12, 2009)
For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE
TITLE: “Follow Me”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel lesson just read.
In our readings today we have the ongoing theme in the Scriptures of how very different God’s work is from our work. He works differently than us. He has different priorities. What we see as victory he sees as failure, and what we look at as a loss he sees as gain.
Let’s start with Elijah. Elijah was in the midst of a theo-political battle. There was a war going on for the hearts and minds of the people of Israel. The war was between God and Ba’al, the false god of the Canaanites and the other locals. When Elijah looked around, he saw death, devastation, he saw loss at every turn. When Elijah looked around, from his perspective he was completely and totally alone. There was no growth in God’s Kingdom. There was no victory. There was only the darkness of night before him. God revealed Himself to Elijah in a still, small voice. He didn’t reveal himself in the rushing mighty wind or the great thunder. He revealed himself in the lowliest and the least. That’s how God works, you see. He isn’t interested in making a show. He wants to make a difference, to actually change things. We’ll get back to this in a minute.
Our second picture is of Paul and the Church at Corinth. In Corinth they were struggling with charismatics, or something like it. They thought that speaking in tongues, miracles and great and mighty shows of God’s power were at the heart of the message of the Gospel. So Paul starts his letter of with two words to describe the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins. Here they are:
The Gospel, says Paul, is foolishness to the Greeks, who seek after wisdom. In other words, if you come to church expecting to have all of the answers handed to you, I’m afraid you will be sorely disappointed. There are many who come through these doors, just like they did in Corinth. They wanted the answers to all of life’s tough questions. You know the questions, or at least some of them. Why do some live and others die? How am I to behave in a world that seems like it is going down faster than the stock market? How do I raise my children? How do I provide for my future and the future of my family? There are so many questions that it is hard to even make a list. For the Greeks, if your theological or philosophical world couldn’t provide neat and tidy answer to these and the rest of life’s questions, then it was suspect and probably faulty.
That’s the first term for the Corinthians. Foolishness. The other term besides foolishness that Paul uses is the word stumbling block. The word is pretty easy to understand. You are looking so far forward that you aren’t paying attention to what is under your feet. You trip. You aren’t aware of your surroundings, and maybe at where you are going and how you actually get there. In the context of Corinth, what this means is that the Jews wanted signs, miracles, and a great show from God so that He would prove His existence and will for them. They were not satisfied with the voice of His Holy Word. They wanted more, always more. Like Elijah, while they believed they had the Word, they were so busy looking for something more they missed the Gift that was right in front of them all along.
So these three pictures all bring us to the Gospel. The persecuted Elijah, the foolishness of the Greeks and the stumbling block of the Jews all point to Jesus calling the disciples, while He taught them in the boat. The people pressed in to hear Jesus preach. It was unclear yet whether they would stumble, be fools, or think themselves to be God’s only agent for change. Jesus preached, and then they went out into the deep for a catch of fish. Against the odds, even for fishermen, they took in a large catch of fish. Simon Peter recognized at once that something amazing had happened. God was in their midst even though they had not know it for sure before. He confesses his sin, and Jesus tells Peter and the others that they will now be fishers of men. They left everything behind and followed Him. They became the disciples, the followers.
So, those are our texts for the day. So which are you? Do you feel alone, persecuted, and as if you are the only one who really understands God? Are you angry or in despair because you don’t have all the answers that you want from God? Or do you have a hard time finding God in the normalcy and ordinariness of the divine service, where God delivers His Word and Sacraments to you week after week? Do you long for something more exciting, more seemingly powerful and wonderful than the regularness of God’s gifts?
Whichever one you are, it comes from a false view of who God is and what you expect of this place. God draws you to this place to do mighty things. He draws you into these walls to forgive your sins, to bring you into a community of sinners who are redeemed by the Gospel, who receive from Him the true wisdom, and who find God where He promises to be found. That’s a lot. God brings you here. You don’t bring yourself, even though it may feel that way sometimes. But it is God who draws you here.
God doesn’t call you to an idea or a philosophy, some sort of wisdom like the Greeks would have. He certainly doesn’t call you to be the spiritual lone ranger, out to change the world. Nor does He call you to with thunder and lightening, with a mighty show to be wowed by His power. The Gospel isn’t an idea. It isn’t a mission. It isn’t a show. The Gospel is Jesus Christ. God calls you to be a disciple, to follow Him into death and resurrection. You won’t get all the answers, but you will be with THE answer. You won’t be the lone ranger, but you will be a part of something far greater than yourself. And the show won’t be everything to meet the eye, but it will be mighty and more powerful than anything else.
So this day, as we rejoice again in His gifts of the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation, rejoice and be glad, dearly beloved of God. He brings you to this place to comfort you in the bosom of His Holy Church. He comes now to teach you what you need to know to obtain eternal life. He delivers Himself to you in the voice of His Word and preaching. Don’t be distracted by the things of this world, by matters which may appear important but will drag you away from Him, and by a greater show than what He has to give. This is the place, dearly baptized. It all happens here. Come to the feast. Amen.
And now may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith unto life everlasting. Amen.