Sermon for Sexagesima Sunday - Luke 8:4-15
My greatest fear as a pastor is that my people will always want to hear something other than Jesus. My greatest fear as a man is for Christ to make me so weak, that all I can seek is Jesus. Weakness being the worst thing you could ever imagine to pray for. We always pray for strength. I’ve asked this week for you to pray for strength for me and Pastor Tim, our communities, as we try and shepherd this us all through tragedy. Because we as children of God want to be strong. All of us. Not just pastors. We want to stand courageous. Be rocks and fortresses all throughout our lives. People to lean on. Never thinking that in reality we need to be weak.
Amos deals with that here. The people of Samaria, the Northern tribes, were looking for another god. They crafted their gods out of gold, not much different from us today. They felt these were easier to control. A god we make in our image, or in the image of whatever becomes a god that does everything we want. A silent god. A god who has a mouth but can’t speak. Ears but can’t hear. Eyes but can’t see. So the Lord pronounces a curse. “You think you are strong and noble on your own? Well I will remove my Word from you. You will go seeking it everywhere and not find it. Because you refuse to humble yourselves and find it in me.”
Paul finds himself in the same place. He is hurt. Destroyed by a church he helped build. The Corinthian church was one of his babies. He loved them. But between 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians, “Super-pastors” have come in to drive a wedge between Paul and the people of Corinth. These “super-pastors” have painted a picture of Paul as weak and useless. And weakness and uselessness aren’t good for the church or for the Gospel, they say. Paul is left as a pariah. So, he pens this second letter. He spends his time speaking of boasting, and what these “super-pastors” offer up as their credentials. And he tries to form a picture for us of the reality of the work of God in you. In Paul. Paul’s credentials being a whole list of what the world would call failure. A whole list of pain, suffering, no fruit, imprisonment. Who could ever want a short, bald, disfigured pastor with a rap-sheet?
Then he gives to us this little jab at these “super-pastors.” The “super-pastor” coming in and telling these ridiculous stories that we all fall for. “I once went up into the third heaven and heard the voice of God, so I have special revelation for you. O, look at me.” Stories that look great on the resume. That pad the credentials so all the call committees are impressed. And Paul then gives his credentials – “ I am such a bad pastor, that God gave me a thorn in the flesh. This weakness. This pain. This reputation. I begged God to take it from me so I could be a good pastor. An awesome pastor. A big-deal pastor. Basically, a Jesus-less pastor. And God only gave me one response – My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Because a pastor, not even a pastor, a Christian whose life consists of our accomplishments and great wonders, is a Jesus-less Christian. A Christian with no need for an external word. No need of Christ to come and forgive sin. No need for the blood of the Lamb. No need for the Sower to come and so the seed in you. You are perfect with you. With your “god” you have made. Not wanting a Jesus-God. You find comfort in a Me-god that will always fail you.
Because, for lack of a better picture, you and I? We’re dirt. That’s it. In 11 days you will get your ash in church. You will be here because I am telling you to be here. March 6, 2019. Put it on your calendars. Ash Wednesday. Beginning of Lent. Today is Sexagesima Sunday. Next week is Quinquagesima. Then Ash Wednesday. We count these days. 60 or so. 50 or so. Then Lent. Ashes. Mourning. Frailty. Weakness. Because we need Christ. We need the end of this tunnel. A Jesus who chooses weakness. Death. In order to bring life to you and to me. In order to make you and I, these weak little humans, raised to new life strong in his blood.
The church is a dangerous place. The grace. The Gospel. A dangerous thing. Christ tells us it is cast about willy-nilly. A sower throwing seed all over because he’ll take his chances. The Word being dangerous because we never know when it will take root. The Word bringing us to our knees. A Word that calls us sinner; dead in sin. That calls us creature. That calls us weak. Small. Dirt. But then also calls us beloved. Saints. Saved. Children of God. Strong in Christ. Living dirt. Dirt that has breath breathed into it by God. By the Spirit.
The absence of the word can lead to these “super-pastors.” One’s who will tell you all you want to hear. I will never do that to you. I love you too much. Instead, I will call you my beloved dirty little sinners, in need of the Word of God each day. Because the Word kills us, and brings us to life in Christ. It makes us small and vulnerable so that Christ may be the biggest Savior you could ever want. It makes grace this thing that is necessary for you. You deserving nothing of the Jesus you need and yet he stoops low to shed his blood and give you himself to eat. The Word becoming for you this death of all your supposed strength, that in your weakness, the Word might take root in you. To know that life will come along to hurt you, to destroy even, but if the Word has already done that, if you are already this dirt in need of life, then no sin can assail you. No death can claim victory over you. For by his Word you are weak so he might be strong in you. You becoming nothing so he might be your everything. Thanks be to God. Amen.