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Sermon for July 8, 2018

Mark 6:7-13 (Seventh Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 9—Series B)

“Proclaiming Repentance”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

July 8, 2018

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

Our text is the Gospel lesson appointed for today recorded in Mark 6:

 

7And [Jesus] called together the Twelve and He began to send them out with a commission two by two and He gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8And He ordered them that they should take nothing on the way except only a staff—not bread, not a leather pouch, not money for their belts—9but shod with sandals and not to wear two tunics. 10And He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, remain there until you go out from there. 11And whatever place does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” 12And as they went out, they preached that people should repent now. 13And they threw out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

 

          According to Grammarist.com, “The adjective immoral means contrary to established moral principles. Immoral actions are corrupt, unethical, sinful, or just wrong. Amoral means (1) neither moral nor immoral, or (2) lacking moral sensibility. So while immoral and amoral might share a little common ground, there is a clear distinction: immoral things are bad, and amoral things are either neutral from a moral perspective or simply removed from moral considerations.”[1] Even a superficial study of our culture and society will reveal that you and I are living not in an immoral culture, but a culture that is amoral. Things are simply removed from moral consideration because the culture says that there is no absolute truth. All truth, then, is relative. It’s my truth and your truth. “Truth” is whatever an individual says it is.

          This has developed a society and culture without moral standards, with no moral compass. There is no absolute “right” and “wrong.” If I say that this behavior is “wrong,” the culture counters and says, “In your truth it is wrong, but in my truth it is right. Therefore, it is right for me and is okay and you can’t say otherwise because, in our world, all truth is subjective and relative.” It is a refrain from the Book of Judges once again, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Jdg. 17:6 ESV).

          It is in the midst of this amoral culture that the Church continues the mission given to her by her Lord Jesus Christ. We as the Church in this place live and serve a culture and society in which homosexual AND heterosexual immorality run rampant: unchecked lust for sexual pleasures, the use of pornography (which according to a June 5 Gallup poll 43% of Americans say is morally acceptable). Men have sex with men and women with women. Men and women are having sex with each other, with multiple partners, outside the bonds of marriage between one man and one woman until death us do part.

But amoral sexuality isn’t the only issue. People are filled with hate for other people. People lie and gossip about each other. They boast about themselves, are all puffed up, “I’m better than you are.” Murder, rage, cheating, stealing, putting other people down so that you get ahead, “It’s nothing personal; it’s just business.” In a culture with no moral compass and no moral standard, look at what you get! Do you like what you see and hear in our society? How many of you regularly tell me that you can’t watch the news anymore because of the condition of the culture and the amoral life that society has chosen to live?

What, then, shall we, the Church, say to these things? “Well, it’s okay, to each his or her own”? “Live and let live?” That’s not being any different from the culture and society that we have been called out from to be the Church. St. Paul in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world.” The Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 1:14, “Do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.” What, then, shall we say to the people in our culture? How about, “Repent, now!”

Oh, no! We couldn’t! That just wouldn’t be right. They would get upset and offended if we said that their “truth” wasn’t really the truth. Repent, now? No, we just can’t.

But we must.

Whether or not somebody believes it personally, there is an absolute and objective reality and truth. That truth is that the reign and rule of God has broken into a world of sin to undo what the devil, the world, and the sinful flesh have done and to save people from sin and eternal death. Mark’s Gospel begins with this very truth. “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The due time is fulfilled, and the reign and rule of God has drawn near and is now hand; repent and believe in the gospel, now”’ (Mk. 1:14-15). Jesus in Mark 6 commissions the Twelve to go out in His name and preach that people should repent now and trust in the gracious reign and rule of God that has come in the person and work of Jesus. That same commission belongs to all believers in Jesus as He sends us out into the world in order to make disciples by baptizing and teaching all the things He has commanded us. And that includes repentance.

“Repent” implies that sin, a wrong, has occurred and that a change, literally, a turning around, must take place. Sin is literally “to miss the mark.” It is to “fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Think of playing a game of darts. You want to hit the bulls-eye. “Missing the mark” isn’t missing to the right or the left of the bulls-eye. It isn’t missing above or below. “Missing the mark” means your dart didn’t even make it to the board. It fell short, on the ground, in front of the board. So all people fall short before God. We sin. We do the wrong He has commanded us in His Word not to do. We fail to do the good which He desires. All people have missed the mark and the penalty isn’t a poor score. It’s eternal death in hell.

So we ALL need to be brought to repentance, now. But you might say to yourself, “Who am I to call another person to repentance?” You are a baptized Christian with a commission to make disciples. You are a baptized Christian with a God-given mission to bring to those who need to come under the reign and rule of God in Christ the message of HIS Word, the message of Law and Gospel, of sin and grace.

As Christians, we in the Church must call sin what God’s Word has called sin. God’s Word defines what “missing the mark” is, not the pastor, not the people. Sin isn’t a matter of my opinion or yours. God’s Word tells us what is sinful and what is not. HE sets the standard. HE sets the morality because it is HIS Word. And we find those do’s and don’ts, shoulds and should nots in His Word summarized in the Ten Commandments. Why are homosexuality and heterosexual sex outside of the marriage of one man and one woman sinful? Because it’s tradition? No! Because God’s Word says it is. Why is gossiping wrong? Because I say so? No! Because God’s Word says it is. Why is hurting my neighbor and failing to show him or her love and mercy wrong? Because it’s not nice? No! Because God’s Word says it is.

It is that Word of God’s Law that the Church must proclaim to people. If we do not know our condition and standing before the Holy God, what need do we have to be saved? But when we hear God’s Word that shows our sins, our “missing the mark,” we are crushed. We are brought low and realize that “I am not as God would have me to be. I have to become a different person.”[2]

That’s what it means to proclaim repentance. It means to present God’s Word of Law in such a way that the hearer says, “That’s me! I’ve missed the mark. I have sinned and deserve nothing but God’s wrath and punishment. I deserve death and hell! What am I going to do?” When that question gets asked, it is then time for the precious Gospel to be heard. “You aren’t going to do anything. Jesus, God’s Son, has already done everything necessary to save you from your sins, from death, and from the power of the devil. He died on a cross for you bearing all your sins and the sins of the whole world. Nailed to the cross, Jesus bore in His own body homosexual and heterosexual lust and immorality, gossip, hatred, lies, murders, theft, failure to love and to show mercy. All sins, every last one, Jesus bore as if they were His own as He suffered death and hell itself on the cross, paying the full penalty on your behalf. Receive as a gift the Gospel of the forgiveness of your sins and eternal life now!”

This is what it is to proclaim repentance and forgiveness in Jesus’ name to “all nations” (Lk. 24:47). We call other sinners into repentance even as we are called so that they might know what they are before God and acknowledge that they are lost, just as we confess about ourselves. They are in this way prepared to receive grace and to expect and accept from Christ the forgiveness of sins, just as we do through His Gospel and Sacraments. This preaching of repentance is what we do as the Church as we replicate Jesus’ ministry in our day and to our culture so that many more people might be brought under the gracious reign and rule of God’s kingdom.

But what if we are rejected? Better, what happens WHEN we are rejected? We follow the example given to the Twelve. Jesus knew then and He knows now that not all will receive the Good News of His forgiveness and life. They will choose to remain in their sin and unbelief. They will toss aside His Word of truth. They will reject His messengers—you and me—perhaps even with mocking, anger, offense, hatred, or with violence. Yet, trusting that the Lord of the Church, Jesus, goes with us in the power of the Holy Spirit, we proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in the precious name of Jesus. And when rejection comes, we simply in our own hearts and minds “shake off the dust from our feet.” We move on, knowing that those who will not hear are without the reign and rule of God in Jesus, but with a prayer that they might hear again the Word and their hearts be turned by the Spirit to receive faith and life in Christ.

Such is the mission of Christ’s Church on earth. It is the mission of this congregation of saints in Christ. We hear the Law and confess our sins. By the power of the Spirit, we are turned in repentance and faith receiving forgiveness and eternal life through the Gospel of Jesus in Word and Sacrament. Then we go. We go and proclaim with our lips the Word of truth, the Gospel of salvation. We announce repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. That’s the mission. The Lord of the Church through His Spirit will do the rest. Amen.  

 

[1] Grammarist. “Amoral vs. Immoral.” Accessed July 3, 2018, http://grammarist.com/usage/amoral-immoral.

[2] C.F.W. Walther, Law and Gospel: A Reader’s Edition (St. Louis: Concordia, 2010), 91.


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