The video of this sermon being preached appears at the bottom of the post.
This morning’s reading from the gospel according to Luke, his account of the ministry of John the Baptist and remarkably brief telling of the baptism of Jesus, starts with a litany of governmental leaders. Luke tells us who all the powerful people are in the Roman world and in the regions that will be important in Jesus’ ministry – Judea, and Galilee, and more. He mentions by name not only the governmental leaders of the leaders of the Jewish community who work in some relationship with the governmental leaders, a relationship that will become important to remember several years later when all of these empire leaders conspire to put Jesus to death.
Luke starts with this time stamp and this recognition of the “powers and principalities,” but then very quickly pivots and in the same sentence says the word of God came not to these, but to John, the son of Zechariah, who was in the wilderness. The word of God, Luke is telling us, the words that John delivered, the ministry he was about, is for and among the people of God. John’s words that we heard, and will hear more about, are kind of harsh, right? They do not tiptoe around and make the people feel good. They do not allow the people who hear them simply to cast judgement on the evil empire or those corrupt rulers in Rome (or liars in Washington) and absolve themselves from any guilt. They confront us, and they call us to listen up and pay attention. This repentance stuff starts at home.
At the playground once with my children, I saw a dad waiting with his son for some space to clear up on the jungle gym. The only parent in that area, while helping his son wait patiently, he also helped some other children make their way safely to the top. Even after his little boy had reached the high platform he kept helping the others, spotting them so a potential fall wouldn’t be so dangerous, giving a hand to steady them if they got a little wobbly. Another dad came jogging up when he saw his daughter getting some assistance. He thanked the first dad and apologized for not being there, but the first dad simply smiled and shrugged, “Hey, we’re all in this together!” Continue reading
Romans is Paul’s longest letter. He has a LOT to tell the church in Rome. Either they have a lot of questions or he has heard a lot of, shall we say, interesting versions of theology coming from the community. Whatever it is he has a lot to say to them.
Some of the things he says are the basics, spelled out simply, but also beautifully. We heard last week, “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (5:8) Other things, like the things we will hear today are teachings that take it to the next level.
I imagine this week’s reading as a sort of answer to an unspoken question – – only I imagine it spoken. I have heard it spoken – in conversations with confirmation students year after year, in Bible studies with women around that library table back there, in coffee shops and airplane seats when someone with some bones to pick with the church finds out what it is I do. The question is this, see if you’ve ever asked it, “So if Jesus goes to such great lengths to save us, if God loves us so much that God’s going to forgive any sin we have anyway, why not just keep on living the fun life? Why bother to be good anyway? We’ll get forgiveness for our sins anyway, won’t we?” Continue reading