Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — Vanity’s Promise of Pleasure and the Deification of the Human Will to Choose It.

Text: Luke 9:51-62
Day: Pentecost 6 (Proper 8) June 30, 2013


Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  AMEN!  Our text for this morning’s/evening’s sermon is taken from St. Luke’s gospel account the 9th chapter (Luke 9:51-62).

Beloved in the Lord,

A       Set His face to Jerusalem

Steadfast Sermons GraphicJerusalem is the city of destination.  It is the city of the King.  For this reason Jesus was born.  For this reason Jesus has come into the world.  He is a king, but He is a king like no other.  His kingdom is not of this world.  Therefore He does not rule this world as we would expect.  His is the Kingdom of God and in the Kingdom of God the Word of God has pre-eminence.  The Word is King.  The Word reigns.

Men however do not care much for words, nor for kings who suffer them.  Thus Jesus must set His face towards Jerusalem.   With each step south He walks toward the storm of God’s wrath and men’s rejection, a storm brewing since the dawn of sin in the garden.  There in Jerusalem God’s law will thunder against Jesus for the sins of the World.  Jew and Gentile will strike the Son like a bolt of lightning.  Rome will set the King to a wooden throne.  Zion’s priest will wag their tongues in mockery.  God’s justice and men’s rejection of the Word will cross.  And Jesus will hang between.  Men of this world do not care for words nor kings who suffer them but Jesus cares for all and offers Himself through His Word for salvation.

Jerusalem is the city of destination, and to get there Jesus chooses to pass through Samaria. Passing through He sends His disciples on ahead to prepare the way.  The King of the Jews is coming.  But Samaritans have no love for Jews, let alone their messianic king.  Hearing of Jesus’ destination they turn against the Word, refuse to listen and send them on their way.

B       Rejecting Jesus’ Word

How is our day, our nation any different?  Messengers have gone out.  The Word is preached and the Word is rejected.  Rejecting the Word our World rejects Jesus.  Rejecting Jesus our world is left in its sin. And a world left in sin is a world left in misery choosing for itself destruction over life and perversity over purity.  Rather than follow the Savior to Jerusalem and stand beneath the cross of His salvation we have instead chosen the illusion of autonomy.  Humanity chooses to follow itself, the whims of its heart.  Without God’s Word and Spirit this is the only choice we will ever choose.  Humanity is bound up in sin and death. Using the language of choice and equality autonomy gives way to self-destruction as all authority is surrendered to the human will.  The Human will therefore is deified and Eden’s curse is imposed from within ourselves.

True tyranny will not be imposed by despotic governments or religious fanatacis or supreme court decisions but under the guise of pursuing happiness we will voluntarily choose it as we seek vanity’s promise of pleasure.  Pleasuring ourselves we hurt and harm our neighbor for now they have become a means to our end.  Life becomes a struggle for power.  Power is used to pursue that which God calls evil. The perverse pursuit of evil as though it were good undermines and negates itself.  A life of un-repented sin, a life bound up with self is neither healthy nor fruitful.  It is sick unto death, barren, and lonely.  Such is of a demonic spirit.  The satanic goal “is to reverse the strategy of providence, which is to bring good out of evil.  Attempting to confound the divine plan, the demons devise an anti-providence and plot to bring evil out of good.” [endnote 1]

We see this in our world, our culture, our courts, but we often fail to see this in ourselves.  We too have been deceived by the illusion of autonomy and the pursuit of happiness.  Though we may not indulge in such unnatural immorality, we often exhibit a spirit contrary to that of Jesus.  Rather than go into the world and proclaim the kingdom of God calling the peoples to repentance, rather than suffer the burden of love for our neighbor serving them through works of mercy, rather than speaking the truth in love pointing anxious hearts to Christ, like the pious Jews of so long ago many today would avoid Samaria altogether, passing by on the east side of the Jordan and withdraw from the world we live in.  Or, Like James and John, many others would have Jesus call down fire from heaven and bring judgment upon our adversaries. However, Jesus’ actions and His Words in our text rebuke both.  Such things are really of a different spirit, a spirit unlike that of Jesus.

C       The Son of Man has come to Save (not destroy)

Jesus has not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them. He’s not come to judge humanity but to give His life as a ransom for many, a ransom for all.  Humanity is bound up in an illusion, a false reality, a lie, a deception, one which often feels good but nevertheless leads to death.  You and I share in this world’s illusions when we sin, when we choose for ourselves what is right and what is wrong, when we adopt the language of choice and autonomy rather than the Word of the living God.  Jesus’ Word and Works call us away from such things.  He sets His face toward Jerusalem.  There in Jerusalem Jesus surrenders His autonomy and submits to the Father’s will for the sake of your salvation.  He does not choose the pleasures of this world nor does He pursue the perversities of power.   Rather, like a lamb led to slaughter He is silent.  He embraces the evil of this world in order to share His righteousness with those who believe on His Name, a gift available to all the world.

Thus, the face set toward Jerusalem offers His beard for the plucking, His back for smiting, His flesh for breaking and His blood for shedding.  Evil has its way with love incarnate.  The inevitable end of sin is death for that is sin’s wages.  Therefore the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world dies. He suffers sin’s end. He bleeds iniquities wages. He offers Himself on behalf of the world; for the Samaritans who rejected Him, for the Priests who condemned Him, for the Romans who crucified Him, for the disciples who denied Him or betrayed Him, for you and me and for all who fail him. There are none for whom Jesus does not die.  Dying He destroys sin.  Destroying sin He shatters the mirrors we lust to gaze upon and gives us the image of our salvation in His Cross.  With sin dead in His death, Jesus rises to vanquish all the powers of hell.  The devil is damned. Evil is defeated.  And the way of Salvation bursts from the tomb on the third day.  The daughters of Zion too often captivated with doubt and despair are given angelic Words of hope, “He’s not here, He’s risen!”

B’      A Spirit of Power and Of Love

These Words are poured into the heart of all who believe and are baptized into Christ Jesus.  The spirit that once was, the spirit of deceit and illusion and autonomy, the old Adam with whom we are all conceived and born, is drowned; crucified with Christ.  And the New is raised with Christ.  Rising out of the waters the baptized receive a new spirit, a clean spirit, the Holy Spirit.  This is all God’s doing, a miracle of miracles, the working of His mighty Word with common water; taking your evil, your sin, your death, and giving you the righteousness of Christ and the resurrection of Christ through the washing of regenerations and renewal of the Holy Spirit.   Thus, as His baptized you are not given a spirit of fear or timidity, but rather a spirit of power and of love and self control (2 Timothy 1:7).

Walking in the Spirit oft times will lead you to walk through Samaria speaking the gospel of peace. The baptized of God are not called out of the world.  You are not called to pass judgment on the world. Yours is a vocation of love.  Love suffers for its beloved even as Christ suffered for you.  Through faith in Christ we Christians will learn this love as it comes to us through God’s means of Grace and we will share this love as our vocations present opportunity for service.  No longer will our neighbor be seen as a means to an end, but one for whom Christ has died.  No longer will our life be lived pleasuring ourselves through sexual gratification and selfish motivation, but now we bend the knee before Christ in humble adoration and submit ourselves to the Word of our King.  We have not been given power to avoid suffering, but rather power to endure it and be preserved in the midst of it holding by faith to a Hope that transcends the immediate circumstance and looking forward to the day of our redemption.

Thus the Lord sends you into this World for the sake of the world’s salvation.  He sends to your neighbors to preach the gospel in word and in deed. He sends you to your family.  He sends you to your enemies.  Jesus sends to you to serve in your vocation and calls you to serve faithfully, seeking the well being of those around you even at the expense of your own pursuit of happiness or pleasure.  You, beloved, are better than what you have become.  You are worth more than what you first thought.  You are loved greater than anyone can love.  And you are not your own.  For you were bought with a price, the blood of the Son of God, and so was your neighbor.  Therefore, glorify God in your body rejecting a life of vice and pursuing the life of virtue.

A’      Follow Me

Beloved in the Lord, Jerusalem is the city of destination.  It is the city of the King of kings and Lord of lords.  In Jerusalem our King and our Lord will take His throne, offering Himself on the cross for us and for the world.  He goes without delay because love compels Him.  Along the way He bids us to follow.  We are never given to lead.  We always invited to follow.  The invitation was issued to the Samaritans and they chose to decline.  Others make excuses for their delay.  Let this not be so with you.  The Savior calls you today to follow.  He leads back to paradise and the heart that calls on Him in faith is promised such things even in the midst of death and suffering.  This promise is for you and for your children and for all who are afar off.  Therefore, come and follow Jesus.  Set your ears to His voice even as He set His face toward Jerusalem for you.  He would be your King and reign over your heart in a most gentle manner – through His Word.  AMEN!


The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!


Endnotes —

[1] Hibbs, Thomas  “Shows about Nothing  Nihilism in Popular Culture from the Exorcist to Seinfeld”  Spence Publishing, Dallas  1999  pg. 110

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