Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — The Drowning of Narcissus

Sermon Text: Luke12:13-21
Sunday: August 4th, Proper 13

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. AMEN!  Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Luke’s gospel account, the 12th chapter.

Beloved in the Lord,

The First Enthusiasts are not the Last

Steadfast Sermons GraphicMartin Luther has written that Adam and Eve were the first enthusiasts.  Enthusiasts look for God where He has not promised to be assuming that God comes to people apart from His means of Grace. Looking where He’s not promised to be enthusiasts cannot help but doubt.  Did they find God?  How did they know?  Apart from God’s means of Grace there is no certainty and without certainty enthusiasts are left to wonder and to doubt.  Doubting, enthusiasts look for certainty and inevitably begin to look inward. Is God in my heart?  How do I know?  Heart talk leads to emotional talk.  How do I know?  I can feel it? Feelings become the certainty enthusiasts grasp.  Turning inward becomes the piety of the doubting.  Love becomes the emotion of self.  Narcissists love themselves.  The more one doubts the more one is turned inward for certainty and the more one grows in their love for self.  It’s a horrible cycle of sin which leads to loneliness and death.

Jesus will not be drafted into such a cycle nor will He permit us to remain lost and wandering amidst such decay.  When a man approaches Him and pleads for His intercession about an inheritance Jesus refuses.  He’s not come to settle family disputes over things that perish.  He’s not come to be an arbiter but rather to set free the hearts of men, women and children from the bonds of covetousness, greed, narcissism and enthusiasm.  He’s come to confront us in our sin, disorient us from our false sense of security, and pull us outside of the comforts we have formed and fashioned to preserve our narcissistic illusion.  That means He’s come to break down our idols and save us.

We’re all Narcissists

The Human heart is the most common idol in the creation.  Thus, like Adam and Eve, we are fallen sinful creatures and so also enthusiasts and narcissists.  As enthusiasts that we are means we forever doubt.  Doubting means that we are forever searching for life.  As narcissists that means we have fallen in love with our own image.  We’ve gazed into the stream of society’s advertising and beheld the one who has captured our hearts.    In order to please our beloved we covet things of this world.  We buy, we hoard, and start all over again.  We hope for pleasure and take pleasure in fleeting things.

Take heed, beloved, and beware of covetousness and greed, for a man’s life does not consist of the abundance of things he or she possesses.  Listen to the parable of the rich man.  He works.  He saves. He stores up.  He builds. He saves more.  He stores up more.  And then says to himself, “what shall I do?”  It is no small thing that the rich man is talking to himself.  For he loves himself and the life he’s built for himself.  He’s been so focused, laboring so much, concerned about the wrong things that he has no one to talk to.  He’s alone.  And will die alone.  He will not die well.  He will not receive the blessed death which scripture praises.

So it is with enthusiastic, narcissistic, covetous, sinners.  “Focusing narrowly on our own inner thoughts, experiences, feelings and felt needs, we cut ourselves off from the unfamiliar.  Nothing can come to us from the outside, disrupting or disturbing our fortress of inner security.  Wrapping ourselves in a cocoon of inwardness, we feel cozy in or own personal cult of private piety.  We think we’re in charge.  We imagine that we just follow our heart, that we decide for ourselves what is true, valuable and useful.”[1] The truth is we have indulged in idolatry.   And unless we repent and believe the Gospel we too shall die a wretched death, having suffered a lonely life chasing after Solomon’s vanity of vanities.

God made flesh

The truth is that God cannot be found by looking within yourself, your heart, your feelings and/ or your experiences.  His Word is not the same as some inner voice.  His presence is not some warm feeling in the depths of your heart or the fluttering of butterflies in your belly.  The God of the bible is indeed a strange God for He is a God who hides Himself where He may be found with certainty.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  God hides Himself so that you can find Him.  He tells you where to look and promises to be there for your good.

This is why Angels appeared on a cold winter’s night and sang their Glorias before poor shepherd boys.  This is why kings from the east travelled to Bethlehem.  This is why John the baptizer points with his holy finer and preaches “behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  It’s why the heavens are rent asunder, the Spirit descends and the Father’s voice beckons from eternity, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”  Everything in the gospels is given to direct our hearts away from ourselves, our wants, desires, feelings, sins, even death and hell and towards Jesus.  Everything in the gospel is directing us toward Jesus who is God in the flesh, God come for us, God’s mighty outstretched arm sent to deliver us, save us, renew and regenerate us, die for us on the cross and rise for us on the third day.

You see, there is no God within unless He be the God incarnate to comes to us from outside of us.  If you would find God look to where He’s promised to be.  Look to His Word and lend your ears.  Look to His baptism, His supper and His absolution.  These are His gifts to you, gifts of Himself, treasures of mercy, life and forgiveness that cannot be found in the hoarding of your possessions.  These gifts last for eternity because these gifts give Jesus who is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.  Those who receive such gifts by faith have what the Word of God says; forgiveness, life and salvation.

Store Up your treasures in the Bellies of the Poor

Through the external Word of the living God, the Word preached, splashed, and distributed under the cloak of bread and wine, God comes to His people and delivers us from our sins, our death, and hell.  He prepares us to die well, to receive the blessed death given to those who believe on the Name above all names, the Name that supersedes my name; that is the name of Jesus.  As Holy writ teaches,  “Blessed are those who die in the Lord” and “blessed are they who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

Saving us by His external Word, the Lord also lifts up our heads that we no longer gaze upon ourselves.  The rich man in the parable failed terribly.  His failures are to be examples for us to avoid.  The rich man, surrounded by a great supply of many blessings speaks to himself in distress and anxiety.  He does not lift up his head to the heavens.  Nor does he cast his eyes towards those around him.  He is bound to his idols.

Let this not be so with you.  Being liberated from the bonds of your own heart and united to One who has conquered sin, death, devil and hell for you, let your mind ascend to the heavens above where Christ is seated as St. Paul says, If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:1-3 ESV).  Look up and look around.  You are alive, made new, risen with Christ.  Your heart is now given to love outside of yourself, to love those whom you were created to love – the Lord God who formed you in the womb and your neighbor.

Yes, beloved turn your hearts toward God and your neighbor.  Learn from the parable how to put your possessions to godly use.  Rather than store them up in barns and granaries, garages and storage units, look to the Church and surrender your abundance for the ministry of the gospel.  Tithe! That the Kingdom of God increase here and throughout the World.  And then look to your neighbor – fill the bellies of the poor, cloak them with your affection, sympathize with their misfortune, share your life with those who are in need.

With your mind raised heavenward, your hearts full of the love of God that comes to you in Word and Sacrament, and your arms outstretched towards others you will begin to live a full life, the life of abundance as Christ speaks of in John’s gospel account when H e says, “The thief comes to destroy and steal, but I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.”  The abundant life is not a life of things or possessions, but the life of Jesus for you and your life for those around you.  Such a life is a blessed life, a good life, a godly life for it has both God and neighbor situated in the heart as the Lord intended so long ago.

Gazing into the Waters of our Baptism

          Beloved in the Lord, Luther was right.  Adam and Eve were the first enthusiasts, the first narcissists, the first to worship themselves.  We are their descendants and the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.  But Christ has come to confront us, disorient us, and pull us outside of our comfort zones that He might save us from the destiny we have earned.  This salvation comes to us from outside of ourselves and interestingly enough it comes through water and the Word.  Old Narcissus looked into the water and beheld his own image.  Falling in love with himself he died of loneliness.  We Christians however are given a Holy Word when brought to the waters.  That Word drowns us, crucifies us with Christ and raises us with Christ so that we no longer love ourselves but are drawn to Christ who loves us and has given Himself up for us.  Here we find our God, the God of the Bible, the God who hides Himself so we can find Him.  This you can sure of.  He’s given us His Word.  In Jesus’ X Name.  AMEN!

 

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


[1] Michael Horton, “The Gospel Driven Life:   Being Good News People in a Bad News World”  page 23


Comments

Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — The Drowning of Narcissus — 3 Comments

  1. The specific sin Jesus addresses in this Gospel is covetousness.

    Which commandments specifically address covetousness? Why is God so concerned that we not covet? How does Luther address coveteousness in the Small and Large Catechisms? When we break the Ninth and Tenth Commandments, which other commandment are we also breaking?

    Looking at the Greek, where else in the New Testament do we find pleonexia or its cognates? How does Paul address this sin? What are clear, contemporary examples of covetousness encountered by God’s people? How do sinners try to deny this sin in their own lives? What is God’s punishment for this sin according to Jesus and Paul?

    How might Luke 12:22-34 serve as the Gospel, the only antidote against covetousness? Why shouldn’t we worry? How does God’s mercy in Christ alleviate our anxiety about earthly cares, so that we fight against covetousness in our own hearts? What promises does Christ make to us about supplying all our earthly needs?

  2. “Yes, beloved turn your hearts toward God and your neighbor. Learn from the parable how to put your possessions to godly use. Rather than store them up in barns and granaries, garages and storage units, look to the Church and surrender your abundance for the ministry of the gospel. Tithe! That the Kingdom of God increase here and throughout the World. And then look to your neighbor – fill the bellies of the poor, cloak them with your affection, sympathize with their misfortune, share your life with those who are in need.”

    So, it’s not about wealth or position because those can quickly change; rather, in all these things it’s about your relationship with God, the One who can make our struggles victories and our successes purposeful. Being rich towards God means receiving all of God’s gifts on His gracious terms and then being God’s resource in this world. That’s what the man in the parable missed. To be a man or woman of God is to know that even work and money are for the purpose of glorifying God and serving others. One of my mentors, Dr. Guido Merkens, used to say, “Money is just ‘coined service.” He was right. Money, resources from our labors, they are never at a standstill, never meant to be put in barns for our convenience or to rot from non-use. For our families, money helps put food on the table, the lights on, the water flowing. For the ones we love, it provides clothes, medical care, education. But, for the Christian, it also provides coined service for those in need both in our church and in our community. Jesus invites you to be rich towards God, to be, in all things, God’s redeemed, precious child available to others as God’s resource for His Kingdom work.

    As God’s beloved, don’t let your life be wasted. Spend it on showing His love in your relationships. Take your gifts and talents, empowered by God’s continued blessings through Word and Sacrament, and let them flow into people’s lives for their good–at home, at church, at work, and everywhere in this world that you go.

    “Distracted? No, Delivered!” #80-48
    Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 4, 2013
    By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker

  3. @ #2 “One of my mentors, Dr. Guido Merkens…”

    Dr. Guido Merkens entered eternal rest on January 11, 2012. He was born on May 25, 1927 in Aberdeen, South Dakota, but grew up from age 2-16 in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. He attended school at the University of Pittsburg; Concordia University, Bronxville, New York; Concordia Seminary and Washington University in St. Louis. He was the founding pastor of Concordia Lutheran and served there for 42 ½ years. Under his leadership, Concordia attained both the largest weekly worship attendance and the largest Sunday school in the entire denomination. He wrote seven books and conducted seminars in 49 states for hundreds of thousands of Pastors and lay people. He also served as Vice-President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod for fifteen years and received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Concordia Seminary. In his “repositioned years”, he served as a consultant with Pathway Lutheran Ministries. He was preceded in death by his parents, Albert and Frieda (Klaus) Merkens; his sister, Rhoda Canion; and his beloved wife of 52 years, Barbara. He is survived by his children: daughters Karen Ramming and husband Douglas of Austin; Michelle Wood and husband Brian of Austin; Marti Merkens of San Antonio; and son, Guido Merkens, Jr. of San Antonio. He is also survived by four grandchildren: Kristine Linville, Guido Merkens III, Jeremiah Merkens and Matthew Merkens; and by five great-granddaughters: Mahaley Merkens, Abigail Linville, Samantha Linville, Presley Merkens and Ensley Merkens.

    Guido Merkens Obituary
    http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/sanantonio/obituary.aspx?n=guido-merkens&pid=155444648&fhid=7331#sthash.vk29eEqz.dpuf

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