Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — Its All About Faith

September 13, 2015 – Proper 19
Sermon Text — Mark 9:14-29
Audio —

 

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 sermon is taken from St. Mark’s gospel account the 9th chapter.

Beloved in the Lord,

A Defiled World with Defiled Souls

SermonGraphic_300x200Our text this morning gives us an honest picture of our world.  Though we are on the other side of Jesus’ death and resurrection, nonetheless, His dominion is contested, His glory is denied and His disciples struggle to overcome the evil one.

Jesus has just descended the mount of Transfiguration.  Up above His glory shone like the sun in the sky but here below it is cloaked in humility.  Here below the unclean spirits have their way.  Here below the nations argue and debate and deny the power of Jesus’ words and works.  Here below many bring their own to the disciples but the disciples fail both those approaching and their Lord.

The boy possessed with an unclean spirit is all our children born into this world, born in the image of Adam, born not of the Spirit but of the flesh, born under the dominion of the evil one.  The father is every father, every parent, struggling to love and care for their child in a world defiled by sin, death, and devil.  The scribes are all the debaters of this age, all the deniers, all the mockers, all the doubters and unbelievers who cling to their superstitions and remain distant from the Lord of Life.  And then there’s the disciples, those whom Jesus refers to as “a faithless generation.”  And then there’s Jesus, in the midst and fray of it all, working His work, wielding His tongue, speaking His salvation to all who call upon His name.

We are there too, some may be the disciples, others the parents or the children, or the debaters and deniers.  No one is left out of this message, for the gospel of Jesus Christ is for all people, for you and me, for our children, even for the whole world.  Its for this reason that Jesus has entered our world.  For no one has been born free from original sin.  No one has been born good enough to enter paradise.  No one having been born of father and mother is free but all sinned in Adam’s sin.  Sin and death come to all people, to you and me, because we share in the works of the evil one.  It’s for this reason the gospel is proclaimed to you and your children and all who afar off this morning.

A Faithless Generation

Now, on the surface it may appear that the thrust of this text is Jesus’ power over unclean spirits.  To be sure Jesus has come to undo the works of the devil.  And the works of the devil are many and manifest in our world.  These works; adultery, and all forms of sexual immorality, murder, anger, deceit, thefts, and the like defile us as they lead us away from the light of Christ and into the darkness of death.  The continual working of such works not only can deprive us of the gift of salvation as they drag our hearts further and further into the abyss of our depravity but also pervert the very definition of what it means to be a human being created in the image of the triune God.  In other words, these works, the works of sin, forfeit our humanity, the very depths of our souls . . . to death and hell.

But let us go a bit deeper.  Let us hear and see not only what Jesus does, but what Jesus says.  At the heart of the matter is the hearts of men, women and children.  Jesus says to his disciples, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you?”  Jesus isn’t speaking to the scribes or the crowds, or even to the parent suffering the pangs of watching his child being tormented by an unclean spirit.  Jesus is speak against his own disciples!  Why?  Because though the father brought his child to them, they could not help him.  They could not help him, because like all who are fallen, even those who should know better, still trust themselves.  At issue in our text is not the power of unclean spirits, or the defiling of sin, but the unbelief of Jesus’ own followers.  For they did not bring the boy to Him.  Their failure resulted in the mockery of the scribes and the scandalizing of this father’s faith.

Oh, beloved, how often do we fail our Lord by withholding our loved ones from Jesus?  How often have we allowed ourselves to believe that we have done enough?  How often have we deceived others by the use of pious words and well-meaning intentions?  How often have we trusted in our own abilities to raise godly children, bringing them to baptism and then faltering in our pledge to continually set before their eyes, ears, and hearts, the Word and Sacraments of the Savior?  No, instead we have sugar coated the world, told them there were no such things as things that go bump in the night, taught them to be more afraid of germs, or strangers, or things that can harm the body but neglecting to teach them to walk in the light, to live in the light, to thirst for righteousness and hunger for the bread of life.  And we wonder why our children fall away from the church.  We wonder why they so easily divorce their spouse and abandon their children.  We wonder why sexual immorality is rampant among our youth.  We wonder why our culture and our nation is slouching more and more towards Gomorrah.  In reality, we have failed like these disciples failed.  We have not brought them to Jesus.  And the world mocks us because of it.

Be Bringing Him to Me

This is why our text this morning is so important for our life of faith.  In response to the disciples failure and the father’s plea Jesus says, “bring him to me.”  But our translation fails us a bit.  It sounds as though Jesus were saying “bring him to me this once and all will be well.”   But that’s not what the text actually says.  Jesus says, “be bringing him to me.”  Bringing our loved ones to Jesus is to be an ongoing event.  Jesus desires continual fellowship with His disciples!  This is why the Lord instituted the Sabbath!  The Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath.  Observing the Sabbath is a time to come before the Lord and receive from Him divine gifts of mercy, life and salvation.  Coming once is not continual.  Coming sporadically is not continual.  Just as the body needs daily bread, so also does the soul need the bread of life regularly.

The divine service is God’s service to humanity.  Worship is God’s coming to you and your children in order to forgive your sins and strengthen your faith.  Here, in this place on this day, the Holy Spirit works His wonders in the hearts of those who believe.  He brings the death and resurrection of Jesus to individuals.  Every baptism is a casting out of unclean spirits and uniting the person to the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Every absolution is a return to God’s promises once delivered in the waters of baptism and now echoed through the voice of a man.  Every communion is a participation in the blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins.  For the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness.  These gifts are for you and for your children.  These gifts are for life – the life we need to live this life in His favor and the life we need to live forever in His presence.

None of this depends on your piety.  None of this is null and void because of your sins.  Christ died to forgive your sins. Christ rose to give you eternal life.  We Christians come to worship because Jesus is here delivering us from the perils of sins.  We Christians seek His grace because the Savior has taken upon Himself our uncleanness, offered Himself as a payment for our sins, and has won for us a crown of life which does not fade, wither, or waste away.  These gifts for you are eternal and as such they create, sustain, feed and nourish faith in Christ.

Therefore, because we are so heavily laden with the weight of the world’s defilement, our own sins, and an unclean conscience, we come to receive the Lord,’s Day, the day He rose from the dead, in order to Jesus in His Word and His sacraments.  We come today because here we receive eternal life.  We worship today because today is the day of salvation.  We gather today because what happens here in this place is more important than anything happening anywhere else in this world.  We come as individuals baptized into His Name and we come as His Church, the communion of saints who are sanctified by His life given to us, freely, by grace, received by us through faith.

Faith Prays

And then we depart this place in the joy of His salvation.  We depart this place but that doesn’t mean we do not, or cannot approach His throne of grace during the week.  Certainly not!  In fact, because we are His baptized children, because faith has been created in our hearts, fed and nourished by His Word and supper, we come before His throne in prayer.  We pray because we believe.  The disciples couldn’t cast out this sort of unclean spirit because they did not pray.  They did not pray because they did not believe but trusted in their own pious words and actions.  We, on the other hand, must not be like the disciples, but believing we are to be praying.

And what do we pray for?  We pray for those things pertaining to our own salvation and the salvation of others.  In other words, we not only seek the Lord and His blessings for ourselves, but also for our loved ones, our children, our neighbors, our friends and family and even our enemies.  We bring them to Jesus when we pray for them.  And we pray for them with confidence because we trust that the Lord has inclined His ear to us as the psalmist says, “I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my supplications.  Because He has inclined His ear to me.  Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.” (Psalm 116:1-2)

Leading the Way

Beloved in the Lord, we must never forget the world we live in nor the daily dangers that surround us.  The works of the devil are many and manifest.  We see them in our world and we feel them in our own lives.  Our text this morning is grim reminder of the depravity of our culture.  Flee therefore the works that lead to destruction and hold firmly by faith the hand of Him who desires to lead you to paradise.  Note well our Savior’s words and works this morning, not only His rebuke of our faithless generation but also His mercy extended to the boy with an unclean spirit.  He is a compassionate savior, one who delights to not only set us free but also to take us by the hand and walk with us along life’s way.  His desire is to direct, protect and feed us from day to day.   Without His grace and favor we surely go astray.  Therefore we pray – “So take my hand O Savior and lead the way.”  In the Name of Jesus.  AMEN!

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


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