Welcome to the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost year A. This sermon was preached at Faith Lutheran Church in Gardner, MA. The scripture readings for the day are 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Psalm 86:8-10 and Acts 17:16-34.
This year during Holy Week I talked about how our bodies are connected with our spirituality. Thursday I talked about our feet as we read the account of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples and how when we let Jesus wash our feet we then and let Jesus into our whole lives. Friday I talked about hands as Jesus’ hands were nailed to the cross and how we do God’s work with our hands. On Easter Sunday I talked about our heart and how we live a life balanced between fear and joy. But today I want to share with you some thoughts I had during the Easter Vigil.
There are two ways to think about how our heads connect to our faith. The first is in our thoughts and the second is through our knowledge. How do you think about your faith? Is it something you practice on Sunday mornings or is it something you live out every day? Our heads help us think about the scripture we read, we think about the prayers we say and we think about how we interact with one another.
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What is Holy Week? In most churches throughout the world the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday is called Holy Week. Why do we call this week Holy? I sometimes wonder because the events of the week lead up to Jesus’ death on a cross. It is a week filled with betrayal and desertion, suffering and abuse, and, finally, the death of an innocent who cries aloud in despair.
So why in the world has the Church decided to call these days “Holy”?
The answer is that in this week God draws near to us, God takes on our lot and our life that so that we might know that wherever we go, whatever we do, whatever is done to us – God in Jesus understands and identifies with us.
We begin with Palm Sunday which was a celebration. But Jesus’ triumphal entry wasn’t a first-century version of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It was a meant as a statement. Jesus rode into town as a returning king and the crowds greeted him with hosannas and praise. They expect him to overthrow the Romans. And the Romans take note. This helps to explain why, he was crucified. It wasn’t just an accident. It wasn’t because he simply offended the religious authorities of the day. It was because he proclaimed another kingdom – the kingdom of God – and called people to give their allegiance to this kingdom first. He was a threat.
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We recently read John 3: 16 in worship. When you think about John 3: 16 what comes to your mind? Maybe you think of the guy in the rainbow-colored wig sitting between the uprights holding the sign painted with the world’s most famous verse. But when I think of John 3:16, I think of six year-old Benjamin, protesting his bedtime, and I’m reminded of God’s unexpected, surprising grace.
Sometimes I say the phrase “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son to die…..” too often because it loses it’s significance. God did not send Jesus to simply deliver a message, God sent Jesus to die, to die on a cross, to die on a cross for us. This is why, as Martin Luther once said, this verse is “the gospel in a nutshell.”
God never asked for our permission to send Jesus to the cross. In fact, God does not ask us to do anything for our salvation. If you are ever told that you need to do something to earn Gods love you can know that person is lying to you – you do not have to profess Jesus as your personal savior, you do not have to attend a bunch of classes you don’t have to do anything because Gods love is a free gift and it lasts forever.
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