The Second Sunday in Lent (B)
“No Profit to Be Had”
January 21, 2018
Sermon Text: Mark 8:34-38
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
Not too long ago, we discussed in one of our weekday Bible studies, an amazing book, “Tried by Fire” by William Bennett, in which he brings before the reader many of those who lived the Christian faith, suffered for the Christian faith, died for the Christian faith and are now in glory with their Savior, Jesus Christ… who they would not abandon… who they willingly confessed to be their Lord even, with their very last breath.
It was, to say the least, a humbling book… a humbling and sobering look at so many of our brothers and sisters who remained faithful unto death and received the crown of eternal life…
… fellow believers who truly denied themselves and what they wanted and willingly picked up their crosses and followed Jesus.
… fellow believers who lost their lives for the sake of Jesus Christ… for the sake of the gospel.
… fellow believers who truly considered the things of this world to be nothing compared to the treasures stored up for them in heaven… awaiting them… treasures and pleasures they now enjoy and will do so for all eternity.
We are talking about brothers and sisters in our ranks who were not ashamed of Jesus or His Words in what was an adulterous and sinful generation.
And guess what? It still is. What is unbeknownst to many Christians today… and maybe to you as well… Is that what once was… still is! Is now! And it will be until our Lord comes again in glory.
Nothing has really changed. The circumstances facing those who have come before us are essentially our circumstances. Why? How could this be? Because when you come right down to it, there is nothing new under the sun. Sin is still sin. This sinful world is still sinful. Sinful people are still sinful people and we see the same effects of sin yes, on world news, national news, local news, but also news about our own families, news about our church body and even what is happening in this congregation.
As before, so now and quite frankly, always will be… the life of every Christian man, woman, teenager and child… yes, your life and mine, is lived out under the cross of Jesus. What exactly does that mean? It means that you and I live in the good news that the Lord will sustain us through these trying times, downright frightening and terrible times by His Holy Word and the Blessed Sacraments alone… and this as they come to us in the Christian Church, the very Body of Christ, once crucified, now glorious and victorious.
And here is also the reality for all of us. As before, so now and always will be… the life of every Christian man, woman, teenager and child… your life and mine, will be lived bearing our individual crosses… that which the Lord our God has seen fit to give to us… and this for our good, for our welfare, to keep us humble… to keep us on the right track… to keep us focused on what is truly important and what is not.
Certainly, the cross that one may bear may take the form of some illness or disease, some condition, some physical and mental impairment or limitation. But above all this… that which is a universal cross and which actually defines every true Christian… that which every true Christian, because of their unwavering allegiance to Jesus Christ, will face, will bear… is the spiritual cross… the constant and all-to often fierce fighting for the faith – theirs and that of others.
In this regard, I couldn’t help think of the connection this has to, of all things, the sad news about the officers who did not engage the shooter in that Florida high school. Questions abound. Why wasn’t at least one of them in the school at the time? Why didn’t the others come to the aid of so many helpless and hurting people?
In like manner, why do not more people, more Christians armed with the Gospel, having on the armor of God, engage all those in the world and of the world… those who are likewise being attacked by Satan and facing not temporal death, but eternal death in hell?
Why do not more Christians engage their only family members, friends and circle of acquaintances who desperately need to hear the Gospel message… who desperately need to hear the truth, the reality of it all regarding any and every Christian topic and issue?
Why do not more Christians willingly and openly identify themselves as just that… Christian. Certainly not being obnoxious about it, mind you, but also not being ashamed of it either… or conveniently hiding the same, hiding your identity as a Christian… as Christ’s own… because it may not be the best for them or the “smartest of moves”… for their careers, for their positions, for their relationship with this or that person.
Why do not more Christians get involved and assume serious responsibility for the mission of the Church… for the welfare of their church and yes, that includes its financial welfare?
And in case I haven’t made it totally clear, as much as I am talking about all Christian men, women, teenagers and children… I am talking especially to us… all of us… you and me. What a perfect time to do so… now… in this penitential and soul-searching season of Lent.
Speaking of… in our midweek Lenten service this past Wednesday, we considered again the reality that for us as Christians, suffering will come before glory. And what just drives the world crazy and those who are not of the faith is that we are ok with that. In fact, we rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer for our Savior… to suffer for the Gospel… to suffer for the one, true Christian faith.
And this, why those in the world, of the world, seek the things of the world and will give everything to gain the same… that which is here today, but gone tomorrow… that which is glitzy and glittery, so enticing today, but tarnished, rusted and of no worth tomorrow.
So many people are focused on the world, the things of this world, on the worldly where there is no profit to be had… even if someone where to gain it all…. let alone a little, which most people end up with and realize even that is worthless… that it wasn’t worth it… what they strove for and what they got… what they obtained to some degree… that which was their god… the most important thing in their lives.
So many people, in the end, end up with nothing. The seemingly rich die as paupers.
And we are not talking about just unbelievers and atheists here, but those who claim to be Christian… who belong to a church and come to church who nevertheless have other priorities, and these above the Lord their God and what He calls them to do. How is it with you?
Those who claim to be Christian, but in situation after situation when called on to defend the Gospel and all of God’s Word… when called to confess Jesus Christ… when called to speak up for and defend their neighbor… when called to denounce sinful acts and sinful relationships… remain silent.
Listen, my friends, to the sound of Christian “crickets.” It is deafening!
“Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
One would think that these words of our Lord would be, for all us, the most sobering. Why? Because we have all failed our Lord. We have all, in one way or another… actually, in countless ways… been ashamed of Jesus and His words… His ways.
And for this, we stand condemned. For this we face our Lord, the very Son of Man being ashamed of us on the last day when He comes in the glory of the Father with legion upon legion of angels.
But thanks be to God, my friends, that in the very Son of Man… in our Lord Jesus, by and through the cross which He bore… the cross He was nailed to, suffered and died… there is forgiveness, full and complete, for us all. As we heartily confess this and every other sin, we receive absolution, full and complete.
We are restored and renewed to go on… to go forth and by His Holy Spirit, confess Jesus, live Jesus, live the one true Christian faith each and every day, come what may, until… by the cross… our Savior lovingly frees us from every cross we bear here on earth, and takes us home, to our heavenly home, there to reside with Him and all the saints in glory… and this, forever and ever.
I know its corny and cliché, my friends, but nevertheless true. May we, by the power of the Holy Spirit, “keep our eyes on the prize.” Nothing here below and everything above. Yes, living the Christian faith, confessing Jesus Christ in the public square and in the privacy of our own homes with our own families can be hard at times and have some real consequences, painful consequences. But that which we may suffer in the process, is all bearable and doable. Our Lord has seen to that.
Furthermore, whatever we lose because of our faith and our confession, it was never meant for us to have… it never was to be according to God’s plan… and much of what we lose, really amounts to nothing… nothing in comparison to what we will gain… what is already ours and waiting for us… that which will literally take our breath away… that which is ours in our dear Savior, Jesus. Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“No Profit to Be Had” 2/25/18 The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL