Sunday, July 3, 2011

3rd Sunday after Pentecost - July 3, 2011

This past year, the Vikings drafted Christian Ponder, a quarterback out of Florida State University.  Given the state of their quarterbacking situation, it seems quite likely that he’ll be starting straight out of the gate, from game one.  It’s predictable that he’s going to have a rough time of it.  He’ll throw terrible interceptions, take foolish sacks and lose games left and right (at least I hope so.)  At a certain point, Vikings fans are going to complain and they are going to say, “Why not give Joe Webb a shot?”  And that will probably happen.  And he’ll have problems.  Games will be lost and people will turn on him too.  When they don’t see the results they want, fans will find something to criticize.  It’s just the way things work; it’s like a law of nature.

Now, in our gospel lesson today, Jesus isn’t actually talking about the Vikings’ quarterback situation, but he is talking about something kind of similar.  He’s saying that John the Baptist came and John was out there in the wilderness in rough clothes and he was preaching rough news, “Repent!  You brood of vipers!” was the kind of thing John would say.  And so a lot of people didn’t like him, “He’s too rough around the edges, too legalistic, too cranky,” they said. 

Fine, let’s try a different quarterback then.  “Put that Jesus fellow in.  See what he can do.”  Well Jesus was totally different!  He would sit down and have dinners with sinners!  He broke the Sabbath.  His disciples broke rules and ate well too.  And what did the people say, “Get that bum out of there!  He’s a glutton and a drunkard.”

People are never satisfied.  When things aren’t going the way they want, they are going to complain.  They didn’t like John the Baptist and they didn’t like Jesus either.

So why is this so?  (And I’m not going to try to use football to explain this.)  Why do people miss the truth of the matter and get hung up on the little stuff?  Why couldn’t people understand that John the Baptist was a prophet?  Why couldn’t people see that Jesus was the Messiah?  Jesus had been healing people left, right, and center, but people still didn’t understand.  Why not?

And here is where we get to the heart of theology, the central part, the part that has given people fits for centuries.  Why do some people have faith and others not? 

What does Jesus say?  “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants.” 

God hides.  And God reveals. 

Those of you who were here last week heard the reading of a very hard scripture, the command of God to Abraham to give his son as a burnt offering.  We talked about how appalling this is, and how difficult to understand.  I presented to you Martin Luther’s explanation.  He wrote that God relates to us in two very different ways, which Luther called “The Hidden God” and “The Revealed God.”  The Hidden God is beyond our comprehension and often seems terrible to us.  The Revealed God comes to us in Jesus Christ and speaks to us with promises.  There is only ONE God, but we experience him in these two very different ways.

In today’s gospel we are seeing this again.  God hides.  And God reveals.  Why?  What does Jesus say?  “For such was your gracious will.”  That doesn’t seem to answer the question, does it?  Why does God hide and reveal?  Because he does.  That’s not a very satisfying answer, but it’s answer that Jesus gives.

And then he stops explaining and he starts preaching; he starts giving promises, he starts revealing himself to his chosen ones.  So listen up, this means you.  "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.   29  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   30  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."  That is Jesus’ promise for you this morning, the promise that he gives to his baptized, to his chosen ones.  He knows that you are carrying burdens and that they can be heavy indeed.  He will give you rest.  Maybe some days it can seem like it’s all too much to bear.  He will give you rest.  

Now, likely as not, there is the old sinner in some of us who is trying to stop us from hearing this promise, this word of comfort.  My old sinner tried to feed me a line this week as I was writing the sermon.  This is what he said, “Aha!  It’s not really a promise, because Jesus is requiring that I come to him in order to find rest.  It’s actually a command!”  My old sinner is very sly and he tries to speak to me in a classic Lutheran, Law/Gospel dialectic.  Nevertheless, I say to him, “Harrumph and Balderdash.”  It’s simply a matter of convenience that you all come here in order to hear the promise; it’s not responding to a command.  If necessary, I could come and knock on all of your doors and give the promise to at your breakfast table......  The promise is for you. 

God has chosen all of you to hear his promise this morning, this promise of rest from our burdens.  We are not the wise and the intelligent who have somehow earned this privilege.  We are the infants, the little ones.  And because we have heard this promise of God; we will believe it.  We will trust it.  Amen.

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