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L - W - M - L Sunday

James T. Batchelor

Pentecost 16, Proper 22, series A
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Oct 2, 2011 

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This sermon is loosely based on the sermon supplied by LWML.  You may download a copy of that sermon at:

http://www.lwml.org/resources/lwml_sunday/index.php

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Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed!

In June, at the Lutheran Women's Missionary League convention held in Peoria, Dr. Ken Klaus, Lutheran Hour Speaker Emeritus, spoke to the assembly.  The theme was "Being with Jesus - Living on the edge" and pastor Klaus shared his first impression of the theme with these words: "When I first heard the theme, Being with Jesus - Living on the edge, for a second I imagined the LWML President bungee jumping off a mile-high bridge."

I have to confess that I myself had second thoughts about that theme - especially the "living on the edge," part.  When I first heard that phrase my immediate thoughts were of an old publicity slogan, "there is no such thing as negative attention."  I thought of all the celebrities who were constantly making headlines because they were constantly finding creatively stupid ways to be offensive.  They often say such people are living on the edge.  It seems as if such people are addicted to testing the limits of offense and shame.  I have to admit that the first thought that occurred to me was "living on the edge" meant seeing how offensive you could be without getting caught.

But then a second thought occurred to me.  The story of the gospel has always been offensive.  Listen to this account from the life of Jesus: [Matthew 13:54-57] Coming to his hometown [Jesus] taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, "Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?" 57 And they took offense at him.  It suddenly occurred to me that Jesus was living on the edge from the very beginning of His public ministry.  People took offense at Him.

The prophets of old knew that people would take offense at Jesus.  The Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah to write, [Isaiah 8:14-15] "[The LORD of hosts] will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken."  Through the prophet Isaiah, the Holy Spirit told Israel that their future Messiah would be a stone of offense.  He would live on the edge.

Too often we forget that Jesus lived on the edge.  People constantly took offense at Him.  But then wouldn't you be offended if someone said you were a hypocrite; a blind fool; a blind guide; a tomb full of dead bones; a serpent; a viper; sentenced to hell; and a prophet killer? (Matthew 23) If you don't like offensive preaching, then you certainly don't want Jesus to be your preacher.  He lives on the edge.

Living on the edge with Jesus means understanding that we are actually being defensive when we find Christ offensive.  It means understanding that we are the ones who have offended God.  It means understanding that we deserve punishment both in time and in eternity.  It means understanding that our offense at Jesus is a dangerous arrogance.

Living on the edge with Jesus means understanding that [Luke 19:10] the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.  Until we understand that we are lost, we will take offense at Jesus.  We begin to understand that we are lost when the Holy Spirit works faith in us.  When the Holy Spirit works faith in us, we stop taking offense at Jesus and start confessing our offense against Jesus.  When the Holy Spirit moves us to repent of our lost condition, we are living on the edge with Jesus.

We can learn what it means to live on the edge with Jesus as we examine three special days in the life of four special women.  These women are Mary, the mother of James and Joses; Joanna, wife of Chusa, the steward of Herod; Mary Magdalene whom Jesus freed from seven devils; and Salome, the mother of James and John.

These women had lived on the edge as they stood at the foot of the cross.  Most of the people Jesus had healed were not at the cross.  Most of the apostles were missing as well.  Never the less, these four women were there.

They would keep Jesus' mother company. They would stay and hear what Jesus had to say. Others might pass by mocking and maligning Him, but they would stand fast.  They gave their widow's mite of faithfulness and loyalty. Surrounded by hatred, they showed love.

Keeping watch the women would have noted the moment of Jesus' death. As long as He lived His body would have writhed, would have gasped for air, would have struggled, strained. But when death came, His body would have grown still and silent. When one of the Roman guards thrust a spear into His heart, it was an unnecessary anticlimax.

Courageously they watched as His corpse was taken down from the cross; bravely they watched to see where He was buried; sadly they noted the preparation of His body was richly, but incompletely done. That was when they pledged: "After the Sabbath we will return and finish the burial properly."

At Sundown on Saturday, when the Sabbath was over, they gathered the spices necessary to finish Jesus' burial and, on Sunday morning, they set out toward His tomb. There they intended to offer their final respects to someone whom they had loved.

As they approached the tomb they were astonished to find Jesus' grave was open. Surprised, shocked, stunned?  Their minds must have had thousands of thoughts as they tried to cope with the fact that the body of their friend and master was gone.  The one thought that did not occur to them was the Jesus might have risen from the dead.  That was because the simple, unassailable truth is this: people who are dead for three days don't come back to life. Dead is dead. You know it; I know it; these women knew it.

Fearing the worst, the women gathered their courage and respectfully, slowly, tentatively entered Jesus' grave. The Gospel of Mark says what happened next. It tells us, "They saw a young man sitting on the right side of the walk-in tomb. He was dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed." I can understand why. Mark continues, "And he said to them, 'Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen.' " Christ has risen!

May I try to tell you, in small part, what those three words mean?  For the women it meant their Friend, their Rabbi, their Master, their Teacher, was also their Savior.

A living Lord appeared to them and entrusted these women with a mission: tell the disciples Christ is risen. (He is risen, indeed!) That truth meant they would always be living with Jesus. It meant they would always live on the edge.

Today, 2,000 years later their mission is yours their message is yours. The Savior lives and that means you who live with Him will also live on the edge.  You live on the edge because the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ still cause offense.

I say that because you, dear friends in Christ, live in a land where the U.S. Supreme Court begins every session with the words: "God save the United States and this Honorable Court!" But Erica Corder, a valedictorian in Monument, Colorado, can't speak about Jesus. Indeed, Erica was told she wouldn't get her diploma until she apologized for having said: "If you don't already know (Jesus Christ) personally I encourage you to find out more about the sacrifice He made."  The generic God mentioned on our money is OK with our culture, but the sacrifice of Christ that earned our salvation offends our culture.

You live in an age where living with Jesus means you live on the edge. Take a look at the media. If you do, it won't take too long before you realize almost every pastor or priest shown on the screen is a platitude-spouting prude or a pathetic pervert; most Christian parents are portrayed as undeniably dense and church people are intolerant, ignorant idiots. On the news the scandals of Christians are publicly paraded, repeatedly rehashed, criticized, and condemned.

You who live in the Lord, today I encourage you to live on the edge.  You have what the world needs.  It is time to stand up and proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins to the world.  It is time to confess that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation.

This salvation may offend the world, but it brings comfort to those who mourn at the graveside of a loved one.  This salvation may offend the world, but it promises us that Jesus will carry us through the hard times in this life.  This salvation may offend the world, but it guarantees eternal life to all who believe in it.

It is time to ask the world, "What do you have to offer which is better than Jesus? What can provide a better foundation than the Christ?"

And to the silence which must come after that question is asked, we will extend the invitation, "Then come join us. Join this throng of the redeemed who are committed to the cause of Christ. Join us, the forgiven, the saved, who live in the Lord Jesus. Join us as we live on the edge."

We are God's witnesses telling any and all who would listen, the wonderful blood-bought truth which saves: Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed.  Alleluia!  Amen



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