Readings for the day:
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Watch the following YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6TGxKvSqH8 “How to Explain What You Do, When You’re a Pastor
Now that was funny, right? After all, he is a comedian and I find this video to be funny. But isn’t it also sad? Isn’t it sad that we can list off all of the things that the church does and outside people have no clue that any of it is from the church? This video is also true! So what has happened to the church that there are so many people that are now clueless when it comes to the church? The quick answer…us! You and me! We did this. We have made it so that people don’t want to associate with “the church.”
It says in John’s reading today that even the authorities believed in Jesus, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue. Today we have just the opposite happening. In Jesus’ time, people were afraid of associating with Jesus because they would be subject to being kicked out of the synagogue (or church). Now today people are afraid of associating with Jesus and the church because they think they would be subject to public humiliation. Today people are afraid that if they associate with the church then they will lose their friends, lose customers at their business, or even worse, they will have to stop having fun! What have we done to make people hate or even reject the church? I think many times it is because of our nosiness, our gossiping, our complaining, our fighting and our arguing over the littlest things.
We complain, grumble, and focus on the darkest corners of the church because let’s face it, we love the darkness. It is so easy to find something that is worth complaining about. It honestly isn’t hard! And quite frankly, it’s fun to complain. But all of our complaining, all of our arguing, comes from the darkness of the pit that which is our sin. You may love to complain, but complaining comes from sin which darkens your life and darkens the life of this church.
Now Jesus says in his parable, that he is this single grain of wheat that falls to the earth and dies. If this single grain of wheat never died, then there would be only Jesus on this earth – everything else and everyONE else would die. But Jesus went to the cross and died so that the church would be born and would be able to bear much fruit. However, Jesus did not die for you to complain and grumble. Rather he died for you, so that you would have eternal life with God.
Jesus wants you focusing on the light that he brings to this world, not the darkness that so easily corrupts this world. If we walk in darkness, we aren’t able to know where we are going.
At our church council meeting this month, I led a devotion about campfires. We are quickly approaching campfire season and Friday night we got to sit by a nice, warm campfire at the family retreat we were attending. Except we did stay by the fire too long because it was pretty cold for our boys. But anyway, I’m looking forward to having many campfires this summer. And there is something really nice about a good campfire. It smells and sounds nice and peaceful. Plus it gives off just the right amount of light for the area. But if you neglect the fire long enough it turns to red coals and eventually smolders. And when your campfire is smoldering, you can’t just add a new log, it won’t ignite. It needs oxygen! Now if you fan that smoldering campfire a little bit, flames begin to start up again and before long you can add that new log to the fire and you once again have a warm, bright campfire.
I used this analogy to describe the state of our church right now. We are a smoldering campfire that needs to be fanned. We are living and moving around in the darkness of our sin, with Christ’s light dimly presence. Don’t get me wrong, Christ’s light is present here and it has been present for nearly 2,000 years (over 140 years here at Trinity alone). But right now we are letting the dark corners of this church overtake the light that is trying so hard to shine forth from these four walls.
Beware, the Holy Spirit is blowing throughout the whole church. The Holy Spirit is also blowing in this place and that fire that is Trinity Lutheran Church is getting fanned. Before you know it, Christ’s light will be shining brighter than before.
Now remember that YouTube video that I started with. I have found that people don’t want to be associated with churches that complain and argue, but they also don’t want to be associated with the church or be involved with the church in any way because that sets them apart from the rest of the world. Yeah, in the 60s you were considered a rebel if you didn’t go to church. But today, you are considered a rebel if you DO go to church. People are afraid of being set apart from the rest of the world, but this is exactly what happens to you when you become a child of the light. When you were baptized and the cross was marked on your forehead, you were set apart from the world!
Jesus went to the cross to give you freedom not to run your mouth and complain, but to save you from all of your sins. Jesus willingly went to the cross, taking with him all of your sinful arguments, complaints and grumblings and these were all nailed to the tree with him. Beginning next Sunday, we recount and remember our Savior’s road to the cross with his triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, followed by his institution of the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday, his crucifixion and death on Good Friday, his resurrection from death to life at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, and finally praising God for all of the work that he did through his son Jesus by his sacrificial death and resurrection for the forgiveness of all of your sin on Easter Sunday. This is what Holy Week is all about. This is the light that the darkness of our sin tries to cover up. This is the Good News that God calls us to proclaim from the roof tops! God loves you so much that he was willing to take your place and die for you! Our God overcame death to give you life! Amen!
© 2015 Anthony Christoffels. Used with permission.