O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Crooked Spoken Straight
Crooked Spoken Straight
Based on Mark 6:14-29
Preached on July 15, 2018
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In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Lord sends preachers. He sends them to preach His Word. In fact, that’s all a preacher’s good for. And nothing else. The preacher’s words had better be what the Lord sent him to preach. Otherwise he’s an unfaithful and false preacher. Bad for the flock. But, that’s a no-brainer, right? Of course.
Well, what’s not so obvious - is precisely what the preacher is sent by the Lord to preach. Let’s face it – sometimes what God wants said is unnerving, shocking, and outrageous. Like plumbline Amos. The LORD is looking down the straight line of His plumbline. The weight of His Word holds the plumbline perfectly straight so He can make His measurement. He knows He made His people straight. Now what does He see?
The preacher is sent to sound the answer. No matter who you are (prince or poor man / Wall Street or Main Street / city slicker or country bumpkin)– you’re not plumb! You’re crooked. Out of line. And you don’t measure up. Turn. Tell the truth. Your measurement is true Lord. Help me.
Amos preached that same truth to Israel and her king - Jeroboam II. All Israel - from top to bottom - had sinned. All Israel had rejected the Lord and worshipped false gods. She looked for all her good and all her help from money, property, and investments. The preacher cried out, “Repent.” But they would not hear of such an outrageous thing. Repent? Really?
Israel refused to confess her sin but most of all Israel refused to hear or receive something more important. What in the world could that be? Well, if you’re not a sinner – if you haven’t sinned, then you have no hunger or desire for the forgiveness of sins that the Lord’s preachers are also sent to preach and bestow.
Imagine that! Not wanting the gospel from the Lord! Having no use for the Lord’s mercy. Not even a smidgen of hunger for the absolution that goes like this: “In the Name of Jesus I forgive you all your sin.” Not wanting that, of course, is the height of unrepentant unbelief. So preacher Amos spoke for the Lord when he proclaimed: “I will spare them no longer. All of Israel’s religious and political greatness will be destroyed. Israel will be no more.”
How do you think that went over? Yeah. Israel’s political and religious big wigs were outraged. Amos was dressed down, mocked, ridiculed and ordered to “get out” of Dodge (“Bethel” really)! Or else! Israel would not be repented. Israel would not be faithed. Israel would not admit to her sin. Israel refused the Lord’s salvation given through the forgiveness of her sins.
Then jump to the New Testament. Preacher John the Baptist, in the long line of preaching prophets, like Amos, spoke the truth of God’s Word to powerful prince Herod and his royal bed partner. Remember? John called the mighty prince and his regal lover to repentance! To turn Herod and his so-called imperial “wife” away from their naughty, idolatrous sin, turn them to Jesus for salvific forgiveness, and then joyfully lead them to live holy lives according to God’s Word – you know – like the Sixth Commandment.
You see, Herod was way ahead of his time. He defined marriage any way he wanted to. He did what pleased him. “Transitioned” if you will. Check it out!
Herod married his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias, while Philip was living and while Philip was in point of fact still married to Herodias. HBO, Showtime, ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX would all be frothing at the mouth to turn Herod’s progressive lifestyle into the highest rated reality TV show of all time.
First Commandment? Sixth Commandment? Not even on Herod or Herodias’ radar screens! After all, Herod and Herodias preached their own sermons to themselves with their own made up words. Their words were better words than the Lord’s. It went something like this: “We love each other. As long as you love each other and yourself that’s all that matters, right? As long as what we do is done in love, we can do anything we want, right? What people do in the privacy of their own royal bedroom is nobody’s business, right?”
Well … no! And that was John the Baptist’s point! “Herod and Herodias! You’ve sinned in this matter. You need to repent. You need to turn away from your sin.” But they would not have a Word from the Lord.
How dare John call them sinners! How dare John tell them that they were sinning! Herodias was furious and she held a gregarious grudge against him. She waited patiently until she could finally get rid of the preacher. Herod, however, kept John around for entertainment purposes. Sadly, the entertainment consisted of a drunken blow out birthday bash, a skanky belly dancer AKA Herodias’ daughter, and preacher John’s head getting severed from his body and then paraded around on a platter to the delight of her highness Herodias and the shock of even the most wasted at the birthday bash.
Most of Israel, Herod, and Herodias despised Amos and John’s faithful preaching of God’s Word. Refused to face their sin. No repentance. So they had no need and had no use of whom? Yes, that’s right, the Savior Jesus, the Christ. No faith. Tragic. Deeply catastrophic. Salvationly disastrous. Hellaciously calamitous.
Now, let’s bring this sermon down the home stretch and finish with a flourish. These Bible stories are written for your instruction. Are you willing to be instructed? You are? Wonderful. All right. Here goes.
So what about you? Will you pull an Israel? A King Jeroboam II? A Herod? Will you do the unthinkable and fully deny that you’re a sinner? Will you too want to be rid of such troublesome preachers like Amos and John the Baptist?
You’d better not. Don’t spin. Don’t justify. Don’t excuse. But see it. Admit it. Confess the truth. I’m a poor, miserable sinner. I’m sin-sick to death! Malignantly full of this illness! I’ve sinned against God not only by what I say and do but also in what I desire and how I think. It goes to the very center of my being. And for this I deserve God’s temporal and eternal punishment. That’s the truth. Examine your life according to the Ten Commandments and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.
So, FOR YOU, dear sinner, I’m here to tell you that this is not the end of the story. There’s more. The preacher is ultimately sent with another word. It’s the Gospel. The good news of salvation. Out of plumb? Jesus died and rose FOR YOU! Don’t measure up? Jesus is the Savior of sinners – came only to save sinners – bled His pure blood out of His body for sinners - who are way out of whack. Every one of them: Israel, Jeroboam II, Herod, and Herodias. Including and especially you! FOR YOU there is total and complete forgiveness in the divine Body and Blood of Jesus that suffered, bled and died on the cross.
Here’s how St. Paul, perhaps the greatest preacher ever, put it: “In [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace.”
Yes, you’re a sinner. Join the club. It’s the truth. God bless you for admitting that. But Jesus is greater than your sin. There’s no sin too big for Him! You are forgiven. You are saved in the precious bloody wounds of Good Friday Jesus. You are the one the preacher is sent to – the one God wants to hear this Good News promise. All the crooked in you is spoken perfectly straight in Jesus. In His Holy Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr