S-1518 24SAP/3B 11/08/2015 Hymns: (O) #588; (S) #783; LS. #644; #633; #632; (C) #923
Texts: Psalm 146:9a; 2 Kings 17:8-16; Hebrews 8:24-28; Mark 12:38-44
Theme: “Don’t Do It For Show! A Pretense Of Piety” (Mark 12:38:40)
Question: “What motivates you to do things in/for the Church?” (8th sermon at Trinity).
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is the Gospel Reading. “And in His [Jesus] teaching He said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation’” (Mark 12:38:40).
In Nomine Iesu
Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ, you, who are His precious and blood-bought souls on Calvary’s death Tree; as you know I just returned from my Holy Land Nour Tour. While visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem where Christ was born, we arrived early before many of the tourists and took our place. We waited for over an1 1/2 while the Greek Orthodox were having Mass. It was a big fanfare and pomp and show. While we were waiting many would visit softly with one another and then out of nowhere a priest would raise his voice and say: (loud) “SILENCE!” To me, this priest was more disturbing than those waiting in line. My wife was even chastised because she crossed her legs while sitting and waiting in the church.
If that is not bad enough, when it was our turn to visit the cave where The Savior was born; the security officers came and said: “You have only 30 seconds to empty the church because there are some VIP diplomats who are going to visit the site!”
I was upset. We waited for a little over 1 1/2 and now we have to leave. It was a big circus of showing pomp and fanfare. And it was the same way when we got to the Wailing Wall. There the Orthodox Jews pray with loud voices so they can be heard by all. At times, they would pause from their prayers and look at other people in disgust.
That is exactly what the Lord of the Church, please notice that term: “The Lord of the Church”, Jesus Christ has told us through the writing of St. Mark not to seek the places of honor in the marketplace or workplace as these Jewish leaders were doing. We are not to be self-serving, or seeking the life of ease and luxury by a pretense of piety.
For many in Jesus’ day and sadly in ours also live for themselves. Always doing things to be noticed and seen; always involved in a manner that brings attention to the person instead of the Savior. That shouldn’t be. Jesus warns us of such things. PAUSE.
Instead, as the followers of Jesus living in the 21st Century, we should be noticed. But in getting noticed, we shouldn’t just speak to impress others. We should be honest and sincere. Willing to always be on the firing line of any issue and deal with it lovingly, caringly and joyfully. This should happen not only when people are listening and watching but especially when no one is around.
In the waters of Holy Baptism we were made saints of God. In this we are called out of the world to be faithful and true. To be men and women that live the Christian faith not to earn points, but as a reminder we are the souls that have been purchased with Jesus’ precious blood. While we are here living in the Ark of Salvation, we should always follow His teaching and example.
We should deal with all issues at hand head on, so that the devil doesn’t come between us but; rather to build each other up and spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. This house of worship called Trinity in Hartford should be known as a house of prayer and not as a house of division; a house of joy and not of sadness; a house of peace and not of heartaches.
Our aim as the baptized children of the Heavenly Father is to be sincere, truthful, caring, honest and loving in doing everything to the glory of God and not for personal gain. As we live and move and have our being our sole purpose for having this house of God, is to manifest who Jesus Christ IS and what He has accomplished for us through His suffering, brutal death on the cursed Tree and glorious resurrection. PAUSE.
Beautiful people of God, I know we mean well. But sometime our well meaning intentions get in the way of being caring and loving. Some even say: “That the road to heaven is paved with good intentions” but good intentions don’t change outcome. At times with pious satisfaction on our faces we act as holier than thou. At times we look down on others.
The questions that need to be asked of us all—pastor and people are: “What is our hearts motivation?” Why do people go to church? What do men ask of their religion? Is it life-changing? Or is their churchlife no different than if they belong to a large social club? Are they looking out for the good of their neighbor, or rather seeking to bolster their own prestige, and power and position? And what right do they have to expect of their pastor, elders and other church leaders—who lead them in worship and their spiritual growth? Why are we here doing what we do? Is it for show, or is it to receive the great blessings and goodness God offers us in His Word and Sacraments? Do we speak out of our hearts the truth for truth’s sake? And are we criticizing for criticism sake and tear people down to lift ourselves up?
Whatever reason the Holy Spirit has brought you here, I pray you have come with a genuine and true heart to confess your sins and sorrow over that sin and live in the grace of God and the mighty, marvelous Means of Grace He dishes out for you week in and week out.
Here in this place you learn to depend not on the things you do, but on the One who has done all things for you—Jesus the Christ. Here you will see that He went to the cross not to show that He deserves to suffer for His sin, but rather He went to the cross to show you how much He loves you, pay for your sins and want you to be His forgiven and redeemed child. PAUSE.
Precious children of the heavenly Father, I ask yet another important question of you. Is there anything in all this beautiful world of greater importance—of more value to the world—than a human life, with all its marvelous power to think and feel and love and hate and so leave its mark on all life, for all time?
There is nothing in all the world that God has created is so wonderfully of worth as every human soul He has made. Every soul you meet on the street, workplace, school is a soul purchased at Calvary’s cross. I pray that these souls haven’t depreciated in value since Calvary.
May people who know us here and out there (point to the outside of church) see us as men and women on a mission not to tear others down, but build them up: not to divide, but to forgive and love and show mercy. May all that we do both here in this holy house and in all other activities be done for one purpose alone—to show them the face of Jesus, the love of Jesus, the compassion of Jesus and the grace of Jesus.
Here, in the Ark of Salvation, by the power of the Holy Spirit you will learn that what Jesus did was not to show Himself as better or having more power, though He IS/DOES. No He did ALL of this for you. He loved you to the cross, empty tomb and back to life again. And in this place, you and I will be used as an instrument in the Master’s hand to build and enlarge His kingdom, so that many more will come in, sit at His feet, dine with Him and leave refreshed in knowing Jesus loves them eternally and has forgiven them their many sins, even the ones they have done for show.
God grant this for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Now the peace…
SOLI DEO GLORIA