The Sundays in Lent are named from the first word in the historic Latin Introits. The 2nd Sunday is Reminiscere from "Remember, O Lord your great mercy and love" Do you remember the zeal and certainty you felt at 10? When our sermon hymn was first published in 1774 "it was stated that it was written by a youth of ten years'" (Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal, 248). The version we sang was published 13 years later as "'altered by B. Francis.'" If you read the original you can hear the zeal and certainty of a 10 year old. Take the first verse. The first two lines are the same, "Jesus! And shall it ever be! / A mortal man ashamed of Thee?" But the last two read, "Scorned be the thought by rich and poor; / Oh, may I scorn it more and more!" The 10 year old ends the first and last line with an exclamation point.
Remember, at one time you had the zeal for Jesus of a 10 year old, but remember also you have been like Peter too. You've been ashamed of Jesus' cross, and make no mistake that's what Peter is. He thinks when he rebukes Jesus for talking about going to the cross that he has Jesus' best interest at heart. Peter can't see any good coming from the suffering, rejecting, and crucifying that is going to happen to Jesus.
Can you? Are you ashamed of the cross of Jesus? You are if you are like me when I'm confronted by sickness, suffering, and dying. How I ache for the Lord to do something mighty in the lives of His people. Show Himself to be God in flesh and blood. Instantly heal their body with His Body and Blood. Have Baptism wash away something besides just sins. Have Absolution visibly send away death. The Lord can't be at work in, with, and under afflictions, disease, problems, pain, and death. It's only by delivering from these evil, triumphing over these bad things that God could be at work. Least that's what Peter and I think.
But when we think this way, we're ashamed of the Jesus who Paul preaches as crucified and whose death Paul says we proclaim in celebrating Communion. And we're not just ashamed of His cross but of His words. His Words say His followers are sheep appointed for slaughter. His Words says that the sign of being a child of His is whipping. His Words say all those that live godly in this life will suffer. His Words promise us the hatred of the world. When you too, like I, fail to embrace the slaughtering, whipping, suffering, and hating, you are ashamed of Jesus and His Words.
And what does Jesus say about that? When we're ashamed of the crucified Jesus and His Words we're embracing this adulterous and sinful generation. We're saying I want to gain the world now; I want to save my life now. I don't care if I am forfeiting my soul; I'll gladly exchange it for happiness, success, power, or love now. You know it's only to Jesus that the Devil promised the whole world for His soul. To the rest of us he just offers a piece here or there, but many there are who take it.
Go ahead put the crucified Jesus away in a corner. Make more of the words of doctors, scientists, and politicians. You certainly will gain in this world; you certainly will save your life here, but Jesus will be ashamed of you when He comes in His Father's glory with the holy angels. He won't know who you are. Remember that.
But remember that is not now. Remember that He is preaching to you today to save you from that horrible judgment. Remember Jesus is not ashamed of you today. Jesus is willing today to claim your obligations as His own, obligations that are far beneath Him as God almighty. Jesus is willing to take on Himself all the things you should, ought, and must do as a man, woman, or child. Though God in flesh and blood, Jesus is willing right now to fear, love, and trust in God above all things for you. Though true God, Jesus is willing to not take the name of God in vain for you. Though God Himself, He is willing to be obedient to human parents in your place.
Remember though you and I have been ashamed of Jesus, today He's not ashamed of us. Today, He's willing to take on our obligations though they are far beneath Him, and He's willing to pay our debts which are down right shameful. That's because today Jesus is not here in the glory of the Father. Today He appears in the plain looking Waters of Baptism and the weak looking Bread and Wine of Communion. Today He appears not in glory but in the simple sounding words of this sermon. And remember it's not too late today to have Jesus pay off your debts.
You owe big time for the thoughts you ought not to have; the words you ought not to have said; and the things you ought not to have done. If you blush to own them, think what humiliation, what degradation, what shame God the Son endures when He says, "I'm responsible for that." Those things you would give anything to undo can't be undone. Someone is going to answer for them. It will either be you on the Last Day when those things will be splashed in full color on a gigantic screen for everyone to see or it is Jesus on the cross.
Remember Jesus is not ashamed to stand with you before God and all creation. It seems trivial to put this in terms of sport, but it will mean something to you who know how devastating, humiliating, and life changing a mistake can seem in that realm. I think it was a Final Four or at least an NCAA tournament came. The Georgetown Hoyas had the last shot which would make them win by one. Everything happened just right. Their star player got an easy open shot and missed it badly. The young man was devastated, humiliated, done for. He hung his head in shame. The first thing his coach, big John Thompson, did was run over and hug that boy.
The coach was not ashamed to be identified with a loser, and Jesus is not ashamed to be identified with a sinner like you. He bought and paid for that privilege. He was a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief His whole life just so He could say before God and all creation, "That's my girl! That's my boy!" He was stricken, smitten, and afflicted in this world for you, so you could gain a world without end. He forfeited the Father's presence at the cross, so He could be present with you on the Last Day.
Remember you have been ashamed of Jesus; remember Jesus is not ashamed of you today; and remember Jesus will never put you to shame. The historic Introit for this Sunday begins like ours does, but it goes on with the first two verses of Psalm 25 instead of switching to Psalm 115. It reads, "Unto Thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul; O my God, I trust in Thee; let me not be ashamed." Here the thought is not of our being ashamed of Jesus but of our faith and trust in Him never being put to shame.
Jesus calls us in the text to deny our self. We live in a world where we are taught to do our own thing, to be me, to do things our way. Me, myself, and I are glorified, deified, worshipped. You are to be passionate about whatever you like, want, do. Self-denial is not valued in our world. Expressing yourself, pampering yourself, making time for yourself is celebrated. Here Jesus promises that those who deny self forfeit nothing, loose nothing, gain everything.
Don't you want to be free from the tyranny of self? It doesn't matter what I think, feel, or believe; what matters is what Jesus says. I don't have to pay attention to the me who sits there all day like those birds in "Finding Nemo" saying nothing more than "Mine, mine, mine." I can praise Jesus like Paul did for delivering me from the wretched man that I am, this dead, decaying self. In Jesus, I'm free from this dark shadow that stalks me, plagues me, and haunts me. I not sure who that is, but I know in Jesus it's no longer me.
We saw how Peter recoiled from the cross of Christ; I said that I do that too, but Jesus isn't the only one with a cross. Jesus says each of us have one. Most people know expressions like, "We each have our cross to bear." "That's my cross." The trouble is we often think only of big heavy things like disease, tragedy, disaster. No, your cross is anything where the self is killed. When me, myself, and I don't get my way, I'm on the cross. When I give into my spouse and I don't want to I'm on the cross. When you are so frustrated because you are being faulted for what is not your fault, you're on the cross. When you don't get what you want so desperately and you feel like God has forgotten you, me, myself, and I are on the cross.
And that my friend is a good place to be. That's the place Paul was when he said, "I die daily." That's the place Baptism takes us because Romans 6 says, "Don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with." As the old self is taken to the cross through the waters of Baptism, a new man emerges and arises to walk about in the life Christ rose from the dead with: a life that is liberated from sin, liberated from death, liberated from the devil's power.
Remember Jesus will never put those to shame who deny the self, take up their cross, and follow Him. Your self will tell you otherwise. Remember Paul says that your self is not subject to the law of God and cannot be made to be. Your self will tell you what Peter's did: the way of the cross is only suffering and death and it must be avoided at all cost. You follow Jesus and you loose everything, you gain nothing.
That is true for the old adam; the sinful nature is drowned in Baptism, muzzled and cast out by His Word, and killed by the Body and Blood of Christ. The new man, however, is never put to shame, but always blessed, always renewed, always strengthened in the paths the Lord Jesus leads him down. He finds Baptism to be a font of life; Absolution to be Words to live by, and Communion to be the Medicine of Immortality. A 10 year old would hang on to these truths with zeal and certainty at least till he hit 13. Thankfully they remain true until he comes back to them at 23, 33, 53, or 103. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
The Second Sunday in Lent (20120304); Mark 8: 31-38