PENTECOST 18, B – September 27, 2015

 SCRIPTURES – Numbers 11:4-30; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50

 

Moses said to Joshua, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!"  Num. 11

 

Ah, such crowds, such adulation here in the U.S. for Pope Francis, “the people’s Pope!” Boy, if only, huh? If only we could get a small part of such crowds!

 

Last Wednesday Lorayne and I watched the Papal Mass in Washington, D.C. As the Pope was preaching the camera was scanning the crowd and showing the people: some eagerly watching him in rapt attention; some with their eyes closed, mouthing prayers… and one guy sitting there with his head down, his eyes on his phone and his thumbs busily typing! I started laughing and said, “Hey, Lorayne, look at that guy! I’ll bet some people are saying, “Man, why aren’t I sitting there instead of that jerk!” Ha! The Pope doesn’t have it any different than I do!” Nor is he more blessed than you, the average Christian.

 

“Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!" cried Moses. Well, He has. God put His Spirit on you when He baptized you and put His name on you, naming you His child. That dove on the top of our baptismal font is there to remind you of this. It recalls how, when Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit came down upon Him as a dove. God the Holy Spirit comes down in Baptism to dwell in us! Our baptismal font is also located under that hanging candle – the Eternal Light it is called, for it is always burning. It doesn’t just remind us that God is the eternal One, whose name is “I AM.” That candle is over the Baptismal font because in Baptism the eternal God takes us as His own to be our Father forever! You, then – a simple, ordinary Christian – cannot be more blessed or honored than you have been blessed and honored in your Baptism!!

 

So: why are you jealous? You know you are. We all are! We sinners are jealous people – even if we’re really not jealous of the Pope. As children we’re jealous when a child has a toy that we don’t have, or a better bike. When we’re older we’re envious of clothes, or cars, or tools, or phones, or bank accounts. Throughout our lives we’re jealous when we’re not being noticed or aren’t being sufficiently appreciated. “What about me?!” This yearning fills us.

 

What harm, what danger there is in this jealousy, this yearning for self! It is a great sin. It leads to not seeing Jesus as the servant of all and the One who serves through all, even the lowliest; and it prevents His service.

  • Look at John. When some anonymous guy who was “not following us” and was not one of the group closest to Jesus was nevertheless doing great works that some of them hadn’t been able to do, he was offended. “We tried to stop him,” John said – tried, for apparently they failed even in that. Good thing, for He was doing Christ’s work! “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, for “He who is not against us is for us.”

     

    Beware of jealousy and envy. How deadly is this sin which lies within us. It opposes Christ! Don’t ever make room for it or give in to it, for it will lead you to hell. Jesus warns, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell.” But, of course, the problem is really not our hands, or our feet, or our eyes. It is within. It is the desires that spring from our hearts and our heads. We need to cut them off!

     

    But, how can we? Jealous desires often just pop into our heads! Cut them off? Cut your head off and you’re dead!

     

    Is not Jesus your head? He’s not only the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity who is eternally one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He also became man: for us. As your Teacher and your Lord He is your head. He is also your Head in sins, for He took all your sinful desires and sinful thoughts and actions upon Himself, along with the sins of the whole world, and offered Himself up to be cut off for them and bear the unquenchable fire of hell. He endured all of this for you on the cross, and by being cut off in death He covered the multitude of your sins. It is finished! He is now risen from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father, where He speaks for you and sends His Holy Spirit down upon you. “Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!" He has done so! You are blessed with His Holy Spirit and are His prophets! –– although, not like the Pope (thankfully), or even like me, your Pastor.

     

    What is a prophet? Simply put, a prophet is a person who is called by God to speak and act for Him. Can little old you be such a person? Well, some anonymous guy who was not part of the group of Jesus’ followers yet believed in Him was. Why not you?

     

    God uses His people in different ways. Through some He does great works, like casting out demons. Through others He gives a cup of water to those who believe in Him. Both are great works will be honored by Christ with a reward.

     

    Jealousy misses and obscures this. “I deserve that seat more than that guy on his phone!”... “Why aren’t I ever noticed?”... “My answer (or picture; or proposal; or effort; etc. – you name it) is better than theirs!” Jealousy doesn’t build up but tears down. In doing so it even tears down the works of Christ by keeping us and others from seeing them.

     

    "Do not stop him,” Jesus said of the man who was casting out demons, “for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.” Yes, that was a mighty work. But then, He went on to say, “Truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.” Just giving a cup of water is a great work in God’s eyes!

     

    You are not a pastor, or a prophet like Moses. But, you have received the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life! You have been joined to Christ and filled with God! Jesus has made you His prophet, then, one through whom He will speak and act. Don’t disregard or belittle any of your actions as God’s child, especially those that help and serve His people. Those from our congregation who last Thursday brought food and set up tables to welcome the Lohmeyer family, the missionary family our congregation supports in the Dominican Republic, did great works that please our heavenly Father. He will reward them – but don’t jealously try to dictate to Him how! He will do so in His way and at His own time.

     

    After learning from God’s Word how God has blessed and honored us all, making us a priesthood of believers, Martin Luther wrote:

    “The pope is not, according to divine law or God’s Word, the head of all Christen-dom. This name belongs to One only, whose name is Jesus Christ [Colossians 1:18]. The pope is only the bishop and pastor of the Church at Rome and of those who have attached themselves to him voluntarily… Christians are not under him as a lord. They are with him as brethren and companions, as the ancient councils show.” (Book of Concord, SA, IV, 1 (p. 268, Reader’s Ed.))

    His words were accepted as the confession of the Lutheran Church. We would do well to take them to heart in our day, lest we join others in elevating him above ourselves or joining in a cult of personality.

     

    Christ alone is our head! We, His baptized people, are His body, His prophets through whom He does great works! This is all God’s gracious work in Christ. May His name endure forever, His renown throughout all ages! (Ps. 135:13) Amen.