The following sermon was preached on July 11, 2013 in the International Center Chapel by The Rev. Dr. Leopoldo (Leo) Sänchez, Associate Professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and director of the Center for Hispanic Studies. The text for the sermon is Philippians 2:5–11.
So are you “confessional” or “missional”? Or both? Claiming to be “missional” or “confessional,” or perhaps a “missional confessor” or a “confessional missionary,” really matters little—indeed, nothing—unless one confesses Jesus as Lord. Not just as the Lord in general, but as “my” Lord. This is, of course, easier said than done. For confessing Jesus as Lord means to live under His lordship. Not an easy thing to do, since there are many lords out there that call for our attention and entice us with power, a name for ourselves, a claim to some significance. Easier said than done. This is why St. Paul claims that…well…no one can do it!: “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” And so the Holy Spirit alone has brought us through the Gospel to confess Jesus as our Lord and live under His gracious lordship.
Confessing Jesus as “my” Lord amounts to more than words. It is a way of life where anything that is a lord in our hearts has to die so that Jesus alone may reign there with His Spirit. One thing is to say “Jesus is Lord.” Another matter is living under the lordship of Jesus. That, my friends, it’s tough business. If St. Paul thought life under the lordship of Jesus were easy, he would not have been writing letters to Christians to remind them what confessing Christ as Lord actually looked like in life. And this is the heart of the matter: You have to die every day to your own claims to lordship so that Jesus alone is Lord.
In God’s Word for today, St. Paul is reminding the Philippians, and us, to die to our own deluded attempts at greatness. No Christian is immune from the lure of power, especially those in positions of authority. Even missionaries are not immune from the attraction of greatness, as grand and even flowery stories about mission successes are shared with donors at home, or as we begin to feel we deserve to have more things because of the special works or sacrifices we are making away from our homes. Yes, the attraction to make something of ourselves, to make a name for ourselves because of our great confession or our great mission, is just too powerful.
Well, as you get ready to go to your work, all of that stuff has to die. Any ambition, significance you may want to attach to yourself or your work, and self-interest of any kind gets nailed to the cross right now and every day. Let the missionary in us say: In all my thoughts, words, deeds, I must always decrease, so that the Lord Jesus may increase.
Mission is about His story, His sacrifice for us, and His lost and poor we are called to serve under His lordship, in His name.
But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Paul says: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Paul calls all of us to die to our claims to significance in order to make room for others, so that we may be less full of ourselves and fuller of Christ, so that we may be less self-serving and more self-giving. Paul calls this aspect of living under the lordship of Jesus having “the mind of Christ.” To embody in life the confession, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ is to have the mind, the attitude, the heart of Christ.
But how does one embody this confession in mission? Only by looking at the cross, by beholding Jesus, every day. There, on the cross, one learns to look away from one’s confession and mission, and to look to Christ alone, to His words, His mission, and His works for us. There, on that cross, the mind is shaped daily after Christ’s own way of life, where nothing is claimed for oneself and everything is given to another without getting any recognition in return. There, on that cross, one ceases to be a lord with a claim to greatness, and becomes a disciple and a humble servant.
On the cross, Jesus gives us His life as a gift to behold, a life shaped by no claims to power and greatness, but by service even unto death for our sake. Behold this Jesus! Behold His great power manifested through humble sacrifice on a shameful rugged cross. Behold His divine outpouring of love for you in the unassuming waters of life at the font. Taste His glorious self-giving for you in His body and blood in, with, and under insignificant bread and wine. Hear His wisdom unto salvation through mortal men who proclaim absolution, and through poor sinners as we are bold to forgive each other our trespasses as God forgives us our trespasses. Behold this Jesus, who comes to us humbly, unassuming, whose power comes to us under the veil of loving service. It is only by tasting the Lord’s power through His sacrificial love that we learn to impart such love and sacrifice to others.
You see, Christ does not exercise His power by claiming it, even though He has it all as the Lord of heaven and earth. Instead, Christ Jesus manifests His power by becoming our Servant. Through the cross, Christ redefines what lordship is. We learn that lordship is displaying whatever power we have been given not to make claims over others but by sacrificing for them. One lives under the lordship of Christ by dying to self in order to make room for the neighbor, by giving up seeking a name for oneself in order to worship the only name that counts, the name of Jesus alone. This divesting of one’s claims to greatness is what Paul calls having “the mind of Christ,” the mind of the Lord who, as Mark says in his Gospel, did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life for many.
Luther describes what it means to have the mind of Christ in one of his sermons on Phil. 2: “Service was, with him (i.e., Christ), something assumed for our benefit and as an example for us to follow, teaching us to act in like manner toward others, to disrobe ourselves of the appearance of divinity as he did.” What a great way of putting it: “To disrobe ourselves of the appearance of divinity.” Luther goes on to explain that Christ, who is God, disrobed himself, divested himself, of the form of God, of the “God attitude” as it were, in order to serve us. What His life means for our lives is evident. How much more then should we, seeing what Christ has done for us, divest ourselves of the “God attitude,” which we cannot even claim for ourselves, in order to serve the lost, the poor, the lonely, the widow, the infant, the alien, and all the needy in our midst! To serve others, Christ has given us not “the appearance of divinity,” but the form of His servanthood. That’s the right attitude, the right mind for us, as we approach every person and every task. The form of a servant: That’s what our Lord has given to us, all we have to work with as we meet our neighbor.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we go about the tasks God has given us to do in this life, let us die to any form of divinity. Let us lose any “God attitude” of power and significance we may want to claim for ourselves in our speech and deeds. As we go into the mission field God has given us, let us trust and confess Jesus alone as our Lord. Let us make not our name but His saving name alone count in our lives and ministries and thus among those whom we are called to serve, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.” Finally, let us behold Jesus as He invites us to taste and see His power through the cross, and let us ask His Spirit in our daily devotion to shape our minds to put on the form (the attitude) of a servant daily, as the Lord did for us.
Holy Spirit, You who have led us to confess Jesus as Lord,
Come to burn away our claims to lordship and greatness,
And by the Word and your gracious indwelling in us,
Shape in us daily the mind of Christ, our Lord,
whose power is made perfect through suffering,
and made manifest through service.
LCMS international mission work around the world abides in and by these three: Baptism, teaching (catechesis) and the Lord’s Supper. Download the hot-off-the-press LCMS International Mission Reporter insert to learn more about those three gifts and the way in which LCMS missionaries are sharing Christ’s Gospel to the ends of the earth!
June is Youth Ministry Month in The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. The designation goes back to the early 1970’s after the Synod in convention had established a Board for Youth Ministry to replace its relationship with the Walther League. The purpose was to encourage congregations to give thanks to God for the opportunities we have in nurturing the young people in our churches.
Really, Youth Ministry Month takes C.F.W. Walther literally. Walther once told his seminary class of future pastors, “You cannot use your time to better advantage than by serving well the young people of your congregation.” Walther himself is recognized by people in and outside the LCMS as a pioneer for youth ministry in United States Christendom. In 1848, he encouraged establishment of a young man’s society at his church, Historic Trinity Soulard in St. Louis. A young woman’s society followed. In establishing a national youth ministry in 1893, the young synod named its new organization after the first President of the LCMS and called it The Walther League. When the League and Synod parted company in 1968, the Synod continued to emphasize youth ministry through establishment of a Youth Board.
Youth Ministry month provides an intentional opportunity to give thanks to God for His blessings to LCMS youth and the blessing they are to His church. It’s a time to give thanks for God’s claim on them in baptism, recalling the theme of this year’s Synod convention. It’s a time to give thanks for our youth’s faith, their commitment, courage, energy, enthusiasm, creativity, passion and love for God and His people. It’s also a time to give some thought to challenges in youth ministry including a declining youth membership, a culture often hostile to our faith and values, ministry with post-high school young adults, campus ministry and how do we nurture the faith in our young.
June was selected years ago as it marks the completion of the school year (although these days most schools are done in the middle of May) and the beginning of summer youth events and projects. This summer, Lutheran Youth Fellowship’s Teens Reaching Teens leadership training workshops, a witness emphasis, will be happening all over the country. Up to 4,000 LCMS teens will serve in LCMS Servant Events, a major mercy effort by LCMS Youth Ministry. And, this year, thousands of LCMS youth will head for the National Youth Gathering and other events, camps and conferences, evidence of our life together.
This month, pray for your youth and young adults by name. Check www.youthESource.com for special youth ministry month materials. Commission your youth as they go off to the Gathering. A commissioning service is available at the Gathering web site: http://www.lcmsgathering.com/Index.asp?PageID=14746. Organize your own local servant events or plan to hold an LYF training event (check with your district office). It’s a great time for youth ministry in the LCMS.
– By Rev. Dr. Terry K. Dittmer, Director, ONM – Youth Ministry
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In the coming weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the legality of same-sex marriage. As Lutherans, we believe that marriage consists of and is based on more than just feelings. We believe men and women both are created in God’s image. We believe that they complement one another physically, psychologically and emotionally. And we believe that, from this balance of father and mother, children flourish.
To help begin a discussion on what our Lord has to say about marriage, we have assembled a marriage “toolkit.” It includes a Bible study, an insert that can be used in your church newsletter or bulletin, marriage-related worship resources and links to helpful information — such as “What You Need to Know about Marriage” – from other organizations. I believe you will find these resources helpful discussion starters, especially among your congregational members, confirmation classes, Bible-study groups, family and friends.
Also, along with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has released a statement affirming marriage. This statement resulted from ongoing study and discussion among the four church bodies about the need to affirm what Scripture clearly teaches about marriage and sexuality. You can download that statement here.
As we await the Supreme’s Court decision, we still have much to do. As LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison explained, “We repent, and we pray. We confess Christ and elevate marriage among us. We do what the church does best: We bear witness to Christ, show mercy to those in our midst, and we care for all in our life together.”
These resources are offered as part of the church’s ongoing efforts to preserve the traditional definition of marriage. We pray they are useful to you.
The Rev. Bart Day
Executive Director, Office of National Mission
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
Marriage Toolkit Resources
Marriage Affirmation Statement
Aug. 14–15, 2013
Additional Resources and Links
- Press Release: “LCMS President Harrison signs letter supporting traditional definition of marriage, religious freedom”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
After May 20 tornadoes devastated parts of the Midwest and especially Moore, Okla., killing at least 24 people – some of them school children – we are requesting prayers and gifts to help with The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod’s ongoing relief effort.
The tornado swept dozens of homes and buildings off their foundations, shredded cars and trucks, littered streets with debris and power lines, injured at least 145 people in the Oklahoma City suburb and struck two schools and a hospital.
Aaron Uphoff, a vicar from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., is serving at Trinity Lutheran in Norman, Okla. He spent Monday evening in Moore, praying with and comforting those who survived the devastation. “I prayed with as many people as I could,” he said. “I asked Christ for comfort and for the peace that that surpasses all understanding, which is ours by virtue of Good Friday and Easter.”
At the same time, there is a great deal of mercy that needs to be shown to the people who have been hurt by this spring’s tornadoes. You can help support your Synod’s disaster response relief effort by contributing today to LCMS Disaster Response. The Rev. John Fale, associate executive director of the LCMS’ Mercy Operations Group,said, “The needs are going to be huge. We don’t know yet the extent of what they will be, but, by the grace of God, we will be there to respond with the love and mercy of Christ to help those affected by the tornado to regain some sense of normality.”
When the 6,200 congregations of the Synod respond, together we make an enormous difference by bringing our resources to bear where people are hurting. (Download a letter of encouragement I’ve written for our LCMS members and congregations here.)
Now is the time to help. Support those in need by:
- Making a donation online at http://www.lcms.org/give/disaster.
- Mailing checks payable to “The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod” (with a memo line or note designating “LCMS Disaster Relief”) to The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
- Calling toll-free 888-930-4438 (8:10 a.m. – 4:10 p.m. CST, Monday through Friday).
Pastor Matthew C. Harrison
President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
Give a gift to help the LCMS provide immediate and ongoing response when disasters happen.
Watch LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison’s video message of Christ’s help and hope.
Keep up-to-date on the LCMS response to disasters around the globe at www.lcms.org/disaster
Download disaster-related worship resources for use
this Sunday, including a Bible Study, devotion, hymn suggestions and prayers.