Summary: 3rd Sunday after Pentecost sermon preached 6/29/2003 at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Garner, Iowa (LCMS). Preached during a time of internal strife and division within the St. Paul congregation.
Pentecost 3/ St. Peter & St. Paul, Series B. 6/29/2003. Mark 3:20-35
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Garner, Iowa
“Satan is Strong, but Jesus is Stronger”
In his book The Renew Mind (Bethany House, 1981), Larry Christiansen tells a story that is a perfect illustration for our sermon text for today. I’d like for you to imagine that you live in a run down apartment. As I describe this, I actually picture in my mind my apartment in St. Paul I shared with my old roommate and good friend, Burke, our second year at Concordia when they ran out of dorm space and put some of us upper classmen in “better” accommodations in the old apartments the college owned across the street from the main campus. By run down I don’t just mean it needs a new coat of paint. Your walls and ceilings have holes in them. Your carpets are threadbare. Some places you can even see the floorboards instead of the carpet it’s so worn. The windows leak cold air in the winter and bugs in the summertime. Often, your heat or your plumbing doesn’t work properly, or you get all kinds of wonderful creepy, crawly things coming up out of your pipes and into your sinks and bathtub. Anyway, you’re living in this type of an apartment, and every month, your landlord comes to your door to collect your month’s rent. Your rent is already pretty high, and you might be having a hard time paying it right now. You may well even be a couple months behind on your rent and some of your utility bills. However, your landlord every month informs you of a rent increase. You try to explain your situation, you are working as hard as you can, and you are having a hard enough time trying to make ends meet as it is, and a rent increase is something you simply can’t afford. When you hesitate about this rent increase, or no matter what reasons you can give him for not increasing the rent and being merciful toward your situation, this landlord replies back “so, you want to make this hard huh? I can increase your rent even more and cut off some services if you don’t like it.” I don’t know about you, but if I had a landlord like this guy, I’d be outright miserable. However, you really don’t have anywhere else you can go, housing is next to impossible for you to find, so you keep paying whatever rent this mean, nasty old landlord wants from you when he demands it.
Then one day, you hear a gentle knock on your door. Fearing it may be that pesky old landlord coming back to harass you some more, you only open the door a crack. However, its not who you think it is. You find a nicely dressed, smiling young man at your door asking if he can speak with you for a moment. You open the door and he explains “just this morning, I purchased your apartment building, so I guess that makes me your new landlord. I am going around to all the apartments and I was wondering if it would be okay if I could come in and inspect your rooms? You let him in and as he sees the horrible conditions in which you are living, the young man is simply appalled. “I will see to it that every single repair that is needed to this apartment is made right away, no one should have to live like this, and I am going to cancel all your debts you have.” You can’t believe your ears! Everything is going to be fixed and your past debts are all cancelled! Every single one of them! Forgotten.
But just then, there is another knock at the door. You swing the door open in joy only to discover your old landlord glaring at you, and he doesn’t look very happy. He demands extra rent, and he wants it right now or he will throw you and your family out on the street. What should you do? Give in to this old man’s threats and intimidation and pay him what he demands from you? You’re too weak to fight him yourself, and there’s no way you can afford to have an attorney defend you in court. But wait, the building doesn’t belong to this guy anymore, remember, it now belongs to the generous new landlord. Why waste your time arguing with the old landlord? Tell him to take it up with the new owner who is right there in your apartment as this all unfolds. You don’t owe any further explanation! Amazing story isn’t it? If only it were true. Well, I have some wonderful news for you all. It is. You see, Satan is just like that old, mean, rotten landlord. He’s always demanding, always attacking us. Quite often, through the force of his evil demeanor and because his accusations of our sins are correct, he intimidates us into serving him. However, you have been bought with a price! You now belong to Jesus, your new landlord. Whenever Satan reminds you of sins you have repented of, or tries to coerce you into serving evil desires, simply tell him to take it up with your new landlord. Regardless of how often he keeps coming back, send him packing and trust the promises of the new owner, Jesus Christ!