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Ben Fleming: Falling, Rising and Reforming, Mark 9:14-24

February 14, 2022

Audio Recording

Church History
Church History
Ben Fleming: Falling, Rising and Reforming, Mark 9:14-24
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Sermon Transcript:

:00 I'm Ben, I'm one of the three senior pastors here at west side church. We're excited to have you, and I don't really to just have you at that makes it feel like we up here are separated from you. We are the church gathered, and we really believe big time in these moments that we get to have together and sing together and, and learn together. if you want to know one more thing about me, I finished the word all this week in one line and nobody believed me. we are in the middle of a sermon series called church history. And why are we doing a church history series? Well, it's not just to make a sermon sound even more boring than maybe sometimes it already can be instead it's to allow us a moment to evaluate and understand where we come from.

00:49 Maybe even where some of our beliefs and understanding of Jesus comes from, and even more than that, understand where we can go. I think of it a lot, like a medical exam, right, where we're trying to have an understanding, not just of where our bodies are at right now and what our needs are at right now, but also a good doctor will take into account your family, health history, what diseases or illnesses, or maybe they more prone to than any other things my wife is adopted. So she doesn't have any medical history. She has zero understanding of who her parents were or what their medical history might be. And so what a doctor does for her, as they say, okay, well, we're just going to run a test on everything. We're going to try to understand everything so that we can get ahead of anything that might go ahead and come down the pike. And that's what us running through church history is it's us trying to understand the pitfalls of the church, the mistakes that we've made, sometimes the cycles that we perpetuate, but also the incredible potential that the church has as well. So some of these moments will feel like a colonoscopy.

01:55 Other moments will feel a little bit more hopeful. I'll let you decide what today feels like. Okay. So where we're at specifically in this story right now is the falling rising reforming 1500 to 1799, which is a small amount of time to cover. And I'm sure I'll be able to do it in the next 20 minutes. And this is the reformed age, and there are so many people. And so many things that come into this story are really going to focus on the centerpiece. and that is Martin Luther. But before we jump into his story, this is a painting from the reformation age. That really explains quickly where the church is at in the current moment. so your own, miss Bosch is the author or the artist that created this painting. And in it, he shows the creation story with Adam and Eve and the fall of man.

02:45 And then over on the far side, he depicts a coming judgment. And then in the middle, he talks about his current and present age. And there's this huge haystack with an angel on top of it and the glory of God above it. And then down below you have and powerful people in the church that are living large, essentially on the backs of their parishioners. While you have a large group of common people, simply trying to get a glimpse of the glory of God, but they've been obscured by what's been created around them. Normal people don't have access to scripture, which means normal people are often taken advantage of by powerful people within church structure in this day and age. And so enter a man named Martin Luther, who, by the way, not Martin Luther king, Jr. That comes along ways. I remember being 8, 9, 10 going through Christian education and being very confused about civil rights and the reformation.

03:42 Martin Luther is, born in Germany in eighteen fourteen, eighty three. He's a son of a miner and his dad who was so against him going through everything that he's had to go through in his life as a minor, really encouraged Martin Luther to become a lawyer. So Martin Luther goes to school to become a lawyer. And he ends up in a moment that I bet is very familiar to many of us and that he's in a dire situation. He's actually in a thunder and lightning storm and he makes a deal with God. He says, God, if you get me out of this, I'll become a monk. And what happens is he gets out of it. He immediately becomes a monk and enters into the Roman Catholic church that he was brought up in. And he begins to translate scripture, spends time with clergy and be one of the higher ups in the church.

04:34 Now, Martin Luther is naturally just racked with guilt and shame in his life there's stories, that old clergy would tell about Martin Luther coming into their confessional for so long that they would actually bring their lunch or their dinner in order to be able to spend enough time with him. And it was that he wanted this confession daily, or sometimes a few times a day because he always felt like God was after him. He always felt like he was in trouble. And he always was feeling like he was doing something wrong. And he surmised after some time that he has gotten this idea because of the church structure that he's grown up with and maybe not necessarily scripture. And one of the peak moments for him happens when he is selected to go to we'll just call it the, the great monk conference in Rome.

05:20 And he gets to go on this pilgrimage from Germany and into Rome. And there they have these stairs that Jesus walked up to meet Pontious pilot. now I know you're saying, well, this is in Rome, Ben. I don't think you understand the geography well in the crusades, they had taken apart these steps piece by piece and relocated them to Rome. And so now it was a huge part of the pilgrimage for many of these church leaders to come and to walk the steps that Jesus had walked upon this pilot. But what had been created in their custom over time was it, wasn't just that you go and you walk up the stairs. It was now in order to receive an indulgence or to receive extra blessing or favor from God, you didn't just walk the stairs, you crawled up them on your knees. And at every stair you prayed the rosary to receive this true, massive, big blessing that God had for you and Martin Luther does what he should do in his mind.

06:23 He crawls up on his hands and knees and he gets to the top and he has this moment where he looks down and he's surrounded by other powerful people in church. And he says, but what if all of this is not real? He descends the steps continues his studies. And he eventually is so disgusted by indulgence has given to other people. Cause it's not just that there was so much power and money within the church structure. What was happening is that people were actually being given these indulgences by powerful people in the church. And an indulgence is essentially a favor given to you by the church to a parishioner or a community member. So you could come in and you could pay for a blessing. You could pay for forgiveness instead of going through pennants or whatever other systems that they had. You could even pay to get a relative out of purgatory and into heaven. Or if you were really flushed with cash, you could pay to get them out of hell and into heaven.

07:20 You would be, you'd be given specific favors, or you would be put up at a high place of power within the church yourself. If you simply had enough money and Martin Luther got so tired of these practices, that in the middle of his studies, one moment, he had an epiphany that maybe this faith is given to us by grace and that not of ourselves, but it is a gift of God instead of something to be earned. And so what he does is he begins to try to reform the Catholic church. And so he begins to talk to these powerful people and try to change their minds. And he's writing papers and making arguments. So that they'll change from this way where we're trying to get people to repent in their culture is not a change of mind, but instead it becomes a certain amount of penance to the church.

08:09 They've changed the translation and communicated this to people. Martin Luther is trying to change all these things until finally nobody's listening. He gets so upset that he posts a list of statements called theses on the door of the church that are in criticism of the church and an affirmation of the gospel of Jesus. This gets distributed. All of a sudden people's eyes are open to what the church has been doing and what the potential is, what the real relationship with Christ. And they begin to say, well, I wonder if this church doesn't need to be the church, how many know powerful people that are benefiting from the ignorance of others, do not like the sound of that.

08:54 So eventually doesn't let up. And he's ex-communicated by Pope Leo the 10th. And what happens is not that the Catholic church has reformed, but instead, a new movement that we call the Protestant movement is born now an incredible victory, not just because people are out from underneath thinking that this is the only way to do it. This abusive relationship that they have with the church at the time, but also Martin Luther, who knows how to translate scripture, begins to translate the new Testament into the German language or the common language of the people around there. And then from there, it gets translated over time into all kinds of different languages. So that incredible masses of people now have access to the new Testament that never had that access before. What a moment, what a time. I can't imagine being able to open up the scriptures myself and my own home with my own family for the first time, this is a beautiful, incredible, and crucial victory for the church. And how many of you know that when masses of people start to read scripture, they're all unified and they all begin to draw the exact same conclusions.

10:06 Some of you, your small group leaders, you're like, this is not how it goes. We started at the front of the Bible, you know, in the beginning. And somebody was like, well, what do we mean by beginning? Cause somebody helped me out here.

10:20 So what happens now is while this incredible victory has quote unquote, been one, the church does what the church often has done over the course of history. And we find something else to argue and discuss about. And so you have the rise of all kinds of denominations that are happening in the Protestant church. You have the rise of all these different theologians and people that feel like they understand the scripture in this way. And some take this idea and some are now Calvinists. And then, you know, later down the road, you have people like John Wesley and Martin Luther right in the middle of it. And now what happens with the church is not this discussion of, is this church abusive or not? Or is it Christianity or is it something else? But even just within the Christian faith, you have incredible disagreement about what the scripture says, which creates the biggest question that they begin to wrestle with in the reformation.

11:12 And one of the biggest questions that we begin to wrestle with right now in this time, and that is the question of what do you believe? What do you believe now? Our beliefs can be powerful things and they can pull us in all kinds of different directions. And at the time the belief discussion was about many, many things. One of them was about predestination and are we all are some just simply assigned to a life of salvation with God and some simply assigned to death. There's some delivered this way. And some that, some of it was out about the methodology of the church. How do we care for the poor and the powerless? And you know, later down the road, we had questions like, should drums be on a stage in the church? Or is this say tannic? Or what is it a jury is still out on that.

11:58 We're not sure. And all these discussions begin to emerge. And then again, if you continue to chase it down the timeline, because so many people read the Bible in so many ways you had just as much, if not more dysfunction than the Catholic church did in the early days of the reformation, because we had things like women being treated like second class citizens in the name of Jesus Christ himself. We begin to be okay with slavery because of what we were reading and how we were interpreting scripture. Now, what happens is if we become obsessed with our beliefs and we allow our beliefs, which by the way, this is very important. We should try to understand what we believe. We should try to wrestle many things to the ground. But I got to tell you today that if belief begins to drive the car, we often miss out on the Jesus that we came here for in the first place.

12:53 Let me show you first. I'll read you this quote or no, I won't. That's on the wrong page. Here you go. John chapter five, I was right at the first time, got to trust myself. Jesus just healed someone. And then the Pharisees are after him. And on his case, and Jesus has this pretty confrontational conversation with them. Check this out. This isn't the father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You've never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you for you do not believe the one he sent listen to this. You study the scriptures diligently because you think in them, you have eternal life. These are the very scriptures that testify about me. Yet. You refuse to come to me to have life. Jesus looks at these Pharisees and he says, you are the smartest people in the room.

13:52 And this was a question of access. Not everyone could access the scriptures at this time either. So you have access, you have knowledge, you have your debates, you have more understanding than most people I see. And yet you completely miss the point. Your belief in how the Messiah would be manifested on this world has led you to a place where you have missed the Messiah. I wonder today that is some of us in here. Our beliefs have led us to a point where we believe, and we believe real hard. And we've got internet forums and social media to confirm many of these beliefs. And somehow in the middle of creating a collecting our beliefs, we've actually missed out on the person and the presence of Jesus Christ. We've missed out on the real message that he was coming to bring us. And that is that we can receive salvation by grace through faith. And that our massive priority for Christ is that we simply come know him and we care deeply for the poor and the powerless. We can miss it, even if we're the smartest person in the room.

15:02 And so I want to argue today or contend today, I'm not arguing. This is a monologue. Hello? That maybe the question of what do we believe is not the best question. I love this quote from pastor Richard malodorous. He says, unless we read scripture through the lens of the crucified Christ with others, our exit Jesus is dangerously subject to personal preferences and political allegiances. You can read your way in scripture into hating massive groups of people in history. And even after the reformation, people read their way into trying to burn witches into superstition, into genocide, into slavery. We can read our way into this. Even Martin Luther, who was the author of this incredible reformation later penned a letter indicating that Jews were the enemy of God and their synagogues should be burned to the ground.

16:07 So maybe there's a better thing to chase. And Jesus shows it to us right here in mark chapter nine. It says when they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law, arguing with them. And as soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. What are you arguing with them about? He asked a man in the crowd answered teacher. I brought you my son. Who's possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Then whenever it sees him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth and gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked you disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not. You unbelieving generation. Jesus replied. How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me. Jesus sounds a little bit like some of the tired parents in the house today. How long must I be with you?

17:07 So they brought the boy when the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into convulsion. He fell to the ground. He rolled around foaming at the mouth and Jesus asked the boy's father, how long has he been like this? From childhood? He answered. It has often thrown him to the fire or water to kill him. But if you can do nothing, do anything, take pity on us and help us if you can. Jesus said everything is possible for the one who believes and immediately the boy's father exclaimed. It's the word again? Right? I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.

17:48 Now what I want you to see this scripture is that Jesus didn't do what we do with the word belief. I don't know if any of you have been asked over the last couple of years about what you believe about something in our culture. So what do you believe about this news story? What do you believe about masking? What do you believe about this and that? And it's funny when people find out I'm a pastor, those actually become the first questions in their minds, not, oh, isn't Jesus wonderful pat. Oh, you're a pastor. Okay. I kind of see if you're on my team here

18:23 And what Jesus doesn't do is go, okay, look, I understand that.

18:26 There's a problem. I understand that your son is sick

18:28 And I understand that I can heal him, but let me ask you a question. Do you believe in God, our father, do you believe in Christ, the saints communion, do you believe in the Virgin birth, a weird question to ask about your mom in front of other people? You know, he doesn't say any of these and actually the word, the use of the word belief in this particular passage has nothing to do with what it is not a, what word, the word belief that Jesus uses in this context is actually a who word.

19:09 And I love the response. He says, look, I do you, do you believe, do you know that this can happen for those who believe? And this is such a dad move, right? I do believe, help me overcome, not believing. This is hard. And he takes this bumbling, but sad and passionate and loving father. And he simply looks at him and he doesn't ask for a statement of faith. And he doesn't ask for what denomination. He belongs to her, what faith tradition he grew up in. He doesn't ask him if he read in three chapters of the old system at and two in the new Testament, he looks at him and he says, do you trust me? And he says, confusedly, I believe you. I think her trying real hard, probably need someone to teach me, but I think I believe you.

20:06 And in this desperate moment, this father uncovers, what I hope are

20:09 Church can uncover what I hope Christian culture can uncover. And we, as

20:15 Individuals can uncover that. Oftentimes while it is a worthy exercise to discover what you believe that so many times our beliefs will fail us and let us down. But the who in the equation has never once ever let us down. I wonder if there's some of you in the room today,

20:47 Cause this is a tough look. I'm reading this for the last eight weeks, getting ready to speak this. I'm trying to get it just right myself. And there's a few times of reading through it and I'll go on what I'm saying, scares me really bad. I like my list of beliefs a lot. I've spent a lot of time thinking about them and when I hold so tightly to exactly my beliefs about everything, I find a tribe. I usually find a group of people that will affirm those things. And that feels good and it feels safe. You know, it's harder. But I think is actually the challenge that believed that God has put us up to is not, can Westside create the best statement of faith to put on their website. I think it's Ken west side, whole heartedly trust Jesus with all that we have.

21:52 And it's tough. But look, this is where I really, really believe that there's no way to say this without making people chuckle a little bit. So I'll just let you talk all. This is the reason we have to have old people in our churches come on. Cause I can't tell you how many times I have come to a person with many more years than me. And I've gone like, well, I'm worried about this and I'm worried about this. And I believe this. And I think this and I think, and to listen to them, recount their discussion and their lifetime with their beliefs and they go, yeah, somewhere along 35, I changed my mind about that. Oh, and then I did it again at 45 and then at 50, well, how do you feel about it now? Do you believe that dunking is better than sprinkling?

22:40 And there's so many big theological questions that I would ask to somebody that's been asking the questions a lot longer than me and you know how many times I get this answer? I'm not sure I believe help my unbelief. I need help. I think we can do that west side. I think we can. I think we can, we can figure out a way to try to discover in our cultural context in our city, what we believe to help the poor and the powerless in this place. I believe that we as individuals and as families and as a whole church family, that we can discover some things. We can do our best to understand what we believe, but we have to be reminded all the time that Jesus did not die and rise again from the grave so that we could have the best statements of faith. But instead so that we can trust in the who and not the what, one of my favorite pictures of this. And then I'll close this in Genesis chapter 15, God's talking to Abraham and he shares him. The news of your descendants will be like the sand on the seashore, the stars in the sky. He makes this promise to him and the passage then says, and Abraham believed God, that word there is our word. That's been that's it that's turned into amen. It's Amman.

24:14 And I was reading through, I got kind of on this kick of all these different people kind of translate a Monterey, amen. A little bit different. And when I was a kid growing up, amen, man, it's time to eat. And then I got a little older and I heard somebody say, well, amen means let it be so, and I was like, Ooh, that'd be so that's good. I did that. And then I came across this one, this one man who had translated this way. And he said the basic foundational premise for us to understand in our context, the word amen means, here you go, Abraham received this promise. He took it in. He believed it onto himself. And then he replied to God with here you go.

25:03 Some of you with your children today need to say, here you go. You're not quitting. You're not giving up. You're not becoming inactive, but it's time to trust God again. Or maybe for the first time. Some of you young people with your future, that you have curated every scholarship or educational opportunity or friendship along the way. It's time to come to this moment of wholehearted stress with God to say in Jesus' name, here you go. That doesn't make you weak. That actually makes you strong. Then while it's can feel confusing in a moment, it brings knowledge and wisdom in the longterm.

25:56 Jesus, I pray today that we could be a people that are so confident in you. That that can be the way that we actually end our prayers. Not in a, this prayer is over, but in here you go, God, here's my hopes and my dreams and my future. And here's the church and here's bend Oregon and central Oregon. Here's our world that you said you so loved that you gave your only son that whoever would believe not in this stuff in the lists, but in the who that came along with this moment, or we trust you. We trust you with it and your great name we pray. And everybody said, amen, here you go. Oh, you guys beat me to it. Wow. I like to think I'm quick. And not today. I do want to reiterate, maybe even after the message, we talk about trusting God and incredible way.

26:58 If you haven't done it already, to express that even in a public fashion of the, here you go, I trust God. I believe in him is to get baptized. We want to baptize you today. I'll get you some shorts from my office, whatever it takes. I don't think I have shorts in them. I might, we want to make this happen no matter what it takes. If you feel that in your heart that you want to make this moment, you want to get baptized today. We want to go ahead and do that as quickly as possible today. So if you want to hang out and watch and see what happens, or if you want to hang out and you want to get baptized, we welcome all of that community happening around that moment. We believe it's such a special one. Okay? We love you west side again. How we love you. That creates a separation between me and you. We're doing this together. I'm so encouraged by us as the church, the direction that we're heading and what God is doing in this place. You're now free to roam about the cabin. We'll see you next time.