WORSHIP VIDEO LINK (linked after 10:45 AM Service)






Pentecost 4 2024 Proper 6
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 16, 2024
Ezekial 17, 22-24, 2 Corinthians 5:1-17, Mark 4:26-34


Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                           pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship


            This is a beautiful church building.  We have been blessed by those who were here in the 1940s that they chose a classic style and durable materials to build our Romanesque style church modeled after St. Bernard church in Cincinnati.  This is a beautiful space in which to have the divine service.

            When Jeannette and I were in Europe in April we visited cathedrals and churches, and monastery chapels in Germany, Austria and Hungary.  The cathedrals and chapels were incredibly large, towering, ornate monuments to the architectural styles of their time.  In the Baroque style cathedral in Passau Germany, there is a gigantic golden pulpit with figures of Jesus and angels and the four gospel writers and the last supper and so much more.  It is magnificent.  So large, so beautiful, so ornate.  What would it be like to preach from a pulpit like that?  Wow!  People must be impressed with a sermon from a golden pulpit.  Now, I love my pulpit here, but it is plain and ordinary compared to European cathedrals. 

Jesus is plain and ordinary.  This must be what the disciples think about Jesus and His ministry compared to the Temple in Jerusalem with its magnificent tall pillars and gold and decorations. The priests adorned in amazing robes with golden threads in white linen.  By contrast, Jesus is a homeless teacher wandering around the backwater areas of Galilee with a rag tag band of followers including fishermen and even a tax collector.  Sometimes Jesus teaches in the synagogues but mostly outdoors on a hill or by the lake.  Jesus is not even just plain and ordinary, He is poor and lowly and weak and insignificant. Dressed like a normal person, He preaches and teaches and heals the sick and casts out demons but it does not look like much.  The healings and exorcisms are remarkable, but Jesus does not make a big deal about them, he even tells folks to keep quiet about being healed.  There are crowds following Him to be healed and to hear the teaching but it a crowd of poor, lowly people.  When the rich, powerful, important people come around Jesus they are offended by Him; they oppose Jesus.  They look to trap Jesus because they want to destroy Him.  They see the good Jesus is doing and accuse Him of being in league with the devil.  Plain, ordinary Jesus just keeps doing what He is doing; He does not care what the cool kids think of Him. 

Jesus tells the disciples a couple of parables to steady them as they follow Jesus.  The first is about the Kingdom of God being like a man scattering seed on the ground and the seed sprouts and grows all on its own.  While the man goes about his life, the earth produces automatically until the harvest.  Jesus spreads the Word and it produces on its own without human assistance.  Jesus’ Word produces fruit in the lives of His followers all by itself.

Like the disciples, we really want to believe that faith, and forgiveness, and the Kingdom of God is about us and what we do -- but it is not about you, it is about Jesus for you.  There is a terrible infection afflicting church bodies that causes folks to believe that God needs our help.  There is a thought that God’s Word is good and everything, but we really need find more and more clever ways to present it so people will believe.  In churches there is a thought that, “if we can just…whatever,” then everything would be better.  If we can just…have a better Sunday School program.  If we can just… build a better building.  If we can just…. have the youth more involved.  If we can just… do more with senior ministry.  If we can just… reach out better to the people in the neighborhood.  If we can just… find the right program at the right time.  If we can just…do whatever it takes to help God.  We are looking for a silver bullet fix to whatever ails the church, but there are no silver bullets.  God’s Word is sufficient.  Isaiah 55:10–11 (ESV) 10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

This is humbling for pastors.  God does not need me.  The Kingdom of God will grow by the power of God.  I am called to proclaim the Word of God.  It is not about me being ingenious; it is about God’s Word succeeding without my assistance. 

            Jesus continues with a second parable.  Mark 4:30–32 (ESV) 30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” 

            Now when you think of kingdoms you think of splendid castles and throne rooms and ornate robes and crowns.  Jesus here teaches about the Kingdom of God; the reign and rule of God, and it is like, it is like -- a mustard seed.  I bought a pack of mustard seeds to see what they look like.  They are tiny, brown and round; just about 1 millimeter in size; small, plain and ordinary. I put a few mustard seeds in every pew this morning, but I doubt anyone noticed.  You would have trouble finding them even if you looked.  A mustard seed is tiny, plain, ordinary and almost invisible. The Kingdom of God begins quite small, plain and ordinary there in Galilee and Jerusalem, but it grows and grows and grows.  Now the reign of God in Christ Jesus has spread all over the world, but it still appears to be small, plain and ordinary. 

            The Word of God is the only source of salvation and eternal life but it is so plain and ordinary and folks are not impressed by plain and ordinary.  People want something exciting and entertaining.  The news media will report all sorts of meaningless stories about rich, famous, powerful, important people, but they ignore what God is doing. 

God is here today, in this place, to forgive your sins and feed you the food of eternal life.  Jesus, the source of eternal life, is here with you and people act like nothing is going on.  They just ignore it because it is plain and ordinary and boring.

Far too many church bodies have grown weary of the Word of God and have moved on to preach and teach what people’s itching ears want to hear.  They constantly adjust their teachings so that the cool kids of society will not look down on them.  So many churches will fall all over themselves to change what they teach to fit whatever is the latest and greatest rejection of God’s Word put forth by the cultural elites in New York, and D.C., and Los Angeles. They care so much what the cool kids think that they have given up on God.  They have rejected the Word of God, and forgiveness, and eternal life so they can fit in with people who change their beliefs as often as their clothes.

            Not so for you.  You are a follower of Jesus Christ.  You are bound to the Word of God.  You cannot care what the cool kids think.  You cannot adjust your life to fit their perverse teachings.  As the Church of Christ, you stand firm on the plain and ordinary Word of God and reject false teachers.  You are warned about this in the book of Jude.  Jude 4, 8 (ESV) 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ …these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.” 

            Trust God’s Word because God’s Word will not return empty. The plain and ordinary Word of God is effective and the seed planted will grow by itself by the power of God. Trust the Gospel; the Good News of forgiveness of sins through the life death and resurrection of Jesus.  Trust the power and promise of your baptism. Trust Jesus’ words of pardon for sin. Trust the forgiveness given in the Lord’s Supper.  Trust…even though it is plain, ordinary water combined with the Word of God.  Trust the plain, ordinary words of absolution.  Trust the plain, ordinary bread and wine combined with the Word of God.  Trust that God works as He has promised.

            Trust the Gospel to accomplish what it promises. Follow God -- obey God -- not out of fear of punishment -- the punishment was taken by Jesus; not out of hope of reward--you have already been given eternal life.  Follow God -- obey God -- out of love for God because of what He has done for you through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. 

            It can be difficult because obeying God out of love is messy. We are so much more comfortable with punishment and reward.  Do this and you get this in return.  Don’t do this or else you will be disciplined. 

Living in the plain, ordinary love of God is messy… wonderfully messy.  Your sinful side so much wants to be in control…but you are not in charge.  God is in charge, and the Word of God is working in you, and the day of harvest will come and Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead and you will be declared righteous, pure and holy because Jesus’ robe of righteousness covers all your sin. 

It does not matter how foolish the cool kids think you are.  It does not matter how foolish they think Jesus is. It does not matter how small and plain and ordinary Jesus’ Church is.  God’s Word does not return empty.  We so much want to have some kind of spiritual experience that we can point to, some exciting happening, some spiritual high, but we get God’s plain and ordinary promises and that is good.  

  It can be difficult because obeying God out of love is messy. We are so much more comfortable with punishment and reward.  Do this and you get this in return.  Don’t do this or else you will be disciplined. 

            So follow Jesus…trust Jesus…live in the messiness of His love for you.  Obey God out of love.  Repent when you get distracted by the world and give in to temptation.  Receive His forgiveness…over and over and over. 

As Jesus’ Church we do what God has given us to do.  We make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching.  Even though it is not exciting and entertaining we pronounce the forgiveness of sins, preach the truth of God’s Word, administer the Lord’s sacrament of His Body and Blood, and we trust God’s Word to do what God has promised it will do. 

It does not matter if the pulpit is golden, or wooden, or no pulpit at all, the Word of God is effective.  Trust in the promises of God regardless of what the cool kids think.  Amen.