Recently I was talking to a colleague.
They asked me, “How are things at Concordia Lutheran Church”.
I told them the truth.
“They are really messed up.”
“I know that Concordia is a mess, because I am the pastor.”
That is the truth.
It is always a temptation of a successful congregation for the pastor to take credit.
And I am just like all people tempted to believe my own press.
I am tempted to receive the wonderful pats on the back that many of you give me on an almost daily basis.
Don’t get me wrong, I love it.
It often keeps me going.
But it really isn’t the truth.
I am a mess.
If you don’t believe me go look in my office.
That is not only how my office is, but it is also how my mind works.
All jumbled and often it leads to mistakes.
But on an even deeper level, I am a mess because I am a sinful person.
I want those pats on the backs, the words of adulation.
I want to be known as a great pastor.
I want our Church to be successful.
We often think of Jesus like this.
A rock star before we knew what that term was.
We see Jesus as someone who came to earth to be adored by the masses because of his power, and authority.
I was reminded this week that is the temptation.
Tempted to be seen as the one who is gifted and says the right thing at the right time.
But what is so interesting about Jesus in Mark’s Gospel is that he rejects all of that.
Jesus doesn’t want it.
In fact, the more he is fawned over the less his ministry is successful.
In this morning’s Gospel all the people are amazed at the miracle of Jesus casting out demons, but they miss the bigger point.
They don’t see the good news.
They don’t see that Jesus was able to vanquish evil.
They don’t pay attention to what Jesus is telling them.
They are too busy being star struck.
“Wow, look at how great that was.”
Jesus doesn’t want it.
That is not what this is about.
There is something more powerful going on just beneath the surface.
That is that the true power that comes with love, humility, community, mercy.
The people all around Jesus all the time are caught up in the show, and then they miss the message.
In Mark’s Gospel Jesus ends up exhausted, defeated, and alone.
The crowds have totally missed the point.
They don’t want a savior, they want a miracle worker.
They want the power and prestige, and they don’t get the message at all.
They don’t understand what Jesus came to teach and preach.
The kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe in the good News.
They don’t understand that the kingdom is like a mustard seed, yeast, planting of seeds that we don’t grow.
This is a real problem that we as Christians have had to deal with for many years.
We follow the one who was crucified.
We follow the one who didn’t want to be a celebrity healer.
Who didn’t want to have crowds shouting and singing his name.
And yet, we have made Christianity into a contest about who has the most people.
Who has the most fans?
Who has the most people sitting in the pew?
This past week I had to do the thing I dislike most about being a pastor.
I had to fill out our congregational report for the ELCA.
Every year I despise having to do it.
I know why we do it.
I just think to myself, “Is this what Christianity has come to?”
How can you or I really count what happens here at Concordia Lutheran Church?
We can look at the numbers and be impressed with how many people come to worship, or how many new people sit in our pews.
Or how much money we raised this year.
But it doesn’t tell the story.
How many people came here looking for God and found God?
How many people just showed up one time and got what God wanted them to get?
How many lives did we touch with God’s love?
And how can we take credit for what God has done?
We can never know the answer to those questions.
They can’t be written down on a report.
If any of those things are true.
If we touched someone’s life with God’s love.
If someone heard the good news because of one of us here did or said something.
We can’t take credit for it.
Truth is that any success we may or may not have had is not ours.
Anything that we have been able to accomplish that is good, honest, just, or pure is only because of Jesus Christ.
It is because the Holy Spirit moved in us to help, and then the Holy Spirit moved in the person we helped to have some kind of epiphany of what God can do for them.
This is important for our Jesus’ community to know.
It is vital for us to understand.
That it is through Jesus Christ that true authority lies.
And Jesus authority doesn’t look like what we think it is.
It doesn’t come from any title we may or may not have.
I don’t have the authority of Jesus because I am a pastor, Jesus authority only belongs to Jesus.
Anything that I am able to say or speak that is in line with the truth of Jesus belongs to the Holy Spirit.
We don’t have authority because of any social standing.
We don’t have authority because we are good people.
Anything that is able to subvert evil.
Anything that is able to beat back the demons that lurk underneath the surface.
That is only because Jesus is able to remove it.
And this is where I want to end, because we are surrounded all the time by evil.
Surround by evil in the world and evil in ourselves.
And that seems like a hopeless thing.
It is important to say that Jesus changes everything.
What I can’t do Jesus can.
I can’t remove evil from the world.
I can’t remove evil from me.
I can’t change someone’s mind or heart.
I can’t even be a good pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church.
But somehow Jesus can.
And that is what we are about.
This morning I want you to remember that truth.
In your life when you feel that you are mess.
And I am convinced that deep down we all feel like we are mess, we sometimes can cover it up with polite conversation, or a nice wardrobe.
But underneath we all feel that way.
I feel that way all the time.
But I am not disheartened because I know that what I can’t do Jesus can.
If you don’t believe me, just think about how wonderful Concordia Lutheran Church is.
We have such a warm, caring, community.
That worships with spirit, serves with passion, learns with humility.
And all that happens despite the fact that I am your pastor.
That is all the proof you need that Psalmist’s words are true, “Great are the works of the Lord.”