Sunday, April 09, 2006

Mark 14:1-11 - “Standing Room Only”

Written with the help of the Confirmands
Palm Sunday (Year B - LCMS Readings) (Confirmation Day)
Saturday, April 8, and Sunday, April 9, 2006

Stand up. (motion for congregation to stand up)

There you go, it’s standing room only for Confirmation Day, and today’s sermon written with the help of the confirmands is called “Standing Room Only.”

You can be seated.

There’s a lot of standing up going on in the Gospel reading for today from Mark chapter 14. The woman who pours perfume on Jesus, she stands up for her faith, stands up, stands out from the crowd and praises Jesus. Then Jesus stands up for the woman when everyone is yelling at her for wasting the perfume. All of this standing up made our Confirmation students think of a song from Veggie Tales:Rack, Shack & Benny that they’d like you to hear. Watch.

I remember stand (Stand up, stand up)
For what you believe in, believe in,
Believe in God (He's the one to back you up)
We'll stand with you!

This is a great way for reminding us what we’re learning from this event in Gospel of Mark. The woman stands up for what she believes in, and Jesus backs her up, stands up for her against all of the people who were threatening her. Like the song, the woman stands for what she believes in, and Jesus is the one to back her up, He stands with the woman. It makes a perfect connection with that song from the Veggie Tales which is why our confirmands wanted to share it with you.

By now, though, I suppose you’re wondering why there’s a picture of a prairie dog on the cover of the bulletin. Well, if I let one of the confirmands, Ian, explain it, he’d say we put a picture of a prairie dog on the cover because their Sunday School teacher, Mr. Hafeman, likes animals. While I don’t doubt that Mr. Hafeman likes animals, and maybe even likes prairie dogs, but there’s more to it than that. The prairie dog is on the cover because it’s standing up.

Like I said, there’s a lot of standing up going on in the Gospel reading from Mark, and as I worked with the confirmation students on this sermon, we decided we wanted a lot of standing up going on around here. If the Veggies didn’t convince you that you can stand up for what you believe because Jesus stands up for you, if that song wasn’t catchy enough, well, then maybe the prairie dog will inspire you.

The prairie dog there stands up as if standing up in praise to God just like the woman who stood up for her faith, stood out from the crowd, poured perfume on Jesus, and worshipped Jesus. So then we’re encouraging you to be like the prairie dog. Stand up for your faith, stand for what you believe, stand and worship the Lord with your life.

That prairie dog standing there on the cover, he’s kind of a little worship mascot. You know how mascots work. You see the mascot of your school or favorite sports team, and you instantly think, “Go team!” For you, maybe it’s when Bernie slides down the slide at Miller Park, and you think, “Go Brewers!”

Well, in that same way, we want the prairie dog to be a little worship mascot, and every time you see a picture of a prairie dog or maybe when you go to the Lincoln Park Zoo here in Manitowoc and see the prairie dogs, we’re hoping you’ll be thinking, “Worship the Lord! Praise the Lord! Stand up for my faith in Jesus and celebrate Him!”

Of course, that prairie dog isn’t usually alone. Prairie dogs live in communities. One prairie dog might be a worship mascot, but another one of the prairie dogs can be a symbol for Jesus.

A lot of times there’s a prairie dog standing near his hole, watching for trouble, and meanwhile there’s another prairie dog ducked down just inside the hole, peeking out, wondering if things are safe. Well, you and I are the prairie dogs just inside the hole. We want to get out of the hole, find some food, enjoy the sunshine, but we’re afraid. We’re afraid of the coyotes out there that might cause trouble, the hunters that might be aiming at us with guns. We’re afraid to come out of the hole, and so that brave, protector prairie dog that goes to check things out and stand guard, that prairie dog is like Jesus.

Jesus stands up for us when we’re trying to stand up for our faith. When the woman stood up for her faith and showed her devotion to Jesus, the people there got mad at her, told her she was wrong, started to attack what she had done. Then just like a guard prairie dog, Jesus stood up for her and says, “Leave her alone.” Maybe the woman was ready to dive back down in that hole, ready to hide her faith, ready to think that she had made a mistake by worshipping Jesus with all of that expensive perfume, but before she can dive back in the hole, before she can get scared away, Jesus stands up for her.

And that’s why there’s a prairie dog on the cover of today’s bulletin, because there’s two ways to think about that prairie dog. The prairie dog reminds us that we need to stand up for our faith, to worship Jesus, but the only way we can feel confident about standing up for our faith is if we remember that Jesus is also a prairie dog, a guard prairie dog, a prairie dog who stands up for us, protecting us when we’re telling people about our faith.

The confirmands didn’t think you were that much different than them when it comes to trying to stand up for your faith. You want to tell other people about your faith in Jesus, you want to tell people that Jesus loves us and forgives us and gives us eternal life, but you’re afraid that they’ll make fun of you or tell you that you can’t talk about that here or they’ll stop being friends with you or they’ll ignore you, not understand you, mistreat you, or simply not care. You’re afraid to poke your head out of the burrow, and so Jesus stands up like that big guard prairie dog that he is. He stands up for you, backs you up, gives you strength and confidence through the Holy Spirit.

You see, that’s why today’s there’s standing room only. We’re trying to stand up for Jesus, stand up and praise Him. There’s a lot of standing going here today, but it starts with Jesus. Jesus is already on His feet, standing up for us, ready to defend us against sin, the devil, and the world.

There’s a lot of standing going on here today. You might have only thought about how the confirmands will stand up to take the confirmation pledge. But Jesus is the first one to stand up here. He stood up, left His place in the eternal throne room of heaven, came to Earth as a man, stood up when they came to arrest Him, stood up when they took Him away to crucify Him, stood up when He died and went to proclaim victory to Satan in hell, stood up on the third day when He rose again, stood up when He ascended into heaven, stood up and stands up everyday when He works in our lives, works in our world, works to bring His Good News to the people.

So, yeah, the confirmands are being like prairie dogs today; they’re standing up to praise God. They’re being like the woman and showing their devotion to Jesus. And yeah, you’re all being like prairie dogs today as you stand up for your faith and worship God. But let’s remember who the true prairie dog is today: Jesus.

He’s the one at the top of the hole protecting us from coyote and hunter. He’s the one standing there to encourage us to come out of hiding. He’s the one who will stay by our side even when trouble comes. He’s the one who already died when that trouble came for Him, died on that cross when our trouble caught up with Him, died in punishment for our sins. If Jesus stood up knowing that this was going to happen to Him, if Jesus decided that He would suffer for us back then, you can know that He’s standing by your side even now as people make fun of your faith, as people ignore you, hurt you, are mean to you because you believe in God. Jesus stands up and protects you by His Holy Spirit.

There’s standing room only in here today, and it all starts with that divine prairie dog, Jesus.

But just why were the people mad at the woman in the first place? They thought that instead of wasting this perfume on Jesus that she should’ve sold it and given the money to the poor. In other words, the woman’s act was extravagant, wasteful, unnecessary, selfish.

Practically speaking, I suppose they might be right. Jesus would’ve risen from the dead with or without that perfume. And the perfume did cost a year’s wages, that’s a lot of money, and that certainly could’ve helped a lot of poor people. It seems strange to use that on Jesus, especially if Jesus didn’t really need it.

However, by that same way of thinking, we’re surrounded by waste. This whole building—the beauty and art inside here, the time and money spent on building it and remodeling it—I suppose you could say that it is all a waste. Jesus doesn’t need this building. We could worship Jesus in an empty field, and that would still be worship. Maybe we’re just as wasteful and selfish as that woman since we’ve made this nice building for our congregation.

Yet, the woman poured out that perfume to show her heart’s devotion to Jesus. She did it in honor of Jesus, and He accepted her devotion and honor (Jermoe, Against Vigilantius). Jesus saw more than the money being spent; Jesus saw what was being spent in the woman’s heart. She was paying Him honor and respect and praise and devotion. She wasn’t being wasteful or selfish. She was giving all that she had to show just how much devotion she had for Him. She was standing up for Him, stretching as high to the sky as she could. When she pours out the perfume, Jesus doesn’t really need the perfume, but she does it to show her joy, the joy of her faith.

That’s the same reason we’ve got this beautiful building for worship. It is our way of pouring out our heart’s devotion and honor for Jesus. We’ve reached into the sky; we’ve stood up for our faith; we’ve given up things we want for ourselves in order to give something to God. We have this building, we keep this building, we devote ourselves to God in this building to show the joy that we have in God. It’s another way of standing up for our faith.

I mean, you think about it, it’d be a lot easier to be quiet about our faith and not make such a big deal about it. We could worship in someone’s basement or barn or something. No one would have to know.

As it is, though, as soon as you say you go to Redeemer Lutheran Church, if people have been up this way, they know that it’s the big A-frame church, the one near the airport, the cross the pilots use to find the airport in foggy weather, the church across the Jackson Elementary. When you tell people where you go to church, and they’ve seen the building, they’ve seen that the congregation has spent money on a building and spent money doing ministry and having staff and putting together worship services and sending students on Confirmation retreats and developing missions in Thailand, when they see all of that, they realize you’re standing up for your faith. They see you as a prairie dog, standing there, worshipping Jesus.

And then they might just say that you’re wasting your money or that having such a nice building is selfish or that really you should keep your faith to yourself or that churches should have to pay property taxes or that the church owns too much land or that the congregation isn’t helping enough poor people. When they see us standing up for our faith, even if they just see our building, they’re realizing that our faith is important to us. . .and that’s when they might attack our faith.

And when they do, you might be tempted to duck back down into your hole. You might be tempted to get scared and sit down and stop standing up for your faith in Jesus. You might start thinking that this building is a waste.

But when the people attack you for your faith, when they make fun of or threaten you or ignore you or tell you that you’re wrong, we want you to remember you’re not the only prairie dog in this community. You’ve got that big guard prairie dog on your hill, standing by the hole, watching for trouble. Jesus is that prairie dog, standing up for you.

Jesus stood up for the woman who poured the perfume on Him, and He’ll stand up for you who built this church building and this ministry. Jesus stood up for that woman who showed that she believed He was going to die but that He is also the Savior of the world. He stood up for that woman, and He will stand up for you who believe that He will forgive us and save us and give us eternal life.

So it all starts with Jesus the prairie dog, and we’re the prairie dogs in his community. It’s standing room only as Jesus stands up for us and gives us the confidence to stand up for Him. When the confirmands stand up in just a little while to say their confirmation pledge, I want you to think of them as prairie dogs. Yet, they’re not standing there alone. . .are they? They’ve got that big guard prairie dog Jesus standing up for them first. And Jesus is also standing up for you.

Prairie Dog photo courtesy of Randy Hopfer, Natural Highlight Photography, © 2006.