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John the Baptist, June 24th 2007 at Old Zion Lutheran Church

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John the Baptist, June 24th 2007 at Old Zion Lutheran Church in Philadelphia

Malachi 3:1-4 Psalm 141 Acts 13:13-26 Luke 1:57-67,(68-80)

Children’s Sermon

A John the Baptist Song

Of John the Baptist let us sing

He changed our hearts by baptism

Son of Zechariah and Elizabeth

He prepared the way for Jesus

He wore a shirt of camel’s hair

It was scratchy everywhere

Ate grasshoppers and wild honey

(And said), be sure to share your money.

(John said), “Jesus is the great I am,

He is God’s own little lamb.

I’m not good enough to tie his shoes,

To tell about Jesus is good news.

Into the water we all go

And this is what we get to know

We go down and Jesus comes up

and finds a way to save us.

Peter Krey 06/27/2007

For Old Zion’s Children!

The Picture I gave the children came from

and was drawn by Henry Martin.

The children’s sermon told about John the Baptist and explained how he baptized people in the River Jordan. He himself had first gone out into the desert and fasted. He got hungry enough to eat rocks! One of the older children knew what fasting was. I explained how he wore a camel hair shirt and a leather belt and ate grasshoppers and wild honey. I gave each of them the picture drawn by Henry Martin above and then sang the new song to them. We were in front of the baptismal font and they remembered the recent baptisms. It was about washing and getting dunked under so we come out of the water new and refreshed.


Zechariah, the priest, was named after the great prophet who wanted to rebuild the temple after the exile and who wanted to restore the people of Israel with the vision of a just society, of a people with God in their midst, thus the origin of the name Immanuel.

But while Zechariah was carrying out his duties in the sanctuary of the temple, the angel Gabriel appears to him and tells him that he and Elizabeth, in their old age, would have a son and that he should call him John. Now here is a priest, a devout and righteous one at that, and he doubts the message of the angel. He knows that they are too old to have a son. Gabriel says that he stands in the presence of the Lord and “I’ve been sent to bring you the good news and because you did not believe my words, you will be mute until they come true.” Zechariah is struck dumb.

Now Zechariah comes out of the temple, everyone expecting him to preach and do the rest of the liturgy, but he has to sign and motion to them that he cannot speak. That was a humiliating punishment for a priest, not to be able to speak and for nine months!

Now the whole village comes together when Elizabeth, pretty far on in years, has a baby, a boy no less, and the disgrace of her having been barren was now removed. There was ample reason to celebrate.

They named the child on the day of circumcision and the custom was to name the boy after the father or an ancestor. Elizabeth says, “No, we are naming him John.” The name means “a gracious gift from God” or more simply, “God has shown favor” or “God has mercy”, Jochenan in Hebrew.

They protest. “You can’t break our tradition!” So they say, “Forget Elizabeth!” and they ask the father, “What will you name the boy?”

He asks for a tablet and writes: “His name is John” as the angel Gabriel told him to do, and at that moment, as the prophesy is fulfilled and his seeing becomes believing, while his believing should have been seeing, – immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was freed up and he launches into the wonderful verses, which have become known as the Benedictus:

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,

for he visited and redeemed his people and

has raised up a horn of salvation, etc.

In those days a “horn” referred to a king. A Lord of Salvation was being promised.

“And you child,” Zechariah must have lifted little John up in his arms, “shall be called a prophet of the Most High, for you shall go before the face of the Lord to prepare his way; to bring the knowledge of salvation to the people, the forgiveness of sins, through the tender mercies of God.”

The word in Hebrew for “tender mercies” is again the Greek word, esplachthon, which means a gutt-level feeling of compassion of God for his people.

Now some people marry young. A Puerto Rican woman pastor I worked with was a grandmother at 36. I married when I was 36. My father was 46 when I was born. And sometimes when you have an old father, you do not get that much of an up-bringing. He is 60 or 70 and how much time with the father do you really have? John went out into the desert for his up-bringing, where you fight with your demons, you smash all idols, and you get to know the one true God and how you cannot do without God. The modern equivalent is to go into the inner-city, into the wilderness, where everyone is leaving, and where you make a stand.

So you cannot be surprised when John becomes a firebrand. He wore a coat of camel hair, a leather belt, and he eats wild locusts, i.e., grasshoppers and honey. So outwardly he was not refined, but inwardly he has become a real person, a genuine son of Israel, a child of the Most High.” People that are outwardly refined, but inwardly a wasteland, tell him, “If you don’t love our country, leave it!”

But John had been refined the way all the impurities are taken out of a metal, so that he was not some gold-plated Israelite: he was 18 carat gold! He was the real thing. He had been washed with a cleanser, a fuller’s soap. In those days this soap had a heavy lye concentrate and when it cleaned you it felt like it would take your skin right off. It was so strong it was used to soften flax so that it could be used for cloth.

So many of us today are very much into physical fitness and that is good, because it keeps us healthy. But where are those who get their souls in shape? Where are those who are working out their minds, so they get some muscle in their thoughts: working out their hearts, so they grow in love and acceptance; doing the work of the soul, so they tackle some of the personal problems we have and some of the social problem we face? Where can you go for a boot-camp of the soul, so that everyone stops running away from problems, stops passing the buck, and we start facing our problems, and by the grace and favor that comes down from on high, we start overcoming some of these problems that are tearing us all down?

John said, “Repent!” you have to have a change of heart and mind. You say others have problems, but you are righteous and you do not. No way! John said, “You are unclean.” You are filled with impurities. And do not think because you are gold-plated that that fools God. Get into the water of this baptism. It is not only for the Gentiles, the ones you call unclean. You get into this bath and become a genuine person on the inside and stop seeing your sin in others. Confess it yourself and get a pure heart of gold and start living your life right out of the strength of God. You have to die to yourself as you are dunked under the water. You must come out of the water, no longer living out of your own strength, but out of the strength of God.

John was preparing the way for the one that heaven sent, Jesus Christ our Lord. “I’m not worthy to untie his shoe laces.” he said. “I must decrease so that Christ might increase.” And we have to decrease so that Christ might increase in us. Yes, to get that heart of gold, Christ needs to be born in us and grow and mature. We no longer live, but Christ lives in us while we decrease and Christ increases among us. In this way, in this far off and distant place, we worship and live in the real presence of the Lord.

Now to continue in German (An English translation follows): Wir hören gern das Evangelium in unserer Muttersprache:

Nun, wenn wir auf Deutsch weiter predigen, dann scheint es als ob wir in eine andere Welt einsteigen, in eine andere Welt hinein gehen und andere Menschen werden. Ein Amerikaner der hereinkommt versteht kein Wort. Nun, dass eine deutsche Welt eine Amerikanische Welt begegnet macht nichts aus. Deutsch oder Englisch oder Spanisch, darauf kommt’s nicht an. Wir wollen eine Himmels Begegnung, eine Begegnung mit der Gnadenwelt von Jesus Christus haben, wo der Gnaden-Himmel über uns kommt; darauf kommt es an.

Missionare gehen oft in fremde Länder und die Einwohner bekommen den Eindruck das die USA oder Deutschland, oder wo auch immer die Missionare herkamen, die Gnadenwelt ist wovon der Missionar mit seiner frohen Botschaft gesprochen hatte. Dann verlassen die Angesprochene ihre Länder und kommen nach Amerika. Sie wurden sehr enttäuscht, denn sie können kaum etwas Christliches in Deutschland oder Amerika entdecken.

Ja, wir wollen in ein anderes Land sein, wir wollen andere Menschen sein, aber Amerika oder Deutschland oder ein anderes Land des Missionars sind Nebensache. Hauptsache ist unsere Taufe. Wenn wir Busse tun, und nicht äusserlich so tun als ob, aber uns innerlich durch Christus verwandelt haben, dann schreiten wir – klar durch viel Leiden, ins Vorort des Himmelreichs, wo Gott bei uns ist und wir in Gott sind, wir Gott-gefüllte Menschen werden, halt ganz andere Menschen als wir waren – und jeden Schritt, den wir machen verändert das Land in dem wir leben, denn wir leben nicht, sondern Christus lebt in uns.

Jetzt ob wir Englisch, Deutsch, Spanisch, oder Swahili sprechen, sprechen wir eine Sprache der Liebe, die alle verstehen und das Fülle des Lebens für alle verbreitet.

Daher können wir ruhig Deutsche-Amerikaner sein, aber darauf kommt’s nicht an. Dass wir in Jesu Namen getauft sind, dass wir im Namen des Vaters und des Sohnes und des Hl. Geistes getauft sind, darauf kommt’s an. Sonst kann man so sein wie mein Vater einige beschrieben hat: in der Tasche hat er Gold, im Munde hat er Silber, aber was er redet ist Blech. Mit der frohen Botschaft haben wir Gold im Munde, wie St. Chrysostom, können wir auch Chrysostomos (d.h., Gold-Mund), genannt werden, weil wir mit güldnen Munde die frohe Botschaft verbreiten.[1]

Diese frohe Botschaft wird nicht um die deutsche Sprache oder Deutschlands willen verbreitet, sondern die deutsche Sprache und Deutschland sind nur golden, wenn sie gesprochen und dort oder hier gelebt um die frohe Botschaft willen, damit der Gnaden-Himmel sich über alle Länder und alle Menschen sich verbreitet. „Denn alle Zungen sollen bekennen, dass Jesus Christus ist der Herr zu nennen, den man Ehre geben muss.“

Wenn mein Vater in Amerika war, wollte er immer nach Deutschland. „Wenn ich nur in Deutschland wär!” seufze er. Ja, wenn er in Deutschland war, wollte er so schnell wie möglichst zurück nach Amerika. Als ich vier Jahre in Berlin war von 1971-1975 und auch dieselbe Entscheidung machen sollte ob ich dort bleiben oder zurück nach Amerika kommen sollte, auf einmal ekannte ich dass wir in Gott leben und wohnen. Wenn wir in Gott unseren Platz haben, dann können wir in Deutschland oder Amerika wohnen, und wie gesagt, jeder Schritt ist Christus der in uns wandelt und uns seine frohe Boten macht und wobei wir auch viele andere Menschen einladen diese Johannes Taufe, diese Himmels Taufe, diese Taufe des Vaters und des Sohnes und des Hl. Geistes mitzuteilen für eine sonderbare Auswanderung und eine gnadenreiche Einwanderung. Amen.

A translation into English:

We all like to hear the Gospel in our mother tongue. But now if I preach in German, then it seems as if we are going into another world, entering into another world and becoming different people. If an American enters, s/he cannot understand one word. Now that a German world is encountering an American one is not at all important. German, English, or Spanish, that is not the crucial thing. We want to have an encounter with heaven, with the world of grace of Jesus Christ, where the heaven of grace spreads over us. That is the point of it all.

     Missionaries often go into foreign countries and the natives, the indigenous people receive the impression that the world of grace that the missionary is speaking about is America, or Germany, or whatever country the missionary came from and they think that the Good News they bring describes that country. Then those addressed with the Gospel leave their countries and come to America, for example, and they get the biggest disappointment of their lives, because they can hardly discover anything Christian about America or Germany.

     Yes, we want to be another country, we want to be different people, but America or Germany, or whatever country the missionary comes from is beside the point. The important thing is that we are baptized. When we repent, and not outwardly only acting as if, but inwardly changed by Christ, then we takes strides, certainly enduring much suffering, into the forecourts of the kingdom of heaven, where God is with us and we are in God, we become people filled by God, yes, completely different from the people we were, and every step we take, changes the land in which we live, because we no longer live, but Christ lives in us.

     Now if we speak English, German, Spanish, or Swahili, we speak the language of love, which everyone understands and it spreads the fulfillment of life to everyone.

     Therefore, rest assured, it is all right to be German-Americans, but that is not the important thing; but that we are baptized in the name of Jesus, that we are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, that is the crucial thing. Otherwise we could resemble the fellow my father described: in his pocket he has gold (money), in his mouth he has silver (fillings), and what he says is made out of tin. (Blech, tin in German is worthless speech.) If we speak the Good News with our mouths, then, on the other hand, we have golden mouths. St. Chrysostom’s name means “the golden mouth,” because he was a golden mouth orator, and we too could receive the name Chrysostomos and become those who spread the Gospel with golden mouths.

     The Gospel is not spread for the sake of America or Germany, but English and German are only golden if they are spoken and we live in them for the sake of the Gospel, so that the heaven of grace spreads over all countries and over all people, because “every tongue on earth shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11).

     When my father was in America he always wanted to be in Germany. “If only I were in Germany!” he would sigh. When he was in Germany, he could not return to America fast enough. When I was in Berlin from 1971-1975, I also had to decide whether I would stay in Germany or come back to America. That was a difficult time. Suddenly I realized that we live and dwell in God. If we have a place in God, then we can live anywhere, in Germany or America. So as already said, every step we take is Jesus Christ, who walks (wandelt in German means both “walks” and “changes,” too) in and with us, and makes us his Good-News reporters, but not only reporters, but also the makers of the in-breaking, history-making, Good News, because we invite many other people into John’s baptism, the baptism from heaven, this baptism of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit to share a special emigration and an immigration filled with the richest grace. Amen.

[1] Wir haben “Ich will Dich Lieben” gesungen, wo es in einer Strophe sagt: „ich danke Dir, Du güldner Mund, dass Du mich machst gesund.“


Written by peterkrey

June 26, 2007 at 3:41 am

Posted in Selected Sermons

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