Grit and the Gospel

I was on the radio this morning talking to probably about 3 listeners who tuned into KFUO-AM out of St. Louis, MO. KFUO is the radio station that is owned and operated by our church body, and they do this show called “His Time” that looks at readings from the Daily Lectionary [pdf] of the LCMS. The Daily Lectionary is list of devotional readings to bridge the gap from Sunday to Sunday, and consists of just two readings – an Old Testament reading and a New Testament reading. The nice folks at KFUO invited me to speak on the New Testament reading today, Luke 20:1-18.

I recently started reading some of William Faulkner’s short stories because I’ve been increasingly become interested in a literary movement called “Southern Gothic”, of which Faulkner is one of the leading troubadours. Faulkner’s short stories are gritty and grim for the most part, examining the worst of what humanity has to offer up.  And I began my radio talk today saying that if we didn’t know that this section of Scripture was written by Luke and the Holy Spirit, we might think Faulkner came up with Jesus’ parable here – the parable of the wicked husbandmen that we considered together at University Lutheran not too long ago in the Fifth Sunday of LentGrit and the Gospel

The parable is Jesus’ response to the ruling authorities of the temple, the Sanhedrin, who questioned Jesus’ right and authority to set up shop in the temple and start teaching. I can sympathize with them a bit. It’d be like if someone else came and stormed the pulpit at University Lutheran right around the time for the sermon.

But Jesus’ authority outweighs that of the Sanhedrin, and He tells a story to get the point across – a story involving beatings, shameful treatments, murder, retaliation, sharecroppers, and wealthy landowners. If there was ever a parable to set in the South, this is it. There is some grit to this Gospel. Instead of floating into your life like a butterfly, this Gospel grinds into your soul.

It points out the illegitimate grab for authority of the Sanhedrin, but it also points out how we often make the same grabs for power. We do this when we try to lay claim on God’s power – when we judge people as only God should, when we refuse to forgive a penitent sinner, when we twist Bible passages out of their contexts to say what we want them to say rather than letting God’s Word be what it is. It’s all a sin against the Second Commandment, “Do not use the Lord’s name (His identity) in vain”.

But when we recognize God’s true kingship, His true authority, He does something pretty amazing. He grants us His authority. He literally gives His authority away to His disciples, not so that we can use it to our own ends, but so that we can use it for our neighbors, forgiving sins and sharing mercy. He makes us a part of His Kingdom and as a part of that Kingdom confers to us the authority of ambassadors that we might use His authority in the way that He would have us use it.

(If you want to hear more about this little section of Scripture, go to His Time in the next couple of days and they’ll have the audio archives up.)