A Christmas sermon: Mary, the mother of the Saviour. God’s mothering something bigger in you

Many pastors use the Bible as a springboard to leap into their seeker-driven cesspool of self. In the next three posts, I discuss three of these sermons, two of which come from Chris Rosebrough’s podcast “Fighting for the Faith,” and the third from one I heard in a church a little while ago. Here is the first one from Kory Cassell. I give verbatim highlights. My comments appear in square brackets. The sermon begins after the first hour of the podcast (“A sound membrane is bulging,” December 14, 2014).

Cassell’s text for the sermon is Luke 1:26 – 33:

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, fyou will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and gyou shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God iwill give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

At minute 15 of his podcast, Rosebrough gives a foretaste of Kory Cassell’s sermon entitled “Name your Nazareth.”

Rosebrough – With a name like that [for a sermon] there is no way to rescue the sermon. It’s not going to be an exegesis but a narcigesis, reading your own self into the biblical text, which is pretty much what we’ve heard from every seeker-driven “Christmas”sermon we have heard on “Fighting for the Faith.” [There are hundreds of these on “Fighting for the Faith”].

The sermon begins at the one-hour mark. I start at minute 19 into in the sermon. [Cassell’s key word is “send” (Greek apostolo). His message is that every Christian is an apostolo, is sent. How does that fit into the text he is using? And what are Christians sent to do?]

Cassell – My father has sent me on a mission. [Using his earthly father as a springboard to his heavenly Father].

Rosebrough – What has this got to do with the Christmas story. Let’s take a look again at the text he is preaching from Luke 1:26. [Rosebrough quotes the text]. Who is this about? The arrival of none other than the Son of David, the King, Jesus, the Messiah… the one whom we should be listening to. And you’re focusing on the Greek word apostolo (send), and now you’re changing from [the text] being about Jesus to we’re all to have a special sending from God and all be purpose-driven. The purpose of pastors is to preach the word.

Cassell – When it says that you’re sent, it comes with certain things implied there. The first thing is that there is a purpose, everybody say purpose [garbled “*&$$$£”]. What is my purpose? …When you have a purpose, you are sent. Say purpose [“$%$$£$%$^”]. This implies there is a choice. Everybody say choice [“C3$*@S”]. As human beings we do have free will …”

Rosebrough – Actually no. The scriptures say that when it comes to the things of God we are born dead in trespasses and sins. God is the one who makes us alive.” [He quotes Ephesians 2] “

[1] And you were dead in the trespasses and sins [2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—[3] among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. [4] But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—[6] and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [7] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [8] For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

We are born, says Rosebrough, with a bound will [Luther’s “Bondage of the will”], no free will [to choose Christ].”

Cassell – When I get up in the morning, God has sent me with a purpose to serve my community. Am I going to go? There’s a purpose, there’s a choice, say choice [“^&%$$”]. God the creator of the universe has sent you to your family, to your workplace… My Father believed in me, he trusted me.

Rosebrough – So God believed in us. Isn’t the call of scripture for us to believe and trust in Christ? All this is based on his bunny trail of the word “sent.” He’s not actually exegeting the text at all.

Cassell – And there is something about knowing that the creator of the universe believes in you and he trusted that you are capable.

Rosebrough – Where in scripture does it explicitly say that God believed in you. [Nowhere. Where does it say so implicitly? Also, zilch].

Cassell – The first thing we see here [in Luke 1] is that Gabriel was sent. We serve a sending God. Everybody say sent [“s£%$$$”]. He was sent to a village of Nazareth. Everybody say Nazareth [“£%^*()£££$”]… Nazareth was overlooked, nobody looked at it… undervalued, insignificant. God sent Gabriel to this insignificant place. This raises the question: “What place in our lives…what is that space in your life that feels insignificant, overlooked and undervalued?

Rosebrough – NO! This is not how you read the Bible. This is not about you. It’s not about God sending your undervalued, insignificant Nazareth in your life. This is the story of the announcement and the birth of the saviour of the world.

Cassell– The first thing we have to do if we want to find God’s favor is to name our Nazareth.

Rosebrough – Was that how Mary was able to find God’s favor? What kind of nonsense is this?

Cassell – God sent Gabriel to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, say Nazareth [“%£££%$$$”], to Mary. He said “Greetings oh favoured one. You have found favour. Everybody say favour [“Flavour” or something?].

Rosebrough – She found favour long before the angel showed up.

Cassell – Where did Mary find favor? In [Audience pips Cassell – “*^z££$$*^@!”]. In Nazareth. An overlooked and undervalued place. That is where Mary found favor.

Rosebrough – Was it because she was in Nazareth or was it because she found faith? Hebrews 11 says, without faith it is impossible to please God.

Cassell – So where do we find favor? In Nazareth.

Rosebrough – We find favour in Christ.

Cassell – He [Gabriel] said “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” What does that tell us? What God wants to do in you and through you is so much bigger… [Bigger than what God has done through Mary – conceiving the Messiah, God made flesh!]

Rosebrough – This has nothing to do with what God wants to do in me and through me. This has everything to do with what God did in and through the virgin Mary for me.

[That’s one sermon that should have been smothered at birth. But I’m sure it has a purpose]. 

Related: The seeker- and shikker-driven church



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