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Edward F. Markquart

I Am Not Ashamed of Jesus Christ

Pentecost 2A     Romans 1:16-17
(Also this sermon is in Lent 2B,  Mark 8:31-38)

The text for the sermon is Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power for salvation for all who believe.”

 Also we hear the Word of the Lord from Mark 8:38, “Whomever is ashamed of me and my words, in this sinful and adulterous generation…”

 From Second Timothy, “Do not be ashamed of testifying and witnessing to our Lord Jesus Christ. Take your share of the suffering for sake of the gospel. Do your best to present yourself to one approved as a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

 I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.

 All of us have numerous experiences in life where we have felt ashamed. It is the very nature of human experience, the very nature of all human beings, the very nature of human personality to feel shame.

 It starts very early in life and ends late in life. As a little child, parents teach you to be ashamed of certain words and certain action. And at the end of life, when you are growing old and getting ready to die, you feel ashamed that you cannot control your bodily functions. And so from the very beginning of life and to the very end of life, and in all the years in between, we experience shame. For shame is at the very heart and nature of human personality. There is a proneness to shame in all of us.

For example. Many examples. We are often ashamed of our bodies. Our bodies are too fat or too skinny, too tall or too short, too old or too young, too wrinkled or too tight, too dark or too light, and the bumps are not in the right places. So we learn to be ashamed of our bodies. For example, I remember distinctly when I was a freshman at college, I had a large boil right here on my cheek. I would walk into the men’s bathroom in the men’s dormitory, and I would look into fifteen mirrors in that bathroom, and all fifteen mirrors would show me that enormous boil that was boiling on my face. I telephoned this young woman for a date. She was from my freshman English class. She said, “Well, who are you?” “My name is Ed Markquart. I am the person seated right behind you in freshman English.” I knew what image flashed in her mind. She saw the great big, welting boil on my face, sitting behind her. I knew she didn’t see my eyes, my nose, my hair but only that awful boil that was boiling on my cheek. Some people are ashamed of their bodies being too short, too tall, too fat, too skinny, too whatever.

We are also ashamed of our behavior. We have all experienced that. For example, you go over to a person’s house for dinner and you reach for the glass and you knock water over that nice, linen tablecloth. Or, you reach for the gravy spoon and you dribble gravy on that nice linen tablecloth. Or, you have a wine glass that you drop and the wine spills all over their new carpet. Those are things that I can easily remember that I have done recently. All of us have social experiences where we feel embarrassed by our behavior.

We are also embarrassed by our private lives, the things that we have done. I remember very vividly something that I did when I was a senior in high school, and my family does not know about it. My children do not know about it. My wife does not know about it. You don’t know about it, and I am not going to tell you about it. That is just the way it is. We all have those private stories in life that we would prefer that no one knows about. We are ashamed of them.

Sometimes, we are also ashamed of certain aspects of our personalities. There are parts of our personalities that we just don’t like. We cry too easily. We laugh too loudly. We can’t tell or remember jokes. Our personalities are too bland, too much blended into the walls and wallpaper of life.

We are also ashamed of our families. Every child who has ever lived go through a period of time in their lives that they are ashamed of their parents. There are many teenagers who would not want to be caught alive walking with a parent through the mall. Children can become ashamed of the way that parents click their teeth, noises that they make with their mouth, the way they eat, the way they sneeze, the way they smell. My kids have been ashamed of me at certain times during their lives and that is normal. 

It is not only children who are ashamed of parents but parents can be ashamed of children. Parents are shamed by what their children have done, and parents are also ashamed of what their children haven’t done. Parents are ashamed of the trouble that their kids get into and ashamed that their kids didn’t do better in tests, school, band, etc.

 Shame is part of the human condition and the very nature of human personality, from the time you were very young in life to when you die.

Shame, so it seems to me, grows out of an egotistical love, out of a sinful love, out of selfish love that will make me looking badly. That is, I am ashamed because a certain behavior will have a negative reflection on myself. I am ashamed of what my father did because of the reflection that it would make on me. I am ashamed of my children because they will be a poor reflection on me. They will make me look badly.

It is with these images of shame and the proneness towards shame that is deep within human nature, that we approach the gospel lesson for today where Jesus says, “Whoever is ashamed of me in this sinful and adulterous generation, whoever is ashamed of me and my teachings in a world which is into sin and adultery, of that person will the Son of man be ashamed when he comes in great glory.”

In New Testament times, we find that there were a great number of people who did not want to admit that they were followers of Jesus Christ. Today, we would call them “closet Christians.” These “closet Christians” were ashamed to let anyone know that they were Christian.

The primary and most popular image of this behavior is Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling senate of Israel. Nicodemus did not want his fellow senators to know that he was a follower of Christ. Nicodemus was ashamed to let the other “big shots” in the senate know that he was a “born again” Christian, that he had deep religious feelings, that he was committed to Jesus Christ.

There were many “closet Christians” in those days who didn’t want other people to know that they were followers of Christ because it could cost them their life, their family, their job, their life itself.

The Apostle Paul and Jesus, knowing that there were many “closet Christians” and were ashamed of being disciples, the Apostle Paul said very clearly, “I am not ashamed. I want you to know, world, that I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God for salvation.” Jesus also spoke crystal clearly when he said, “Whoever is ashamed of me and of my teachings in this sinful and adulterous generation which makes fun of my teachings, I will be ashamed of at the end of time.”

Simon Peter was an example of a person who pretended that he did not know Jesus. On Holy Thursday night, Simon was standing near a campfire in the courtyard of Caiaphus who was High Priest that year. The men around the campfire recognized Peter’s accent as a Galilean and so they accused Peter of being a Galilean and a follower of Jesus. Peter swore up and down that he did not know Jesus, that he was not a follower of Jesus. As soon as Peter denied Jesus, the rooster crowed three times. At the campfire that night, Peter was ashamed of knowing Jesus.

How do we apply these words? How do these words apply to us, living here in the twenty-first century? Living here in America where two-thirds of the population belongs to church? Living here in the Pacific Northwest, Des Moines, Federal Way and Kent? How do these words about shame apply to us? 

First, we need to state the gospel. It needs to be clearly said that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is not ashamed of you and me. No matter how bad we have been. No matter how rotten we have been. No matter what we have said or done. It needs to be clearly said today that Jesus Christ is not ashamed of your life and mine. Those who are in grades 5-9 and are taking notes, write that down. Jesus Christ is not ashamed of me, even though I am a sinner. A second time: Jesus Christ is not ashamed of me, even though I am a sinner. Now, this is hard for us to comprehend because we are so prone to shame, so prone to being ashamed about our bodies, our brains, our behaviors, and our brothers and sisters. We are so prone to shame that it is difficult for us to conceive of the possibility that God is not ashamed of us. Because shame is so deep within us, it is almost impossible for us to conceive that God is not ashamed of us. We need to clearly hear the gospel and the gospel is: God is not ashamed of you and me. God is not ashamed of us in the midst of our sinfulness. How do I know that? How do I know that? Because I know the gospel and that is the gospel. That God loves sinful people. That God loves selfish people. That God loves failing people. That God loves rebelling people. That God loves runaway people. That God loves people who are ashamed of all the ugly things that they have done.

You see, the word, grace, means, free gift. God freely gives us his love to sinful people.

It feels so good to have somebody proud of you and to know that God is proud of you even when you are a sinner.

For example, from this pulpit, you have often heard me speak about my mother. My mother was one of the finest people I have known in my life, and one of the good qualities she had was that she was always proud of us. My mother was always proud of us, even when we did things that were really stupid. She never withheld her love and her pride. And God is proud of you and me, even when we are sinful people, rebellious runaways. God does not wait until you become a “superciple,” a super disciple, a super loving person in order to be proud of you. God is proud of you when you are a sinner. That is the gospel. “When we were sinners, Christ died for us on the cross.”

And then… God invites us to love the same way. To love our mothers and our fathers, our brothers and our sisters, our sons and our daughters, our friends and our neighbors. To love them and not to be ashamed. Not to be ashamed of my mother and my father, and my brother and my sister, and my friends and my neighbors. Not to be ashamed of those that I love when they are sinful.

So I want the first point of this sermon to be clearly understood: God loves us even when we are sinful people and God is not ashamed of us. God asks us to love each other without shame.

The second theme that needs to be said in the sermon for today is this: we are prone to feel shame about our brains, our bodies, our behaviors, and therefore it is very for us to feel shame about God as well. We become ashamed to let other people know that we are committed Christians. We become ashamed that we are passionately committed to Christ. Therefore, we become like Nicodemus who was ashamed to let the other senators know that he was meeting with Jesus Christ.

Yes, we need to let other people know that we are disciples of Christ, that we are “born again” Christians, that we have deep religious feelings, that we pray, that we believe that God intervenes in our lives, that God has given us a religious purpose, that we have high moral standards, that we do not abuse God’s name by swearing. We Christians need to let the world know that we are proud of Jesus’ Words, his words and the Bible. We need to let this sinful and adulterous generation which mocks the teachings of Jesus know that we are proud of God’s Word, the Bible as well as Jesus because the Bible contains the teachings, life and death of Jesus.

There is no need for us to be ashamed. If anyone needs to be ashamed and defensive, it is the adulterous and sinful generation in which we live. If anyone needs to feel shame, it is the sinful and adulterous generation in which we live.

The opposite of shame is pride. When you are proud of someone or something, you want to share your pride in that someone or something with others.  Several examples. When I go over to homes of those kids in grades five through nine who are taking notes and see their pictures on their walls of soccer or baseball or the band, those kids are so proud. When they are proud, they want to share the stories that go with the pictures. Is that not true? When they are proud, they want to share.   Or, I was at someone’s home recently and the seventh grader had learned to play the trumpet. I was in that house for ten minutes and that trumpet was out and that kid was going to show the preacher how he could play that trumpet. He were so proud, and wanted to share.  Or, I have been over at your home and you recently rebuilt a home, remodeled a home or built a new home. You were so proud of what you did or have done, and you want to share. You want to take me to all the rooms and show me all that you have done. Because when you are proud of something you did or have, you want to share. That is the way it is with human nature.

Similarly, we Christians have every reason to be proud of the gospel and so we want to share it. We are proud of the good news, that God and Christ love you just the way you are. We are proud of the gospel that all of our sins are fully and freely forgiven. We are proud of the cross that Jesus Christ has died for you sins and that we are invited to walk the way of the cross. We are proud that Jesus was raised from the dead by the mighty powers of God and gives eternal life to all who believe in him and walk in his ways. We are proud of our church. We are proud of the grand Christian lives around us. Proud of our Christian friends. Proud of our homeless shelter. Proud of our world hunger ministries and our sister churches in Haiti and Jamaica. We are proud that our kids want to go on summer mission trips. We are Proud. Proud. Proud of the gospel. We are proud of the way that Jesus Christ still transforms peoples lives today.

Because we are proud of the gospel, it is natural that we want to share with the world around us about Jesus Christ.

And so on this day, those of us who know Jesus Christ, we say with the Apostle Paul: I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. The gospel is the power of God.

Well, today as you leave this place, there is a sinful and adulterous generation in which you live and move. And as you go and live and move in the midst of that sinful and adulterous generation, may you be deeply proud that you know Jesus Christ, deeply proud that you are a follower of Christ, deeply proud that you are children of the heavenly father.


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