Mr. Hennig, this is the second analysis we promised you. We thank you for taking the time to read it.
Mr. Hennig, Mount Calvary Lutheran, Untitled Sermon, Mark 9.14-29.
Summary: (He begins with a story about his kids to illustrate the text, ‘I believe; help my unbelief.’ Then he gets into the biblical story that he just illustrated.) Even as God’s people, we can have doubts. We too can cry out, ‘I believe; help my unbelief.’ We too can begin to lose hope. Because of financial concerns, broken relationships, illnesses, heartaches, and death, we can begin to wonder where God is, or even if God is. In our sinfulness, we can find ourselves thrashing about. This world consists of so much sorrow. And as we look upon it we can start to doubt. How does God respond? In our text, we see confusion until Jesus brings order and hope. ‘If you can help,’ says the man to Jesus. But Jesus is both God and Creator! This is he who has come to undo Satan and to bring salvation! Jesus does not come down in anger upon this man for doubting what God can do. As Isaiah says, ‘A bruised reed he will not break.’ (He tells a story from his time as a youth to illustrate God’s gentleness.) God never comes to push doubters over the edge of faith. God comes to heal that bruised reed, the opposite to what the world would do. He comes to help you with your unbelief. This is why he comes to us in word and sacraments. All things are possible for those who believe. Our faith does not make things possible. Our faith clings to the One who is able. We can trust that God will lead us through this difficult life. You may have to wait, even for years. But God will bring about an end to the trials you face. Look and see how God has already healed you. “Look to the nails, and the spear, and the crown of thorns, and the cross, and the empty tomb. God has had compassion on you. You are a forgiven child. All your sin is gone—even your sin of doubting. You are the one who has been brought to faith in Christ, and you, through that faith, receive the eternal blessings of Christ—the blessings that he has earned.” Do not tremble. When we are faithless, God is faithful. Our God helps us in our unbelief. Have great confidence in your God.
Remarks: The delivery is clear, and respectful to God. Though the topic here is healing, Mr. Hennig does not make the common mistake of directing us to look at our faith or to get more of it in order to get the healing we desire. Faith in God is taught, not faith in faith. This is an important emphasis for today. We are glad for this teaching because faith in faith is nothing more than a reliance on our own strength, which can only end in frustration. Faith cannot be increased by staring inward. Also, Mr. Hennig reminds us of the healing that we already have and that transcends our earthly concerns. Some sick and weary saints may not want to hear this. But this is what they need to hear. Ultimately, he points us to the compassion and sufferings of Jesus. This is the best that a pastor can do for persons doubting God because of difficult circumstances or trials. Not a lot of Scripture is quoted in this sermon. But we can see that his teaching of Mark 9 agrees with what the Bible says elsewhere. It agrees with faith as it is presented in Hebrews, for example. He seems to be thinking, not just about his text, but outside of his text as well. And this is what it is to think biblically. This comparison of Scripture with Scripture is his guard against misinterpretation. The ‘bruised reed’ from Isaiah, a cryptic phrase if ever there was one, is incidentally decrypted by him. This is a nice surprise.
There are no major faults to point out. But we have some minor concerns. (1) The prayer he recites just before the sermon probably comes straight out of Scripture or is very close to a word for word Scripture benediction. We certainly can have nothing against those words, then. But even though this is only the second sermon of Mr. Hennig’s that we have heard, this repetition is already tiresome.***
(2) The part about the father’s anxiety for his son is perhaps a little more prominent than the attributes of God regarding the situation.
(3) We feel the brevity much more this time, though this message is only two minutes shorter than the last one. It feels less substantial and less developed. It is more like a daily devotion than a message to go on for a whole week. We need more encouragement from a sermon than what is delivered here, especially since we’re on the important and very relevant topic of doubting God in times of trial.
(4) Some things more specific might have been mentioned as sins or impediments to trusting God in difficult times. If this had been done, we might have gotten convicted.
(5) And finally, we think he should be providing some content that would prompt self-examination among his listeners. Both salvation and sanctification are too much presumed.
Conclusion: Mr. Hennig sticks with his text and with the topic in it. He does not preach a way out of trials, but through them. And he directs both our doubts and our faith to the One who has earned all that we will ever need. But this sermon is a little thin. This sermon alone would not be enough to carry us to next week. It leaves one hungry and unsatisfied.
***There is a large time lag between when we heard your three sermons and when the analyses were actually sent. We listened to the sermons in close succession. Otherwise our comment might seem dishonest. We will send the third analysis shortly.