Sunday, August 18, 2013

Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost (C) 2013

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: Luke 12:49-53
Theme: Plundered Peace

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

“All who draw the sword will die by the sword,”1 these are the words of Jesus, the Lord of the church, spoken to Simon Peter, apostle of the church. Jesus never used force, violence, or coercion to institute His kingdom. The law of God certainly convicts the human heart and threatens temporal and eternal punishment, but no one is compelled to bend the ear or bow the knee to the Servant King. Nevertheless the ministry of Jesus brought division and it continues to do so. It is instructive to understand why.

Jesus said, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.”2 Here we seem to reach an impasse- or at least a paradox- concerning Jesus’ purpose and work. How can we reconcile these words of conflict from the mouth of the Prince of Peace? They are neither gentle, nor meek, nor timid, nor cajoling. They are frank, direct, and condemning. The crowds were strongly rebuked for their steadfast rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. Christ wanted no misgivings or misunderstandings about the nature of His mission.

Jesus Christ did not come to facilitate a confluence of philosophies, ideas, and beliefs about all things spiritual, mystical, and religious. He is not the great guru of assimilation. He is not a broker of various paths to enlightenment. He never claimed harmony in society, or concord among earthly kingdoms and powers was at the top of His agenda. Efforts at human concord are worthy in their own right. But the remedy to sin’s pernicious power must be more trenchant. A small bandage will not remedy terminal cancer. Cosmetic enhancements will not address internal infections.

Through His death and resurrection Christ does bring peace between God and sinners. Yet the conflict with unbelief and Satan will necessarily cause division between humans. Many people look to others as their ultimate security and thus make idols out of them. And people do not give up their idols easily. Some will be offended at Christ and seek to undermine His cause. Jesus came to clarify truth and elucidate the only way of salvation. Truth necessarily initiates conflict with those who have vested interest in falsehoods that underpin power structures which serve their agendas.

Only Christ can take us beyond the limitations of this fallen world. There will never be any technology, discovery, or progress that will make us capable of controlling the consequences of sin and its mature expression-death! What came of the great humanistic hope that mankind had collectively progressed beyond degrees of evil that could any longer render sweeping damage to the human race? World War I and World War II utterly crushed such unrestrained optimism. It has never been recovered. Outward actions can be curbed and even taught but the heart is not so easily tamed. The prophet reminds us “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.”3A perennial underestimation of sin’s effects remains.

How does the Lutheran Church of Australia take seriously these words of the Lord as it seeks to give faithful witness in a society increasingly at odds with Christian teaching? Do we capitulate to the spirit of the age for the sake of peace? Will we find courage in the promise of Christ and the freedom of the gospel? Are we willing to endure ridicule and risk being ostracized for the sake of His name? We find great inspiration from the saints of old mentioned in Hebrews today. About those who were persecuted for their faith the Scripture says, “The world was not worthy of them.”4 What matters is being made worthy by the blood of the Lamb.

The challenge of every generation is to assess, understand and engage the culture of the day for the sake of the gospel. How is Christ perceived and how do we articulate better? The name of Christ does still command some respect even in the civil sphere. In the state of Tennessee this week a judge ruled that a couple who had named their baby Messiah had to change it saying, “The word Messiah is a title and it's a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ.” The couple said they hadn’t chosen the name for religious reasons but because they liked the way it sounded. So even through such unusual circumstances the Saviour’s name gets some publicity.

Of course Jesus is not concerned about publicity. He is not seeking spectators but followers. He is not calling for onlookers but witnesses. He offers forgiveness to the repentant not the curious. His teaching is not the material of innocuous debate but of life, death and immortality. Every day we face temptation. Every hour the Holy Spirit leads us in the struggle. History tells of a soldier who was wounded at the battle of Shiloh during the American Civil War and was ordered to go to the rear. The fighting was fierce and within minutes he returned to his commanding officer. "Captain, give me a gun!" he shouted. "This fight doesn’t have any rear!" And so it is with the very real struggle of living the baptismal life- life under the cross. We are always in the fray. We always need the protection of His promise and the refreshment of the gospel.

Luther said, “If you could see how many knives, darts, and arrows are every moment aimed at you, you would be glad to come to the sacrament as often as possible.”5 He doesn’t say this in order to panic us but to encourage us to cherish the sacred treasure that is offered in the Lord’s Supper. The forgiveness of sins is no trivial gift. We can have no certainty apart from it. Without it we cannot be assured of a gracious God. Remember, you are baptized into the name and kingdom of the Living God.

Dear friends, you do not come to God’s house to show that you are holy. The Holy Spirit draws you here because you are still a sinner. The more you believe this the greater your appreciation of His grace will become. The more fully will you see that the sacrifice made for you on the cross was the most profound act of love ever expressed. The more fully will you participate in the spiritual resurrection you already have because of Christ’s resurrection and look forward to day body and soul are resurrected to glory. Do not pull away even when in His house struggle confronts you. It shows your faith is active. Peace is a gift. Divine peace is one of the “spoils” of war. The struggle for the faith is still intense but Christ has won the war. Satan’s kingdom has been plundered. You are a participant in His victory. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

1 Matthew 26:52
2 Luke 12:50
3 Jeremiah 17:9
4 Hebrews 11:38
5 Large Catechism of Martin Luther
Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost
18 August 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

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