Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (C)
August 19, 2007
Text: Luke 12:49-56

Jesus and His Word are above all human relationships in terms of loyalty and priority. So when we encounter a conflict between Jesus and someone or something else, Jesus should come out on top every time. Likewise, when there is a clear word from Jesus that conflicts with the word of the world or of a false teacher or even of a beloved family member or friend, the Word of Jesus should come out on top every time. This all sounds good to our pious ears in principle. But in practice, it is terrifying. It is terrifying because it calls upon us to speak Jesus’ Word and confess His Name, even if this means the division of father from son, mother from daughter, and mother-in-law from daughter-in-law. It calls upon us to be faithful even if it means the death of us. It calls upon us to daily take up our crosses and follow our crucified God.

You see, the real Jesus is a scandal. The fallen world has no problem with a Jesus who is meek and mild and brings some sort of ideal of peace on earth. That’s the stuff of sentimental Christmas cards, but it isn’t the real Jesus. The real Jesus says things like, “I came to cast fire on the earth… Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” (Luke 12:49, 51; ESV). Or as Jesus says elsewhere, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). Needless to say, the world does not like this Jesus. He demands too much sacrifice. He does not fit so well into the nicely wrapped box we have created to confine Him, much less does He fit the bill for a Christmas card.

It is hard to remain faithful to the real Jesus and His difficult Word. We much prefer a Jesus of our own making. So does the world. It is hard to remain faithful to Jesus and His Word when it offends our neighbors and divides us from those we love. Just ask any parent who has had to preach God’s Law to a child living with a member of the opposite sex out of wedlock. Just ask the faithful Christians in the ELCA who confess the truth about the sin of homosexuality, despite the latest tyranny of their church-body (an issue which I’m sure has divided ELCA families and certainly congregations). Just ask the Lutheran pastors in Sweden who have had to face jail time for opposing the ordination of women on the basis of God’s clear Word. Sometimes we have to speak hard words to those we love. We have to speak them because they are Jesus’ words, and real love demands that we give our loved ones the real Jesus. That’s why we practice closed communion. It’s not that we don’t want to be nice. Our practice is motivated by love for our neighbors, who, according to Jesus’ Word, could take the Sacrament to their souls’ harm, and even the detriment of their bodies, if they fail to recognize the body and blood of the Lord (1 Cor. 11:27-30). It’s a hard practice. It’s a hard word for a pastor to have to speak, telling someone they shouldn’t come to the Lord’s Supper. But nowhere in the Bible does it say Jesus’ Word has to be easy. Rather, God declares through the prophet Jeremiah, “Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jer. 23:29). Love demands that we give our neighbors the real Jesus… that we speak His real Word, even when it is hard. Parents must chastise and discipline their children. Christians must admonish one another on the basis of God’s Word. And all followers of Christ should confess Him to the world, even when the world is offended.

Have you been unfaithful to Jesus and His Word? Have you preferred your father or son, mother or daughter, mother-in-law or daughter-in-law to Jesus and His Word? Have you made your family members and friends into idols? Of course you have. Repent. For Jesus has never been unfaithful to you. He is here even now to forgive you all your sins. He is here to reclaim you. He has been baptized into the wrath of God for you, that you might be baptized into Him as His own. He has bought you with His own blood and death. He has engraved you on the palms of His hands. Though His Word is hard, take His yoke upon you, and learn from Him, for He is gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For His yoke is easy, and His burden is light (Matt. 11:29-30). He recreates you so that you can be faithful. He gives you His own strength. He bears you up. He carries you. He puts His good, albeit sometimes hard, Word into your mind and heart and mouth. And He promises, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).

Jesus’ Word and works that cause so many divisions are signs of the Kingdom. Jesus says as much in the Gospel lesson. He calls those “hypocrites” who can predict the weather on the basis of the signs in the sky, but cannot see the clear signs of the Kingdom of God. The Word and works of Jesus clearly show that the Kingdom of God has come in the person of the Son, Jesus Christ. This is what the coming of the Kingdom means: Jesus is King! He has come to bring forgiveness and life to a lost and dying world. But He has also come to claim all men and women exclusively for Himself. He has come to claim the allegiance and faith of all people for the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And there is no room for other gods in the hearts of those Jesus claims. Your God is either the Triune God, or your god is something else, but it cannot be both. You cannot serve two masters. And this is what is so offensive to the world. You cannot serve both God and Allah. You cannot serve the true God and the god of the Jews or the gods of the Hindus and Buddhists. You cannot serve both God and mother earth. You cannot serve both God and money, or possessions, or father/son, mother/daughter, mother-in-law/daughter-in-law. You cannot serve both God and the self. And this presents a problem for our selfish, pleasure driven culture. It also presents a problem for everyone one of us who has set up these things as idols. That includes you and me.

So we need to know two things. First, Jesus died to win forgiveness for our unfaithfulness and idolatry. Our sins were taken by Jesus all the way to the cross. We have been set free from our sin. Second, the world continues to be offended by Jesus and His Word. So you can expect persecution from the world for your God-given faithfulness to Jesus. Jesus even said, “You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Luke 21:16-17). But take heart. Jesus has overcome the world. Jesus gives you the strength and ability to confess Him faithfully even in a world that despises Him and His followers, and even among loved ones who cannot believe in the God you serve. What Jesus is calling us to do is bear the cross, even in the face of ridicule and hatred.

But here’s the good news. Jesus did, in fact, come to bring peace. It’s just not the peace that the world expects, or the peace that we find on sentimental Christmas cards. In the midst of division and the cross, Jesus brings peace to sinners. He brings peace to you. Jesus did not come to bring “peace on earth” in the John Lennon “Give Peace a Chance” manner of speaking. He came to bring peace with God to sinners in need of Divine reconciliation. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). Jesus mends the relationship broken by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He mends the relationship broken by you in your own sin. He absolves you with the words, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). He delivers this peace in Word and water and bread and wine, which are His true body and blood, again, the signs of the Kingdom.

The real Jesus and His Word and cross are a scandal to the world, but life and salvation to you who believe. So do not be discouraged. Do not be disheartened. Your Lord is with you. Your Lord is in you. And you are in your Lord. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of your faith, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Heb. 12:2-3). Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, and know that He always has His eyes fixed on you. In fact, you are the apple of His eye, hidden under the shadow of His wings. And He will not leave you helpless. He is coming again. He is coming for you. On that day, all sad divisions will cease, for all will be made perfect in the Lord. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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