Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost


Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (C – Proper 8)
June 30, 2013
Text: Luke 9:51-62

            No one ever said being a Christian is easy.  Or if they did say it, they were deceiving you, or were themselves deceived.  Jesus speaks the plain truth of the matter: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matt. 10:24-25; ESV).  The world’s hatred for Jesus will always result in hatred for His Christians.  To be a disciple of Jesus, to be one in His discipline, is to be one who follows Him.  And His way leads only down one path, that of suffering and the cross, for without these there can be no Easter.  His is the way of death and resurrection: His for you, and yours in Him.  For “When the days drew near for [Jesus] to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51), He set His face to go and die for you, for the forgiveness of your sins and your eternal salvation.  And His death becomes your death in Baptism, even as His resurrection from the dead becomes your resurrection in Baptism, which is true already now spiritually, and will be fully manifest in your body on the Last Day when He raises you from the dead. 
            But for now, during your sojourn in this fallen world, there is no promise that your Christian life will be easy.  We American Christians think it ought to be.  We regard belonging to Christ, belonging to the Church, as belonging to some sort of club, a voluntary association to which we may be committed to a greater or lesser extent, something we can do or not do if something “better” comes along.  We certainly don’t have to risk our lives to come to Church on Sunday morning, as so many others have had to do throughout history, and as many do in other places in the world today.  It costs us nothing except a few dollars in gas to come to Church, a little bit of our precious time, and whatever fraction of our income we put into the offering plate.  And we think we’ve done our duty.  Because that’s precisely how we think of the Church, as a duty, as an obligation to be fulfilled… or not if we’re too busy.  Do you want to know something startling?  It’s never enough for God.  You can never come to Church enough.  You can never spend enough time, give enough money.  You will never fulfill your duty.  Here you think you’re doing God a favor by being here.  He isn’t impressed.  Repent.  You’ve got it all wrong.  This isn’t a duty, this thing we call the Divine Service.  This is a gift!  God doesn’t need you.  You need Him!  You can’t live without Him.  You can’t live apart from His mercy.  Your life is but a breath.  Without Him, without Jesus Christ and His gifts, you’ll perish and go to hell.  I told you it was startling.  And yet, it’s nothing you weren’t taught in Catechism class.  You’ve just forgotten.  We always forget.  We’re always putting our hand to the plow and looking back.  You know where that gets you?  Off course.  Off the path.  Off the way of Jesus Christ.  And there is no other way.  We’re resurrection bound through the cross and suffering.  Because without a death, there can be no resurrection.
            Thank God our salvation doesn’t depend on us.  It depends solely on Christ.  For though you fear commitment to the Lord Jesus and His Church, our Lord Jesus is ever committed to you and to your salvation.  Though you think of Church as a monotonous duty to be fulfilled, the Lord Jesus takes His joy and delight in you.  Though you can never fulfill your obligations to God and His commandments, the Lord Jesus has fulfilled them for you already by His perfect life, lived in your stead.  And though you have often put your hand to the plow and looked back, making a mess of the field of your Christian life, the Lord Jesus put His hand and His whole body to the holy cross, never once looking back, but taking upon Himself the load of this whole world’s sin, including your sin and mine, and paying for all of it there in His suffering and death.  So that you who believe in Him might not perish, might not go to hell, but have eternal life with Christ, the risen Lord.
            Jesus speaks plainly about what it means to be His disciple.  It means to follow Him on the cruciform path, to die to self in repentance, to be drowned and die in your Baptism, and perhaps to die as a martyr, if necessary, for the Name and Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Well, that’s not easy, is it?  You see, to follow Jesus means that what happens to Him happens to you.  His whole life and death and resurrection become your own in Baptism.  But so also, your Baptism into Christ marks you as one hated by the world and targeted by the devil.  So Jesus entered a village of the Samaritans, but He was not received because they did not want this Savior whose face was set toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:52-53).  So, you likewise will be rejected.  You likewise will be hated.  Many will not receive you, just as they did not receive Jesus.  And it will hurt.  Perhaps you’ve had it happen to you.  You’ve confessed the faith or spoken the truth of Holy Scripture about some particular issue, and your friends or your family members have taken offense at your words.  Beloved, rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven.  For so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  We’ve all experienced this to one degree or another, even if it’s just the prevailing politically correct view that Christians ought to keep their faith to themselves, perpetuated by a media and politicians and academics who serve as the mouthpiece of the unbelieving world.  The answer is not to fight fire with fire, not to curse, not to call down fire from heaven to consume them, as James and John learned, but rather to suffer the rejection.  To commit your cause to the Lord.  To believe that He will set it all right in the end.  To believe that He knows your heartache and to be comforted with His promises.  Nor do you simply sit around wringing your hands and complaining about the state of things.  You confess the faith in spite of the rejection it brings to you.  Because that is what a Christian is called to do.
            This is most painful when your own family and your own loved ones come between you and following Jesus.  You don’t want to do anything that will offend them.  You don’t want to rock the boat.  You don’t want to hurt your own relationship with them.  So you hold your tongue when Jesus is defamed.  You act as though you approve of your sister living with her boyfriend or your cousin who has decided he’s in love with a man.  You recoil at the idea of speaking of Jesus to your uncle who is an atheist.  I know, I have these problems, too.  There are many things I’m called by God to preach to you that make me tremble in fear of your rejection.  But Jesus says, “everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8-9).  Repent.  I repent.  Following Jesus is not easy.  Jesus has something to say to us when we put family and loved ones ahead of Him: “Leave the dead to bury their own dead.  But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (9:60).  It is not that Jesus doesn’t want you to love your family members, even the unbelieving among them.  In fact, He calls you to do that very thing.  It is not that He doesn’t want you to attend their funerals.  But He comes first.  Jesus always comes first.  Because He is your God.  Your God is whatever or whomever you fear, love, and trust the most.  There is only room for Jesus to take that place.  He will not share you with others.  He wants you wholly for Himself.  And actually, when Jesus is your God, everything else falls into its proper place.  Those who were your idols now become objects of your love and good works in vocation.  Now they become the objects of your Christian witness.  Now you are able to love them truly, in such a way that you do hard things for them, for their good, things that may bring you rejection.  Any parent who has had to discipline their child knows the love of which I speak.
            It kills you, doesn’t it?  And that’s the point.  To follow Jesus means to go the way of the cross.  Ah, but the cross is not an end in itself.  The cross gives way to the empty tomb.  Death is swallowed up by the risen Savior who will raise you from the dead.  And on that Day He will make all that is wrong right again.  You can count on it.  That is the promise.  And that’s why you’re here.  You are here where He pours out His Spirit upon you in the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments.  You are here to have your sins forgiven, all of them, your sins of idolatry and fear, your indolence in receiving God’s gifts and in prayer, your lovelessness that would rather leave well-enough alone than rock the boat with confession of the truth.  All of that is now covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.  You are here to receive the life and salvation won by Jesus Christ on the cross, revealed in His resurrection from the dead, and given right here, right now, in preaching and Sacrament.  Finally, to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is simply to receive: His death and resurrection for you, yours in Him.  No more looking back.  Put your hand to the plow and suffer joyfully.  Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith (Heb. 12:2).  He brought you to faith.  He will keep you in the faith.  He will bring it to completion on the Day of His return.  And on that Day, all your suffering will be at an end. Make no mistake about it: He will raise you from the dead.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.         

2 Comments:

Blogger Pastor Darrin Kohrt said...

Excellent work here!
Thanks for preaching to me!

8:07 AM  
Blogger Rev. Jonathon T. Krenz said...

Thank you, brother.

9:29 AM  

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