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 29, 2014

Third Sunday after Pentecost

Third Sunday after Pentecost (A—Proper 8)

June 29, 2014
Text: Matt. 10:34-42

            “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; ESV).  Those are Jesus’ Words about Himself.  And how different our Lord’s self-description is than the way many in our culture would describe Him.  Isn’t Jesus all about bringing peace and reconciliation and love?  Well, He is, but not the way so many in our culture think He is.  Jesus is not about everybody accepting everybody else for who they are and whatever they want to do and whatever they want to believe so that we can all have a big group hug.  Jesus is not about tolerance when the thing we’re supposed to tolerate is physically or spiritually harmful, sinful, and destructive to people.  And as far as diversity, yes, Jesus is all about people from all over the earth, from many nations, with many backgrounds and many skin colors, coming together under the standard of His cross in one holy, Christian, and apostolic Church.  But not all diversity is good, and it isn’t all blessed by Jesus.  For example, our Lord is pretty insistent that there is only one way to heaven, and He is it.  He’s not very tolerant about diversity in religions.  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” says the Lord.  “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).  So Jesus does not live up to the culture’s politically correct expectations.  Turns out He is not about rainbow unicorns and cuddly kittens.  He’s the Lord who enters the Temple to overturn tables and drive out the merchants and money-changers with a whip of chords.  You can read it for yourself.  It’s right there in John Chapter 2 (vv. 13-17).  The Jesus of Scripture is a Jesus with hard edges. 
            Jesus comes packing heat.  He’s wielding a sword.  As you can see from the picture on the front of your bulletin, He wields the sword with His mouth.  The sword, of course, is His Word.  “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).  And this sword does exactly what our Lord says it will in our text.  The Word of Christ becomes a source of division even between family members.  And you know what I mean.  What are the two topics you’re never supposed to bring up at the dinner table?  Religion and politics, right?  Well, just bring up Jesus and see how it goes.  Because you either believe in Jesus (the Jesus in Scripture, not the one made up by the culture), or you don’t.  You’re either with Him, or you’re not.  You either believe His Word, or you reject it.  And feelings are strong on both sides because there is so much at stake.  Those of us who believe in Jesus are devoted to Him, because we know what He’s done for us, saving us from our sin and death, from hell, by His suffering and death on the cross.   He gives us peace of heart, peace of conscience, peace with God, and eternal life, and we want others to have that peace and eternal life, so we witness.  We speak of Jesus and urge others to believe in Him.  But those who don’t believe in Him, have strong feelings, too, because again, there is so much at stake.  If Jesus is God, and if Jesus is the only way to eternal life, and I don’t believe in Jesus, well then, what does that mean for me?  That means I’m lost.  My sins aren’t forgiven.  I have no peace.  And instead of eternal life, I have eternal death, which is to say, hell.  And so, if you’re having this discussion around the family dinner table, it’s easy to see how the sword of Jesus’ Word sets a man against His father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  Passions run high.  And in times of persecution, like I warned you last week I think are coming, well… It has happened and it will happen again until our Lord returns that family members deliver up their own family members unto death.  Again, just think of Miriam Ibrahim (who has been freed, thank God, and for whom we continue to pray that God would grant her safety).  Her own Islamic father’s family, it is reported, are the ones who asked Sudanese authorities to take action against her.  So peace in the family might not be an option for those who believe in Jesus Christ.  Remember, dear Christians, that Jesus comes first, before family, and that’s what Jesus means when He says that “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37-38).  Confess Christ, speak His Word with gentleness and respect, but firmly and faithfully.  And then take what comes to you, whether from friend or foe.  That’s what you’re called to do. 
            The sword of Jesus’ Word, though, is double edged.  It is both Law and Gospel.  And here is the beautiful thing about our Lord’s wielding of the sword.  He comes among us with that sword, and we expect Him to mow us all down with His righteous Law, to slay us for our sins.  But He doesn’t.  Instead, He submits Himself to the sword.  He who knew no sin became sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21), took our sin into Himself, and bore it to Calvary.  He suffered under God’s justice, that in Him God would justify the world.  He died, that we might live.  He was mowed down, that He might raise us out of sin and death to righteousness and life in Him.  That’s the Gospel.  And that is why, beloved, we can bear persecution.  Because, as we learned last week, all any earthly persecutor can do to us is kill our body.  They cannot kill our soul.  And on the Last Day, Jesus will raise our body from the grave to eternal life with Him.  That means the persecutors can’t really kill us.  When you die you go to heaven.  Then Jesus raises you.  There is a happy ending.  And that is also true about any lesser persecution you may have to endure.  So you are mocked.  Jesus will set the record straight on Judgment Day when He confesses you before the Father.  So friends and family speak ill of you, maybe even refuse to speak to you.  On the Last Day, they will confess your faithfulness before the throne of Jesus Himself.  So they take your home and your possessions.  Jesus has gone to prepare a place for you in the Father’s House.  So they imprison you.  Jesus will give you perfect freedom on the Day of Resurrection.
            Of course, as Christians, it is not our aim to be pests.  We don’t want to cause divisions, and we won’t so far as it depends on us.  But we will speak the Word of Christ faithfully.  We will confess Him.  Like Jeremiah in our Old Testament reading.  He didn’t want to be divided from Hananiah and the King in Jerusalem.  But the LORD had given him a Word to speak, and he had to speak it, even though it brought him suffering and the cross.  Jesus tells you, also, to take up your cross and follow Him.  And what that means is, don’t be afraid to suffer for His Name and for the Gospel.  Trust that He’ll preserve you, because that’s what He has promised.  To take up your cross simply means to take up your Baptism.  You already died.  You are baptized into the death of Christ.  You already have eternal life.  You are baptized into the resurrection of Christ.  So take they your life, goods, fame, child, or wife, let these all be gone.  They yet have nothing won!  The Kingdom yours remaineth! (LSB 656:4).  Jesus says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39).  What that means is you have the world offering you life on its terms, and you have Jesus offering you life on His.  The life the world has to give you, with all its pleasures and charms, ends in death.  Finding your life, you lose it.  Deny Jesus and the world will let you alone, but in the end, you die.  The life Jesus has to give you starts with your death in Him and your continual losing your life for His sake in this earthly life as you bear the holy cross.  But in the end, you live, and that eternally.  Losing your life, you find it.  Confess Jesus and you may be flogged and hanged, as Miriam Ibrahim was threatened.  But then comes the reward, a reward Jesus Himself won for you on His cross, eternal life and the martyr’s crown.

            Jesus is not a politically correct Savior, and to whatever degree you’ve been influenced by political correctness (and we all have), repent.  Because this is about deeper things than having people like you, peace in the family, honor in the world’s estimation, money, possessions, and fleeting pleasures.  This is about deeper things than your home, your family, even your bodily life.  This is about things eternal, the holy things, the things of Jesus who died for you, the Jesus who is risen from the dead and lives for you, that you might live eternally in Him.  The Word of Jesus is sharp and it is deadly.  It will kill you, and it will hurt.  Don’t think believing that Word comes without a cost.  But it also raises you to life again, for it comes with this reward: Jesus, your life and your salvation, your God in the flesh.  It comes with Jesus saying to you in the end: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34).  And now you’ve found it, your life in Jesus Christ, the Crucified.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.         

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