Cruce Tectum

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

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Second Sunday after the Epiphany (B)

January 18, 2015
Text: John 1:43-51

            The Lord Jesus calls you as He called Philip in our Holy Gospel: “Follow me” (John 1:43; ESV).  The Lord calls you in Baptism.  He calls you in His holy Word.  To follow Jesus is to be His disciple, to follow in His discipline.  It is to hear and keep His Word, to receive His teaching, to follow in the way that He goes.  And the way that He goes is the way of the cross.  So to follow Jesus is also to suffer the crosses He lays upon you, and to sacrifice yourself for the good of your neighbor.  That means to give of what you’ve been given, relying on the Lord to provide whatever you lack.  That means to give your life, if necessary, for the sake of your neighbor, as Christ gave His life to save you for life eternal.  Part of what brings on this suffering and sacrifice is your Christian position regarding the culturally contentious issues of the day.  And so this is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, always the Sunday prior to the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, and Christians are unapologetically pro-life.  How could we be anything else, having freely received the Gospel of life in Christ?  Now, this is not the Church taking political sides in terms of party affiliation or elections, though we are often accused of that very thing.  But as the Church of Jesus Christ, entrusted with the proclamation of God’s holy Word, we are to be a prophetic voice in the wilderness of this culture of death.  Let me tell you,  none of the prophets lived a cross-free life, and very few of them died of old age.  The Church has an obligation to the unborn to oppose this holocaust, estimated at over 57 million abortions since Roe v. Wade.  57 million!  This is THE issue of our time.  And don’t think that God will allow this to go on forever.  Those who follow Jesus Christ are charged with calling the culture to repentance, speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves, and fostering culture of life and forgiveness and grace in Christ.  So too, the Church ought to be on the front lines of helping unwed mothers and those in crisis pregnancy situations, as well as ministering to women who have had an abortion, and the men involved in those decisions.  There is help, and there is healing in Christ.
            Then there is the marriage issue and the whole host of sexual issues the Church is called to address.  St. Paul addresses these in our Epistle: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body… Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:13, 18).  Your body is sacred, redeemed by our Lord’s bodily death and resurrection for you.  Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and God will raise it again on the Last Day to live forever with Him, pure and holy.  You should treat it that way.  Your body is not your own, to do with as you please.  It was bought at a price, the precious blood of Jesus.  Therefore glorify God with your body (vv. 19-20).  You should not have sex outside of marriage.  You should not have sex before marriage.  You should not live together outside of marriage.  You should not have sexual relations with those of your same gender.  You should live chaste and decent lives in what you say and do, and husbands and wives love and honor each other.   These things should go without saying for the Christian, but they don’t.  So St. Paul has to say them, and so do I, and so do you as the holy Church. We are once again to be a prophetic voice in the wilderness of this world, to hold up marriage as God intends it, the lifelong union of one man and one woman, the basic building block of society, charged with the care and protection of children.  And the Church must be on the front lines of care for those who are trapped in sexual immorality, for homosexuals, for the divorced, for the victimized, for the lonely, always by the clear light of God’s holy Word, always in light of His will for marriage and sexuality as His good gifts.  Such proclamation won’t win you any popularity contests with the culture.  The culture will call you haters, prudes, and hypocrites.  They may even persecute you.  Because these are also sacred issues for the culture.  We’re hitting on the idolatry of our society.  The sexual issues go hand in hand with abortion.  They both have to do with the desire for uninhibited sexual activity, with whomever or whatever you want, completely divorced from the obligations of commitment and procreation.  And there really is nothing new under the sun.  Just as the ancient cults had their temple prostitutes and human sacrifice, we have the hyper-sexualization of the culture and abortion.  Speak against those and you will suffer the cross.  But Jesus, your crucified Lord, says to you: “Follow me.”
            Following Jesus is hard.  You would rather follow other voices.  You would rather go along to get along with the culture, to avoid controversies in your family and among your friends.  And you would rather cater to your own fleshly desires and comfort than have to follow after Jesus and suffer.  Repent.  Our Lord calls you to follow Him on the way of the cross, to suffer and die, and in this way to live with Him.  He will raise you up.  You can suffer now in the confidence of that promise.  Jesus called Philip, and Philip (it is believed) was crucified and stoned to death while hanging on the cross.  Why?  Because he preached the Gospel.  He followed Christ.  Jesus called Nathanael (also known as Bartholomew), and Nathanael (it is believed) was flayed alive and crucified by the pagan priests in Armenia.  Because he preached the Gospel.  He followed Christ.  And Jesus called St. Peter, whose confession of Christ we also commemorate today (Cf. Mark 8:27-35), and Peter (it is believed) was crucified upside down in Rome the same day St. Paul was beheaded in Rome.  Because they preached the Gospel.  They followed Christ.  These men followed Christ, literally, to the cross.  They died, and yet they live.  Because following Jesus on the way of the cross, you also follow Him on the way of the empty tomb.  You follow Him to eternal life.  You follow Him to the resurrection.  “God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Cor. 6:14). 
            So you confess the faith.  You speak the truth in love.  And most importantly you proclaim Christ as Savior.  This is actually a lot less difficult than we make it.  Evangelism is really quite simple.  Philip is our model here.  How does he witness to Nathanael?  He simply invites him to come and meet Jesus.  “Come and see,” he says (John 1:46), and that is our whole evangelism program in one simple phrase.  Invite people to come and see.  Invite people to Church.  If they ask you to give an account for the hope that you have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15), give them the basics of the Creed.  And then invite to them to come here and see for themselves.  Understand, whether they believe or not isn’t up to you.  That’s the Holy Spirit’s problem.  You can’t convert anyone.  Only He can.  By the Word.  By Baptism.  He calls others in the same way you were called, by the Means of Grace. 
            For in these Means of Grace, the Word and the Sacraments, you see Christ crucified for sinners, Christ risen for you.  And you invite others to come and see Jesus of Nazareth in the Means of Grace for them.  We often think that for the Church to be relevant to the culture today, we have to make it flashy, exciting, cutting edge.  We have to spice up the message with special effects.  Over against this, Jesus says that Nathanael will see something even greater than His demonstration of miraculous foreknowledge, seeing and knowing Nathanael even while He was under the fig tree.  He says that Nathanael “will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (v. 51).  Nathanael will see Jacob’s ladder (Gen. 28), the bridge between God in heaven and this fallen world.  And so will you, here, in the Means of Grace.  The ladder is the cross.  The bridge by which sinner cross to heaven is the Son of Man lifted up.  The way to God is Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
            “Follow me,” says Jesus.  And you do.  You follow His voice in preaching and Scripture.  You follow Him through the flood of your Baptism into Christ, and to the Table of His Body and Blood.  You follow Him through the cross and suffering, to resurrection and eternal life.  With Him there is forgiveness of all your sins, forgiveness for all those times you’ve failed to speak, failed to act, failed to serve and sacrifice and suffer… failed to follow.  With Him there is righteousness.  With Him there is, in the end, peace.  It isn’t easy to be a disciple of Jesus.  Following Him can be perilous in this body and life.  But His is the way of life eternal.  His is the way of truth.  Following Jesus, you are safe.  Following Jesus, you are always on the right path.  And so, thanks be to God, by His grace and by His Spirit, by His precious work in you, you ever follow the voice of your Good Shepherd as He calls to you: “Follow me.”  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.        


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