Sermon for Rev. Zickler for July 2, 2017

20170702 Sermon Proper 8 2017
July 2, 2017
Matthew 10: 34-42

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.  This morning we meditate on the Gospel lesson previously read.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  Those are some hard words to hear from Jesus, aren’t they?  In fact, to an extent they don’t seem to make sense.  After all, what did the angels sing at Jesus’ birth?  “Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth.”  So, what’s happened?  Well, what was the peace that came at the birth of Jesus?  The peace of man to God, that reconciliation.  So here we see He’s not promising reconciliation between man and his neighbor.

But even still, this doesn’t seem like what we think of with Jesus does it?  I mean after all, in our day we often think of everything with Jesus being sunshine and puppies and rainbows, don’t we?  We usually think of Jesus wanting to unite people, wanting people to be united, to be kind, to not fight and have division, right?  In fact, there was a whole movement in the Church called the ecumenical movement dedicated to the idea that Christians are all the same because we all believe in Jesus.  In fact, at the center of this idea was that Jesus wouldn’t want us to look at differences but at similarities.  And yet Jesus says those words, He’s not bring peace, but a sword.  Does that mean He doesn’t want people to be united?  Does this mean that perhaps He wants people to be divided?  

There we can at least see it’s not what He wants.  So why does He say this?  Why this division?  Because of sin, right?  Because in our sin some people will cling to what Jesus said and they will believe in Him and others will not.  And there’s the division.  There comes this sword.  There comes this dichotomy; the split between those who believe and those who don’t.  In fact, as we look at what Jesus said last week, I mentioned that when He talked about persecution there, He was talking about that persecution that would come to the Christians right after His ascension, the persecution of Christians by the Jews.  And there would be that division, the Christians hearing Jesus’ word and believing it and the Jews denying that Jesus was who He said.  But even still that division comes, doesn’t it?  We would even argue that it’s part of the reason we have closed communion.  We love our brothers and sisters in Christ in other denominations, but we have to acknowledge that there is a separation in relation to hearing Jesus’ words, right?  To the Catholic side the separation in believing that Jesus alone is sufficient for our salvation without our good works and to the Protestant side the separation in believing what Jesus says when He says, “This is my body.”  

In fact, I remember at my ordination, my best friend’s mom was there.  She came to the rail, hands outreached in hopes that I would commune here despite her membership at a church that didn’t believe in the body of Christ in the supper.  I almost broke into tears then and there.  This woman had been like a second mother to me, especially after my mom had died.  I wanted nothing more than to give her that joy of receiving communion from me.  But I couldn’t do it.  That sword divided us.  She thought it was just bread, and Paul said that if someone doesn’t recognize the body they eat it to their judgment, I couldn’t do that to her.  And it was hard.  Yes, these are hard words.

But they get even harder to hear, don’t they? “I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 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.”  How could Jesus say this?  Division not just with our neighbor, but even within the household?  Think about the Fourth Commandment.  Children have a duty to love and honor their parents, right?  They have a duty to respect them and cherish them.  What is He saying?  Well He’s saying to love Him more.  

My wife will often speak about this, that growing up she would hear this and it would strike her to her heart.  In fact, she was so struck by it that she even went to her mom one time and told her that she felt bad because she loved her mom more than Jesus.  Something we can all understand I’m sure.  Even more so, if you’re a parent, you love your children, and yet Jesus comes and says to love Him more.  That’s hard, right?  But think about the example we have of that.  Look at Abraham.  Here Abraham was in His nineties and God finally blesses Him with a child, a son through His own wife Sarah, and what does God say?  “Abraham, now take Isaac and sacrifice him.”  Imagine yourself as Abraham.  “What Lord?  You finally give me this child and now you’re taking Him?”  “Abraham, take Isaac up Mount Moriah and sacrifice him.”  And so, Abraham does it, right?  Now, we know that thankfully the Lord stopped him, but there is that love that we should exemplify.  And this is hard isn’t it.

And as I’m saying this about parents, we should extend it to other aspects of the Fourth Commandment too.  This week we’re celebrating the Fourth of July, and in many places we see people who love our country more than God.  I just heard an interview with a woman who authored an article which was called “We Need to Stop Treating our Politics Like Religious Dogma.”  She was making the point that if you look at the shooting of the senators in Washington, there were some who were celebrating that shooting because they disagreed with those senators and their membership in the senate as Republicans.  Of course, though, she made the point this isn’t just a problem on the left, it’s universal.  As a whole, there are a huge number of Americans more concerned with political dogma than religious dogma.

Now to be clear we do have a responsibility as citizens of this country, that’s a vocation for us.  We have even a duty to die for our country where necessary and appropriate.  But to apply this to yourself, ask yourself, whether you lean to the right or the left politically, do you care more about political teachings and positions than you do about religious ones?  For example, do you care more about your political views than your conviction, say about Jesus’ Words of promise that the Lord’s Supper is His body and blood?  Would you be more willing to give your life in freedom for this country or in defense of the teaching that Jesus actually comes here to you in, with, and under the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper?  And I ask that in hopes that I would remain faithful myself if that were the cause, and all the more knowing pastors in Haiti who literally had to stake their livelihood on that confession.  They weren’t necessarily afraid that they would be shot for standing on that Word, but they were already poor and there were churches in America that told the Haitians they would cut off their funding if these Haitians wouldn’t relax on that confession.  And yet those pastors remained steadfast.  This is hard.

And yet it gets even harder.  “Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Not only are we supposed to love Jesus more than our neighbors, our parents and children, we are supposed to love Him even more than ourselves.  Pick up your cross.  Give up your life.  In fact, think about this in our day.  What do we often say?  “I really need to take some time to find myself.  I need to find our who I really am.”  What does Jesus say?  Give that up!  Your identity isn’t what you find out that it is, it’s the identity that He gives you.  And it’s a hard identity.  It’s an uncomfortable one.  It’s painful.  It’s painful because it means your death.  It means the sacrifice of yourself.  Christians this is hard because it means that you have to give up what you want and you have to take up our cross daily and follow your Lord.  Give up your sinful desires.  Give up your love for your parents or children, not completely but over and above your Lord.  And if you won’t do this you’re not worthy.  And that word there conveys the idea of bringing up the other beam of the scale.  If you’re found worthy you’ve been weighed and not found wanting, but if you won’t do this, you’re not worthy.  You’ve been weighed and have been found wanting.  You’re like an inauthentic coin, counterfeit and fake.  And there we see just how hard this really is.  

In fact, it’s so hard it can even make us angry at Jesus.  How could He ask so much?  How could He demand so much from us?  How can He demand something that when we’re honest about it, we really can’t do of ourselves?  I mean, I don’t know about you but I try to pick up that cross and on a daily basis I fail.  I drop it for more comfortable arrangements.  So why does He ask this?

First of all, because He’s God and He can ask whatever He wants.  Likewise, He is the One who is worthy.  In Revelation, we see Jesus called the Lamb upon His throne, and the whole company of heaven stands around Him and sings about how He is worthy.  He is the genuine article, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”  Ok so, Jesus is this One who is worthy and genuine, but does He then just call us to these things that we would be miserable in this life?  After all this sacrifice is not what we would choose, is it?  It’s not comfortable, so does He just want us unhappy?  

No, and to understand think about what makes Him so worthy.  What shows Him to be so genuine?  His love, right?  His love for you.  His love which motivated Him to enter into the discomfort of sin and to bear that sin in His body for you.  To live the perfect life in your place and die the death you deserve.  His love that gives that body to you in His supper so that you may feast on the fruit of His cross and resurrection for you.  He loves you more than your neighbors, your country, your children, or even your parents ever could.  

Those of you who have been reading the Luther biography with us probably noted where it was discussed how Luther wrestled with the fact that even parents don’t love perfectly.  For example, his father wanted him to become a Lawyer, not just so that Martin would have a could career, but also so that someone would take care of old Hans when he had to step down from his mining business.  We may love our children more than anything, but we still have those selfish motivations in there as sinners.  But Jesus didn’t.  His love is pure.  And as we follow Him, what we are doing His following Him unto death that we may follow Him unto the resurrection.  In other words, this call is for us to give up anything but Him.  To give up even our own ability to save ourselves and to cling to His cross, because in His cross, in His love, and in His worthiness, there is our worthiness.  Yes, worthy is the Lamb who was slain for you.  And as He comes to you and gives you that worthiness, He makes you worthy for His kingdom for eternity.  He can say such hard things because He really wants what’s best for you, and that’s Himself and His Eternal Kingdom.  May that love draw us always to cling to His Word and His promises, and even His peace, above all things eternally.  Amen.