Sermon for Series A Proper 8 2017 “What a Friend”

 

Old Testament Lesson  Jeremiah 28:5-9

Second Lesson  Romans 7:1-13

Gospel Lesson  Matthew 10:34-42

Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the Gospel lesson just read.  [Matthew 10:34-42]

We all love to sing Jesus Loves Me, this I know and What a Friend we have in Jesus. And the Gospel tells us of the immeasurable, inconceivably bountiful love that God has for us; so great that he chose to sacrifice his only begotten Son for us.  So how do we find agreement between that love and the words of Jesus in the Gospel lesson today?

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For 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.  And 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.

These are strong words, harsh words, words we’re not used to hearing from Jesus.  We don’t like these words.  We don’t want these words.  We don’t want to hear them at all!  They confuse us.  They upset us.  They demand a lot out of us.  And haven’t we been taught that we’re saved by grace alone, through faith, apart from any works of our own?

If I’m hearing him right, I think Jesus is requiring us to show our love for him before he’ll declare us worthy.  I think Jesus is requiring us to carry our own cross and follow him as a prerequisite to being declared worthy in him!

That sure sounds like works to me!  I don’t know about you, but that scares me; because it doesn’t sound like this is a one-time deal.  If I’m going to be a follower of Jesus, if I’m going to be saved, if I’m going to be worthy; then this sounds like a full time job, for the rest of my life!

Don’t get me wrong; I understand this salvation thing is ongoing, and I understand I’m not ‘once saved, always saved’.  I even understand that faith without works is dead.  Jesus brother James taught us that in his New Testament epistle.

But, I get hung up on this word ‘worthy’.  What if I’m worthy today and unworthy tomorrow?  I mean, I’m in rare form today.  I’m worshiping, I’m praying, I’m praising God.  The pastor just pronounced the absolution for all my sins.  But, what about tomorrow?  What if I have a bad day?  What if my sinful nature gets the best of me and I fail?

Life was a whole lot easier when I went around humming Jesus loves me, this I know.

All right, enough of this role playing.  Enough of this dialogue meant to get you thinking about the meaning of worthiness.  Here it is, straight out: Jesus is telling us that no one on earth can save us from our sins, no matter how genuine they are, no matter how hard they try.  And that means we can’t trust in others to save us.  This lack of ability to trust is bound to cause an uproar; especially when the ones we know we can’t trust, for salvation, are the very family members we love and have trusted, for everything, throughout our lives.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For 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.

When Christ’s Holy Spirit works saving faith in us, it’s bound to cause tension and division.  When we have faith in Jesus, and that faith causes us to put him before our very own families; there will be man set against father, daughter against mother, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

Jesus is telling us that being a believer is a complete commitment.  Greater than family, and greater than anything else in life.  It’s a full time occupation.  The Holy Spirit brings us to repentance by showing us just how impossible it is for us to save ourselves.  He gives us the realization of the depth of our sin, and the realization of the hopelessness, the lack of ability, we have to rectify our situation.

And in the moment that we’re crushed by that revelation, we know that we need to turn our lives around, but we know that we’re not capable of doing it.  That’s repentance; the desire to turn from our sinfulness, and the acknowledgment that we can’t do this ourselves.

This ‘turned around life’ isn’t wishy-washy, it’s hard and fast commitment albeit a commitment that, thanks to the Holy Spirit, we can do and make gladly.  That’s what Jesus is telling us when he says, Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

But, let’s not just dwell on the strong words, the harsh words, the words we’re not used to hearing from Jesus.  Listen to what he says next: “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.  The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward.  And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

Now that we believe in Jesus as our Savior, now that the Holy Spirit is in charge of our lives, he’s going to do great things with us!  Now, as the Spirit gives us the words to speak, those who listen to us will know the Father as surely as we do!

Now, the one who believes us as we proclaim the truth, will be used by the Spirit to tell others too.  That’s the prophet’s reward.  Now, the one who recognizes our service to them will be given the ability to serve in righteousness too; and as they aid us in sharing the love of Christ, they’ll surely be blessed too.

Sometimes the facts sound strong.  Sometimes they sound harsh.  But, when you know the one who’s speaking, and that One is Jesus, You know he speaks the truth … in love.  You know his words are meant to deliver what’s best for you.

Looking past the harshness, the strong sense of these words, you see that salvation is not based on what you do or don’t do.  Salvation is based on Christ and his work.  You’re worthy because you’re in Christ and he makes you worthy every day of your life.

With his Word and with water, he makes you lose your sinful life, and as you rise from the Baptismal font you find he gives you new life.  He gives you the commitment you need to take up your cross and follow him.  He does it all; because Jesus does love you.

What a friend you have in Jesus.  Amen.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle