Sunday, July 27, 2008

Trinity 10 sermon

Trinity 10 – Luke 19:41-48 – July 27th, 2008

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
So, was Jesus just in a bad mood for this text this morning? Was He just grouchy, or sad for some reason. Was there something else in His life that was getting Him down, where He would be so dour as regards Jerusalem, as regards the temple. Nope – at least it shouldn’t be – because this is Luke 19 – and when we hear, and when He drew near we ought to remember, to know that these are Words which He spoke while mounted on a donkey, these are the Words our Lord Jesus speaks on Palm Sunday, amidst all the praise and palms and cloaks strewn about the ground. No, Jesus wasn’t in a bad mood, it wasn’t anything like that – rather, as our Lord enters Jerusalem that Palm Sunday, He looks upon it, considers it, and He weeps. Listen to what our Lord says while He weeps.

Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you because you did not know the time of your visitation. So, what does this mean? Our Lord looks upon Jerusalem, and He gazes into the future. In 70 AD, it would be destroyed. It would be destroyed again around 60 years after that. Fire and destruction and chaos – and why? Because the Jewish people again and again kept revolting against Rome. The Jewish people kept looking for a political Christ, a military messiah to lead them to independence. They did not recognize Christ Jesus, they didn’t recognize that God was in His loving kindness visiting them then and there. They did not want the peace that Christ brings, peace with God, peace with their fellow man. Instead, the Jewish people by in large craved military power, a kingdom to rival their kingdom of old – even though it had been gone for 400 years, even though David was gone almost 1000 years. Their plans were better than God’s, and Christ was ignored, and doom came.

Jesus knew. He knew that if, just if the people of Jerusalem had their minds upon the things of God, had their minds upon God’s peace, then the disaster wouldn’t come. No thoughts of an earthly kingdom means no rebellion, no rebellion means no destruction. But no such luck for the people of Israel, who once again are determined to wander from God – and Christ is left to weep.

I wonder what Christ would weep over concerning this congregation. I wonder if He would behold us and lament that we don’t know the things that count for peace. What think you? If Christ were to walk through those doors – would He rejoice over how we live at peace with each other? Would He rejoice over how ready we are to show love to one another? Or would He see the grudges of our hearts and weep over them? Or before He even had a chance to speak, would we shower Him with a laundry list of complaints against our fellow members – ancient histories full of past transgressions, or even simple commentary on how someone else is doing something that I don’t like? Jesus, so and so does this – make them stop. Jesus, so and so did this, and I don’t like it! Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! Would that peace be our focus, would that we would daily beat down the old Adam within that pushes us towards anger – and instead would that we simply delight in the peace that surpasses all human understanding, the peace knowing that our sin, knowing that the sin of our neighbor is well and thoroughly forgiven!

But Lord not only weeps in this text. Perhaps even more frightening is that our Lord displays His righteous anger. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” It had gotten quite rough in the temple in Christ’s day. There were sacrifices, so animals were bought and sold. People came from far away to do this, so there were money exchangers and the like, just to help things along. It had become mere business, people focused more on cashing in on religion, on balance sheets and profits than they were about prayer and worship. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus actually breaks out a cord whip and starts whipping the folks over this. A righteous anger, which is scary to behold.

Of course, we see this same pattern happen over and over. The Church becomes less and less focused on God and more and more on power and wealth and what we have. The 900s were a horrible time for it – it was horrid and wicked in Luther’s time, with the indulgences and all. It happens quite often that the Church loses its focus, becomes more concerned with what it has, doing business, than being concerned with prayer and worship.

Again, I wonder if Christ would be angry with this congregation. We can worry, we can be worried an awful lot about cash. We can be wringing our hands over what we’ll do 10 years from now, or 20, when we’re all older, and some of us are gone – what will we do then? It is written, “My house shall be a house of prayer. Do we remember that? Do we remember that first and foremost this place is God’s House, not ours? Do we remember that it is God’s House, that He has established it to be His House of prayer, His House of Worship – that whether this place stands or falls is solely up to Christ and the support which He provides? Or do we fret and frit and worry? When you look and see pews not nearly as full as they were 20, 40, 60 years ago, do you worry about this organization – how it will survive, or do you lament that there are so many people at home who could and ought to be joining with us in prayer? Do we worry more about business, or are we simply eager and glad and thankful that God has provided us with this place for worship and prayer?

Would Christ weep over us like He wept over Jerusalem, would He be angered and think us just like those money changers in the temple, think us just like a little Rome out in northwest Oklahoma? Perhaps – and He’d be right to weep, He’d be right to have a bit of that Divine Anger. We ourselves should lament our actions, we should be disgusted with the times when our focus has shifted off of Christ and we have let fear and worry rule the day. But rather than wondering if Christ would weep, or if He would demonstrate His anger – let’s look at what He does. Listen.

And He was teaching daily in the temple. It’s a simple verse. We see in the beginning of our Gospel lesson all sorts of people doing foolhardy things – and Christ none too happy with that. Yet, something remains constant. Christ continually teaches and preaches in His temple. Is this not what Christ has done, what He has continued to do for you here? Is not Christ faithful to you? Does not Christ always desire that You hear His Word of life and forgiveness, is not His death upon the Cross for your sake always proclaimed here? I suppose that if Christ were to walk through those doors, there would be some Law that would smack us upside the head – we need that – but I do know that He would preach to us about forgiveness – I know that He would proclaim His peace to us, I know that He would have us pray for forgiveness and give it to us richly Himself. Because that is what He wants, and that is what He desires – that we know and hear and receive His forgiveness. Indeed, that is what He has done here as long as this Church has been here!

You see, dear friends, the Christian faith is simple. It is deep, there is always more to see and delight in, but it is simple. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. The Christian faith is that whereas we lack, we sin, we fall short – God in His love and mercy comes to us, brings us forgiveness and life and salvation. Period. Simple and wondrous as that. That on account of Christ’s death and resurrection you have indeed been reconciled to God and are being prepared for life eternal. This is the truth that is foundational, that shapes everything we say here, everything that we are as Christians – all of it, shaped by Christ the Crucified, who while we were yet sinners died for us. And yet, we let so many things distract us from this – fears and doubts and angers and worries – our focus slides from it, and we wander. So what does our Lord do? He calls out again, He restores the wandering and erring, He calls us back to His House and makes it a House of prayer again, He calls us here and makes us to know His peace again – He teaches us from the Word so that we might always know the things that make for Peace – His Word, His Baptism, His Supper – that we might be determined to know these, to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified for us. And that is what Christ has always done. No matter how many times our actions might make Him weep, how many times our actions might be worth receiving the wrath of God – Christ always is here proclaiming His Peace, proclaiming His Gospel, proclaiming that He has accomplished your salvation.

Christ is always in action for your benefit, always striving to bring to you the fruits of His crucifixion, bringing you His forgiveness. Keep your eyes focused there, and gladly receive what the Lord gives to you – for indeed, He knows what you need, and He gives it to you freely and gladly. He loves you, and He will support and sustain you by His Word. It’s as simple as that – and would that we remember that when Satan comes in and tempts us to fear and doubt and anger and all the others ways He tempts us. Know this – Christ always will come to His Church and teach her. God grant that we remain those who hear His Word and rejoice in receiving His forgiveness. Amen.

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