Sunday, August 9, 2015
Homily for The Tenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 10)
Luke 16:41-48; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; Jeremiah 8:4-12
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The peace movement of the 1960s was fueled by the realization that war is a huge money-making business. Truly, nothing will bring a nation out of a recession or a depression like a great war. Wars create jobs, increase gross national production, and focus people upon the enemy “over there” instead of the problems right here at home. And so, youth growing up in the 60s rebelled against war, and they advocated for peace. They adopted the famous “peace sign” as the symbol of their movement, a symbol designed in the 1950s as the logo for a British campaign for nuclear disarmament. They held rallies and sit-ins protesting the Vietnam War, and they practiced the ideals of what they believed would make for a peaceful society and world: Free love and free drugs, freedom from clothing (and from deodorant and shaving too!), freedom from work, from money, and from laws, etc. John Lennon exhorted his generation to simply imagine a world without heaven or hell, countries, religion, and possessions, as if imagining could change reality. But, it couldn’t. Still, there were greed and hunger, poverty and suffering, racism, and hatred. For, you can imagine all you like, still there is no peace. Imagine as you may, the things that make for peace cannot be found in worldly mammon or by your own works and merit. For, before there can be peace with your fellow man, there must first be peace with God, and peace with God is not something that you can buy, or merit, or even imagine into being, but peace is something that God has worked, that God has declared, and that God has realized in His Son Jesus Christ upon the cross for the life of the world.
God’s peace incarnate approached Jerusalem and wept over it saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!” For, when He entered the temple, God’s house of prayer, He beheld that men had made it to be a den of robbers. The people were trying to purchase or merit peace with God by their sacrifices, by their tithes, by their prayers, and by their works. But, such things cannot make for peace with God. In truth, they rob from God, for all things belong to Him, yet men feign to buy His favor and peace by offering Him His own gifts as the sacrifice of their own hands and hearts. Jesus wept because He foresaw the judgment that would soon fall upon them: “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.” For, the wrath of God against human sin is very real, His holiness and His righteousness literally cannot tolerate a speck of it, and God’s Peace incarnate, the only peace possible, Jesus, was approaching Jerusalem in the prophetic knowledge that He would be rejected. When God’s Peace makes His visitation, there can be only two possible outcomes: Receive Him in faith to your great blessing, or reject Him in unbelief to your judgment and condemnation.
Jesus wept over Jerusalem, the city of God’s Peace, because He knew that He would be rejected. He taught daily in the temple, and many were drawn to Him and to His teaching, but “the chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy Him.” They, the religious leaders of the people of Israel, took a “lying pen” to the Law of God and bent it and distorted it, making it into a lie. They lowered the bar of the Law’s expectations in order to make it appear more do-able and keep-able, and they preached that men could justify themselves by keeping it, so that men sought peace, not in the LORD of hosts, but in their works and in their merits. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people healed the wound of God’s people lightly, saying, “Peace, peace,” where there was no peace.
The Peace of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, had come to visit His people. The only question was, would He be received in faith or rejected in unbelief? In the same way, the Peace of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, visits His people today. Here, in this holy fellowship, the Peace of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, visits you, His people, in Holy Word and in Blessed Sacrament. How will you receive Him – in faith, to your great blessing, or in unbelief to your judgment and condemnation? The Peace of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, is the two-edged Word-Sword of God, cutting both ways, for the healing of the faithful and for the judgment of unbelievers. “Once He came in blessing, all our sins redressing; came in likeness lowly, Son of God most holy; bore the cross to save us; hope and freedom gave us.” But, “Soon will come that hour when with mighty power Christ will come in splendor and will judgment render, with the faithful sharing joy beyond comparing.”
What will God’s Peace incarnate find when He makes His visitation? Will He find that the Lord’s “house of prayer” has been made a “den of robbers,” or will He find His people waiting for Him in faithful patience, watching for Him in hopeful expectation, fearing His holiness and righteousness with reverence, loving and trusting in Him for His goodness and faithfulness to all generations and for forgiveness and life and salvation? As the early Church confessed in the Didache, “There are two ways, the way of life, and the way of death, and there is a great difference between the two ways,” so there is no fence-straddling when it comes to your peace with God – it is in and through faith and trust in the Peace of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, or there is no peace with God, period. There is no agnostic middle way in which you can avoid making a commitment, for “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” There is no yin-yang blending of black and white, darkness and light, good and evil, faith and unbelief that results in ambiguous greyness, for the Peace of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, is the Light of the World that scatters the darkness. In Him there is no darkness at all.
Therefore, do not look to find peace with God in your works and in your merits, in your tithes, or even in your faith, but receive the Peace of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, as He comes to you to forgive your sins, to strengthen your faith, to commune with you in body and blood, and bestow upon you life, salvation, and sonship with His Father. Indeed, you have but two things to do in this life – and, really they are one and the same, and they are not even things that you do, but they are things that you are: Fear, love, and trust in God above all things, and love and serve your neighbor as you love and serve the LORD.
Now, you have tremendous, incredible, and amazing freedom in this, for there is no Law against love. However, “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.” Now, Jesus was referring to the destruction that would befall Jerusalem in less than a generation when the Romans would lay siege to Jerusalem for four years and finally completely destroy the city and all who remained in it in 70 AD.
However, you, too, have enemies who barricade you and surround you and hem you in. They are the wise men and false prophets who continually say to you “Peace, peace when there is no peace,” telling you that all is well for you, even as you disregard the LORD’s Word and Commandments and follow your own way and the ways of the world. Do not regard them or give heed to them! For God’s Peace incarnate, Jesus Christ, comes to you today in blessing through Word and Sacrament to forgive and to heal and to strengthen and to save, but He will come another day, on a day that you will not know, to judge the wicked and to save the faithful. His blessed visitation now is meant to prepare and to keep you for that day that you need not be afraid.
Come now, and be clothed anew in Jesus’ blood and righteousness. His gracious visitation now is your peace with God today and tomorrow, and for as many tomorrows as he may grant you. This is the gate of heaven, and it is open to you through God’s Peace incarnate, Jesus Christ, that you may be partakers of His heavenly treasures.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.