Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sermon: Trinity 10

27 July 2008 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA Text: Luke 19:41-48 (Jer 8:4-12, 1 Cor 12:1-11)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Anyone who has ever held a job knows that something changes when the “big boss” is present – especially when the workers are used to not being supervised. When the executive from afar is coming for a visit to the plant or the office, the floors get swept, there may be a fresh coat of paint on the walls, and employees and managers alike are told to look sharp and put their best foot forward.

In fact, this universal way we react when the boss is coming for a visit has spawned an irreverent bumper sticker that nevertheless has a grain of truth to it: “Jesus is coming – everybody look busy.”

In our Gospel, our Blessed Lord speaks to the City of Jerusalem about His coming as “the time of your visitation.” And the Greek word translated “visitation” is the same word that is translated as “boss” – literally “overseer” – episkopos – the word associated with bishops in the Church.

Jesus Christ is indeed the Overseer and Bishop of our souls, and He has come to visit His creation, especially His bride the Church, and most especially His holy City of Jerusalem.

But how did Jerusalem react to the Overseer’s visitation? Did they sweep out the dirt from their legalistic religion? Did they cleanse the Temple of its impiety and misuse? Did they fret and implore the priests and the lay people alike to turn from their sins and put their best foot forward? Did everybody “look busy” for the sake of the kingdom? No, they did not. In fact, when the Boss came for His visitation, he found the employees slovenly, disrespectful, out of uniform, belligerent, disobedient, and only concerned with their own paycheck. They seemed to have no idea who He was at all.

When their visitation came, the City of Jerusalem could not be bothered. Instead of repentance, our Lord found impenitence. Instead of a desire to be cleansed of sin, our Lord found a shameless reveling in that sin, what the prophet Jeremiah called not knowing “how to blush.”

And instead of a diadem of gold, our blessed Lord was presented with a crown of thorns.

The visitation of our Lord, His appearance in the flesh, His coming among us, was for our good, for our salvation, for our redemption. And He was rejected by those He came to save. He was handed over to the tender mercies of the Romans while Jerusalem looked on in mockery. And just as Jeremiah lamented six centuries earlier, prophesying: “‘Even the stork in the heavens knows her appointed times; and the turtledove, the swift, and the swallow observe the time of their coming. But my people do not know the judgment of the Lord…. Behold, they have rejected the Word of the Lord. Therefore, I will give their wives to others. And their fields to those who will inherit them…. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; in the time of their punishment they shall be cast down,’ says the Lord.”

Our Blessed Lord knows Jeremiah’s words, for they are His Word. He knows the harshness that comes as a consequence to impertinence to one’s superiors, to holding the visitation of the Lord God Himself in contempt. The punishment Jerusalem will suffer will be severe and swift. Our Lord weeps just thinking about it.

For in rejecting the cure, they are stuck with the disease. In showing contempt for forgiveness they have chosen condemnation for themselves and their descendants. Having rejected the true Temple, the old Temple they have defiled is doomed. Having turned our Blessed Lord over to the mercies of the Roman enemy, they too will be turned over to the ruthless Roman foe. In three days the Temple of the Lord’s Body would rise again, but when the Temple of Herod was leveled to the ground, it was never to have even one stone upon another ever again.

For when the Lord Himself visited His Father’s house, He did not find a house of prayer, but rather a den of thieves. When He called Jerusalem to repent, the priests and scribes instead hardened their hearts and “sought to destroy Him.”

And this, dear Christians, is why our Lord weeps. He is imploring the people to repent, to know the time of their visitation, to recognize that He is their Overseer, their God, their Redeemer, their very hope of life.

But instead of a well-swept house, He found a mess. Instead of diligent servants he found rebellious self-servers. Instead of the humble fear of the Lord, He found haughty mockery of the One who came to save them.

But lest we become smug on our high twenty first century Gentile horses, pointing the finger at Old Jerusalem and the Old Testament children of Israel – how do we treat our visitation? Is our house swept and in order? Are we putting our best foot forward? Are we at least trying to “look busy” out of fear that our Overseer will find us slacking and catch us unawares not doing what He commands us to do?

Indeed, we are as smug and self-confident as the priests and scribes in Jerusalem. We are in need of repentance and the fear of God just as those for whom our Lord weeps. We too await our Lord’s coming. We too have a temple and sacrifices – that is, our bodies, temples of the Holy Spirit, the living sacrifices we offer as a thank offering to Him who has redeemed us.

Our Lord is calling us to repent, brothers and sisters! Our Lord not only weeps for Jerusalem, but also for Gretna! How many of you came yesterday for confession? How many of you shun the opportunity to participate in Bible class? How many of your children and grandchildren are sleeping in this morning rather than come to the Lord’s House? How many of our fellow members of Salem will find themselves at the mercy of our common enemy, the devil, and will lack the comfort of the faith that they have abandoned and squandered for the love of money, a better job, sporting events, or some other temporary pleasure?

Do we know the time of our visitation?

Dear friends, our Lord is calling us to repent! There is still time – but there may not be tomorrow. There is still the opportunity to confess – though we could be surrounded by an embankment and leveled tomorrow. Now is the time of salvation.

In spite of our Lord’s tears, His chasing out of the moneychangers, the Roman devastation of Jerusalem and of the temple – there is good news here.

Even though the people of Jerusalem did not know the time of their visitation, our Lord still prays on their behalf: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

Our Lord is in the forgiving business. He speaks His Word to us today because it is a word of hope, not of condemnation. He is imploring you to confess your sins, to spend time in study of the Holy Word, to receive His Holy Body and Blood as often as you can as a protection against the evil one and as a “mystic sweet communion” with Him who is the Church’s one Foundation.”

Although we don’t do a good job of sweeping out the dirt, our Lord cleanses us as only the Lamb of God can. Although we don’t put our best foot forward, He washes off the filth of our feet as He baptizes us unto everlasting life, even as His holy feet are bloodied by a Roman nail. And though we can’t be bothered to “look busy” because the Boss is coming, our Boss is not merely an Overseer, but is also our Good Shepherd, our Lord, our Savior, our merciful Redeemer.

Jesus doesn’t want you to just “look busy.” Rather, because He has done all the heavy lifting, we have been freed from trying to curry favor with the Boss, freed to spread the Good News of our Good Shepherd to those whom the Lord weeps over. We have been freed to really be about our Father’s business, in our Father’s house, a house of prayer, a place where our Lord teaches us, a place where we can indeed recognize the time of our visitation, a place where the very work of God is carried out by us, His humble servants and lowly workers in the kingdom. For as St. Paul assures us: “there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”

This is not busywork, dear Christians. It is the very work through which the Lord draws us in to His kingdom and redeems us. For our Lord is not merely an Overseer, but a merciful Savior who weeps over His creation and visits it in order to save it. Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.

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