Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sermon: Funeral for Shirley Peterson

30 May 2017

Text: John 10:10b-15; 27-30 (Job 19:23-27a, 1 Cor 15:51-57)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Dear family, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, and honored guests, peace be with you.

To those of you with military connections, you know just how glorious that word “peace” is.  Peace means being with those whom we love.  It means being freed up from the worry of suddenly being deployed elsewhere.  It means not being in harm’s way.

It is also the first word used by Jesus when He spoke to His disciples after His resurrection.  Ever since that day, Christians have greeted one another with: “Peace be with you.”

For ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, we, humanity, have been at war: with God and with one another.  Is any family not affected by this warfare?  Think about life in this fallen world: violence, disease, broken families, addictions, relationships gone bad, greed, lust, dishonesty – even things beyond our control like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other things that bring us harm.  God did not create a world like this.  It was brought into chaos that first time our ancestors disobeyed God and sought their own way.

And the worst plague of all is death.  None of us are exempt.  It takes everyone, regardless of how good we may seem on the exterior, for we are all sinners, and we are all at war with God – whether openly or secretly.  We all suffer the marks of that first sin, and it has been passed on to us, like a genetic disease.

But the good news is that Jesus came to rescue us.  He broke into our world, behind enemy lines, and He died in our place, paying the price of our sins: yours, mine, and Shirley’s. And in rising from the grave, Jesus set a course for us to rise also.  For death has been defeated, and Jesus bids us to follow Him.  

He commanded His disciples to themselves make disciples: “Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Shirley was placed under Christ’s protection when she was baptized.  For just as Jesus is a fierce warrior against the enemy, He is also a gentle “good shepherd” to those who follow Him.

“My sheep hear My voice,” He says, “and I know them, and they follow Me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will be able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”  This is what Jesus says today concerning your beloved Shirley.

Jesus knows Shirley, because she was baptized according to His command and promise.  God worked that out as part of His rescue plan.  And though death is still a reality in this fallen world, Shirley, and all who have been baptized, all who confess the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, all who die in this reality, being baptized into His death, look forward to a resurrection like His, as scripture teaches us.

And so even in our fallen world of war and disease and crime and broken families, broken relationships, and even the devastating pain of the temporary separation that is death itself, we have peace, the kind of peace that isn’t merely a lack of fighting, but a true peace that passes all understanding, the peace of Christ, the peace of Him who died and rose again, and who promises the very same bodily resurrection that life in a perfect world to be remade without death.

We look forward to the resurrection, when we will again stand in our bodies made new, as Job said, “in my flesh I shall see God.”  In the flesh, dear friends, meaning you will again be reunited with Shirley.  You will hug her and look into her eyes, she will smile at you, and you will have all of eternity to spend together.

This peace of Christ means that the war is ended.  In Christ, we can say with St. Paul: “Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory.  O death, where is your sting?”  Yes, we feel that sting now, but Shirley doesn’t.  And that sting is ultimately temporary, for all who are baptized and believe will likewise rise again to newness of life in the flesh.

So, dear friends, it is fitting that we mourn.  It is natural that we are grieved.  But we grieve in hope.  For Jesus has come to give us this peace: the peace that conquers death itself. 

“Peace be with you.”  Amen.

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

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sermon: Exaudi (Easter 7) – 2017

28 May 2017

Text: John 15:26-16:4 (Ezek 36:22-28, 1 Pet 4:7-14)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Our Lord’s warning seems to have been ripped from the headlines: “Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.”

In the history of the church, Christians have been persecuted and killed by Jews, Romans, factions within the church itself, by native peoples served by missionaries, by Atheist revolutionaries such as the Jacobins in the French revolution, the Bolsheviks in the Russian revolution, and their Communists comrades in Mao’s China, Castro’s Cuba, and other Marxist totalitarian states.

But today, we are seeing more persecution of Christians by those who truly believe they are “offering service to God” – those who hold the religion of Islam.

Just this past Friday, yet another incident happened in Cairo, Egypt.  A caravan of Christians on a trip to visit a monastery was stopped by men impersonating police forces.  All of these Christians: men, women, and children, were ordered off the buses.  Twenty eight were shot in old blood.  Twenty eight men, women, and children were killed in the name of offering service to a false god called Allah in devotion to a false prophet named Muhammad.

And Jesus explains why they do this: “They will do these things because they have not known the Father nor Me.”

These people do not worship the true God.  For if they did, they would not consider it “offering service to God” to slaughter those created in the image of God in this way.

Our Lord tells us that this would happen immediately after reminding us that “the Helper” is coming, He whom Jesus “will send to [us] from the Father.”  This Helper bears witness about Jesus, even as this Helper, the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, brings us into all truth.

We know who this Helper is, for Jesus told us that He is the Holy Spirit, who indeed came to the Holy Christian Church on Pentecost, accompanied by signs and miracles and courageous preaching and the baptism of some three thousand people.  Next week, the church throughout the world will hear and ponder anew this fact of history and this remarkable empowerment of the church through the Third Person of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit.

But there are some who think they know better than two thousand years of Christianity, than the fathers of the church, than the Bible, than even our Lord Jesus Himself!  There is a Baptist pastor named the Reverend Ian Mevorach who claims to have the answer to the violence that plagues the church at the hands of Islam.

Instead of understanding that the Helper that our Lord spoke of refers to God the Holy Spirit, we could just change our interpretation to believe that this Helper is Muhammad, as the Muslims do, as the terrorists who shot our martyred brothers and sisters do.  Yes, this activist pastor with a doctorate degree from Boston University and a journalism job with the powerful Huffington Post actually suggests that if only Christians become Muslims, then we could stop the violence.  He says, “the time has surely come to recognize [Muhammad] as a prophet.”  He says, “I invite Christians everywhere to look carefully at our scriptures, search our souls, consider our history, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in answering the question: ‘Has the time come for Christians to see Muhammad as Spirit of Truth?’”

I find it very hard to believe that we are not living in the very end of time.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Our Lord Jesus warned us that things would begin to get very grave for the church as that time approaches.  Being a Christian is not for the faint of heart – not in 30 AD, not in 1530 AD, not in 2017 AD, and not when He returns amid the tribulation and persecution of those whose hope lies in Him and in His cross.

Dear friends, more Christians are being martyred today than ever before in history.  Our Lord warned His disciples, which includes us, concerning these things, “to keep you from falling away.”  Indeed, as the Lord’s apostle St. Peter spoke to us anew: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

Indeed, in the history of the church, what is strange is when we Christians have been at peace, unafraid of violent attacks from those of other religions, from Atheists, and from governments, foreign and domestic.  Those are the unusual times in our history.  We Americans still live with a great degree of freedom to believe, to worship, and to express our faith.  But that could change, dear friends, and it could change quickly.  Remember what our Lord said, “I have said these things to you to keep you from falling away.”

For nothing is more important that your Christian faith.  Nothing.  Not your education.  Not your job.  Not your house.  Not your life.  

We must not take our faith for granted, nor ever tire of hearing His Word and partaking of His sacrament.

We must pray for strength in times of persecution.  We must pray for discernment from the Holy Spirit.  We must pray for our brothers and sisters around the world, for our country, for our churches, and for our children.  We must study and teach, learn and catechize.  We must worship and join in the church’s ongoing eternal liturgy in song and in sacrament.  We must fortify ourselves and our youth, for Jesus says: “They will do these things.”  They will. 

And St. Peter tells us that when these things happen, “rejoice, insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.  If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

Peter cuts to the chase: “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

We must truly take to heart what Dr. Luther taught us to recite: “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”

The True Faith, dear friends, the faith given to us by the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who bears witness to Jesus, to the One who suffered infinitely more for us than we could ever suffer for His sake, He who died upon the cross as the complete and final sacrifice for our sins, whose blood brings us into perfect communion with God by the forgiveness of sins and the full and free gift of eternal life.  And not even death can sever us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

No matter what happens, in times of prosperity or want, in times of comfort or persecution, let us remember and confess the Word of God, the promise spoken through the true prophet Ezekiel, “I will put My Spirit within you….And you shall be My people, and I will be your God.” 

“To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.”

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

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

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Sermon: Ascension – 2017

25 May 2017

Text: Acts 1:1-11

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

One of the last things our Lord said to His disciples before His ascension into heaven was: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

And He wasn’t going to be with them in the same way after his impending ascension, to answer questions, to straighten them out, to strengthen them for the tasks at hand.  He was to be with them as He is with us: in Word and Sacrament.  But they were still going to be His witnesses in His returning to the Father.

A witness is one who sees, and then tells what he has seen.  A witness testifies, usually in some official way.  For testimony is a very serious thing, often a matter of life and death.

Some 30 years ago, I worked for a county sheriff in Ohio.  He was a godly and honest man who liked police work but did not like politics.  One day he vanished.  He disappeared into thin air.  This is because he was in the Witness Protection Plan.  He was called upon to testify against some very powerful people, and in order to protect his life, he was given a new life: a new name, a new city, a new job, a new driver’s license, and a new made-up history.  For his protection, his former life had to be extinguished, and he could never again see the people he knew in that former life.

Being a witness, especially one who testifies, is indeed a life and death matter.  

The Greek word for witness is μάρτυς, which is where we get the word “martyr.”  A martyr is a witness who gives his testimony, and that testimony costs him his life.  The witness of a martyr is very powerful, for the martyr values the truth of what he has seen and heard, and the confession of that testimony, even more than he values his life.  The testimony of a witness is powerful, because if it weren’t true, it would be easy to avoid torture and death and walk away from the resultant suffering.

Our Lord Jesus Christ tells the eleven that they will be His witnesses, and that they would spread out from there to the city, to the region, and to the very ends of the globe.  And within a few decades, the entire Roman Empire would be flecked with Christian congregations, with bishops and deacons and adult converts and baptized babies.  The church would grow mightily through the preaching of the apostle-witnesses.  For Jesus also promised them something else to empower their testimony and proclamation, namely, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”

The Holy Spirit was to be sent in a few days, at Pentecost, and the apostolic preaching would go forth from that Upper Room in Jerusalem literally into all the earth, in every language, to every tribe and tongue and people.  And within less than 300 years, less than the age of the City of New Orleans, the Holy Christian Church was to conquer the unholy Roman Empire itself, not with spears and swords, but with preaching and Holy Baptism.  

And the eleven would themselves suffer for their testimony.  All but one would die as tortured prisoners for their testimony of Christ, and the only one who was not killed, St. John, would suffer exile on the Island of Patmos.  

These apostles would also ordain other men into this preaching office.  They would baptize children and adults and administer the Lord’s Supper to people who would themselves become martyrs in many cases.  And though these preachers and these hearers would die, some in their beds, others at the stake or at the arena, the witnesses would never run out.  The work of the Holy Spirit continues anew.  The preaching goes forth with each succeeding generation.  The sacraments are administered and received.  Satan is defeated.  The grave is defanged.  Sin is cast aside.  Communion with God continues to go forth among the people gathered around the witnesses and their proclamation.

And after the eleven watched the Lord ascend back to the Father, as they gazed in wonder at the heavens, as they now had to lead the church without the familiar sight of the Lord Jesus Christ in their midst, two angels scold them: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?”  Indeed, there is work to do.  There is testimony to give.  There are disciples to be made through baptism.  There are sins to be forgiven through absolution.  There is communion with God to be had through the eucharist.  These apostles will write and they will preach.  They will teach, and they will serve as bishops of the Church.  But most of all, they will be our Lord’s witnesses, bearing the Gospel and the Holy Spirit, for as long as the Father gives them life and breath in this world.

And so we continue, dear friends, we continue to carry out our work here on earth, in this fallen world, being a lifeline to those who will hear and heed our testimony, those who are moved by the Holy Spirit to be redeemed and made new, even in this age of skepticism and martyrdom, even as the Church continues in the work her Lord has given us to do, spreading the Gospel to the very ends of the earth, until that day in which He “will come in the same way as [they] saw Him go into heaven,” the day of judgment and the day of the restoration of paradise.

This is our testimony, for we too are witnesses.  Amen!

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

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

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sermon: Rogate (Easter 6) – 2017

21 May 2017

Text: John 16:23-33 (Numbers 21:4-9, Jas 1:22-27)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

“I have said these things to you in figures of speech.  The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father.”

Sometimes, it’s best to beat around the bush.  We sometimes soften bad news by using softer language.  We sometimes avoid things not appropriate for children by using figurative language.  Sometimes, our audience may not be ready to hear everything we would like to tell them, so we start small, and work our way toward full disclosure.

Jesus often spoke in “figures of speech” – often in parables.  And some people would “get it,” and others would be puzzled.  Our Lord’s revelation of Himself wasn’t spoken to the disciples all at once.  He spoke in parables, performed miracles, and preached on the prophetic Scriptures that referred to Him.  He gradually revealed more and more about Himself and the divine plan. 

At first, the only ones who seemed to know the whole truth about Him were the demons, who confessed that Jesus is the “Son of the Most High” – and Jesus silenced them.  It wasn’t yet time for everyone to be told everything.  Learning about Jesus was a process.

And so, some people would get frustrated and leave, while others were willing to leave absolutely everything behind to follow Him.

In His three years of ministry, Jesus would reveal various truths about who He is and what He is doing in our world.  And Jesus did indeed speak in figures of speech.  But when they saw Him die on the cross, and when they saw Him rise again – there was no more need for figures of speech.  For they saw the revelation of who He is and what He does for us: the Lamb of God who came into the world to die in our place, to grant us forgiveness of sins, and to bring us to everlasting life.  For the lamb was just a figure pointing to the reality of the sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross.  And the Passover was just a figure pointing to the reality of the true flesh and blood of the Son of God being given to us to consume and receive, holy things for holy people, so that the angel of death would indeed pass over the tent of our flesh once and for all!

It was at the cross where Jesus truly revealed the Father – for Jesus is the very icon of the self-sacrificing, limitless love that is God in the flesh. 

But even before His passion, death, and resurrection, Jesus begins to fill in the missing pieces of our understanding of who He is: “In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God.  I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world, and going to the Father.”

Here we see the plain truth, with no beating around the bush.  Jesus speaks plainly.  For our Lord came from the Father into the world, “of the Father’s love begotten,” and He did so because the Father loves us.  For we love the Son, the image of the Father, who has come to save us.  And so in Christ, the Lord answers our prayer.  And our greatest prayer of all, dear friends, is “Lord, have mercy!”  For apart from that divine mercy, we are left with nothing other than sin and death and hell.  But in Christ, in the love of the Father, in the One who is going to the cross and ascending to the Father, in Him, our greatest enemy is vanquished: death itself.

I was recently challenged by a young person as to what our church does.  I told her that we raise the dead.  For we baptize, and preach, and absolve, and commune.  Jesus comes to us where and how He has promised to do so, and He does so plainly without figurative language: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…; Take, eat, take drink…; Father, forgive them.”  And as St. Paul teaches us, “We were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united in a resurrection like His.” 

“Ah, now You are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech!” we can say with the original disciples in response to the Word of God.  Jesus has come to raise us from death by forgiving our sins. 

For Jesus speaks plainly through the Word.  And so “we know that [He knows] all things.”  We do not need to question Him. And we believe that He came from God.

For just as the children of Israel saw the figure of the bronze serpent on the pole, that moved them from death to life, so now in Christ, there is no figure, but rather the Man Jesus lifted upon the cross, so that all who look to Him “shall live.”

Indeed, dear friends, in Christ, we do not need to beat around the bush.  We are given forgiveness, life, and salvation as a free gift, and we are called to live holy lives, even as James speaks plainly and without figurative language, “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”  For in doing, that is, in living and following and being shaped by the plain-spoken Word of God, we are “blessed in our doing.”

Dear brothers and sisters, the plainspoken truth is this: Jesus has died to give you everlasting life as a gift, and having received that gift, you are freed up to have religion that is “pure and undefiled before God, the Father” – a religion that not only hears, but does, – a religion that, without figures of speech but speaking plainly – raises the dead!  Amen!

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

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

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sermon: Cantate (Easter 5) – 2017

14 May 2017

Text: John 16:5-15 (Isa 12:1-6, Jas 1:16-21)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Before His passion, death, resurrection, and ascension to the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ told his disciples what was going to happen.  He told them that they were going to Jerusalem.  He told them He was going to be arrested.  He told them He would be tortured, mocked, and crucified.  He told them He would die.  He told them He would rise again.

Their response typically was to just ignore it.  Maybe they thought this was some kind of parable.  Maybe they just couldn’t wrap their heads around the promised Messiah dying on a cross. Maybe they had visions of crowns of gold for them rather than a crown of thorns for Him.

Jesus notes that none of them asks Him: “Where are You going?”  And our blessed Lord tells them why they don’t: “Sorrow has filled your heart,” He says.

They were sorrowful because they knew deep down that things were going to change.  We don’t like change, but change is part of this fallen world.

If our world were perfect, it wouldn’t change.  It would remain perfect.  And James tells us in our epistle reading that God Himself, the eternal and perfect Creator is the “Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

The first change that removed us from our perfect unchanging condition of perfect unity with God and with creation was sin: the disobedience of our ancestors in the garden.  God didn’t change, but our relationship to Him did.  Our communion with Him was broken.  We changed because we then knew good and evil.  We chose evil.  We became mortal.  We invited death and corruption to be part of our fallen human existence.  

Of course, in our fallen world, not all change is bad.  Sometimes things change for the better.  And we certainly thank God for those kinds of changes.  But there is one change that we all have to look forward to, one that in the words of our Lord, causes sorrow to fill our hearts: we are mortal.  We will die.  Death is the wages of sin, and it is where we are all going.  Death separates us from those we love.  And no amount of money or power can prevent it.  Death is the great equalizer, and it is ruthless.

But, dear brothers and sisters, our Lord Jesus does what we cannot do: He defeats death.  He slays the devil.  He forgives our sins and restores us to perfect communion with God.  And He is restoring the world to its perfection, where we will once more enjoy unity with God, “with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

And part of our Lord’s going away involved a change of a different kind: His ascension to the Father and the coming of the Holy Spirit to the church, “the Spirit of Truth” who “will guide you into all the truth.”

Our Lord goes to the Father and encourages us to change for the better, to grow up, to take leadership.  For though He doesn’t abandon us, He chooses to work indirectly in this world through His church.  He uses pastors to baptize us, to forgive us, and to feed us with the body and blood of Christ.  He uses fathers to sire us, mothers to birth us, parents to nurture us, and all of the above and many others to teach us the truth: to educate us about the world and to catechize us about the faith.  

Our Lord sends the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to gather us into the church and to “declare to us the things that are to come.”  The Holy Spirit, who is the Lord and giver of life, has given us the Holy Scriptures: the living, breathing, revelation of God.

And though we, like the disciples, often do not want to face the truth, though the truth sometimes brings us sorrow, we also know that our sorrow is temporary.  For Jesus has not come to bring us sorrow, but rather joy.  Jesus has not come to leave us slumbering in the grave, but rather to awaken us to everlasting life.  Jesus has not come to preside over a fallen world in constant need of repair, but rather to reign over a restored and perfect universe of the redeemed who will live forever in peace and joy.

Dear friends, though we surely deserve the wrath of God on account of our sins, because of the cross, by virtue of the blood of the Lamb, though the love of the Son for us and by His obedience to His Father’s will, we receive pardon and peace and mercy and joy instead.

As the prophet Isaiah prayed, so do we: “I will give thanks to You, O Lord, for though You were angry with me, Your anger turned away, that You might comfort me.”

This comfort spoken of by the prophet is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ, dear friends, He who went away for our advantage, who has sent the Helper to guide us into all the truth, and who is coming again in glory.

This is our comfort!  This is our joy!  “Behold, God is my salvation: I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.”

This is why more than a billion Christians on the planet refer to this Sunday as “Cantate” – “sing.”  For we opened this service by singing together the song of the Psalmist: “Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!  Alleluia!  His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations.  Alleluia!”

We sing, dear friends, because Jesus has triumphed.  Our song is new because we are made new: victorious over sin, Satan, and yes, even death itself.  And though this fallen world seems to lord over us and beat us down, the world’s seeming victory is just an illusion.  For Christ has triumphed over sin, over the evil one, and even over the grave.  They have no power over us.  They are defanged, crushed, and pulverized into chaff to be blown away with the wind.  For “His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.”

And His victory is our victory.  Our new song is the eternal song of the angels.  Jesus told us what was going to happen.  And He has done it.  Let us cast away all sorrow and celebrate our eternal victory.  Let us sing our song in the faces of our friends and foes alike, for our song is a hymn of adoration to our victorious Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and glory, now and even unto eternity!  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

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

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Sermon: Jubilate (Easter 4) – 2017

7 May 2017

Text: John 16:16-22

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

In all of our ongoing celebrations of the resurrection of our Lord, amid our rejoicing in His victory over sin, death, and the devil, and even as we rightfully continue the feast of Easter – a triumph that will indeed continue on into eternity – we dare not forget that we still live in this fallen world. 

Even as we wait for our Lord’s return, we must still contend with the devil, the world, and our sinful nature.  Although the war has been won and the ultimate victory is ours, we still find ourselves squaring off in battle.  And though we know how the war turns out, battle is still painful, for this world still conspires against us, the devil still hates us, and our own flesh betrays us.

“Truly, truly, I say to you,” says our Lord, “you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.”  For lest we become too comfortable and cozy with the world, let’s not forget that the world is our enemy.  We’re in it, but not of it.  And until our Lord’s return and the restoration of paradise, Satan remains the prince of this fallen world, the chief demon at the top of the dunghill, the lord of flies.  And though flies cannot kill us, they nevertheless buzz around us and remind us, like miniature vultures, of the nature of this world: a place of death.

Jesus died to defeat death.  Our Lord’s death assures us that we too will conquer our own death.  And yet this fallen world remains a place of death.  So let’s not become too comfortable in it.

Dear friends, dear Christians, dear brothers and sisters, we are not here in this world to become comfortable with sin, death, and the devil, to excuse them, to see them as benign, or to invite them to dine with us.  We are here to fight the enemy.  We are here to rescue the victims.  We are here to treat the wounded.  We are here to let our light shine in the darkness.  The world is our enemy, and our enemies are prisoners of the darkness.  We are here to show them a more excellent way; we are not here to camouflage ourselves to the shapes and contours of the world.

This reality becomes most apparent to us when the world steps out from behind its façade of tolerance and acceptance and bares its hateful teeth toward us.  In many ways, this is a good thing.  It reminds us of to whom we belong.

Dear Christians, the world hates you.  The world (meaning the larger culture in which we live and work) is hostile to Jesus, hostile to the church, and hostile to you.  They may tolerate you so long as you don’t express any opinion contrary to those positions approved by the world.  They may tolerate you if you keep your religion to yourself.  Maybe.  Don’t be fooled. 

For what does our Lord – the Lord who was Himself crucified as the enemy of this world – what does He tell us will happen?  Not might happen, but will happen: “You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.”

The world mocks us and calls us bigots.  The world takes great joy at the fact that the Kleins, followers of Christ Jesus, have been fined $135,000 for not baking a cake. The world cheers when courts who claim to support the constitution rule against our God-given liberty.  The world mocks Baronelle Stutzman, a soft-spoken gray-haired Christian florist who is looking at losing her life savings and even her house, because she refused to accept a job that would have violated her Christian faith and conscience. These are our brothers and sisters whose lives are devastated by the hatred of the world.  And all around the world, our brothers and sisters are being imprisoned, tortured, and beheaded.

When sports, movies, and television, the public schools, the universities, popular music, and every aspect of the culture  all array themselves to be openly hostile to Christianity, and conspire to target your children to pressure them to give up their faith – the world makes it clear that it is not our friend.  We are not welcome in this world, dear friends.

The sooner we come to grips with this reality, the better.

So what do we do?  We do what we have always done: we baptize our babies, we read the Bible to our toddlers, we catechize the youth, we attend worship with our children as they grow, we take part in Holy Communion, we pray, we read scripture, we support our congregation with our presence, with our time, and with our money, we do not back down or compromise, nor do we go out of our way to look for trouble.  We confess our sins and we confess our faith.  We are prepared to give an answer for the hope within us even as we live in the desert of this world that seeks our destruction.

That, dear friends, is how Christians address the sorrow of the world’s hatred.  This is how early Christians could gather at the stadium, not to cheer the team, but to pray and sing hymns before being fed to wild animals in the face of a cheering crowd.  It was abundantly clear that the world hated them.  But they remembered our Lord’s word: “You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.”

But, dear friends, we are not abandoned in our sorrow and in the hatred of the world.  We are not left to the tender mercies of our fallen nature, of Satan, nor of the grave.  For we have a Savior who has come to rescue us from the prison of this world and the shackles of the grave.  For our Lord said, “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.”

Joy, dear friends.  Even when the cheering mob assaults us.  Even when the government and the courts seek our destruction.  Even when it seems like our faith will die in a generation because the minds of the young have been poisoned.  Jesus said that our sorrow will “turn into joy.”

It is like when a mother gives birth.  She suffers immensely during labor.  But once the baby has been born, her sorrow turns to joy, and her pain is pushed to the back of her mind, because pain endured out of love is not resented.  Such pain is offered to the beloved, for it is endured for the sake of love.  The love a mother has for her child may be the closest thing we have in this fallen world to the kind of love God has for us, the love we see impaled upon the cross, the love that forgives our sins (though we do not deserve it), the love that destroys the power of the devil (though we often allow temptation to have its way with us), the love that delivers to us everlasting life: the very opposite of the death and decay offered by the world.

Our Lord told us that we are not of the world, the He has overcome the world, and that we will not be overwhelmed by the world.

In fact, dear friends, we should see our trials and tribulations in this world as a blessing.  For we can clearly see who the enemy is.  Far too often, we try to befriend our beguiling foe.  Far too often we think we fit in – when we never will.

Let us take up our cross and remember whom we follow.  Let us not be discouraged, for we know that we will rejoice.  Let us endure our sorrow in good cheer, knowing that the war has already been won by Him who has overcome the world, all for you.


Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

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