Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sermon: St. Irenaeus – 2017

28 June 2017

Text: Luke 11:33-36 (Amos 3:1-9, 4:11-12, John 2:18-25)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

We like to name our children after heroes.  Some from our own families, others from the history of our country or the world, or simply other people in our lives whom we admire.  For Christians, it became common to name our children after one of the saints, because our heroic brothers and sisters in the faith are the greatest role models of all.

And it is a shame that I’ve never met a boy named Irenaeus – the saint whom we honor and celebrate today.  St. Irenaeus was born in the early one hundreds, and died in the year 202.  His pastor was the martyr Polycarp, whose pastor was, in turn, the apostle John.  Irenaeus heard the truth of the Gospel of Jesus from one who heard it from the last living apostle of our Lord in the flesh.  

Irenaeus grew up to become a priest and bishop of what is now the city of Lyon in what is today France.  Bishop Irenaeus not only lived in a day and age when confessing Christ was dangerous, he was willing to put his faith in writing to argue against heresies.  He did this because he was committed to the truth, no matter the consequences.  For truth matters to Christians, and it matters what we believe: “No one lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.”

We Christians are lighst on lampstands, illuminating the truth – for we confess with Irenaeus and all of our fellow saints and confessors that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. 

St. Irenaeus used his gifts as a writer and thinker and communicator to place the truth of the Gospel on a lampstand, and never put it under a bushel for the sake of safety or politeness or political correctness.

We live in times where it isn’t fashionable to speak about politics or religion – and in some cases, it is dangerous to do so.  In the interest of being nice and not offending anyone, how often we hear people assert: “We all worship the same God… All religions teach the same thing… and it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere.”

But, dear friends, it does matter.  What you believe matters. The Lord revealed His prophetic Word to us in the Bible, not the Koran.  The Lord took human flesh in Jesus of Nazareth, not the Buddha.  The Lord gathers His people around Word and Sacrament, not philosophy and politics.

Indeed, it matters what we believe.  It matters that we believe that the Word of God is infallible.  It matters that we believe that we were created in God’s image, but fell through sin.  It matters that we believe that God the Son took human flesh in Jesus.  It matters that Jesus died for us on the cross, that He forgives our sins, and that He gives us the free gift of eternal life.  It matters that He rose again from the grave.  It matters that His true church continues to send men in the train of the apostles, who following behind bishops like Irenaeus, men who preach and teach, baptize, absolve, and distribute the Lord’s Supper.

For as Irenaeus’s pastor’s pastor teaches us again through His written and inscripturated Word: “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come… Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?  This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.”

Yes indeed, dear friends, Irenaeus teaches what Polycarp teaches, what John teaches, and what Jesus teaches: it matters what you believe, teach, and confess about Jesus.  We don’t get to pick and choose what beliefs we like, what doctrines are comfortable, what supposed truths make us feel good, as if we were “cafeteria Christians.”  No indeed, we are people of the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth.  As the prophet Amos teaches: “For the Lord God does nothing without revealing His secret to His servants the prophets.” Truth is a matter of revelation, and that revelation is one of the marks of the Church.

Now, more than ever, we need Christian people: pastors and laymen, men and women, confessors of all ages and from every background to stand firmly and unshakably upon the truth.  It may offend some, and it may make many angry, but it will also save many from hell.  

Indeed, it is fitting that the church throughout the world honors St. Irenaeus on this date.  For he is a hero to be admired, a Christian brother to be embraced, a bishop to be revered, a preacher to be heard, and a Christian who teaches us by word and deed to let our light shine before men and glorify our Father in heaven – for the sake of the truth, for the sake of the lost, for the sake of Christ.


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

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