Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 10 - 2017

20 August 2017

Text: Luke 19:41-48 (Jer 8:4-12)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

The name “Jerusalem” – from which our congregation gets its name “Salem” – means “City of Peace.”  And there is a very real sense in which it is.  For Jerusalem is the site chosen by God for the Temple, the place where God chose to dwell in space and time with man, the place where the blood of the sacrifices were shed in order to make peace between man and God, sacrifices to prefigure the blood of the “Lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world,” once and for all.

Jesus is Peace Incarnate, whose death on the cross is the cause of the peace that passes all understanding.  The first words spoken by the risen Lord to His disciples was: “Peace.”

But sadly, Jerusalem, the City of Peace, came to reject the Prince of Peace, and this causes our Lord to grieve deeply.  Jesus “wept over it saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!  But now they are hidden from your eyes.”

The beloved City, the Holy City, refused the peace that her Lord offered to her as a free gift.  Instead, she chose war: “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.  They will not leave one stone upon another in you.”

This prophecy was fulfilled in the year 70 AD after a long siege by the Romans.  Jerusalem was crushed.  The Temple was flattened.  And why?  “Because,” says our blessed Lord, “you did not know the time of your visitation.”

God visited His people, even as the holy prophets spoke for centuries of this very visitation.  The prophet Jeremiah called the people to repent, for they were saying, “‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.  Were they ashamed,” he asked, “when they committed abomination?  No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush.  Therefore, they shall fall among the fallen; when I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the Lord.”

Not knowing how to blush sounds like our own culture, a culture, dear Christians, that we are all too quick to embrace.

To be clear, there were many people in Jerusalem who followed Jesus, for they were “hanging on His words,” but the leaders, the “chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy Him.”  And these “principal men” would become responsible for the shocking siege and ruthless destruction of the city forty years after these “principle men” thought they had destroyed Jesus upon a Roman cross.

“Peace, peace, when there is no peace.”

History repeats itself, dear friends, as young people often greet one another with the word “peace,” even as our cities in America have become war zones.  Politics and social media have brought about broken relationships and simmering hatreds in our country.  Many people with bumper stickers that say “COEXIST” want nothing of the sort – at least not with followers of Jesus.  There are many in our society who hate us and see us as their enemy.  They would demand that Christians be compelled to take artistic commissions that violate their consciences.  They are appalled that Christians teach their children that the Bible is literally true, that there is an objective right and wrong, that marriage is just as it has been defined in every human society for thousands of years, and that God created man in His image: “male and female” in a biologically binary way and ordered family life by His Word and by nature, and that all lives matter, even the yet to be born.

There is no peace for people who do not want peace.  

Christians are being persecuted this very day by Muslims, by Communists, and even by liberal democracies in Europe that have become intolerant and hateful of the Bride of Christ.  

And we should plead for them, dear friends, because they are playing with fire.  We should pray for their repentance lest they perish.  We should intercede for them lest they destroy our country and civilization and enslave our children in a totalitarian state.  For the enemies of Christ and the cross do not know the time of their visitation.

We know the time of our visitation, dear brothers and sisters, we know how and where and by whom this visitation occurred.  “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  Our visitation came in the person of Jesus Christ, and our peace came through Christ and Him crucified.  And indeed, we know “the things that make for peace.”

Those “things that make for peace,” dear friends, are those means of the Lord’s visitation of us: Holy Baptism, through which peace is made through the washing away of sin; Holy Absolution, through which peaceful reconciliation is made by the forgiveness of sin; Holy Communion, through which the peace that passes all understand is given to us to literally become part of us through eating and drinking; and the Holy Gospel is the very proclamation of peace because it is the good news of the Lord’s visitation.

Let us not take the Lord’s visitation for granted, dear friends.  Let us receive this glorious peace that He has given to us!

Peace is so much more than the lack of war.  And visitation is so much more than a quick encounter.  In Christ, dear brothers and sisters, peace is eternal harmony with God, a restoration of the perfection of the Garden of Eden, the conquest over death and the devil, and the promise of the resurrection and everlasting life!  And visitation means the continuous and abiding presence of Christ with us in His Word and Sacrament, where the Prince of Peace has promised to be with us and for us.

And while Jerusalem is a place of strife, there are countless New Jerusalems, such as our Salem, the Lord’s house that is “a house of prayer,” where the Lord’s beloved people – who know the time of their visitation – gather to joyfully receive the Lord’s peace, true peace, the peace that passes all understanding, the peace won at the cross and delivered at the font, the peace of forgiveness, reconciliation, and everlasting life.  Peace be with you, dear brothers and sisters, peace be with you!  Amen.

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

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