Sunday, August 06, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 8 - 2017

6 August 2017

Text: Matt 7:15-23 (Jer 23:16-29, Rom 8:12-17)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

In today’s Gospel, our Lord says things that are so politically incorrect, that if this chapter were to be read in a university classroom, it would require a trigger warning.  Some college students would be so traumatized that they would have to report to the school’s official “safe space” for coloring books and hugs from the dean of diversity.

For in this one reading, Jesus says such shocking things as: there is an objective truth, some people are wrong, natural law is a guideline for judging morality, and people who lead other people away from that which is true and right and just, will be cast into the fires of hell.

But where is the nice, happy God of the New Testament?  This Jesus sounds like the mean old patriarchal God of the Old Testament!  Of course, we can hear the critics: “My Jesus would never judge, never condemn, never point to natural law as an arbiter of some objective truth” – so says the wisdom of our age.  For Christianity is about being nice.

Nice and happy, dear friends, that is what we want to be, what we want for our children, what we want for the world.  We want niceness and not conflict.  We want peaceful coexistence and not insistence upon divisive dogmas and religious intolerance.  We don’t want to be called “fundamentalists” or “religious fanatics.” And we certainly don’t want talk about hell and right and wrong and natural law.

Because think about what this means, dear friends: it means that the nice lady pastor (whether on TV or in the local church) is a fraud, a “false prophet,” a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and she needs to repent, in the words of a former lady Lutheran “pastor” from Sweden who repented, of “leading people to hell.”  For there is right and wrong, and Jesus was not, nor is not, wrong to exclude women from the holy ministry. 

It also means that there are two genders – even as science and nature, not to mention the Word of God – speak with one voice: there is male and female, for “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

Nature confesses what the Author of creation has designed.

“Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs, or thistles?  So every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.”

A boy is not a girl.  A girl is not a boy.  What is obvious to science and natural observation is today considered bigotry and hate.  Our culture truly has degraded to this point, dear friends, to a level of delusion not seen since the days of Communist Russia.  And speaking the obvious – as Jesus has done – can get you fired, fined, or in some places in the civilized western world, jailed.  Canadian parents who tell their children the obvious can actually lose custody of those children.  If that is not a diseased tree, dear friends…

In England, a once civilized Christian country, disabled babies may now be seized by the government and left to die rather than being placed in the hands of their loving parents in order to get treatment for disease.  And while little Charlie Gard’s diseased body bore the fruit of the sin of this fallen world, his murderers, the bureaucrats and lawyers and judges who lack respect for the created order, and for the Creator, had better repent, or these wolves in sheep’s clothing will be “cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Our Lord is not telling us this to be mean or to be politically incorrect.  He is telling us the truth, because we need to hear it.  Truth matters, and Jesus is the truth.  Pontius Pilate asked the question that many if not most in our society are too afraid to ask: “What is truth?”

In fact, many people who call themselves Christians, many who say to Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” many who claim gifts of prophesy and exorcism and miracles, many who boast of being teachers and prophets and experts, many who are powerful and respected in the eyes of the world, will find themselves on the blunt end of the Lord’s judgment when He declares to them: “I never knew you; depart from Me you workers of lawlessness.”

This is a frightening prospect, dear Christians.  It is a warning for us to always yield to the truth, to pay attention to the natural order, to call out the false prophet and rise up against them, chase them away, and make sure that it is clear where you stand, what you confess, and in whom you place your trust.

The true prophet Jeremiah warned us: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes.  They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.”  Such prophets tell you what you want to hear: “It shall be well with you,” and “no disaster shall come upon you.”  He warns us – all of us – that “wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked.”

We know who our Good Shepherd is.  We know what His Word is.  We know what nature teaches us.  We know what the objective truth is.  We know what a man is, what a woman is, what marriage is, what is moral and what is immoral.  We know that every human life is a life of dignity, created in the image of God.  We know also, dear friends, that we are sinners, that we deserve this wrath as well, but we also know that the truth is on our side, because Jesus is on our side!

For we know, dear friends, from the mouth of a true prophet, St. Paul, that “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”

By virtue of the Spirit and the Word that He inspired to be written and proclaimed and placed into your hearts, you suffer with Christ – suffering the indignity of speaking truth to power and confessing what we know to be true, in the words of St, Paul, “in order that we may also be glorified with Him.”

And while the world is enamored of the lie, enamored of the liar, and enamored of the father of lies, we can refuse to believe them.  We can refuse to be intimidated by them.  We can scorn them and mock them and confess them to be nothing more than a diseased tree to be thrown in the fire.

For there was another tree, one that bore disease, for it bore sin – sin placed on the shoulders of the One who was nailed to that tree, the One who was and is the very Truth, the true prophet, the Good Shepherd, the Savior, the Atonement, the love of the Father incarnate.  For in Him, dear brothers and sisters, we can take heart and take courage.  In Him we can tell the truth, for He is the Truth.  In Him, in His cross, in His blood, and in His Word, we confess, we believe, and we receive the blessings of forgiveness and life and salvation.  That, dear friends, is the truth!

In Him, we have the true safe space of Truth itself and Truth Himself – a Truth that promises us redemption.  And as Jeremiah told us anew this morning by virtue of the Word of God: “In the latter days you will understand it clearly.”  Indeed, dear friends. Indeed.

Come, Lord Jesus!  Amen.

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

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