Sunday, August 05, 2018

Sermon: Trinity 10 - 2018

5 August 2018

Text: Luke 19:41-48 (Jer 8:4-12, Rom 9:30-10:4)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

“But you have,” those three little words can be applied to each and every sin. 

God created a perfect world, “but you have” turned it into a place of death and decay.  

God has revealed Himself to you and invited you to be His dear child, “but you have” turned to false gods.  God gave you the privilege of calling upon His name, “but you have” turned it into an empty interjection, or even a curse.  God gave you the gift of a Sabbath Day to rest in Him, “but you have” turned it into a day for other things.  

God has given us neighbors to love, but we have turned them into objects for us to get what we want.

God blesses you with parents and other authorities, “but you have” despised and angered them.  God gave you the gift of life, “but you have” made death and violence a matter of entertainment and convenience.  God gave you the gift of marriage, “but you have” cheapened it with infidelity and with the mockery of chastity.  God gave you the gift of private property, “but you have” figured out ways to cheat and steal and use social institutions to take things from others that aren’t yours.  God gave you the gift of truth and words to express it, “but you have” lied about your neighbor, and in some cases, denied that there is absolute truth at all.  God gave you people and things in this life by which He takes care of you, “but you have” coveted people and things that are not given to be part of your life and calling, and you have become discontent, and even angry with God and jealous of your neighbor.

Indeed, God created a world of peace and harmony, but we have sinned by misusing His gifts, by distorting His purposes, by rebelling against His will, and by exchanging peace for a conflicted existence in which there is no peace.

Jesus weeps over His people, over Jerusalem, over Salem.  “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace.”

When Jesus speaks of peace, He doesn’t mean a lack of war.  “Peace” calls to mind the original creation, when it was “very good,” when every electron and every galaxy were right where God intended them to be.  “Peace” refers to the original harmony between people and between all of God’s creatures – even concerning weather patterns and natural phenomena.  It is a peace that passes understanding.  

We had that perfection and that peace, dear friends, in Eden.  It was God’s gift, but we have decided that we know better than God.  And so, through the prophet Jeremiah, God asks: “Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’ – only to go on doing all these abominations?”

For turning the Lord’s house into a den of robbers or a house of merchandise is more than simply the buying and selling and money-changing that went on in first century Jerusalem.  What about twenty-first century Salem?  Do you break God’s law with no intention to repent?  Do you think coming here is a form of a marketplace where you buy God’s favor with your good works, instead of, as St. Paul says, pursuing righteousness “by faith”?

If so, dear friends, you are like the people Jeremiah called to repentance for saying, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.”  As Jeremiah points out, every one of us “turns to his own course, like a horse plunging headlong into battle.”

How does this battle end?  How do we have peace once more?  How can we restore Eden and put the electrons and galaxies back into their proper places, with people and animals living together without conflict?  We cannot do it, dear friends, but Jesus not only can, but does!

The reason that our Lord was drawing near to Jerusalem was to die, to be the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.  He was coming to Jerusalem to fulfill the reason that He took flesh to begin with: to atone for our sins, to pay for our turning the Lord’s peaceful creation into a violent den of robbers.  Jesus has come to restore peace in such a way that we could not and cannot.  

Our Lord came to call us to repent, and to forgive us by means of His body and blood – given and shed for you.  And just as He created the perfect, peaceful world out of the chaos of the waters by means of His Word, He comes to each one of you in water and the Word to make you a new creation, a creature at peace with God and with your neighbor.  The peace represented by the dove comes down at baptism, for as St. Paul speaks of our Lord, “whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.”

Dear friends, the first words out of the mouth of our risen Lord when He first appeared to the disciples after His glorious resurrection was, “Peace be with you.”  And this was not just a flowery way of saying “hello.”  Nor was this a pious wish.  This is a promise that Jesus delivers by means of the cross and the empty tomb.  Jesus has come to restore us to peace in body and soul, to bring to an end the warfare between good and evil by vanquishing evil; to deliver to us a new heaven and new earth in a new body raised from death on the last day.  And this peace is that peace that passes all understanding, a peace that we cannot even begin to imagine, but a true peace that we can know is coming to us according to the will and timing of God.  Indeed, this peace has come to us at the cross, it was delivered to you at the font, it is given to you again and again in absolution, and the peace of Jesus comes to you physically in the body and blood of Christ Himself at the altar – it is the peace that will come to fruition on the Last Day!

You are hearing this good news yet again, dear friends, from this pulpit, by means of the preaching of the Word, and by the proclamation once more that Jesus has declared and mandated peace – in spite of all of those “but you haves.”

For we have an answer to the Lord’s “but you have” in the Law that we have not kept.  We have the “but You haves” that we say back to our Lord Jesus Christ in sorrow for our sins and in repentance, calling to mind the Gospel.  We reply to our Lord: “But You have died so that I might live.  But You have forgiven my sins.  But You have baptized me into your death and resurrection.  But You have proclaimed good news to us poor miserable sinners.  But You have given us your true body and blood as a ‘sure pledge and token’ of the peace that You have won for us by that same body and blood given and shed for us on the cross ‘for the forgiveness of sins.’”

This is the peace that Christ has won for us, the peace that passes all understanding, the peace that is proclaimed in this House of Prayer, the peace offered and proclaimed by the risen Christ to the disciples and to the whole world!

This is the peace, the Shalom, the Salem, for which this House of Prayer was named.  This peace is yours, dear brothers and sisters, this peace is yours in Christ Jesus!


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

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