7th Sunday of Easter, June 1, 2014
Jn. 15:26—16:4       Ez. 36:22-28    1 Pt. 4:7-14
Vicar Paul Rockrohr


“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.”


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, our Good Shepherd is truly concerned for our lives, not just here but for life with Him to all eternity. As St. Peter says, “The end of all things is at hand….Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as if something strange were happening.” No one wishes to be in the midst of evil times, where justice is perverted and wickedness flourishes. No one is eager to talk about these things, as if persecution were an enjoyable conversation. If Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father in power, as we confessed at His ascension this last Thursday, why does He let His church suffer? Could He not wave His hand and have the Church rule over all things, since we are one body and He is our head?

 




7th Sunday of Easter, June 1, 2014
Jn. 15:26—16:4       Ez. 36:22-28    1 Pt. 4:7-14
Vicar Paul Rockrohr


“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.”


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, our Good Shepherd is truly concerned for our lives, not just here but for life with Him to all eternity. As St. Peter says, “The end of all things is at hand….Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as if something strange were happening.” No one wishes to be in the midst of evil times, where justice is perverted and wickedness flourishes. No one is eager to talk about these things, as if persecution were an enjoyable conversation. If Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father in power, as we confessed at His ascension this last Thursday, why does He let His church suffer? Could He not wave His hand and have the Church rule over all things, since we are one body and He is our head?


Times of severe persecution come and go for the body of Christ in all places. The blood of martyrs has often witnessed to the hope we have in Jesus beyond this shadowy valley. Churches are forcefully closed and destroyed in China. Right now in Pakistan Christian homes are regularly burned, with faithful men, women, and children killed because they believe that Jesus Christ has died for the sins of the whole world. The mother in Sudan was accused of adultery for marrying a Christian, and so she is sentenced to death for refusing to renounce Christ and her husband. This blessed message of the Gospel, of one mediator between God and man who earnestly desires not the death of the sinner, is so offensive that we (and I say we for we are one body with our brothers and sisters) are killed for it. These that would kill the body truly believe that they are offering up a good thing to God, as if they were defending His honor. So Christ explains why they believe that persecuting His bride is a good work. “They will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.” Dear Christians, this is a truly sad state of affairs. Yes, we do not enjoy fiery trials, the cry goes up “O Lord, how long?” But St. Stephan, the first Christian martyred, prayed, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” while he was being stoned. If Christ had not been raised from the dead, we of all people are most to be pitied. But Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia. Thus we never need to be pitied, for He is our very great reward. No, it is those who are outside of the body of Christ that need pity, for they do not know the Father and His love for them.


We do not have severe persecution in this land. To be sure, Christians are oppressed in various ways, for the Gospel is always oppressed and rejected. Often enough I have heard it said by my grandparents, parents, and others, that they never would have thought the world would come to this. There was an underlying belief that this was essentially a Christian nation, but how quickly that belief has been eroded in the last few years. But the United States was never God’s kingdom on earth, blessed though we are. Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual one, the Church that is gathered from all corners of the earth. And He has warned us, “indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” Jesus is not speaking of some vigilante acting on his own, but acts sanctioned by the government and society for the word service also means liturgy. The death of a Christian will, and does, appear to the world to be a divine liturgy offered to God, all because they do not know the Father, nor Christ. So we should not be surprised if the day comes that we are killed for confessing that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. He has already warned us, “I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.”


What shall we do, as the days and times change for better or worse? The end of all things is at hand, what shall we do? “Be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” In other words, exactly the same thing that you have been called to do by your Father in heaven. Even in the midst of the end of all things, in the time of fiery trials, nothing changes. Self-control, love, these are fruits of the Spirit which you have received. Jesus has sent you the Helper from the Father, the Spirit of truth, so that when the hour comes you may remember and be kept from falling away. Yes, the Spirit breathes life into us when we would faint and wilt away. He is a very sure and strong Helper indeed, for He gives us a wonderfully strong foundation to rest upon when the assaults of the world and Satan strike furiously. Faith, dear brothers and sisters, is grounded in the absolute truth that Jesus has redeemed you from the grave for life eternal with Him. This faith is strong, not because you must be so strong, but because your Lord is strong and mighty and you are clothed in Him.


Yes, whether or not the day comes that we are called to witness, to be martyrs, nothing changes for the Christian. You have been forewarned by Jesus so that the day will not have so much dread, but you have been forewarned so that you will constantly seek comfort and strength from the One who has redeemed you. That day is no different than today, for you have been called and gathered by the Comforter from on High to be comforted by your risen Lord here. You need what Christ is here to give you, strength for whatever may lay ahead. Do you have may cares and worries? Lay them here at the feet of Jesus as we offer our common supplications to Him! It is not without reason that we pray before the altar, what is indeed the very throne of Jesus for you today. Make your petition of the King, for He is gracious and merciful, and has promised to hear you! Does sin and weakness cling to you and torment your conscience? Once: you have been forgiven in the stead and at the command of your Lord. Twice: you have heard the proclamation of the Gospel by which faith is worked and forgiveness received. Come again a third time and kneel and receive His true body and true blood for the forgiveness of sins! Look at the super-abundance that Christ gives to you today. All of this, so that your faith will be strengthened and you will remain firmly grounded in Him to the end. No matter what may happen to us, Jesus is always here faithfully giving us all that He has promised.


Yes, our Lord remains steadfast in all times and places, so that we may persevere through whatever trials are handed over to us. Why must trials come? It is a tempting question, one that could be twisted to ask, why isn’t Jesus reign visible to all people? Why isn’t there a hedge around us, that no evil may bother the Church? Look at what kind of kingdom Jesus has established, better, look at how He established it. He who was mighty in power, casting out demons and raising the dead, did not take an earthly kingdom by force. “They will put you out of the synagogues” means the world’s religion will not recognize the righteous rule of Christ, that He is physically reigning for us right now. Nor is that what Jesus wants, for He forged an eternal spiritual kingdom for us through patient suffering and death. He is our king because He went like a sheep to the shearers and did not open His mouth. He established the Church in His death and sealed it with His resurrection so that it will remain for eternity. His kingdom is one that is established on mercy and grace for the repentant sinner. A kingdom by force is not a kingdom of mercy, for the free gift of forgiveness cannot be coerced.


Thus, if the King is mocked, beaten, and crucified, so that His kingdom may be established for us, those that are His servants should expect no less. St. Peter says, “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. But 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.” Listen to that last part again, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” Dearly beloved, if we are never once mocked or persecuted for the name of Christ, perhaps we should check to see if we are really Christians, that is, “little Christs.” Not that we may say, “I know I am a Christian because I am persecuted.” This does not give confidence, for how can you be certain that you are persecuted for being a Christian or not? Rather we can say, “I know that I am a Christian because God has given me a new heart and His Spirit in the waters of Baptism. Because the Spirit of glory rests upon me by Christ’s mercy, I will come upon trials that He will bring me through since His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness.” God has promised you, “You shall dwell in the land that I gave to our fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” To dwell means that even if you should die before Christ comes again, you will live. God is not the God of the dead but of the living, and He has promised to be your God for all eternity. Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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