SERMON FOR THE 10TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, 8-5-2018
LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI
Rev. Michael Larson
Today from our lessons recorded in Holy Scripture we learn to fear God. Now, I know this whole idea has somewhat fallen out of fashion in our day. From out OT reading today it was much the same in Jeremiah’s Day – they didn’t much fear God either. Jerusalem, that special, holy city of God, which means “city of peace” had forsaken the ways of the Lord. They had relapsed into the ways of a sub-pagan people and committed idolatry. Jeremiah laments and grieves over a people overcome by covetousness, dishonesty, sexual immorality, stealing, and despising God’s Word. The people were even sacrificing their own children to the false god of Moloch – a deity worshiped even today in the form of so called planned parenthood.
They were running headlong into destruction. So the Lord, in His mercy and compassion sent to them prophets. Prophets like Jeremiah, who pleaded with them, warned them, and called them to repentance. But they mocked him, cursed him, and threatened him with death. The king Jehoiakim even tore Jeremiah’s scroll, and threw it into the fire. They preferred to listen to the false prophets who predicted peace and prosperity. They did not fear God – they did not fear His wrath and punishment. They did not repent of their evil. They were not ashamed. Jeremiah’s tells us this morning that the people did not even know how to blush anymore.
So God unleased his wrath through Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar stormed Jerusalem, besieged that city, slaughtered and put in chains. Zedekiah, that king who refused to listen to Jeremiah, had his own sons slaughtered before him. They tore out his eyes, blinded him, in order that the last thing he saw was the butchery of his sons.
Jerusalem had forfeited their day of grace by shamefully sinning. They held God’s word in contempt and were destroyed for it.
Six hundred years later Jesus drew near to this same city and wept for it: “Would that you, even you, Jerusalem, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 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. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
You would think that Jerusalem, and its inhabitants, would know better by now. You would think they would know the things that make for peace, namely listening to God’s messenger, their message of repentance. But God’s messengers were persecuted, killed, and stoned. So finally, God said, at last I will send my Son. But they treated him worse than all the others. They hardened their hearts to Jesus words. They turned away from his outstretched arms. They didn’t want a Messiah who would die in their place, be crucified, and have nails driven through his hands and feet. They didn’t want a Savior who wore a crown of thorns. Those are the things that make for peace between God and man – but they refused.
Jerusalem, which literally means “City of Peace” rejected the peace of God. And so, the only peace which remained was the Pax Romana – the Roman version of peace. Jesus warned them in our reading today that in about 40 years – 70 AD – a Roman general named Titus would draw near and bring his version of peace. The Romans cut off Jerusalem’s food supply so that thousands of Jews died of starvation. Those who lived resorted to cannibalism – the alleys were clogged with corpses. The city went up in smoke because they rejected the Lord. He sees that this awful destruction is about to take place and he weeps at the very thought of it.
Although these readings are dealing with the coming destruction of Jerusalem, our Lord is also warning and stirring us up concerning the Day of Judgment – the Last Day - that time when all people will appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and He will announce publicly those who inherit eternal life and those who inherit eternal condemnation. Eternal condemnation is to suffer the punishment of eternal separation from God in hell because of impenitence and a stubborn rejection of God’s Word. To be saved, well that’s to be rescued from sin, death, Satan, and the condemnation of hell and given eternal life for Christ’s sake. May God keep us faithful and vigilant, and ready to meet him with joy when he comes!
The truth is we need help. We live in an age, in a country, perhaps more troubled than Jeremiah’s day. Perhaps the folks of Jeremiah’s day would be rather horrified of us: Homosexuality, abortion, destruction of embryos and invitro fertilization. Transgenderism, mutilation of the body, despising God’s gift of marriage and children, endless war, pornography, and pleasure at all costs. But worst of all, paying little or no attention to God’s Word. The Babylonians, the Romans have nothing on us. We’ve been slouching toward Gomorrah and we Christians are not unscathed. It’s a time to weep and lament. We’ve indulged in sinful actions, sinful thoughts and lusts. We’ve been overcome with coveting hearts, discontent with what God gives. We’ve stewed in resentment of our bosses and superiors. We’ve harbored anger against family members and fellow Christians. Husbands and wives have despised their vows and pursued infidelity: unchaste in heart and thoughts. Christian children, how is your obedience to your fathers and mothers? Do you disobey? Do you whine and complain? Do you roll your eyes at the parents God gave you? Christians do you fear God, avoid his wrath, and punishment? Do you gladly do his commands? If we defend our sins, and stubbornly continue in them without repenting, that is something God will simply not allow. Jerusalem going up in smoke and fire is a warning to those who persistently rebel against God.
Today we have a chance to do what Jerusalem refused to do. Repent! Today is the day of your Visitation: Today is not the day to say, “I’m baptized, therefore I can lie, cheat, steal, hate, lust, and live any old way I want.” Today is not the day to say, “I’m fine. I’m Lutheran. I can abuse my Gospel freedom any way I choose.” Today is the day to confess your sins and turn to Jesus for deliverance and help from destruction. Shed tears of repentance and yet don’t despair. The Lord draws near not only to warn you in love, but to bring to you a Word of Peace and absolve you.
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. Today He reminds you what He did to make for your peace. He went to the cross for you before you even realized that’s what you needed. He took your sin upon Himself before you knew that sin and death had consumed you. In exchange he gives life and salvation – peace with God. Stop trying to justify yourselves. You have the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, who gives you true peace.
Jesus entered the temple and drove out those who sold. He cleansed the temple to make room for himself – to give freely. He scattered those sacrificial animals, for what are those animals compared to Him, God’s final and complete sacrifice for your sins? He overturned the tables, because He had a better table in view, one that He has set up in your midst and calls you to this morning – saying, come, and eat, drink. The Sacrament of His Body and Blood is the means by which he delivers true peace – everlasting peace - the chalice filled with His Blood and the Bread – your rest, your hope, and your joy.
Jesus had said “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Temple is Christ. The city of peace is the new Jerusalem. The Father and the Lamb are there. The angels are at the gates and by faith and through the blood of the Lamb you will enter with singing and cheerfulness of heart – into the holy and eternal City of God.
Dear friends of God, You are no slave of Babylon. Your bonds have been broken. You’ve been baptized, spared, and set free - branded as God’s very own. You are citizens of the New Jerusalem and God’s redeemed children. God has raised you up with Christ and seated you with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. Dear Christians, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! There is a day coming when He will wipe away every tear from your eye forever. There is a day coming when the sin that lives in you will be cleared out once for all. And you shall be raised in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed, and with unveiled face, behold the glory of the Lord, being transformed from one degree of glory to another. In the name of Jesus. Amen. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
GENERAL PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Almighty and eternal God, worthy to be held in reverence by all the children of men, we give You humble and hearty thanks for the innumerable blessings which without any merit or worthiness on our part You have bestowed on us.
We praise You especially that You have preserved for us Your saving Word and the holy sacraments. And we implore You, O Lord, to grant and preserve to Your holy Church throughout the world purity of doctrine and faithful pastors to preach Your Word with power. Help all who hear the Word rightly to understand and truly to believe it. Send laborers into Your harvest, and open the door of faith to those who do not know You. In mercy remember the enemies of Your Church, and grant them repentance to life. Protect and defend Your Church in all tribulation and danger. Strengthen us and all fellow Christians to set our hope fully on the grace revealed in Christ, and help us to fight the good fight of faith that in the end we may receive the salvation of our souls.
Bestow Your grace on all nations of the earth. Bless especially our country and its inhabitants and all who are in authority. Let Your glory dwell in our land that mercy and truth, righteousness and peace may everywhere abound. We commend to You the care of all our schools and ask You to grant that our children may grow in useful knowledge and Christian virtue and bring forth wholesome fruits of life.
Graciously defend us from all calamity by fire and water, from war and pestilence, from scarcity and famine, and from every other evil. Protect and prosper everyone in his rightful calling, and grant relief to the unemployed and those seeking to employ. Let all useful arts flourish among us. Be the God and Father of the lonely and forsaken, the helper of the sick, and the comforter of the distressed and those who sorrow.
Accept, we implore You, our bodies and souls, our hearts and minds, our talents and powers, together with the offerings we bring before You, for Your praise and service.
Grant Your Holy Spirit to those who come to the Lord's Table today that they may receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ in sincere repentance and firm faith and to their abundant blessing.
As we are strangers and pilgrims on earth, help us by true faith and a godly life to prepare for the world to come, doing the work You have given us to do while it is day, before the night comes when no one can work. And when our last hour comes, support us by Your power, and receive us into Your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.