Sunday, June 01, 2014

Sermon for 6/1/14--Easter VII



Christ in Suffering

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The greatest threat we will face is not from those who deny that there is a God, but from those who not only believe in a god, but think they are his chosen instruments to bring about his kingdom. Hear Jesus again: "The hour is coming when anyone who kills you will think he does a service for God." St. Paul, when he was still a Pharisee, was absolutely convinced he was doing God's Work by killing Christians until the Lord brought him to repentance, baptism, and faith. And then, instead of persecuting the Church, Paul suffered with her. Like Paul, we like to believe we can do great service to the Lord in our own ways, ways in which the Lord never asks us to serve. But we too will serve the Lord by suffering for the sake of His name. Though don’t suffer great trials here yet, Christians around the world are jailed, tortured, and even put to death because they confess the name of Jesus.

The one comfort we have in this world against all persecution, against all suffering, is that the Holy Spirit gives us Jesus, who speaks to us today, telling us that we will suffer, but also telling us to take heart because He has overcome the world. Christians suffer because Jesus suffered. But Jesus suffers to save sinners. Into a world that wants nothing to do with its Creator, the Son of God comes in the flesh to carry our sins to Calvary and drown them in His blood. Christ came, not to show His holiness and prove to the world how godly and holy He was. He came to demonstrate God's love for us by dying in our place on the cross. And He came not to set up an army of zealots, but to send forth preachers to extend His kingdom by the Spirit preaching through them and delivering the forgiveness of sins.

When you suffer, when you are sick, when you have trials and burdens, but most of all, when you suffer for bearing the name of Jesus—don't take any comfort other than what the Spirit gives you. Look to the preaching of Christ to comfort you against sin and death and persecution and suffering. Look to the waters of the font in which the Lord has promised to save and deliver you. Look to the comfort of Holy Absolution by which Jesus fills him the sinner forgiveness. Take comfort in the body and blood of Jesus which was given for you to keep you in the faith. Believe, dear redeemed in Christ, that your salvation, your standing with God, is anchored not in what great deed you do for Him, but in what He gives to you in His Divine Service of Word and Sacrament.

Ezekiel preached to the house of Israel which profaned God's name among the nations. They did so by following their own religious ideas instead of worshiping the Lord and serving Him by serving the people around them. Nevertheless, the Lord in His mercy rescued them, washed them and gave them new hearts. He has done the same for you. He has rescued you from this world, baptized you into Christ and given you a new heart and His Holy Spirit. Now, freed from trying to do false service to God, you can keep God's name holy among the people around you: by living in the forgiveness of sins, by clinging to the name of Jesus in suffering, by caring for those whom the Lord has placed in your life. The time is short! Christ will be here again soon! When you suffer and are persecuted for a faith which trusts only in Christ, then rejoice and remember Jesus' words! The Spirit who testifies of Jesus will keep you unto eternal life, until you receive the crown of glory that awaits you. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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