Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and
from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters in Christ, the
text for this morning comes from the Gospel reading.
Curious indeed is the milieu in which we find ourselves at
this day and age. We have unsettling things happening in the Middle East. We
have a financial crisis that we have been shackled, as well as our children and
grandchildren probably. We have all kinds of things that hopefully cause us to
stop for a moment and realize that there is a bigger picture to this life than
what you and I have been gifted to see—a rock in our shoe, as it were, which is
a good thing. A good thing indeed, because, without that rock in our shoe
placed there by God, you and I would, happy, go down the path to destruction
and death and damnation, not realizing the great gift that He has given to us
in this world. That gift being our salvation.
But it is very easy to hearken unto the voice of the sirens
of this age and trot down that path completely blind with myopic vision to the
bigger picture of what’s going on. And as long as things are in a groove in
our life, life is good. But it is in that groove that God places that
proverbial pebble in our shoe to cause us to realize, “I’m a sinner, and I live
in a sinful world. And I am bound and relate to other sinners like me whose
lives are full of their sin and other sins.”
And we have been knit together as a body. It could happen
within the church, because in the church it’s very easy, having heard truths
proclaimed since we were little, the truth about who we are without Christ.
The truth of what God has done for us in Christ. The truth of God dispensing
such gifts to us in miraculous ways of preached Word and bread and wine with
body and blood, that we may have tangible forgiveness, tasting and hearing and
feeling, experiencing God as it were. But familiarity with such truths can
lead us to become contemptuous of that truth.
It is no different than your family. The older you grow, the
more appreciative you are of your parents. It’s easier to overlook the things
that they did which weren’t right and to point out and focus on the things that
they did that you cherish and treasure, the things that have substance and
meaning in this world, but all the while prior to this, you and I did speak and
think some pretty ornery things to those people with whom we know the best.
It can happen with our children, and it can happen with our
spouses. The longer we are with someone, the better we know them, the more
familiar we become with them, and the more contemptuous we are of them. When
Jesus came into this world, He came into this world as one born among the Jews.
He came into a culture that was the same as His. He came into a culture that
spoke the same language as His that had heard the truths that He proclaimed to
them over and again. He came into the midst of a group of people who should
have received Him with joy and relish, and, instead, as the text says so
clearly, they argued with Him.
“We are Abraham’s offspring. We are not enslaved to
anyone.” They completely avoided and ignored the pebble in their shoe that God
placed there to remind them that they really are enslaved.
You and I who have grown up in the Church, it being our
mother who gave birth to us, who nourished us and nursed us at our baptism and
fed us from the table that our Lord Himself set. We who grew up in her midst
can become contemptuous of her truth, that she proclaims to us and begin to
call her archaic, behind times, unapproachable, not real, no experience
involved, doesn’t get to the meat of the problems in this world. And all the
while, she faithfully feeds you, and all the while, you faithfully feed and are
fed. Shame on us. Shame on us for being contemptuous of truth that’s laid
The milieu in which we have been born in this age, about
which I spoke earlier, the milieu in which we have been set by God loves to get
our focus upon this world and its issues. The contempt that we have for our
mother, the Church, is all focused on the things of this world. Why can’t….if
this person goes through this process of what we as the Church do, at the end
of that process of instruction and completion, why do they fall away from it?
We must do something wrong in this production of this Christian at the end.
So as good engineers, we get into the mix of the production
line and try to figure it out. How can we fix this problem so that the final
product can be fault-free, forgetting all along that…that we were given birth
by sinful people, and we ourselves gave birth to sinful people though they may
be this big, they still grow and are a sinner. And so we think that, because
the product isn’t improving over time, almost evolutionary in its concept, then
therefore there’s something wrong with the Church and its truths that it
teaches. So we must have to tweak it and arrange it and shape it so that it
can produce a better product, and all the while forgetting we’re walking around
with a pebble in our shoe.
When the Jews argued with our Lord Jesus, they were trying
to say to him, “That’s all well and good, but it’s not the real meat of the
issue.” They wanted an earthly kingdom to be set up; they wanted another David
and a temple; they wanted to be the powerhouse of the Middle East and in the
world for that matter, because they were God’s chosen people. It can happen to
Christians in this Church, as well, where we have so much given to us, and we
have inherited so much from those before us that we can actually think we can
do it better. That’s evolutionary in its most crass form, not cherishing and
understanding the truth that has been handed to us, maybe albeit imperfectly
handed to us, but nevertheless truth.
Isn’t it interesting? Because truth has no substance unless
it is tried and tested in fire. Truth has no substance unless it’s tried and
tested in fire, which means suffering for such truth. When you invest your
heart and willing to be scoffed and mocked at, it has a new meaning to you. We
become so readily acceptable of the world “dissing” Christians and the church.
“Oh, we don’t want to be offensive.”
Heaven knows there’s enough radicals on the right and on the
left that are offensive enough to all, but the Church shouldn’t be willing to
say, “That’s not right.” In this present election about bipartisanship, this
is one place where Jesus is not bipartisan. It’s His way or the highway, and
that is all.
Truth is truth in God’s proclamation, and such truth has to
be yielded to, because it brings freedom. Freedom itself is what breeds
confidence in God and in your living out your faith. Without such freedom,
there is not confidence and you’re always wondering, Have I done enough? Am
I doing the right thing? What else can I do?
And we begin to bear the weight of the cross upon our own
shoulders, forgetting that it had already been carried by Christ. When Jesus
speaks in here about setting us free, He is not talking about the worries and
concerns of this world. He’s talking about setting us free from sin and its
When you go talk to your doctor, if you have a lump, you
don’t want your doctor to take that information of your tests and hem and haw
and walk around the truth. You want your doctor to proclaim truth to you and
say, “This is what it is.”
If that’s what you desire and you demand from someone who is
dealing with something that’s merely earthly and has an end, why would you not
demand and expect it from your mother the Church and your pastors, as well?
Give us the truth; don’t sugarcoat it, so that we know what we are facing, and
what we are facing without Christ is not something that is sugarcoated.
Freedom of such fear that God has something on us that he can continually nag
us with, that’s Satan’s desire, not God’s. God has said very clearly, “It has
been paid for in Christ. I set you free.”
And that freedom breeds confidence that you can go forth
then and proclaim it and live it. And even suffer for it. Even suffer for
it. Now, granted, it is a fine line in suffering how we choose to suffer.
Some of us can choose to suffer by saying, “Well, I’m going to be very blatant
and honest ‘cause I’m just lettin’ you know what the truth is,” and walk away
thinking, My, my, what a good boy am I, ’cause I proclaimed truth, and then
we slap the person with truth. That’s one extreme.
The other extreme is to repackage it in a more palatable
fashion so that there’s not offense given and we walk away leaving them with
nothing but cream on their face and nothing of substance. And Christ our Lord,
as His Apostle Paul proclaimed, “Speak the truth in love.” Anybody can speak
truth harshly and anybody can sugarcoat it, but it takes lots of interaction to
do it in love.
Funny, in your house whenever there’s a disagreement about
something, how amicable it is usually at the end when there is discussion done
in love and kindness. If it’s just a matter of labeling and just a matter of
putting who’s right or who’s wrong, it leads nowhere. Not to say that there’s
not a time for that, but we usually want to go there first rather than
Jesus had been among these Jews and among others a long time
and knew by being God in the flesh how far to go. When He proclaims what He
proclaims, He almost proclaims a, Got it. You’re not getting it. I’ve
proclaimed it. Time to move on.
That’s why it is a very good thing to have that pebble in
your shoe to remind you, by God’s grace, there’s that pebble. Whatever that is
in your life that gives you that bigger sense of, “I’m a sinner and I live
among sinful people,” and the only thing that has any merit or value in this life
is freedom from that sin. And the only One who takes the rock from your sole of
your shoe is Christ. And that truth is what breeds confidence because of the
freedom you have. That is what the reformation is about, bringing back to
light that freedom in truth, that there may be confidence to do, to say, to
love, to forgive, and to serve even when it’s not pleasant or profitable.
In the name of Jesus.