The Paradox of Life….in Christ

Sermon from Concordia Lutheran Church, June 29. 2014Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

The Paradox of Life in Christ

Matthew 10:34-42

IHS

 

May we understand that this grace, the mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, is what makes life worth living.

But I thought……             The paradox that isn’t

As I read the gospel reading first two verses last Monday, (for I did not come to bring peace… but a sword.. and cause division in homes)  other Bible passages started to run through my mind.

Isa 9:6 — For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His government and its peace will never end.

Ac 10:36 — This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.

Ro 5:1 — Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.

Eph 2:14 — For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.

Eph 2:17 — He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near.

Col 1:20 — and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

And as I read the verses about division, I thought about the 4th Commandment, and our duty to Honor our father and mother.  Then St, John’s words, questioning how we can love God who we can’t see, when we don’t love our neighbor whom we can see.  I mean – isn’t God all about love?  The two greatest of commands are love Him and love our neighbor, right?

It seems confusing at first, that this passage contradicts so many others in scripture, indeed, some which form the basis of our relationship with God.

There is a word for this – it is called a paradox… and certainly, from the view of the world, this life we have been given in Christ is a paradox

So let’s look at this passage – and see something truly amazing…..
Yeah – Jesus does mean it –

Does Jesus actually mean it, when He talks about coming to cause division, to cause strife?  That He didn’t come to bring peace, but a weapon of war?  A sword to separate us from each other?

I mean, I like swords and knives and such, but is this the tool we need for ministry? Does following in His steps mean that we all have to carry swords and machetes? Of course not!

But does Jesus mean it, when He prophesies that families will divide, father against son, daughter against wife?  That some who hate us, will be those in our very homes?  That we have to love God more than any.  More than our parents, than our children? Or if we do not, we aren’t worthy, we aren’t capable of being in a relationship with him

Yes, He does. He means it.

As we struggle with this, it is helpful to know which of the words for “love” is used here.  It is phileo – the love usually expressed within a family.  Within that, there is a sense of loyalty, the recognition that these are “my people”, that no one takes precedence over them.  It is a tight mutual bond, one of great loyalty, one that can go deeper than we have words for, or the logic to explain.

Jesus says that this is the kind of love that we should have for Him, more than any other person in our lives.  It’s not new in scripture, remember God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son Issac?  Remember Gideon, tearing down the statue of the idol Ba’al in his dad’s backyard?  Or the cry of Joshua to his people, As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord?

That word actually cuts deeper and harder for many of us. Challenging our loyalty to our family, our very natural desire to care and protect those we love is a dangerous thing.  Which is more important, the kids chance for a sports or academic scholarship, or spending time in church and Bible Study?  What about God’s commands about marriage, or wanting them to just enjoy being “in love?”  What about having to sacrifice time with our family, not to minister to a friend, but to show love and pray for an adversary, maybe their adversary?

Who is closer to us, who are we going to be loyal too?  Who are we going to listen to, and base our “right and wrong” on?

Please here me!  I am not talking about nagging people to death, or condemning those we love who aren’t living as God planned for them to live.  But there has to be an option between tolerating that which is evil and wrong in God’s eyes, and condemning them and turning our back on them.

The option that is only found… in loving God more than all. The only real option we, who trust in Jesus have….

For Jesus does mean these words, but not just to convict us of our sins, or to give Him a reason to condemn us.  This call, this command to love Him more than all others

The Reason – “being Mine”  Phileo!

One of the challenges of preaching on a portion of a chapter, is remembering the context of the entire chapter.  We noted this last week, as we talked about the context of these verses before – these are Jesus’ words to the men he is sending out, His representatives to proclaim that God’s kingdom is here, among us.  That God does care and is helping, comforting, saving and defending us.

That is the same context here.  Jesus is speaking to those who know in part, and will soon know how deep God’s love for them is, as they realize the message they are coming to give – is that God loves us so much, that His son would be crucified for us.

They recognize, intuitively, that this Jesus has for them the words of life, that He is going to free them from all that restricts life, from all that limits it from being lived to the fullest.

That when we respond to His love, when our loyalty, our priorities are all based in responding to His love.

A side note – to be explored more, but when we love Him first, when our loyalty and the primary relationship is with Him, then all the other relationships we are in take on a deeper and truer nature, they are less effected by sin, or by anxiety, they become less our gods, as we put them into God’s hands…..

We are called to walk with God, as His family.  Not just for a while, it is who we are, now and forever.  It defines us, this relationship we are in, more than our being a son, or a dad, a mom or a daughter.  More than any things else – we have to know we are loved by God to the point where we are now family.

His people, Close family, His children.

We are the people God is willing to die for, we are the people that Christ did die for, willingly, for the joy set before Him, he endured that cross.

He welcomes us to pick up ours, and walk with Him.  That may test us, as family and friends don’t get us, as they don’t understand why we do what we do, why we act like we act, as we struggle to leave behind the sinful behaviors and attitudes that they find normal. They will wonder as they see us struggle and sacrifice to love our enemies, rather than get revenge.  This relationship will test us as we struggle with our desire to do what pleases us, rather than what pleases God.

This isn’t what we have to do to save ourselves, for Jesus has done that already!  But as we realize His love, it is how we respond to His love, to His faithfulness to us. As we remember the new life He gave us in baptism, as He claimed us as His children, as we come to this altar and receive His body and blood.  As we realize that this is where we need to be, for chasing after the world’s idea of life stifles us, kills us….reduces us to mere animals

But in Him, there is life….

So welcome those who speak of His love, of His promises and yes, call you to repentance and life.  Welcome those who live life in Christ, struggling with the righteousness that is there.  Love those He brings into your life, helping them, even if it is by offering them a cup of cold water….

For following Him, walking in His steps is a life that is rewarding, for we realize the life He has given us, through the cross….

A life of God’s peace which is beyond our ability to describe, as we live it secure in Christ Jesus….. Amen!

 

 

About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God's saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on June 30, 2014, in Sermons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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