The Challenge of Preaching this Sunday:
Devotional Thought of the Day:
..simply concentrate on being completely devoted to Christ in your hearts. Be ready at any time to give a quiet and reverent answer to any man who wants a reason for the hope that you have within you. . 1 Peter 3 (Phillips NT)
32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself.‘ John 12:32 (NJB)
But only when this message is preached does the real sin manifest itself, the sin of which it is stated here that it makes all the difference, namely, that “they do not believe in Me.” For the world does not want to hear such preaching: that they are all sinners before God, that their work righteousness has no validity before Him, and that they can obtain mercy and salvation solely through this crucified Christ. This unbelief toward Christ becomes a combination of all sins; it leads man into a damnation from which there is no rescue. (1)
As I have watched the internet and twitter today, I have grieved over the entire situation. I have contemplated and prayed about how I and the other pastors (I met with over 200 this morning, as well as laypeople representing churches all over Southern Cal, Arizona and Nevada. We did not meet about this, it was our every three year meeting. But the decision was mentioned). I have wondered about writing about this, knowing I must.
Knowing as well that there will be expectations about sermons on Sunday, and I imagine many pastors will be re-writing their sermons tomorrow. Our sermons will need to confront all sin, and call people to be reconciled to God. People will have different expectations, some thinking we should fall on one side of the issue or the other.
I have to disappoint them, The decision and reaction to it are not the sin we need to talk about on Sunday.
The sin we need to talk about is the one that robs us of our hope, the sin that sucks life out of us, the sin where we forget, or indeed rebel against God loving us. People who agree with the Supreme Court have sinned, as have those who do not agree with the Supreme Court. All have sinned; all have experienced the brokenness of life.
We need to examine ourselves individually and find the Spirit granting us repentance of the sin of not loving God, about not trusting Him to keep His promises. Promises like:
28 We are well aware that God works with those who love him, those who have been called in accordance with his purpose, and turns everything to their good. Romans 8:28 (NJB)
and just a few verses later,
38 For I am certain of this: neither death nor life nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, 39 nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (NJB)
My reaction to the Supreme Court will not reveal to people Jesus, who lived and died for them. It won’t share a love that drove him to suffer and die on the cross to give all sinners the hope of being righteous. All sinners, including gossips, slanderers, idolators, haters, adulterers, people who are so envious of others it consumes them, and those who are so bitter that they cannot love people enough to desire reconciliation and healing of relationships. From sin, we need to be cleansed, to be transformed, not just from individual sins. Sin, as Luther wrote above, is not trusting, not having faith, bot believing God.
My friends, we are called to give the reason we have hope, why we expect something greater that the division of our country and the world. To do so, we have to realize our mission is to not demand purity, to plead with people to be reconciled, to let God draw them to Christ Jesus.
We need to be saved from sin – not just from sins. We need to find the life He promised, that the Holy Spirit gives, the hope that comes in Christ Jesus.
That’s what He does… He embraces us, brings healing to our battered lives, brings holiness and sanctity to those who sins He has died for, to free them.
He is our hope, no matter how shattered or communities, our neighborhoods, our families and our churches. Yes they are shattered, and the sin of our unbelief, our distrust of God is what shattered them. But that sin of unbelief is why He came.
Be reconciled to God, I plead, for there, in His love, there is hope.
The Hope we are commanded to give, the hope that is the reason we preach and administer sacraments. If we do that, if we lift Christ, the hope of sinners, high, if we reveal Jesus on the cross, because He loves us, Sunday will be a day of joy for all who are drawn to Him.
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s Works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 24, pp. 342–343). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.