Sermon: June 21, 2020
Third Sunday after Pentecost
What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
Grace to you and peace in the love of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today is Father’s Day, and I find that I have been thinking a bit about my dad. And I have been thinking of him, not from when he died, or from when I myself became a father, or even from my college and high school days. But I have been thinking about him from the time period when I was in upper elementary school and junior high.
During this time, we were living in Columbus, WI and dad was the manager of a farmer’s coop. He worked very hard at making this coop into what it could be. In the time we were there, dad took a business that was losing money, in fact, was in debt, and turned it into making a profit. He rebuilt the customer base, revamped a corn drying operation and the fertilizer plant, and oversaw a great group of employees.
He worked extremely hard, putting in long hours. And at times, I imagine it was not easy. And in addition to all that, dad was a leader in the chamber of commerce, and was really active in our church.
All of this meant that, to me at least, there didn’t seem to be much time for anything else; we didn’t go on many vacations. And I remember a lot of meals where dad’s seat at the table was vacant, since there were meetings to attend, things needing his attention.
But I was, and am still, extremely proud of my father. And I was really proud when dad asked if I wanted to work some Saturdays at the coop, helping out in the store, and in other ways.
And here is where I make a confession to you; I was not a very good worker. You see, I saw this job as something I was entitled to, because, you know, I was David Kvale’s son, the boss’ son.
Well, it didn’t take too long for me to understand that it didn’t matter whose son I was, I had a job to do. And I remember once, getting chewed out by the store manger because I was goofing off, with my dad watching all of this and not saying a word in my defense.
And then later, explaining to me, “Mark, just because you are my son doesn’t mean you can work any less than anybody else. We all work hard for each other, including you, and including me.”
Maybe the attitude I had as the bosses son is kind of like what our attitude can be like as children of God, as followers of Jesus.
We hear Jesus say, “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master.”
I wonder if sometimes we forget that we are disciples and slaves of Jesus Christ. We tend to pay attention to the parts of the good news of Jesus Christ that have to do with eternal salvation and forgiveness and being claimed as a child of God.
And we forget the One who makes this happen. The danger, I feel, is that we kind of turn Jesus into a ‘pez dispenser’ of grace and salvation that we can count on, and we forget what the cost is, both to Jesus, and for ourselves.
But, you know, to be fair, when I listen to what Jesus calls us to be as his disciples, it makes me want to focus on the rewards, and not so much to cost and hardships that can happen:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
Jesus says we are to take up the cross; this is not a pleasant thought, is it. Or all this business about not bringing peace. I thought that was what Jesus is about, you know, peace.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “The peace of Jesus Christ is the cross.
The cross is God’s sword on this earth.”
In the cross, Jesus does make peace, THE peace that is beyond understanding, something so much deeper and abiding than just getting along. In the cross, Jesus goes all the way for us, defeating death, forgiving our sins, showing us the way to life. But the cross, and our bearing of that cross, can be hard, it can be dangerous.
On June 17, 2015, Clementa C. Pinckney, Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Lee Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson were murdered by a self-professed white supremacist while they were gathered for Bible study and prayer at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (often referred to as Mother Emanuel) in Charleston, South Carolina. We, as a church, have added a special day of commemoration of this day.
It turns out that the killer, Dylan Roof, grew up in our church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The people at that prayer meeting invited him to join them in prayer and bible study. Somehow, the killer missed all of what Jesus calls us to be as followers of Jesus; of how we are to welcome all, of how God shows no partiality, of how all are God’s children in Christ. And he killed them with their bibles open and their love of Christ being extended to him.
Maybe less dangerous, but hard none the less is the witness that you and I are giving to the world in response to the coronavirus. Where it seems the whole country is so caught up in a ‘what is my right’ or what’s in it for me, or “You can’t make me wear a mask”: we are wearing our masks, not to keep us safe, but to keep our neighbors safe: we don’t think about just ourselves, we act for the common good of all people.
Where it seems everything is opening up; businesses, bars and restaurants, and even other churches; we are worshiping the way we are, waiting for the day when everyone can be safe gathering together.
But we are followers of Jesus, we are his disciples, and we follow not just so that we can receive a reward, or because we feel entitled,
but solely because Jesus calls us.
Bonhoeffer has some insights for us regarding what all this means:
As a mighty strength and consolation, Jesus repeats, “Behold, I send you!” It is not their own way or their own enterprise; they are sent. In this the Lord promises that he will remain with his messengers . . .
Jesus’ messengers can receive no greater consolation in all this than the certainty that in their suffering they will be like their Lord. Whatever happens to the master will happen to the disciple; whatever happens to the Lord will also happen to the servant. Jesus will be with them and they will be like Christ in everything.
Time is short. Eternity is long. It is the time of decision.
Those who remain faithful to the word and the confession here will find that Jesus Christ will stand by them in the hour of judgment. He will know them and stand with them when the accuser demands they be judged. The whole world will be witnesses when Jesus names our name before his Heavenly Father. Those who have held on to Jesus in this life will find that Jesus will hold on to them in eternity.
God’s love for the people and human love for their own kind are utterly different. God’s love for the people brings the cross and discipleship, but these, in turn, mean life and resurrection. “Anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.” This affirmation is given by the one who has the power over death, the Son of God, who goes to the cross and to resurrection and takes those who are his with him.
And, dear friends, Jesus says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”