Sermon – Hope Lutheran Church, Friendswood, TX
June 30th, 2013
June 30th, 2013
It's not just in other countries that there are challenges for the Christian church. This week we've seen how the unbelieving world disregards scriptural teaching on marriage, and continues to support the evil of abortion, contrary to God's holy word. But it's always been this way – people rejecting God, and Christ, and his word. Even when Jesus himself came to visit the Samaritan village in Luke 9 – they wanted nothing to do with him or his teaching. They would not receive him.
And just as the disciples were outraged and wanted to call down fire, to destroy those unbelievers like in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah – we may be tempted to wish for God's wrath on the unbelievers in our day. I would humbly suggest that as Jesus would rebuke the disciples', he might say something similar to us, in our day. I'm not saying we shouldn't exercise our vocation as citizen, but we must take care to do so without sin. Christ came to call sinners to repentance, to seek and save the lost that they might have life. We should pray for our enemies – not hate and despise them.
So the world rejects Christ and his word. Always has, always will, somehow or another, until he brings this age to a close. Jesus doesn't seem concerned that some reject him, but instead knuckles down and moves on to preach elsewhere – wherever he will be heard.
Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus tells his disciples not to take it personally when they are rejected – that the world will hate them, because it first hated Christ. The Samaritans were caught up in their ethno-religious pride. We won't support you if you're going to Jerusalem! But there are all kinds of reasons people use to turn away from Christ, and turn the Gospel away.
Sinners will be sinners, and even those who would follow Christ are prone to excuses. “let me follow you – but as long as I have a comfy place to rest.” “Let me follow you, but let me bury my father – you see, Jesus, family comes first.”
Following Jesus doesn't necessarily mean leaving behind your house, your family, and moving to a far off land. But it does mean leaving behind the old ways, the ways of death and sin. Like Lot's wife who turned back to look ruefully and perhaps longingly at the wickedness behind her, there is no turning back for Christians either. Even when following Christ means bearing a cross of our own, being persecuted for righteousness' sake, being hated by the world that hated him. Still he calls us to follow.
Now, it's not so easy to turn away from the sin and death behind us. But it is part and parcel of our faith. Another word for this is, “repentance”. A change of mind and heart that entails both sorrow for sin, and also trust in Christ our savior. Turn away, look away from what is behind you. Throw off the sin that so easily entangles, and turn your eyes to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross...
Confession and absolution. Law and Gospel. Sin and grace. Drowning the Old Adam daily, and seeing the New Man arise. This is what it means for us, as Christians, to not look back. It means looking to Christ.
And looking to the cross – which really isn't a very pretty sight. Some think it's foolish, and others say it's a scandal. But Christ crucified for sinners is the very wisdom and power of God. There in the wounds of Christ, does he bleed away his life for your sin. There in the shame of his humiliation does he take your guilt and shame. The cross, ugly as sin, where he who had no sin was made to become sin for us... let us never turn back, or turn away, from that blessed vision of Jesus dying for you and me.
The farmer who plows and keeps his focus ahead – is more likely to plow a straight line than the farmer who looks back. In fact, that's what Jesus did. When he came down from the Mt. of Transfiguration, he “set his face” toward Jerusalem. He set his sights on the cross. He would not be deterred or diverted. Though surely Satan tempted him, and the world begged him to be some other kind of Messiah. He would not be stopped from his mission. His hand was to the plow. He would not look back. He came to die. For you.
No looking back. so too, with the faith. May the Spirit grant us a laser-beam focus on Christ – who saves us by grace through faith, that we may follow the narrow way that leads to eternal life. That way is only, always, Jesus Christ – the way, the truth, the life.
And with a future secure in him, why would we ever want to look back? With a promise of a place with him, why would we ever make excuses? Why would we hold on to our sins, when he so freely forgives them? Why wouldn't we receive him eagerly as he comes in his word, and by his sacrament, for our great blessing?
The world hates Christ. Our sinful flesh is in rebellion, too. But thanks be to God in Jesus Christ, that by the power of the Spirit, working in the word to create faith in us, that we are snatched from death for eternal life.
And it is this Gospel of Jesus Christ it is our privilege and joy to proclaim. Pastors preach it – here and abroad, even in Singapore. All God's people give witness by our words, and show his love by our actions. And it is our fervent prayer that many others would come to look to Christ, look only to Christ, and never look back, even to eternity.
In Jesus' Name. Amen.