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|BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz|
May 21, 2017 SERMON ARCHIVE
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, AMEN
The text for our meditation today is the Gospel Lesson for this Sunday, John 14:15-21. There we read these words:"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."
We begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN
One thousand years ago, back during that time period we often call "the Middle Ages" or "the Dark Ages," people learned that if they were to stand up for Jesus, it meant taking up sword and shield and going on a crusade. You have seen pictures of "knights-in-shining-armor."
With their armor emblazoned by a giant cross, Christian soldiers would ride off to far away lands to do battle in the name of God. They were to battle against the Jews who had crucified the Lord Jesus Christ and they were to battle against the Moslems who had taken over the Holy Land and occupied Jerusalem.
During those days, sermon after sermon was preached to the people, promoting the crusades. Those who could fight were called upon to fight. Those who could not were called upon to give as much money as possible to these so-called "holy wars." Our Lord Jesus was described in these sermons as being humiliated by the Jews and Moslems alike, disregarded by godless men who had no love for Him or for His church.
The Crusaders were sent out to fight for their Lord's name; to "stand up, stand up for Jesus," as it were; to restore to Him the glory and honor that He had supposedly lost.
As one preacher from the Middle Ages put it, "I address fathers and sons brothers and nephews... if someone were to strike any relative of yours would you not avenge him? How much more ought you avenge your God, your father, your brother, whom you see reproached. crucified; whom you hear Him calling, desolate and begging for aid?"
Now ask yourself this: is this Jesus whom you know and confess, is He "desolate and begging for aid," as this ancient sermon describes Him? Certainly He bore the reproach of evil men-certainly He was slandered, scorned and beaten. Yes, Jesus was crucified for crimes He did not commit. But does He now beg for aid, does He beg us to save Him.
After all, He who was once crucified, He who once was bruised, He, Christ has risen.
No, dear friends, our Lord is not "desolate and begging for aid," as this ancient sermon from the crusades suggests. Listen instead to what St. Paul preached in Athens, from today's First Lesson: "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth. and He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives life and breath and everything else" Acts 17:24-25.
So what does it mean, then, to "Stand up, stand up for Jesus"? How is it that you are to fight for the One who has already gained victory over all things? How shall you honor Him who rules in with all honor and majesty? And how shall you defend the name that is above every name?
Make no doubt about it-there is a battle in which you must yet engage, and a struggle in which you must continue fight. It is still a crusade, of sorts, but the enemy is not another person in another land, like the crusaders in the Middle Ages thought. The enemy is not "flesh and blood," as you know from St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians.
The fact is, most of your struggle-most of your battle and your crusade-lies within your own hearts. This is what St. Peter says in today's epistle, the first verse: "Set apart Christ the Lord in your hearts, always ready with an explanation to all who ask about the hope you have" (1 Peter 3:15).
"Set apart Christ the Lord in your hearts." This is the first challenge and struggle in Christian warfare. It was Jesus Himself who said in the Gospel of Matthew "Out of the heart come evil thoughts," says Jesus, "murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man 'unclean'" (Matthew 15:19-20).
Every human heart is corrupted and blackened by the sin passed down to you from Adam, and every human heart in its earth-born state defies God. You must "stand up, stand up, for Jesus" by first facing the enemy that is within-by struggling against your own sin and temptations, your own desire for evil, your own inclinations to ignore God and turn away from His commandments.
Set Christ apart, dear friends. Regard Him and Him alone as the Holy One, the only One who will save. Hold onto His commandments over the voice of your temptations and desires. Follow His lead rather than your own. Believe His Word, and be confident in the fact that you have a God who does not forget you, who does not abandon you, who does not overlook you.
"Set apart Christ the Lord in your hearts." Look upon Him and Him alone, Who is the Redeemer and Savior of your body and soul, the "Christ [who] died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" (1 Peter 3:18). "Set apart Christ the Lord in your hearts, always ready with an explanation to all who ask about the hope you have" (1 Peter 3:15).
Here is the second place where you have opportunity to "stand up, stand up for Jesus," by unashamedly speaking the faith to the world. Your Lord Himself called you "the light of the world, a city on a hill, a light that cannot be hidden" (Matthew 5:14-15). The Christian faith is not your private possession. It is not some secret relationship between you and God that nobody else knows about.
The Christian faith is not something that remains hidden, but it is something that a true believer cannot help but express in acts of love. The Christian faith cannot help but love the neighbor, and serve him or her in every need.
The Christian faith cannot help but make self-sacrifices, representing to the world the one great sacrifice that Jesus made for all people. The Christian faith cannot help but do exactly what St. Peter says here, be "always ready with an explanation to all who ask about the hope you have."
You don't have to be able to recite entire psalms, or huge portions of the Scriptures; you don't have to be able to argue the depths of theology; you don't have to know all the answers all of the time.
You simply are to confess Jesus the Lord. You simply are to be able to say, "I believe in God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord."
You simply are to be able to speak the truth of God's Word "with gentleness and respect-literally, "with gentleness and fear"-keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed of their slander" (1 Peter 3:16).
This is how the Church stands up for Jesus. You "stand up, stand up for Jesus" by setting apart Christ the Lord in your hearts, listening closely to His voice and word above all other voices. You do so by being "always ready with an explanation to all who ask about the hope you have," ready to speak His Words to others, in order that they might hear and believe.
You have this sure and certain confidence, as well: Standing up for Jesus arises out of the fact that He has already stood up for you, once for all time. In fact, if Jesus were to sing today's sermon hymn, He would have sung the words differently, probably along these lines:
"Stand up, stand up for sinners, for you I took the cross. I bore your condemnation, for you I suffered loss. For you I won the victory, by this My sinless deed, and in My life's blood spilling, have quenched your every need."
My dear friends, Christ Jesus stood up for you! He stood in your place and He offered Himself for the punishment you deserved. This is precisely the point of today's epistle, where it says, "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" (1 Peter 3:18).
No price remains for you to pay. No act of punishment must be endured. Christ has borne all of the punishment for your sake, and "by His stripes you are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). Christ Jesus died for you and you and you and you and all of you.
And even more importantly, Christ Is Risen.
|Christ Is Risen|
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