Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost- Sermon
9/8/13- Year C
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I know I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: the Lectionary is an amazing and beautiful thing, through whom the Holy Spirit works His work of speaking the truth of Jesus to us. More often than not on a given Sunday it speaks to the world and to our lives in ways that its creators could never foresee. We stand on the verge of an attack with Syria. One where there is no clear side to take. No clear reason and no united front by the world. And in churches who use the Revised Common Lectionary all around this nation, from Presbyterian to Methodist, Roman Catholic and even us Lutherans, the word of the Lord is being read in all of them, Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty-thousand. And hopefully in those churches all around our nation, we are united in their prayers for just that to sit down truly and count the cost. The cost of human life. The cost of our soldiers. And the true cost of our action might look like.
Our Gospel lesson speaks to the world this morning and its current situation, but it also speaks directly to us as well. Doesn’t it? Leaky roof. Check. Unfinished holes in the ceiling. Check. Incomplete chancel, from what I here there was supposed to be an altar rail here for kneeling. Check. Bare concrete floor Narthex. Check. Missing baseboards. Check. I could go on, but you likely could add more yourself than I could ever name. Everywhere we turn in this building, this tower of ours, we see unfinished and incomplete work. I’m at least fortunate though that we have a solid foundation upon which this building was built. On top of all the incomplete work in this building that would make any teacher shutter at her students paper, the cost of the building itself become an overbearing weight that is tied around our necks. A yoke which we placed upon ourselves, once gladly and freely, now has us at least weekly or even daily living out the words of our Lord’s parable. We question in our hearts and minds did we truly and rightly “consider the cost.” Did we lay a foundation, which we can not complete? Did we bite off more than we can chew? In its unfinished status are we being mocked? Being laughed at by our enemy and the enemy of God.
But this is only a building. It is mere concrete and wood, steel and glass. Pieces laid out in a structural arrangement to house something that is more sacred, more holy, more priceless: the Church of God. Though our Lord mentions speaks of buildings, it is only an illustration and to speak to the deeper and greater construction: discipleship and the upbuilding of the the Church, His body in the world. It is speaking to discipleship and the fellowship of the Body that our Lord directs His question laden in the parables, have we truly considered the cost? Have we considered carefully exactly what our Lord seeks from us? To pick up our cross and follow after Him. Which to bear the cross is not a catch phrase nor is it talking about your bunions, an unruly child, or whatever mild inconvenience you happen to be suffering at a particular moment in time. The cross, as we should all know by now, is symbolic of something much more costly, it is our death.
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. Notice how these are all people of relationship and fellowship. They are, at least for this illustration of our Lord, the people most dear to us, our friends our family. In this Jesus calls those who would bear His name, Christians, truly not to hate in the way we think, but to hold Him higher than everyone we love, even ourselves. If we love our selves more, He tells us then we can not follow Him. If we love our sin, more than His holiness, we cannot follow. If we love our way more than Christ’s Way, we cannot follow. If we love our family or our clicks, above His body, His family, then we cannot follow. If we love our past wounds, our pain, or grudges more than Christ’s word to forgive and be reconciled to our brothers and sisters, then we have not considered the true cost of what it takes to build this Church. If we hoard Christ’s mercy and forgiveness for ourselves and do not forgive one another, then this building left unfinished will be an everlasting mirror to ourselves: His work left unfinished in us. BTW Anyone happen to notice who isn’t included in Jesus list of people we are to “hate”, who our wills would want on that list? Anyone? Our enemies. Jesus calls us to love them.
You may be surprised to know this, well because I was a bit surprised, that Luther never included in his German Mass a brief order for confession and forgiveness. It actually comes to us from Philip Melanchthon, which is another story. Luther never included it in his revision of the mass, for Him he was always pushing for people to go to private confession and absolution before their pastors. There to confess actual sin which troubled actual souls as opposed to a generic confession of sinfulness. For Luther, he saw the clear balm of absolution in the Mass, not tied with a brief Order, but rather in the sharing of the Peace. In his Formula Missae of 1523 Luther writes, “[The peace of the Lord be with you always, followed by its response]...is a public absolution of sins of the communicants, the true voice of the gospel announcing remission of sins, and therefore the one and most worthy preparation for the Lord’s Table, if faith holds to these words as coming from the mouth of Christ himself.” And true faith does hold them so, they are the Words of Christ and before coming up to the altar to receive His Body and Blood we receive His word which creates what it speaks, true abiding peace.
His peace is given to us and before we dare approach His altar, we share His peace with one another, with our friends, but more importantly with our supposed enemies. Here in this seemingly small liturgical exchange is lived out, what Luther calls the mutual consolation of the brethren. A means of God’s grace in which we are the actors of His powerful work, of healing, forgiving one another, and uniting us together under His holy banner. There in the receiving and sharing of Christ’s peace the Church is continually built to be what it truly is to be: the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ. We receive His peace, share His peace, and then come with joy to receive His life given and shed for us in bread and wine. In the depth of His forgiveness and forgiving one another our true salvation and the joy of paradise is lived and encountered here and now. Therefore in a few moments, my brothers and sisters, let us take all the time we need to truly share the peace of Christ with one another, keeping at bay the taunts and laughs of our true enemy, the Evil One, and continue being built by the Holy Spirit into the Church of God. Amen.