Sermon - 7/7/19
2019.07.08 22:09:33

Proper 9/C [Pent. 4] (2019) Isaiah 66:10-14; Galatians 6:1-10, 14-18; Luke 10:1-20.  


Peace,          [T]hus says the LORD: “Behold, I will extend peace to [Jerusalem] like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, and you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees.  As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you…” vv. 12, 13a, ESV.


These words of God’s peace are extraordinary, Yahweh compares himself, through his church, as a mother to his people. The comparison is the more striking as Jesus today plants God’s mothering comfort in the midst of world-wide spiritual warfare. 


Jesus has come to earth for division and judgment (Lk. 12:51, 52); yet in the dividing he provides a place of security amid the terrors of an awful warfare.


That “war is hell” is attributed to Civil War Gen. Wm. Tecumseh Sherman.  To date the world has experienced only one true World War.  From the time of the U.S. involvement on Dec. 1941 to Aug. 1945 the entire globe devoted its every energy to inflicting man’s version of hell on one another.  Strong men in the throes of the carnage cried their last for the comfort of their, “Mama” or “Mother”.  


As terrible as the hell of sinful men, the hell of spiritual warfare and its final resolution that Jesus initiated on the cross is beyond frightful for those possessing ears to hear and eyes to see. The vision is so horrific that though Jesus extensively speaks of hell’s inexorable coming, eventually a “lake of fire” (Rev. 19:20; 20:14), many nevertheless turn a blind eye, rejecting his invitation into kingdom peace. 


Jesus describes spiritual warfare in cosmic proportions; Satan is wrenched and cast-out of heaven by the power of the preached gospel come near in Jesus’ person; to his returning 72 missionaries he declared, that at their word, “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven” (Lk. 10:18). 


For those rejecting God’s safe harbor in Christ, Jesus says, then and now, “Woe to you Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! ... And you, Capernaum, … You shall be brought down to Hades” (vv. 13, 15).  On the final judgment a cry for “Mother!” will be too late.  


Mother is here and now, the place where God establishes our peace in the midst of shot, shell, and spiritual fiery-darts. Let me put a finer point on the matter from Cyprian, 3rd century catholic bishop of Carthage, “One cannot have God as Father who does not have the church as mother”; the singular place of God’s word and sacrament in which God extends “peace like a river”.  


On an earlier occasion Jesus sent the Apostles to bear the good news of the Kingdom come in his person (9:1-6). That preaching in receptive households resulted in an Israelite ingathering of 5,000 men for heaven’s feeding, a sign of God’s peace (9:10-17). 


Today Jesus is in hostile territory, exhibited last Sunday when a Samaritan village rejected his visitation out of hand; Jesus responds with increased evangelistic effort, sending 72 followers, two by two, witnesses to his coming judgment (peace or warfare) with still the same proclamation and invitation into his kingdom.


The power of God’s word conveyed into houses that received his “peace” became manifest as Jesus advanced on his cross. The 72 returned with joyous reportage of healings and exorcisms, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name” (Lk. 10:17). 


At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, according to St. Matthew, he bestowed on his church, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Mt. 5:9). It is fatuous that worldly politicians, ignorant of spiritual warfare, lay claim to the beatitude. 


The “peace” of which Jesus spoke is not simple absence of conflict; rather the blessing has its locus in the church’s victory with her Lord; wielding the Sword of the Spirit that proclaims and teaches God’s word for the comfort of sons and daughters in Christ. 


Last Sunday we observed, “freedom in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:13, 18) has nothing to do with being left to arbitrary decisions; rather release from bondage allows us to bind ourselves to Jesus in the battlefield to his cross, the place between heaven and earth of God’s cosmic victory over Satan, sin, and death. By Baptism we join, by our witness, in the ultimate expression of God’s warrior power—His love for the creation.    


Today we find peace in the church where Lord’s day to Lord’s day we are being conformed to God’s will in the atoning death of his only Son for our sin. From Jesus’ Life, flowing from the cross, the church receives her spiritual river of peace, now emanating from the throne of God (Rev. 22:1), even in the midst of Satan’s lost but continuing warfare against God and his Anointed. 


God’s self-description as a “comforting mother of men” seems in contrast to the blood-soaked male warrior, who is our battle-Lord, Christus Victor; and yet, this is nothing other than to say, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27).  


By today’s Lessons, our peace is expressed in a confluence of anatomical imagery that speaks of God’s union with his church. Of that union God says by Isaiah, “you shall nurse [and be satisfied from her comforting breastJust as a man whom his mother comforts, so I myself will comfort you…] (Dr. Reed Lessing translation)” (Isa. 66:12a, 13a).


The church locates her peace, amid cosmic spiritual warfare upon God’s bosom (Lk. 16:22, NKJV), where our ear attends the place closest his heart. The flesh of Jesus is eternally situated in that place; and so at the Lord’s Eucharist we recline with St. John, as Scripture describes, “Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved” (Jn. 13:23, NKJV); from whose breast would flow the Spirit, the water, and the blood (1 Jn. 5:8) of our peace. Amen. 





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