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Sermon - 8/18/19
2019.08.18 23:05:53

Proper 15/C [Pent. 10] (2019): Jer. 23:16-29; Heb. 11:17—12:3; Luke 12:49-56.  

 

Fire,              “Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully.  What has straw in common with wheat?  Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (vv. 28, 29). 

 

God inveighs against pastors who, by the light of their own hearts, corrupt his Word, powerful of itself to be proclaimed in purity.

 

If the product of human dreams is the worthless “straw” of false teaching; then God’s unadulterated Word is life given by nourishing grain.  If the human heart is dead and resistant stone; then God’s pure word comes upon it, a crushing hammer that strikes, sparks, and ignites fire, either to repentance or, if rejected to judgment. 

 

Jesus is God’s pure word and so heaven’s hammer; he explains, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division(Lk. 12:49-51).

 

Last Sunday God “counted” Abraham’s faith righteousness (Gen. 15:6); then we enquired, “what kind of faith?”  Today we arrive at the fullness of our answer “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” (Heb. 12:2).  Jesus speaks of his completed baptism, in fire on the cross, “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!” (Lk. 12:49).  

 

Jesus, the incarnate word of God, out of heaven is cast on the earth with the force of an atomic splitting explosion right in the middle of your dining-room table, a place where you might have expected to provide respite from the world’s conflicts.

 

But that is not the case, is it? Harmony among fictional families fails reality.  Neither idealized “Ozzy and Harriet” (if you remember them) nor Sunday dinner with the “Blue Bloods’” rings true. 

 

There is a reason family doesn’t speak of politics or religion among themselves, especially at the dinner table: Jesus explains, “[F]rom now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three” (v. 52).   

 

Societal politics is oriented in God’s law (1st use) for civil order in a sinful world.  But Jesus with his church is God’s final expression (2nd, 3rd uses and gospel) of his will for our salvation by word and sacrament, both law and gospel neither one confused for the other. 

 

Yet, the “religious” hearts of men and women are as false prophets of Jeremiah’s day, messaging their “dreams” against God’s clear word; they posit “another Jesus”, and “a different gospel”, hopelessly confusing law and gospel, and conflating the philosophies of men (2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6, 7). 

 

Diversity of opinion about “Jesus” around the family dinner table relativizes him to irrelevancy; nevertheless, akin to false prophets of Jeremiah, consensus declares its false conclusion, “It shall be well” (Jer. 23:17) betwixt man and God.

 

But Jesus has come, not for a negotiated conciliation; rather “division”.  Jesus lifted on the cross hammers out crisis and judgment; God’s word breaks hard hearts to spark faith’s fire.

 

By such atomizing crisis, either we relent of our “dreams” in repentant submission to God’s word and seek by faith God’s promise, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk. 16:16a).

 

Here then is the “division” in the midst of families.  In the crash of God’s word among us, some will repent and believe; others will resist in favor of old dreams and associations.  For those who believe, our faith like Abraham, is counted for righteousness.

 

Abraham’s faith was sealed in the sacrament of Circumcision; now, you through the better cleansing and putting off of sin in Holy Baptism enter faith in Jesus’ crucified and resurrected flesh and blood, a salvation for which the patriarchs only hoped (Jn. 8:56).

 

Last Sunday we enquired, “what kind of faith, testifies to our righteousness before God?”; today we ask, “what does our righteousness look like?” Moses, in our Epistle today, heads-up a catalogue of faith’s heroes.  By faith Moses “saw” the invisible promise of God’s “better inheritance”. 

 

Moses was adopted into Pharaoh’s household, a prince of Egypt, cypher for all the world offers. But Christ in both OT and NT comes to men for crisis in the circumstances of our lives, requiring choice between God’s promises and visible security offered among the families of men. 

 

Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees and never looked back. Today Moses could remain in Pharaoh’s house or align with the slave people of God; circumstances extended him no other option, either way the Word crashed into Moses’ life.    

 

Moses was crushed by a particular attack upon Hebrew brothers and a new awareness of the suffering of his blood-people (Ex. 2:11, 12). Confronted, Moses without fear, put his life at risk for the promise God to Abraham, a better inheritance than momentary enjoyment at Pharaoh’s table. 

 

For the sake of the vision of the unseen mockery of Messiah (Heb. 11:26), Moses renounced and departed Pharaoh’s household. Division from his worldly family for unity with a new family was completed through the baptism of Israel in the Red Sea.

 

Christ, the Hammer and Fire of God crucified and risen, leads our way through this world. Baptism is where Christians first encounter spiritual crisis; either we hear God’s word unconverted, or we are compelled to renounce old family ties and associations for a new kinship (Lk. 8:19-21; 14:26; 21:16, 17).

 

There is no middle ground, Baptism is the first Christian suffering in the way of the cross; again, “in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.”  That said, in our new communion, with a new mother (church), brothers and sisters (in Christ), we patiently pray for conversions by the working of God’s hammer and fire to faith and righteousness. 

 

If we suffer on account of division from earthly families, still there is reward surpassing the loss. It may, at first, be difficult to see the invisible reality of gospel promises, but as heirs of heaven you can look about in this place and recognize not only your new family; but heaven’s “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) around a Table where the one holy catholic and apostolic religion neither speaks of human opinion nor dreams against God’s unadulterated word. 

 

Among our new family, discussion of God’s law and gospel is not avoided for the sake of “peace” with unbelievers and heretics; rather it is the inexhaustible topic of our exodus (Lk. 9:30, 31) terminating in a promised better place to be visibly revealed on the Last Day.

 

Encouraged by Moses and Elijah, on the Mt. of Transfiguration represented heaven’s “great cloud of witnesses”, urges to faithfulness in seeing Jesus only whose joy is the cross. Now, looking to Jesus, we discern our Righteousness by faith.  Amen.

 

pem.




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