The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession – Historic Lectionary – Matthew 10:26-33 – June 25, 2017
Also the Baptism of Inara Michal Antonia
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Persecutions will come to the Church of Christ.
Our Lord never speaks of our suffering and hardship in terms of ‘if’ or ‘maybe’.
He never implies that we might avoid difficulty and persecution if only we were nice enough, if only we figured out the best strategy, the most polite way of hearing Christ’s Word, believing his Gospel and proclaiming it to the world.
Rather, Jesus always speaks of persecution in the language of certainty, with such terms as ‘these things will happen’ and ‘when you see these things taking place’.
As the Church of Christ, we are not exempt from going the way of the cross.
The cross is in fact, our home, it is what we have been baptized into, it is our journey, our struggle, and yet it is also our hope.
We are Church for the sake of the world, we receive this Gospel and this Jesus not for ourselves only, but for all people in all places. We the baptized live a life that looks saying what Jesus says and doing what Jesus does.
No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl. Instead they place it on a stand so that it might give light to the whole house.
Throughout Holy Scripture, the Word of the Gospel is often described by Jesus as being like a seed that is planted in the ground.
A seed that is planted, will always produce in its fruit the same kind of seed, it is not different, it is not new by nature, it is the same seed.
Today, our Lord proclaims to us the same truth when he says, “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” (Matthew 10:27).
Whether the word is spoken softly in private, or loudly in public, it is the same Word, the same seed planted for the life of the world.
For our time and place, this means that in saying what Jesus says and in doing what Jesus does, we do not soften the Word of truth to make it palatable for our modern sensibilities. We do not speak a different word, no matter how much the world may demand it.
In the same way, we do lessen the Word of forgiveness, the power of the Gospel, when speaking to our neighbor whom we think doesn’t deserve the same grace, the same life that we ourselves have been given.
The Word doesn’t change, it endures forever, and you as the Church have been given the life of saying what Jesus says, and doing what Jesus does.
Here at this font, on this morning, you the Church have said what Jesus says, that here, Inara by the Lord’s mercy alone has been made part of His family, one who participates and has life in His name.
Here you, parents and sponsors and church have said what Jesus says, that this child was once far off, but now has been brought near, that she who was once dead, has now been made alive.
Within these four walls, in this company, and at this time, this word and this life is a bit easier to walk in.
But still you the church are sent to live in the world, to say what Jesus says, and to do what Jesus does.
You are sent back into the home. You as fathers and husbands, have been called to the life of humility and longsuffering, that you would show your children what it actually looks like to repent and confess, what it sounds like to forgive and reconcile.
Indeed what you hear at this altar, speak in the home, what you hear whispered in this Liturgy of Christ, bring into the world, into the workplace, into the ears of men.
You are Church for the sake of the World. And you bear that Word and that Work of Jesus Himself into every place in which the Lord has planted you.
You are strengthened by the Holy Spirit to make the good confession of faith, sometimes in what you say, and sometimes in what you don’t say. To show forth his patience in your lives of peace and quietness, to proclaim his mercy in your own lives of repenting, confessing, and living from His grace and forgiveness.
And if you have begun in Holy Baptism the good life of saying what Jesus says, and doing what Jesus does, then perhaps this morning’s Gospel Lesson is of no surprise to you. Perhaps you already know what to expect.
Perhaps you know that your neighbors might call you simple-minded, or even brainwashed.
That your co-workers will think of you as anti-intellectual, anti-progress, and primitive.
That your family, should you choose to speak up about the brokenness of sin and destructive behavior, will malign and desert you.
Such is the life of the Church. Saying what Jesus says, and doing what Jesus does comes with suffering and difficulty.
But in all of this, our Lord does not call you to overcome and conquer these persecutions. He does not ask you to figure out the least painful way forward, or the best way to ‘sort of’ speak His word without the world crying out against you.
Instead, He simply calls us to endure these things.
The Life of the Baptized is simply to live in Christ, to rest in what He Himself has already conquered and overcome, indeed the world, sin, death and the devil himself.
You do not need to overcome these things, Christ has already done it.
We are not conquerors, but we live and rest in the conquering one.
Such is the nature of the Augsburg Confession.
It is a proclamation of endurance, it says nothing new, rather it confesses what Jesus says, and it speaks of what He has done, nothing more and nothing less.
But it does not fix or change these persecutions. Indeed, even in its faithfulness, it does not change the hearts of men.
The most-well known article in the Augsburg confession is article IV, on Justification, how we are made righteous before God.
In simple and clear language, this article says what Jesus Himself says, that we are saved not on account of our works or merit, but for the sake of Christ alone, His sacrifice and death, now given to us through faith. (AC IV)
This is the most gracious of all the words of God, indeed it is the final word of God, found in the flesh of Jesus.
And yet, for as great as the good news is, and as faithfully as that Gospel was confessed in 1530, still the hearts of men warred against it.
Luther and the Reformers found very quickly in the Reformation, that persecutions would come not simply from the pope and his cardinals who were looking to make a buck in the selling of indulgences, but in fact, perhaps the greatest persecutions would come from the people themselves, those spending their own money on forgiveness that is given in Christ without cost.
The hearts of men are at war with the Gospel. To say what Jesus says, and to do what Jesus does, comes with suffering.
And this, you know, not simply because you feel it in the world around you, or in the brokenness of the home, but because you know intimately the great persecution of the heart, the danger which Luther will speak of not as the pope in the city of Rome, but the great and dangerous pope of self.
Of all the things which war against the Gospel, there is nothing closer or more restless than our own hearts.
This is the struggle and suffering of the baptized life, the very life in which Inara will now take part.
Every Sunday for 3 minutes, at the start of the service, that great battle and persecution comes into view.
When we say what Jesus says, that we are poor and miserable sinners, that we have sinned against God and one another in what we have done, said, and left undone. That we cannot fix this problem, and we certainly cannot figure out the best and most polite way around it.
Indeed, to live as the baptized and not struggle, to not suffer the humility of our sin, though it may look from the outside like a life of peace, it is only war and death.
If we choose instead of endurance, instead of saying what Jesus says, and living in what He has done, if we choose instead to numb ourselves to our sin, and paint as grey the black and white reality of His life and our death, though we may not struggle in this, we will certainly not live, and we will certainly not have true peace.
The way of struggle, is in fact, the way of peace.
To confess with Jesus what we are, is to also live in Jesus with what He has done.
Indeed, though it may sound strange, the Church is found at true peace, precisely when it is at war.
For in this, you live truly as those clinging to Christ, enduring in what He has given, and living from what He has done.
You are set free from having to overcome these enemies, from the anxiety of fixing these problems.
The Lord Himself has delivered you. The same mercy found in this font today, the same life given to those who dead, the same Word coming to those who cannot speak for themselves, is yours as well. Not simply today, but always.
He has called to endure this life.
And by His Cross, He Himself will keep you, now and forevermore.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.