Scripture alone, Faith alone, Grace alone.

3rd Sunday Pentecost

3 Pentecost 3.17 “A Wonderful Life” Matt. 10 5a, 21-33

Jesus says “a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.” And yet, and yet: I think today most all of Christendom wants, expects, nay, practically demands to be above the Master! Maybe I need to say a little more about it, but our Gospel lesson speaks powerfully on this problem, to my ear at least…

OK. Let’s review. Previously, in the Gospel of Matthew, [last week’s episode, in fact!] Jesus sends out 12 pretty unpromising guys for a pretty awesome mission: proclaim the Kingdom of Christ come, and watch the sick perk up(!), the dead rise up(!!), the lepers clean up(!!!), and the demons, well, watch them literally get the hell out of here!!!! And not by the Apostles’ might or power (because, of themselves, they were nothing) but by the Word, the Sacraments, by the Spirit of Christ Jesus whom He sends as Helper, Advocate, and Guide at Pentecost on them and the others gathered with them in the Name…

Now, that sounds pretty good! I liked where Jesus’ head was at on this. I thought, “wow, it’s great to be a bit player in that apostolic band! Sounds like the best gig in all the world. How lucky am I?” But then we read on today, and we realize every silver lining has a cloud (and not to invoke the soft sounds of the 70s, but I also realized this apostolic band is always a “band on the run” 🙂 They cut a couple verses out from where we ended last week. I’d like to read them. Jesus follows up the good news of the Power of His Word, Sacraments, and Spirit with this little day dampener:

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” [I’m still trying to figure out exactly how you do that. The wise guy thing and the innocent thing fit awkwardly together, for me, usually. I can do the one fairly well (you guess which one!); the other is a growing edge in ministry for me]. Anyway, “Beware of men” [Jesus says], “for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their churches, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for My sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles…” And I go, “Hmm! That sounds a teensy bit harsh…” But I’m an incorrigible optimist. If it were all sunshine and buttercups, I’d probably get a little bored; and if everyone liked me, it would inflate my ego too much. Some bumps in the road and knocks on the head are probably just what I and the other sent ones need!

Maybe this is a time to insert a rare personal confession? I often want to be above My Master Christ Jesus. Reading this Gospel (and I read it many times this week) I realized “Shoot! I do this all the time!” I expect that because Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth and because He speaks through me His powerful Word (though it is not me who speaks, as He says, but the Spirit of the Father speaking through me) still, I expect that because the Word is so powerful, so wonderful, so awesome, and gracious that I will be powerful and have a wonderful, awesome life—like Jimmy Stewart in that old movie (one of my favorites). Because I like Jesus, I expect most other people will like Him too, and like me for liking Him…

Now, don’t get me wrong: I think I do have a wonderful life and the Gospel of Christ Jesus (and an even more wonderful wife than Donna Reed) makes it so. But sometimes, I do notice people streaming into the big box churches with the video screens and praise bands and large lobbies with nice coffee and the smell of fresh cinnamon buns wafting over it all, by the hundreds and even thousands; and sometimes, I look out and wonder why there are usually plenty of good seats in our little church? And when the pastors of those big box churches talk to me (something they don’t do very often), they insinuate that it’s because of something I’m doing wrong—why the church I serve isn’t popular like theirs. I’m not missional enough, not appealing enough to the felt needs of the masses, not cajoling you all enough to get out there and witness to your neighbors, for Christ’s sake(!) and compel them to come in on Sundays! We’re not trying hard enough…(!)

And it’s times like that, I realize, from this Gospel that this is my mistake: I’m wanting to be above My Master. I’m wanting to be liked more than He ever was; to find more friends than He ever had; to have a smoother and easier ride through this world than He ever did. I forget: “it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household?”

And as I hear those words, as I read how He promised His first 12 apostles: “you will be hated by all for My Name’s sake!” my spirit lifts.  I suspect a lot of people read this passage and find it depressing. I find it the most joyful and uplifting passage in all the Gospels. Because being a Christian is a rough ride in this world. And sometimes they will chase you out if you’re unwilling to compromise, on Jesus. But, there’ll always be a little outpost of the Remnant to welcome you in. And look what He says about confession and compromise; and who exactly He promises will be seated next to Him in His Kingdom (with honor) when He returns, gloriously…

Every silver lining has a cloud. That’s really the way that saying should go. Because the cloud is nothing—just a touch of grey on the fringes. The silver lining is awesome and lights the world. Ah well, a touch of grey kinda suits you anyway, it’s alright: it only makes the silver shine brighter. Jesus never was popular. Luke doesn’t mind telling us that average Sunday attendance in the Church of Jesus Christ on the Day of Pentecost was 120 (and that was a donut Sunday!). When He fed 5,000, and a bigger crowd gathered later, for cinnamon buns, but He offered them His very Body and Blood to eat and drink(!)—that cleared the crowd in a hurry(!) and He was down to 12 guys at the end of that day! No one could empty a room like Jesus(!), sometimes with a whip. His Church? It’s always the wrong crowd, and no crowding…

Hated by all. Not the most popular kid in class. A little too wise-guy, too high-church for the average Joe. Yes, Christendom today forgets this (happily!) about Jesus—His shocking lack of popularity, His many adversaries. We expect, like Sally Fields, that everyone will like us! But if the world that hates Jesus likes you, what then? The good news, the great, awesome news that makes for a truly wonderful life, even here and now, is that nothing has gone wrong when you are hated for Christ’s sake, when you are hounded, harassed, maligned, and belittled. There will always be 2 or 3 who will gather in the Name, under the cross, with you. And, if there’s a few more, as there are here today, well, how lucky are you?! Don’t forget this: the power of the Cross lights the world, shines from the darkness of Good Friday, bestowing the forgiveness of sins…

Remember: Jesus is always having Himself a Church in the midst of trial and hardship, suffering and cross. In just this Way, He forgives all sin—even our expectations of being above that; yet, beneath His Cross, we find the most wonderful life—just like Him; even Peace, surpassing understanding, guarding heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Services

22 October 2017

8:30 Divine Service with Communion

11:00 Matins

9:45 – Sunday School and Adult Bible class

Classes for ages 3 and up

Location

Our Savior Lutheran Church is a confessional Lutheran church in Raleigh, North Carolina, belonging to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

We are located at: 1500 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27608.

For directions, use 742 Nash Street, Raleigh.