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The Idol in the Room October 22, 2017

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Matthew 22:15-22

Proper 24

October 22, 2017

 

Focus:  God saves the world not through the government, but through His Son.

Function:  That the hearers look to Christ alone for their salvation.

Structure:  .

 

The Idol in the Room

 

Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen some of the Pharisees’ greatest attempts to trap Jesus.  And today’s gospel account is another.  This might be the most well-known of their traps, as they tried to use politics and money against Christ.  And again they had Him.  If He sides with not paying taxes, the Roman soldiers are right there and will arrest Him for inciting a rebellion against Caesar.  If He sides with Rome, the crowds who have been brutalized by the heavy taxes will turn on Him.

But then He gives His famous answer, “Give to Caesar what is Caesars, and to God what is God’s.”  But at this point, we’re abandoning the trap narrative.  I want to take a closer look this morning at that famous statement of Christ, and what it means in our context.  Because there’s an idol in the room.  And we rarely, if ever, talk about it.

In that quote, what belongs to Caesar?  Pause for answers, likely incorrect.  The correct answer to the question is nothing.  Listen to the Psalmist, David, as he began to write the 24th Psalm, “The earth is Yahweh’s, and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.”  Jesus’ own answer is a trick, because everything belongs to God alone.  There are numerous other Bible verses that say the same thing.  That’s our topic of stewardship, that we own nothing, we only manage the things God entrusts to us. Even as I sign away “my” house to this new couple in a few weeks.  We need to watch our language.  It’s God’s house, not mine, not the bank’s, not this family.  It’s His.

This topic has been in the news a lot this fall.  A LOT.  And even that’s an understatement.  Many of you are probably very familiar with the disrespectful remark that the President of this land made publically on Friday night, September 22nd.  When he called out the football players protesting during the national anthem, labeling them sons of …[female dogs].  You know the word.  But for the children present, I won’t say it.

A league full of division found this to rally around.  And the protest of just a handful, became the protest of entire teams, and nearly the entire NFL that following week 3 Sunday.  I watched the ensuing bloodbath with a lot of interest.  Now I won’t talk about how this is really two sides speaking past each other, rather than to each other, listening and learning from one another.  That’s worth talking about, but it’s not connected to Jesus’ words in our text today.

So instead, what I thought made it so interesting to watch the fallout that day, and the next several weeks, in every media outlet, on Facebook news feeds, conversations on the street, maybe even in your workplaces and schools.  I watched as two of American Christians biggest idols went to war.  And to my surprise the NFL lost.  As many of my Christian friends decided to give up on football all together, the flag won.

We talk about false idols a lot.  Because we’re idolaters, it’s the biggest temptation that Satan puts before us because it breaks the very first commandment, that you shall have no other gods.  Anything we put before the Lord is an idol, and Satan loves this trick.  And so we talk about it.  We talk about the prosperity gospel, a false gospel indeed.  We talked last week about putting family, friends, hobbies, or jobs before God.  But today, we’re talking about the false gospel that is patriotism, which thrives in this land. It’s a false gospel when we look for our security in anything other than God Himself.

There was a really fascinating article on this topic on one of America’s leading online liberal news websites.  It was written by a Christian journalist, Jason Foster, and I still have no idea how it got past the editing floor, let alone, how it’s still online today.  I’m going to let his own words pose a challenge to you this morning.  From the article, “Why ‘God and Country’ Christianity is Just Another Phony Prosperity Gospel,”:

This form of American Christianity is a frustrating faction of the faith. There are passionate but generic references to God, calls for fervent prayer and public pleas for “morality.” But the alleged No. 1 devotion to God is usually tied to a No. 1a devotion to the Stars and Stripes, as if one must always be tied to the other.

 

It’s a gospel that pays lip service to a god that’s in control, but it’s heavy on emotions that say man is really the one who protects us. In other words, it’s a gospel that downplays or ignores the complete sovereignty of God.

 

Among its other tenets:

It’s a gospel that suggests living out and sharing your faith is dependent on having the freedom to do so.

It’s a gospel that looks to the government, rather than the church or the home, to do the heavy lifting on matters of faith.

It’s a gospel that suggests without conservative Supreme Court justices, or without guns, or without a strong military that life will be unbearable for Christians.

It’s a gospel that suggests one’s greatest source of identity and value can be found in one’s nationality.

It’s a gospel that laments the loss of prayer in schools, rather than the lack of prayer at home.

It’s a gospel that dreads a future in which Christians are persecuted for sharing their faith, but puts no real emphasis on sharing it now.

It’s a gospel that says it’s better to silence opponents than minister to them.

It’s a gospel that looks to Fox News for truth, rather than the Bible.

It’s a gospel that says it’s OK to put biblical teachings aside to “make America great.”

It’s a gospel that calls for blood when someone “disrespects” the national anthem.

It’s a gospel that says persecution is having to hear someone say “happy holidays.”

It’s a gospel that says eating at Chick-fil-A counts as living out your faith.

Friends, it’s simply a false gospel.

 

That’s a lot of false teaching that he just challenged in such a short space.  And he wrote that a year ago.

This idol lives among us.  To see brother pastors overstep their bounds and protect the flag, a piece of cloth, over the people whom they should be sharing the gospel with, is depressing.  This tab in my throat reminds me that the words I speak I speak not of my own will, but in service to His (point up) will.  This tab is white because of the blood of Christ, cleansing me of my sins, not striped with seven red lines.

While the separation of Church and state is a false concept to begin with, and one pushed upon us not by Scripture but by the very state that would benefit most from it, we do need to understand Luther’s teaching of the two realms.

God works in this world in two distinct ways.  On the one hand, God works to preserve and care for His creation.  He works to establish law and to bring about justice.  On the other hand, God is working to bring people into a right relationship with Himself.  He’s working to fully restore this world to the work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, justifying people not in their works, but in Christ’s own righteousness.  We call this hand “government.”  We call this hand “church.”  They aren’t separate, but they are distinct.  Two clearly distinct vocations.

Two of the false ideas that go with an idol of patriotism would be these: Christianity is the American religion, and, America is God’s chosen nation.  Those are both false.  One 4th of July Sunday I recall visiting a congregation who began their service with the color guard presenting the nation’s flag.  The people then proceeded to pledge their allegiance to that flag, all the hymns were sung in honor of America, and the sermon was very heavily based upon the history of this being a Christian nation, with the note of sadness at the decline of our culture and the lack of prominence of the Church today.

Imagine that being flipped.  Imagine going to a foreign nation, let’s say North Korea. Somebody has to take the risk to share the gospel with them. And you find the Christians there, and you go to worship with them.  And down comes a flag, and out of their mouths a song praising their nation.  Could you join them?  Could you sing it with them?  Or would it seem out of place?  Didn’t you go there, to that church, that morning, to worship Jesus with your brothers and sisters in Christ?  Didn’t you go there to approach the Lord’s table, to receive His body and blood, shed for you?  Our partner churches throughout the world fly no flag in their sanctuaries.  And American Lutherans only started while they were still speaking German during the World Wars because they wanted to prove which side they were on.

Now, allow me to take a step backward.  There is nothing wrong with loving your country, which is what it means to be patriotic on the most basic level of that word.  There’s nothing wrong on the 4th of July if your pastor prays for this nation.  There’s nothing wrong on Veteran’s Day to thank the men and women who have lovingly sacrificed of themselves to serve their neighbors.  There’s nothing wrong with being grateful for the land and the gifts that God gives to us.  There’s nothing wrong with caring about this land and its people, being concerned about the direction we see things going, and wanting this country to reflect God’s truth.  There’s nothing wrong with working diligently as a citizen in this land to make that happen.  These are good things.

The Scriptures even tell us that we ought to pray for our leaders, which is why our weekly church prayer list names local, state, and federal government leaders.  This is worth your time, these men and women can really use your prayers.  The Scriptures also teach us to encourage our leaders, and to respect our leaders, only disobeying them if they command us to do something contrary to Scripture.

The point this morning is that we have but one Lord.  And we are ever grateful for Him!  It is the blood of Jesus Christ that saves you, not a government.  It is His loving and tender care that we are to trust to stay out of harm’s way, not a military.  It is His hand that provides for our daily bread and provision, not an economy.  We are not defined by our American citizenship, but rather, by being one of God’s people.  And in fact, following Christ will make you a bad American.  Because this land is going the opposite direction, choosing to reject Christ and His gifts, and really, that’s regardless of who’s been in power over the past couple generations.

It’s not our job as Christians to assert our rights as Americans, nor really even to fight for them.  This is a tough one, and I admit I struggle with it also.  It’s hard not to watch the Christians going before the Supreme Court.  Many Christians today fear they are being marginalized, pushed out of society.  But that’s not only true, it’s actually okay.  Really, it’s a good thing.

History has born this out.  Where is the Church growing the fastest today?  It’s in Africa, where people are daily dying for their faith.  And here, and places like Europe, places where the Church enjoyed a position of power and comfort for generations, in these places the Church is declining the fastest.

We lost sight of what it means to be a citizen of heaven.  We lost sight of what it means to be in the world, but not of the world.  You’re not here to fight over your rights.  We’re here to love and serve our neighbor.  Jesus once taught:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. – Matthew 5:38-42

 

We need not trust in our government or in our things or in ourselves to provide for us.  The Lord will do that.  The Lord does do that.  The Lord cares for us.  This goes back millennia!  God created everything.  All of this.  His creation, and He cares for it.  To double back to stewardship again, and a Sabbath rest, that’s all about trust.  It’s God’s way of saying, “I built this in six days, can you trust Me that if you take a day off, I can keep it spinning?”  And, the answer yes, He can keep it spinning.  He’s been doing that for over 6,000 years.

And about 4,000 years into that, God was not content with mere daily bread.  But instead, God sent His Son into this world, into His own creation, to provide for our greatest need, to provide for our salvation from sin, death, and the devil.  To take the sins of an idolatrous people, and to cleanse them in the blood of His own Son.  That’s precisely what He’s done.  2,000 years ago, Jesus died on the cross for the very idolatries that you and I hadn’t even committed yet.  In Him, we’re already forgiven!

And we are the Church, we are the very body of Christ Himself, made in His image, not the image of Caesar America; and the Church exists so that the gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed and sinners are justified in the blood of Christ.  The more the state pushes against it, the more the Church will thrive.  History has shown this to be true.

 

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A Wedding Feast October 15, 2017

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Matthew 22:1-14

Proper 23

October 15, 2017

 

Focus:  God calls the people of this world His own.

Function:  That the hearers share the invitation to the wedding feast.

Structure:  Walking through the text.

 

A Wedding Feast

 

            Children’s message – reread the parable and explain it’s meaning

 

            I want to dive right into this parable and explore it in depth today.  Let’s read a verse at a time, and then take the time to unpack the various nuances of this masterful analogy.

 

1And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 

            Once again, Jesus is using a parable, a fictional story that relates enough to the lives of the people that they can understand both the story, but also the deeper meaning that Jesus is intending for them to learn.

 

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 

            This is a common phrase for Matthew in his gospel account.  The Kingdom of heaven.  The kingdom of God.  Being part of His family, His community.  His people.  This is what that looks like.  This illustration helps you understand what salvation in Christ looks like.

            The wedding feast is a reference to Paradise.  This is the everlasting feast of God.  That all those who believe in Christ get to spend forever in the new creation with Him.  It’s also picture of Father and Son, of God the Father and God the Son.  The king throwing a feast for His Son Jesus.

 

and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 

            These servants have a both/and meaning.  There’s a past tense and a present tense meaning to who these people are.  In the past tense of this parable, these are all the people of old whom the Lord sent to share the covenant, to share the message of God and a coming Messiah.  These are the people of Israel, and namely then the prophets, the priests, perhaps even the kings.

            Those invited in the past tense are all the people of the land of Israel.  The covenant was made with them.  They were to be God’s chosen people, His holy nation.  Through their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, these were the children of God.

            And so they’re invited.  They’re invited into the covenant of God, into the Kingdom of God.  They’re invited into the family that never ends.  Paradise, the new creation, is promised to them.  But, hard of hearts, the chosen people reject the message.  They reject God.  They reject salvation.

            For now, we’ll stay in the past, and visit the present meaning at the end, all at the same time.

 

Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 

            Despite their rejection, God continued to send the prophets, God continued to send His good news, and His invitation, even His salvation to the people of Israel.  God made the sacrifice.  He made the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, of the Old Covenant, so that the people of Israel would have a way to forgiveness.  The sacrifices did grant forgiveness.  There was an invitation.

 

But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 

            And yet, most of the people ignored the invitation.  They were too busy, they had work that was more important that God.  They had other things to do.  Idolatry.  Whether in the form of a stone or wood idol, or in the form of family, or friends, or jobs, or hobbies, or anything.  Idolatry.  They rejected God.

 

while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 

            And worse yet, many didn’t stop at simply rejecting God.  They proceeded to obliterate all the good gifts God gave.  Those prophets sent to bring God’s Word to His people, many met gruesome fates, beaten and even killed for bringing the message of a Messiah.

 

The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 

Assyria.  Babylon.  Persia.  The Lord used foreign armies, faithless armies, to bring destruction upon the land.  To wipe out the people of the promise who had rejected the promise.  Israel fell first in 722 BC at the hands of Assyria.  For the Judahites, it was to Babylon in 587 BC.  Assyria fell to Babylon, Babylon fell to Persia.

 

Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 

            Here we see the shift.  There are moments scattered throughout the Old Testament, moments where people not of the nation of Israel get a chance at being part of the promise.  At being a child of God.  Rahab, Ruth, Naaman, Cyrus, Nebuchadnezzar. 

 

Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 

            And it wasn’t just the Old Testament.  This becomes a key theme in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  The floodgates are opened.  The Jews rejected the Gospel, and so Jesus sends the disciples to witness the coming of the Kingdom of heaven to the Gentiles.  To everyone.

 

10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

            And that’s when it began.  The kingdom of heaven starts filling up with Gentiles.  With people not of the promise by birth.  It’s a delightful gift, and one that we today cherish, as Gentile people.

 

 

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 

            There was a usurper.  Someone snuck into the party.  Whether he got in initially by claiming to be good enough, or if he got in by sneaking in of his own will, we don’t hear.  But the foundation is the same.  In either case, this man is attempting salvation on his own.  Like the Pharisees.  To borrow from another parable, they hop the fence to get into the sheep pen where they can then wreak havoc and slaughter sheep. 

            And so it is here.  The Pharisees hear of the promise of God and think they can earn it.  And then, once they have tried to party by their own rules, they begin misleading others.  Tricking and conniving them into thinking they were worthy of getting into the party.

            It could also go back farther in time and simply be Satan himself.

 

12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.

            God the Father asks a simple question.  “Without My gift, my free gift to you, how did you get in here?”  In the Old Testament, this is circumcision.  In the New Testament, it’s baptism.  As the Apostle Paul says in his letter to the Galatian peoples, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”  Jesus is the wedding garment.  And in your baptism, which you didn’t deserve, God put His Son’s righteousness on you.  You are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.  That’s the wedding garment.  That’s the free gift of the Father for you.

 

13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 

            But for the one who rejects the Lord, they are cast out.  For the one who thinks they can earn their salvation, they are rejected.  The place of weeping and gnashing of teeth in the Scriptures is none other than the place that was prepared for the devil and his angels.  It is hell.  But it was not made for you. 

 

14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

You have an invitation in the form of God’s Holy Word.  You are given the free gift of salvation in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  You are clothed in Christ Himself.  His righteousness, unearned by you, becomes your righteousness. 

The Son for whom we celebrate and feast is also the One we feast upon.  So, God the Father throws an eternal party for Jesus, His righteous Son, and Jesus isn’t only the honored Son, He’s also the meal.  It is His body and blood shed for you upon the cross, given to you freely in the Sacrament of the Altar, it is this gift that gives you forgiveness.  It is this gift that is just a taste of the everlasting wedding feast to come.  When you, the Church, are the bride, and Christ is our groom.

To give you a few more present tense notes on this parable:  you are the servants from v. 3-10.  You are the servants, the people of God, who have the invitations in hand to go and distribute to anyone and everyone you come across.  Sure, they don’t deserve it.  We as servants don’t deserve the master’s feast.  But it’s a gift, and it’s one we give to others.

And yet, even with this delightful free gift, this life that never ends, this message beyond compare, you will be rejected, maybe even beaten or killed over it.  Simply by sharing the invitation with another, you will invite ridicule and scorn and violence upon yourself.  Those who reject God sometimes just turn away, but sometimes they respond in bloodshed.

For these people, one truth remains.  The Judgment day will come.  And this destruction will be permanent.  As all those who reject the Lord, who reject the heavenly feast, will find themselves sharing the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth with the devil.

 

But the wedding hall, nonetheless, will be full!  It may not seem like it.  There will be days where you join your voice to that of the prophet Elijah, wondering why you’re the only Christian on earth.  But it’s a lie of the devil.  You’re not alone.  You are surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ, and Christ Himself, our heavenly Bridegroom will carry you through.

Power or Authority? October 1, 2017

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Matthew 21:23-27

Proper 21

October 1, 2017

 

Focus:  God has given all authority unto His Son.

Function:  That the hearers lead by serving.

Structure:  .

 

Power or Authority?

 

We had a wonderful discussion at this past month’s elders’ meeting here at St. John’s.  We’re beginning to go through a book from Concordia Publishing House called Pastors and Elders: Caring for the Church and One Another.  The first chapter of the book was identifying that there is a difference between power and authority.

Have you ever thought about that?  Have you ever thought that power and authority were different words?  I think for most of us, we treat them as synonyms, as though they mean the same thing.

But in this book, Pastor Timothy Mech defines the two differently.  Power is when you strive or struggle to be able to exert yourself over someone else.  Authority is when you lead by serving.  When you’re working through power, you are fighting to put yourself above someone else.  When you’re working through authority, you are leading people in the task that’s been assigned to you by someone else already.

This then is the struggle that we see in the text.  As Jesus tries to use His authority, that is to lead the people by serving them the way God the Father has instructed Him to do, as He tries, the chief priests, Pharisees and the elders try to flex their power muscle.

Really, this is all of Jesus’ ministry, and continues even to this day, but to understand it better, we really need to look at all of chapter 21 of Matthew’s account of the gospel.  The chapter begins with Palm Sunday, with Jesus’ triumphal entry as He rides into Jerusalem on a donkey.  Don’t underestimate the weight of that move.  Jesus is fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy of the coming King, the coming Messiah.  If He’s seeking power, this is a bold statement, and one that’s not lost on the religious leaders.  But which is it? Power or authority?

From there, Jesus then enters the temple, and cleanses it.  This is one of those moments of anger for Christ, as the religious leaders had made a power play in turning the temple into a market for their own profits.  We see Jesus overturning tables and rebuking the leaders of the people.  Power or authority?

The next morning we get the account of Jesus cursing the fig tree.  Power or authority?

Then we come to our text for the day.  As Jesus reenters the temple, the religious leaders aren’t pleased.  And they’ve taken their time to come up with a trap for Jesus.  “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”  If He answers that God gave Him the authority because as Peter said, He is the Christ, the Son of the living God, then they will have Him for blasphemy.  If He answers anything else, then they will have Him for breaking the law of man and of Judaism.

But Christ is no pushover.  As He freed Himself from their traps before, so He does again.  But this time, He not only frees Himself, He turns the trap back on them.  And not just once, but three times.  ““I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things.  The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?”

And the religious leaders already know He’s got them.  They discuss it together, but they know they can’t answer.  If they say from God, then why didn’t they listen?  If they say from man, the people will be angry and turn against them because they’d loved John as a prophet.  And so they pass.  And Jesus could have left the conversation there, because He’s free.  He’s set Himself up to be able to continue to teach.

But He doesn’t.  He proceeds to throw two parables at them.  The first is the Parable of the Two Sons, which goes like this:

“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go.31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.”

 

These religious leaders were the ones above all who should be following God and leading by His authority.  But they aren’t.  They’ve rejected God and are leading by their own power.  Jesus has them.  He’s spoken of the good of the people and the failure of the leaders.  But again, Jesus continues:

33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.

 

Jesus has now not only called out the religious leaders, He’s condemned them.  He has highlighted their guilt and their corruption and has laid upon them the full weight of God’s law.  And they get it, they know He’s talking about them and their thirst for power.  But even in all their anger, there’s nothing they can do, at least not until a couple of days later when Judas Iscariot sells them Jesus’ resting place for 30 pieces of silver.

We see this tension among ourselves.  This struggle of power and authority exists in all of our communities.  It exists in government, as people lord themselves over their community.  Even the elected officials are often driven by power and will do anything to keep that power as long as they can.

We see it in the racial tensions in this land today.  We see two completely opposite ways of thinking violently clashing against one another as they fight a fight of power.  And if this struggle will ever make any progress, it needs leaders to step up with authority, not power.  That is, people who are brought forward by their own communities, handpicked because they can lead, not because they want to.  And then they lead by serving, by humbly loving their neighbor.

We see it in marriage.  Here we could spend weeks looking at Genesis 1-3 and Ephesians 5, at the ordering of God’s creation, and how in our sin, we’ve broken that order.  But in the shorthand for this sermon, God gave the husband the authority to lead his family by serving.  And in the fall, as part of the woman’s punishment, she will try to steal her husband’s position and use power to do it.  And in return, the husband, instead of leading by serving, by the authority rightly given to him by God, the husband will lead by power.  This is why marriages hurt.  This is why marriages are broken.  Because sin destroys.

But as I had you do before, having you acknowledge that in all Jesus was doing, He wasn’t acting out of power, but out of authority.  Let’s see if you can place this quote: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.”  Pause.  It’s the very end of Matthew’s account of the gospel.  ALL AUTHORITY has been given to Jesus, by the Father.  He rightly leads this world as Lord and as Savior by serving His creation.

And He served His creation by loving us so dearly, so overwhelmingly, so emphatically, that He took of Himself, He in His authority, He submitted Himself to the people in power.  He submitted Himself to the religious leaders, He submitted Himself to the Roman leaders, He submitted Himself to the cross and to death.

It is in His authority, it is in His leading by serving, that Jesus saves us.  That He conquers death, He conquers earthly powers.  He conquers the sin that overwhelms our families, our communities, and our nations.  The struggles for power between husband and wife are overcome in humble service.  The struggles between the races of this earth are overcome when we humbly listen to one another and serve one another.  The struggles between government and civilian are overcome when governments humble themselves and lead by serving, and when civilians humble themselves and respect the authority given to those who would lead them.

All of that sin, all of that brokenness is restored in Christ.  And while we will only see shades of it in the here and now, we will be made perfect in His new creation.  Which is why Matthew emphasized the end of this gospel account by quoting our Lord saying:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 

Jesus entrusts His authority to us.  He encourages us to lead our neighbor by serving our neighbor.  He encourages pastors to lead His people by serving them with His words of forgiveness and life in the Sacraments.  He even encourages all people in positions of leadership to lead well by serving, as we see spelled out for us in the fourth commandment.  The Explanation of the Small Catechism states it this way:

“Who are parents and other authorities?” Parents are fathers, mothers, and guardians; other authorities are all those whom God has placed over us at home, in government, at school, at the place where we work, and in the church.”

It is in our sinful nature to cling to power.  But it is in the very nature of God to lay down power to love and to serve.  Jesus Christ was and is fully God.  And yet He willingly laid that down, the power that He rightly holds, He lays down to humbly serve us, to use His authority to rebuke and to forgive His people.  On account of His crucifixion and His resurrection, we live.