Monday, November 16, 2015

Sermon November 15, 2015

I was all set to preach a very interesting sermon
on Hebrews 10 and the approachability of God
and then Paris happened.

Obviously it makes no sense for me to pretend
that I have any idea how to solve the problem
of the so-called ‘Islamic State.’
That’s in the hands of others.

What I can do as a pastor,
what I am called to do as a pastor,
is proclaim the Good News of God.

The good news is this:
that one day evil will be eradicated.
The book of Daniel tells us of the time
when the dead will rise,
some to punishment,
and some to salvation.

Our Lutheran Confessions give a brief summary of this faith,
in the Confession of Augsburg:
‘(We) teach that at the Consummation of the world
Christ will appear for judgment,
and will raise up all the dead;
he will give to the godly and elect
eternal life and everlasting joys,
but ungodly men and the devils
He will condemn to be tormented without end.’
One wonders if the condemnation of those who worship violence
is not also self-chosen,
and that God’s judgment allows them to live in this torment forever;
that God will not save them against their will.

While these days people deride and reject the concept of a judgmental God,
if we think about it,
a God without judgment would be a monstrous God,
one who could not be said to care at all for his creation.
The God who judges
does so out of love,
love for human beings who live in this world of evil.
The promise of the Resurrection
gives us hope that justice will one day be served.

In the meantime,
we live in this fallen world.
The Lutheran Church has always believed
that government is ordained by God
as an agent of God’s good will,
so that people can live in peace and tranquility.

As the nations of the world
deal with the threat of ISIS,
we do well to remember that God is on the side
of those who are innocently targeted by violence.
Whether they are agents of the government, police officers or soldiers,
those who take up arms in defense of others
are participating in God’s good work.

However, we need to be careful.
Some may say, ‘War never solved anything.’
And they’re at least half-right.
War indeed does not solve anything,
in the sense that war does not remove the evil in the world,
but only keeps it at bay.
War may serve to restrain the power of evil
so that it does not finally overwhelm the world.
Only the one day of God’s judgment
can finally rid the world of evil.

The nations of the West will make their decisions
on how best to address the threat of ISIS,
but we should not delude ourselves into thinking
that if our governments only did the right things,
the problems would be solved and there will be universal peace.
In fact, what the nations of the West do and don’t do
will certainly lead to unintended consequences,
just as the choices of the United States after 9/11
had their unintended consequences.
These consequences may lead to more violence.

How should we then live?
We should live as those who renounce violence in our own lives.
I am not one who believes that if the United States
and the other Western nations
simply declared peace,
then all would be well.
I think that’s silly.

In this fallen world,
God may use violence to restrain violence,
that the violent at heart may not do their worst,
but in Jesus Christ we see
that God’s heart is a heart which is peace in its very nature.

And so we must be people of peace.
We must not let violence gain the upper hand in our hearts and minds.
We must not give in to the sinful nature
that drives us to thoughts of revenge and hatred.
Instead,we are live our lives
as those who do not do violence.
who do not violate others.

We do not violate their bodies,
whether by abortion which cuts shorts
the being and becoming of nascent life;
or by sexual violence or abuse or exploitation,
or by refusing to help others in time of need,
or by being silent when injustice is done.
We are called to protect others
and act for their well-being.

We are called to renounce any violence against people’s personhood,
doing them only good in thought and word.
We do not condemn others, even when we disagree with them.
We pray for our enemies,
even as we support the governments
when they take steps to protect the citizens of their countries.

We do not condemn Muslim people,
even when we do not agree with their religious views.
It would be better to die at the hands of terrorists
than to allow ourselves to be filled with hatred towards people
who look like ‘the enemy.’
How can we say that?
Because we believe in the resurrection of the just to everlasting life.

The world is full of violence,
and that violence will always be with us
this side of paradise.
Yet in the world we may have peace now
because on that day there will be perfect peace.
We participate in that perfect peace
when we meet together for Eucharist.

Here we celebrate the sacrifice
that reconciles God to the world
and the world to God.
Here we encounter the one
who endured all the violence of the world and the devil.
and was the first to be raised from the dead.
God’s day that is future becomes present on this day,
as we come together in the name of the Risen One,
Jesus Christ our Lord.