Sunday, February 19, 2012

See, We Are Going Up to Jerusalem

Dear beloved ones of God,

Just as faith is all about Jesus, so too is love.

To hear the sermon for Quinquagesima Sunday based upon the great Love Chapter of the Bible--today's Epistle, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, and today's Gospel, Luke 18:31-34, "See, We Are Going Up to Jerusalem," click on this mp3 audio link.

Please join me here this coming Wednesday evening--or better yet, at Trinity Lutheran Church of Layton, UT--for an Ash Wednesday sermon on "True Fasting--a Life of Repentance."

A servant of the Word and His people,
Laughing Martin
aka, Pastor Hering

Dear beloved ones of God,

Love is in the air--at least the world’s idea of love. Can’t you just feel it?—kinda sorta leftover from Valentine’s Day this past Tuesday? I don’t know about you, but for me I had forgotten all about it until sitting down to write this sermon. But, then, I’m a man, right? Typical.

Well, maybe you can still feel the love from Valentine’s Day. And maybe you can’t. But when it comes to the love of God in Christ Jesus, that Valentine’s Day kind of love is “just a box of chocolates—ya never know what you’re gonna get.” Andwhen it’s gone you have nothing to show for it except, perhaps, a tighter fitting waste band or a chocolate stain on the new love seat you bought at the RC Willey day after Christmas sale.

In one of those interesting coincidences of the historic Church Year Lectionary, we even have an Epistle reading about love from the great love chapter of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13. How prescient of the Church fathers to place this reading where they did long before St. Valentine was even a glimmer in two lovebirds’ eyes?

And then we have the Gospel lesson that reminds us Lent is upon us as Ash Wednesday looms. Better enjoy all this love and joy while you can, because in three days that all ends, right? I mean, as far as Ash Wednesday and Lent is concerned, in the words of the dusty old song from back in the day, “What’s love got to do with it?”

Let’s hear what Luke, the divinely inspired author of today’s Gospel text has to say about what love’s got to do with it.
Taking the twelve, [Jesus] said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. Luke 18:31-34

Just think about that for a moment. Is this not the most amazing love ever?

  • that this would be the very will of God for His one and only Son?—to “be delivered over to the Gentiles [that, unbelievers—pagans] and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him.”? [Kill God—kill the Son of God, Jesus Christ.]
  • that Jesus the Christ--this Son of God, God in the flesh--would submit to and accomplish this will of the Father for us?—“and on the third day … rise” after being
    “mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon….[flogged, killed, killed on a
    barren cross]”?

Isn’t it the most amazing love ever, that this love that took Jesus to the grave and the very depths of hell now is being poured out over us in the baptismal life of the church, by which, you “See, We Are Going Up to Jerusalem” with the ascended Lord?

For that is the very reason He “was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried”—to take us up to the
heavenly Jerusalem, that eternal city of peace with God, as “He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from [whence] He will come to judge the living and the dead.” [Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed]

Paul puts it this way:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses [that is, had no love within us, had no ability to love Him, even then He], made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—and raised us up
with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus—[in that heavenly Jerusalem!].” Ephesians 2:4-6

Wow! There’s that love word again. And, again, from none other than that doctrinely correct, rather prickly personality who once even sent the author of the second Gospel in our New Testament , Mark, packing because of what Paul saw as a shirking of his duty. Maybe, just maybe tis Paul is on to something. Maybe there is more to love than that warm, tingly feeling one gets from hug, a card, and a box of chocolates—and that burning in the bosom that is more likely to
lead to the eating of forbidden fruit than it is to revealing true love.

What, then does all of this say about God’s will—and His love for us?--[that the Father] will deliver [His Son] over to the Gentiles [Pagans! to] be mocked and shamefully treated and spit
upon. And after flogging him [within an inch of His life would finish Him off and] kill him [on a scornful cross], and on the third day he [would] rise [from all of that].

What then does all of this say about God’s will and His love for us, that the Son would not insist on His own way, and look after His own hide, but for the joy set before Him endure all this, even the cross [Hebrews 12:2]--or stubborn, ungrateful, impatient--yes, heathen Gentile folk like us?

Well, one very important thing all this does is it puts a whole new spin on the Lord’s Prayer, doesn’t it?

“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
What does this mean?
The good and gracious will of God is done indeed without our prayer; but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.
How is this done?
When God breaks and hinders every evil counsel and will which would not let us hallow the name of God nor let His kingdom come, such as the will of the devil, the world, and our flesh; but
strengthens and keeps us steadfast in His Word and in faith unto our end. This is His gracious and good will.

How’s that for love?

And that will and love of God was accomplished—is accomplished in Christ Jesus on Calvary—as He says once and for all, “It is finished! [John 19:30]” “It is finished,” as God the Father’s beloved Son was “delivered over to the Gentiles, … mocked and shamefully treated and
spit upon. And after flogging
[killed], and on the third day He [did rise—for
you! For me.]

That’s love, people. That is love, you dearly beloved of God.

So, you see, love has everything to do even with Lent—that most austere of seasons in the Church calendar and in the life of Christians. And Lent has everything to do with love, because Lent is all about looking at the suffering and death of our Lord for us. And it is that “for us” part that is so important because love is about being and love is about doing for others rather than for self.

As we have heard, Jesus suffered and died--not for His own good, not because evil men didn’t recognize who He was--Jesus suffered and died in loving obedience to His Father’s will, and as a loving sacrifice for you and me.

As that prickly apostle, Paul, tells the newbie pastor, Timothy:
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people [all heathens] to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:3-6

And the writer to the Hebrews puts it this way:
for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated—[is seated]--at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

Christ’s life was not taken from Him! He offered it, He gave it up as a fragrant offering to His Father on your behalf—on our behalf. Now that’s love!

As the apostle, John, wrote:
God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:8b-11

So now you can understand, and grasp, and live that love of which that prickly old stickler, Paul, speaks in our Epistle lesson. Love is all about Jesus, the Son of the living God.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not [Jesus], I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not [Jesus], I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not [Jesus], I gain nothing.
[Jesus] is patient and kind; [Jesus] does not envy or boast; [Jesus] is not arrogant or rude. [Jesus] does not insist on [His] own way; [Jesus] is not irritable or resentful; [Jesus] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but [Jesus] rejoices with the truth—[oh, yes, He is the truth]. [Jesus]
bears all things, believes all things, [Jesus] hopes all things,[Jesus] endures all things.
[Jesus] never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease;
as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes [Jesus], the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see [Jesus] in a mirror dimly, but then [on the Last Day] face to face. Now I know in part; then [on that Last Day] I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known [by God in Christ—now!]
So now faith, hope, and [Jesus] abide, these three; but the greatest of these is [Jesus]. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Faith and hope abide in us because Jesus is love—love that suffered and died for you and me, or His Church, His holy bride, His beloved. And that love also rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of the Father to distribute His love throughout the world in order that we can live in faith and hope even amidst all the adversity and suffering we face in this world. Jesus abides in His one holy Christian and apostolic Church, wherein the Holy Spirit proceeds to love us as “We Are Going Up to Jerusalem” with Him.

And as “We Are Going Up to Jerusalem” with Him, He lives His love through us as He baptizes sinners, preaches the Word of absolution, and feeds us with His very body and blood of love--that forgive us of all our sins and sinfulness, giving us eternal life and salvation--in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

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