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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sermon from June 29

Matthew 10:34-38

Grace, Mercy and Peace are yours from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jesus said,     "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. [35] For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. [36] And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. [37] Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. [38] And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:34-38) This is our text.
A few of us can remember the Waltons. On that old TV show there was the perfect family. They sat, all together, around the table for every meal. They all said good night to each other, pleasantly. It was an ideal home and family life. When there were problems, they were solved in the course of the week’s episode. The Dad was strong. The Mother was caring. The Grandparents were wise. The Children were respectful. That’s what families should be like.
But then Jesus makes this surprising statement: “A person's enemies will be those of his own household” (Matthew 10:36).
Jesus expected that we, His disciples, His people, would have issues, and in particular, issues in our families. We are often ashamed to admit how far from the ideal our family life is, how less than perfect our family situation is. When something is out of place we are embarrassed; we try to hide it; we do what we can to make it look like all is in order, nice and tidy.
That’s why a Christian may balk at what Jesus says. “For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
“No!” one might say, “It’s not supposed to be like that!”
Things should be neat and tidy. It seems like family life for a Christian should be easy. If they are not easy and comfortable, something must be wrong.
But Jesus expected that sin would upset your life and make problems in your family.
By sin, I mean, (1) your sin: your anger- when it rises up within you and you speak harsh words,  they hurt relationships and cause conflicts. Your selfishness – when you think and care only about yourself, you ignore the needs and desires of loved ones and when they are left out and lose out, relationships suffer. So repent of your sin -- your part in the problems of your family and seek forgiveness from the Lord and from family and friends.
By sin, I also mean, (2) other’s sins against you. It’s not easy in this life. It’s not possible to have a home as perfect as the Waltons when you live with sinners. Learn grace from our Lord. Learn from Him how to forgive.
These two cases of sin in our families and closest relationships are handled by repentance and forgiveness.
Repentance and forgiveness is the Thing. The message of Jesus boiled down is just that: repentance and forgiveness.
Repentance:  Acknowledge and admit your guilt and sin.
Forgiveness: Jesus died the guilty one’s deserved death to take your sin away.
Repentance and forgiveness are summed up and symbolized by the cross.
The cross is glorious.
The cross is controversial and scandalous.
The message of the cross is this: admit your sinfulness; sorrow over your sins; stop your sinful ways; take the forgiveness Jesus gives.
People don’t like to hear that message. It rubs the sinner the wrong way.
Many would rather hear the world’s message: “Don’t worry about sin.” “Find an excuse for sin, like, you were born that way.” “Ignore it; deny its problems; shrug it off.
Some churches are geared more toward entertaining the audience, putting on a good show. When you see their video screens and their colorful images you might not see the cross. They might have nice pictures, pretty plants, nice carpeting, but no cross anywhere in their church. Why? Because the cross is controversial, disturbing, upsetting. So they abandon the cross and its message, and in so doing forget what they are to do, namely call people to repentance and forgiveness.
There are two completely different ways of life: In Christ and Outside of Christ, on in other words, under the cross or avoiding the cross.
Under the cross, there is bound to be stress and conflict and division. Jesus said, “Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38).
Sin causes problems. It disrupts our relationships. The fix is to be found at the cross of Jesus. The cross of Jesus diagnoses sin and so it magnifies sin and identifies divisions.
We want things easy. Jesus says, “Take up your cross.” If things were easy, you wouldn’t need the Lord or His cross.
He wants you to learn, to grow, to be shaped to think in terms of the cross and its message of repentance and forgiveness.
Today, June 29, in Church tradition is the remembrance of Sts. Peter and Paul. These two great apostles share one Saints’ day.  And its interesting that these two did not always get along well.
Once at a church dinner Peter was visiting with some gentile Christians when some Jewish Christians came in, the respected, old guard. Peter got up from the novice gentile bunch and went over to the more prestigious group and began talking with them.
Paul was there at the same time and saw all this happen. Now Paul was the newer apostle, he didn’t have the political capital that Peter did. But Paul had to speak up about Peter’s actions, because Peter made the impression that some Christians were better or more important than others.
Paul made a scene. He confronted Peter to his face, in front of everyone, to make it clear that Peter’s favoritism was wrong.
Theirs is a great example of how the message of the cross does not bring peace, but a sword. The temptation when you are in a situation like Paul’s is to do nothing, keep your peace, let everything be easy and comfortable. Christians are doing that too much.
That’s what Jesus meant when He said, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

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