The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Matthew 10:5 “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: 21 ‘Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. 23 But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes. 24 A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! 26 Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. 32 Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.’” (NASB)
History, the study of history has gone from a glorified presentation of western civilization, to a twisted presentation consisting of just purely evil men, to being ignored as required learning, and now it is a despised discipline. Thus millennials and generation Z now rage against that which they do not know, do not understand, and do not have the intellectual and psychological maturity and imagination to grasp why things happened as they did, and how such things served as a gateway for good and evil that took place in successive generations. They figure, they already know more and possess a morally superiority over all the generations that came before. The Roman philosopher Cicero wrote; “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”
But remaining as a child, that is a person without knowledge and understanding is not restricted to the unchurched, to the millennials, or to the Zs. Life long church goers are almost completely ignorant of Western history. They know almost nothing of the philosophies and movements that shaped the world in which we live today. Too many regard history as simply the stuff of trivia.
The first thing you need to know as a person about western history is that western history is church history. Church history is western history. You cannot read about or study either one without the other. What is the essence of Western history? It is the history of the Christian confession, the Christian Church, and the history of the Word of God in the world.
The history in and of the Old Testament became the history in and of the New Testament. The New Testament with its Gospels and Epistles shaped the history that came afterward. In fact, we are here in a congregation of the Lutheran Confessions because of a series of historical events that were shaped by the Word of God; by what the Bible teaches we are to say and do in regard to the salvation of our souls and how it is we are to live in this world. Among the series of historical events that have shaped our histories and brought us to this place, the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, which took place on June 25th 1530. This coming Thursday marks the 490th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession.
We all know that on October 31st, 1517 Luther posted the 95 Theses. Over the several years confessing the Christian faith as Christ and His written word instructed once spread throughout portions of Europe. Luther condemned as a heretic and sentenced to death. But some of the German nobles protected Luther so Luther and the reformation lived on.
At the same time the pope demanded that Emperor Charles V invade Germany and crush the Lutherans and their reforms. Charles couldn’t do that. He needed the Germans for an army to help hold the Moslem army at bay. They had taken Vienna and might soon invade Germany.
In an attempt to break the impasse, Charles the V summoned a diet, a meeting at Augsburg. At the time, there was a specific list of disputed doctrines and practices. The Augsburg Confession which was read at the diet dealt with 28 articles. Twenty-one speak of what we believe about God, justification, faith, church offices and authority, and other things. Seven deal with doctrines and practices that we reject, such as the veneration of the Virgin and the saints, the mass as a propitiatory sacrifice, celibacy for priests, and more.
The Roman Catholic doctrine and practices had taken shape over the centuries. Political and philosophical history had damaged the doctrine of the Roman Church. It had become a mixture of sacred and secular.
The so called Lutherans on the other hand had returned to the biblical texts, to the prophets and apostles and used the church fathers to show that they had not created or set down anything new. They were intent on saying and teaching only that which the Bible gave them authority to preach and teach.
The reformers could do that because they had learned the Scripture. They understood how to translate the Bible and how to interpret it. (Something our Supreme Court is having trouble doing). The Reformers not only knew the how to rightly preach and teach the Bible, they also knew and understood history, the church Fathers, the scholastics, the orthodox and the heretics, and even Islam. They were not a bunch ignorant mediaeval, superstitious, rebellious idealists who wanted to create something new and better. They understood they were sinners in new of the true Gospel and the Word and Sacrament ministry. They also understood the importance of godly traditions and duly established civil authorities. So whenever they were called upon to explain themselves before authorities, they did so even a great risk to themselves.
The reformers were seeking to do what Jesus had commanded them to do in the Gospel lesson assigned for this Third Sunday of Pentecost. They confessed Christ and His Gospel before men, as Jesus instructs Christians to do when the circumstances call for it. “Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.” Confessing Christ means speaking everything that the written Word of God addresses at the right times and applying Christ’s words to the right circumstance. Confessing Christ is the same things as Psalm 119:46; “I will also speak of thy testimonies before kings, and shall not be put to shame.”
The preaching of the Gospel did exactly what Jesus said it was going to do. We are seeing it ourselves. People who remain faithful to the teachings of the Bible, who understand and live in the Law and Gospel, find themselves at odds with almost everyone else. “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.”
Last week’s Gospel lesson was Jesus sending the pastors in training out to begin teaching the lost sheep of Israel that the kingdom of God was near. Today’s Gospel is a continuation of Jesus’s instruction. Before sending them off Jesus is tells them the truth. The message they will carry will offend and outrage people.
The message they carry will produce friends and foes alike. They will encounter opposition and they will be persecuted.
But the Gospel is also comfort for the persecuted Christians We have a guaranteed victory in heaven. Endurance in faith ends with salvation. Remaining faithful and confessing Christ, means that Christ claims us before His Father in heaven.
The temptation, especially in times of persecution is for us to compromise what the Bible teachings us to believe, to say, and to do before both God and neighbor. If the world gets offended because the Bible says that all are sinners, or this or that thing is wrong, or that we must defend someone who has been dealt with unjustly, we might be tempted to water down the message of sin – perhaps even fall silent altogether.
If the world is offended by the gruesome nature of the cross, we may want to push the cruel torture and the pain of the cross into the background by taking the body off it. It is easy to talk about God’s love and forget about His justice. It is easy to talk about Jesus as our friend, but forget about the day when He will come as the judge, separating the sheep from the goats. We often want to soften God’s Word so that the response to it, will be equally soft.
In the Gospel reading Jesus warns us against going down that path. “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” The worst thing that this world can do to us is end our physical life. The late professor Kurt Marquart often said, “There are worse things than death for the Christian.”
There is a judge who has the authority and power to send both soul and body to the eternal punishment. When we soften the bite of the Law and the comfort the Gospel, we are diluting what Jesus has given us to say and do.
We haven’t been called before emperors, kings, princes, or noble men to teach them what God’s Word actually says. But we have all been presented with moments when we ought to have spoken God’s Word, the Gospel truth, or defended that which the Bible says is good and right. Instead we failed. You’re not the only one. I fail to do that more than you might think.
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is still at work in history through the Word and Sacrament ministry of the Church. Peoples and nations are either receiving the Word or rejecting God’s Word, His Christ.
The French Revolution was all about rejecting God’s Word and church authority. It was a radical and secular overthrow of God’s Word, and eventually the laws of nature. If you want to understand what is happening in the United States now and how it is likely to turn out, you might want to look at the French Revolution and other countries that tried to usher in new forms of government that promised a utopia.
Everything always comes back to the Word of God going out into and through the church and then its reception or rejection. This fact gives us a lot of opportunities to do what Jesus is instructing us to do as He sends out the twelve to speak His words.
Jesus was the only one who never compromised God’s Word. He is the only one who remained faithful to His calling. He looked on the people and had compassion for those who were being oppressed by the law or sickness, or religious elites and rulers, or by the shunning of others.
Jesus remained faithful to His calling even when His calling led to the cross. He is the one who paid for our sins – even our sins of watered down doctrine – with His death on the cross. He faced not only the persecution of this world, but He also faced the combined guilt of all the sin of this world. Even then He remained faithful. With the victory He won with His death on the cross, He has purchased the forgiveness of sins for all people.
The history of the early church tells us of the faithful Apostles. One betrayed Jesus and died a sinners death. Of the eleven apostles who remained faithful to Jesus and ten were murdered on account of that fidelity. Only John the Evangelist died of natural causes, but did so in exile.
In spite of our many shortcomings – in spite of our fear – in spite of our desire to get along with the world at the expense of Christ’s teachings, the Holy Spirit will continue to keep us in the faith. Just as the Apostles endured to the end by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit will one day bring us to a blessed end here on this earth – only to take us to a blessed eternity there in heaven. There we shall wait with all the other believers in Christ until the Last Day when Jesus will return and raise all the dead, and all who believe in Him will live forever with Jesus on a new earth where there is no sin, no sorrow, and no persecution. For we shall live in that place forever with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen
“I will also speak of thy testimonies before kings, and shall not be put to shame.” They spoke of God’s before kings and they were not put to shame. Nor will you be put to shame.
May the peace that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.