Sermon — Pastor David Kind — Attentive to Christ

The Tenth Sunday after Trinity
August 12, 2012
Rev. David A. Kind
University Lutheran Chapel at the Chapel of the Cross, Luther Seminary
St. Paul, Minnesota
Jeremiah 8:4-12, Luke 19:41-48

+ Jesu juva +

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God the Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen

It is hard to listen to today’s Gospel lesson as Jesus speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Temple without thinking of the destruction of our own former chapel this past week. But what would happen in Jerusalem is quite different than what has now happened on University Avenue.

Ruins of the Temple in Jerusalem, tore down by the Romans fulfilling Jesus’ Word.
The ruins of ULC, tore down by contractors fulfilling the will of the MNS Board of Directors.

The destruction of the Chapel was not on account of God’s wrath against this congregation, but the result of the wrath of men on account of what our congregation stands for and confesses. Our congregation has become known for her faithful martyria, her witness to Christ and His Gospel, her utter dependance upon Christ’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s work through it. With such things God is well pleased. Not it was not God who tore down the Chapel, but the moneychangers and the chief priests of our day who seek only to profit so that their ideas and their ways can prevail; who say as did the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day: “We are wise and the law of the Lord is with us.” And as the Lord said, so say I: “They have rejected the word of the Lord; so what wisdom do they have?”

In the case of Jerusalem the Lord pronounced His judgment against them not because they were faithful, but because they were utterly unfaithful. They, having the Word of the Lord which had been delivered to them by the prophets, rejected the Lord whose coming that word had proclaimed. The great majority of the Jews rejected Christ and His visitation. The Messiah came among them to teach them and to obtain grace for them and deliver it, but they wanted none of it. They wanted something else, a different way of being faithful, a different sort of messiah, a god and a theology that fit their way of thinking and doing, rather than God’s. And so the Lord, through tears, warned them: “the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” And the Lord’s words were fulfilled. The Lord had the city destroyed and temple thrown down, making use of the Roman armies some 40 years later, because they refused to repent and believe on Christ.

And so the Lord will also tear down the false theologies and ways of the false prophets and those who seek only their own way rather than the Lord’s, who refuse to repent and return to Christ, who, in the words of Jeremiah did not repent of their wickedness, were not ashamed when they had committed abomination and did not know how to blush.

Ah, but look at them enjoying their victory, you might be thinking. But do not worry about that. St. Paul says in Galatians 6: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” And again, the Lord says in Psalm 50: “These things you have done, and I kept silent; You thought that I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes. Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver…” It was not until 40 years after the crucifixion of our Lord by the people of Jerusalem that the Lord destroyed that city.

It may well be 40 years or more before the Lord exacts vengeance on those who destroyed His little chapel. And meanwhile He will use all of this for good for His faithful people, and will uphold us by His grace if we remain repentant and faithful to Him.

And that brings us to the main point of the readings today for us. The call to repentance goes out to each of us too, a call to turn away from this world and its ways to the ways of the Lord, from the natural desires of our hearts to the desires of the Spirit. We must, each of us, examine our own hearts and our own actions according to the Lord’s will and commandments, and turn from our sins.

Now I do not mean to say here that this congregation has anything of which to repent corporately in relation to the destruction of our chapel. Others have suggested that you have sinned as a congregation in some way, that there has been a “blizzard of sin on all sides”, that somehow you brought all of this on yourselves. I have yet to be shown that sin, or anything of which we ought to repent corporately.

But individually we must all repent; for we have all sinned in some way, not only in this matter of our chapel, but in general in the way we think and speak and in what we do, for we have desired that which God has not given, and we have desired other things more than Christ Jesus and His visitation to us.

We must heed our Lord’s words here and recognize His visitation. And that visitation is two-fold. He visits us first of all, according to the Law as our creator and judge. Aelfric of Eynsham, that great Anglo-Saxon preacher, said: “In many ways the Almighty God visits the souls of men; sometimes with instruction, sometimes with miracles, sometimes with diseases; but if it neglect these visitations, it will be at its end delivered for eternal punishment…” And so the Lord sends us, through the ordinary and extraordinary events in our lives, things which should cause us to consider His wrath and repent of our sins. The destruction of our chapel is such an event. Illness can be such an event. The miraculous rescue from out of trouble can be such an event, etc. etc. And how often to we hear of or even experience such things with little thought to the fact that God is active in them to bring us about to repentance and greater faith?

But more important than these are the manifest visitations of Christ to us through His Holy Word and Sacraments. With these we are brought not just to repentance, but are given the answer to that repentance, the forgiveness of our sins, and restoration to life and salvation by our Lord, who came and sacrificed Himself for this very purpose: to save us.

You see it is not enough simply to listen to the Law and to turn away from what is evil. One must also turn to what is good. And by this I do not simply mean good works, which flow from faith, but to Him who is Good, Christ Jesus. We must be like the faithful Jews who were attentive to hear Jesus as He taught in the Temple. Our Lord comes to us now, visits us, through the Word that He delivers today, through the Scriptures that are proclaimed and taught, that you read together at home and meditate upon and from which you pray. He comes to you through the absolution that applies again the grace delivered to you once in Holy Baptism, washing you of your sin and granting you life where there was only death before. He comes to you through the Supper where you are fed on the sublime body and blood of the Savior and further united with Him who died and rose for your salvation. Desire these things, for this is a desire of which you never need repent, a desire that is pleasing to God, and a desire that He loves to fulfill both now and in heaven. For though He weeps over the unrepentant, He rejoices to save those who seek Him and believe, and to establish them in His holy Church which shall never be destroyed or torn down, because its foundation is Jesus Himself, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

+ Soli Deo gloria +

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