And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words. Luke 19:41-48 ESV
In the Gospel reading for the 10th Sunday after Trinity we read the familiar account of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem and then cleansing the temple. Almost lost in this reading is the last verse. The chief priests and scribes and “principle men of the people” wanted to destroy Jesus, but they couldn’t do it. Why? All the people were hanging on His words.
What words are you hanging on to? The Olympics have just ended. Record numbers hung on the words each night of the prime time telecast. School is set to begin all across our country. Students will be hanging on the words of their teachers and professors in order to learn and earn a good grade. Political races are heating up and we hang on the words of the ads and debates while politicians hang on the words of the pollsters and the “undecided.” Fall sports are gearing up. We hang on the words of the sportscasters, the players hang on the words of the coaches and the coaches hang on the words of the Administration and Alumni.
But this is no mere seasonal activity. As a drought ravages much of the Midwest, people are hanging on to the words of the daily forecast, hoping for rain and relief from the oppressive heat. When winter arrives, students will hang on the words of the weatherman, hoping and praying for a snow day. As prices of everything from groceries to utilities to gas at the pump fluctuate, we hang on the latest news as we plan to make ends meet. The new graduate hangs on the words of the one who might offer a job while people in a relationship hang on words of love and commitment. We hang on words all the time; but what words do we hang on to?
In the Lutheran Church we confess that the Word of God is important, so important in fact, that we promise to base all of our teaching and practice on that Word. It is the nature of sin to say one thing and do another. How easy it is to confess the importance of the God’s Words while at the same time hanging on the words of culture or popularity instead. We have all set up false idols and pretended that they can somehow speak words of life and contentment. We have spurned the words of forgiveness and salvation while hanging on the words of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh.
This is precisely why the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. Into this world of false words and bogus promises entered Jesus, the very Word of Life. He endured mocking and insults as He walked the way of sorrow and suffering that only He could walk, speaking at the perfect time and remaining silent at the perfect time. People thought the Word was silenced forever on Good Friday as He bled and died our death, but three days later Christ Jesus rose victorious over sin and the grave. It is finished! He is risen!
All the benefits of Good Friday and Easter have been poured out to us in the Baptismal font. The Word attached to simple water gives us new life in Christ. The Word attached to bread and wine gives us strength for life’s journey as we feast on His body and blood. The Word reveals His will to us in the Holy Bible, the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God.
When problems arise in our lives, what words to we hang on to? Words that give a quick fix or words of the latest fad, or the Words of God? When problems arise in our beloved Synod, what words do we hang on to? Words of temporary unity or even words of constitution and bylaws, or the Words of God?
God’s Word calls all of us to repentance. God’s Word calls all of us to examine what and why we are hanging on words that offer no forgiveness and nothing of lasting value, at the expense of the words of Christ. God’s Word calls us to be honest about the problems and divisions among us and to let God’s Word have its way with us. It can be a frightening thing to relinquish personal pride and power and control and hang on the Words of God. Frightening but freeing!
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:31-36 ESV
It is my prayer that we in the LCMS would be united in Christ and truly hanging on His words.
In Christ, Rev. Clint K. Poppe Chairman, ACELC
To learn more about the work of the ACELC, please visit our website, read the Admonition, study the documents we have produced, and if you find that we faithful to God’s Word, then please, join us in this effort.