Thursday of Trinity 1
June 6, 2002 A+D – re-used midweek 2012
1 John 4:17
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Love has been perfected in us, in this, that we have confidence in the Day of Judgment.”’
The sweetness of the Gospel is found in its objectivity. When that most sublime of all creatures attacks, he attacks the objectivity. He plants doubt. He causes uncertainty. He says, “Did God really say . . . . ?” and “Does that really mean . . . . ?” and so forth. His allurement is in turning man’s eyes inward and making man the judge of God’s character. He likes to set us up as wiser than God so that we can decide what is reasonable and right for God to do or say. That old enemy is the master of hard cases, once-in-a-lifetime events, and expediency. He can find a good, pious sounding reason for the most abominable of crimes. He can formulate an excuse for anything. He can even make the starkest, cleanest, blackest-and-whitest of God’s holy Law, that is, that there is no other God, that no false god can be worshiped, that there is no other Name under heaven by which men may be saved, into a murky, ambiguous, comfortable gray. So that all of the sudden all of our Sunday School lessons are out the window and we are scratching our heads like Eve by the Apple tree thinking maybe that he has a point and wondering if maybe prayers to Allah should be tolerated and encouraged and even supported and commended as helpful and giving strength!
Well, if that is the case, then what does any Doctrine matter? If all our religion is about is being nice, being tolerant, and helping people then why bother with the Scriptures? If false Doctrine is not dangerous and deadly, then why bother? If our goal is not to teach the Truth, to proclaim with John, “Repent! For the axe is already now laid at the root of the tree” but simply to model good works, to show others a better way to live in this fleeting life, then the pagan Mohammedan with his bloody scimitar might as well lay down his arms. For if that is the case, then he has won the war for his lying master. And Christendom is no more.
Indeed, it feels at times like that is the case, like the devil has won and there are no men of honor or integrity left. But that is not really new for God’s people. Elijah knew that feeling. For after boldly taunting the prophets of Baal and calling down fire from heaven, he lost his nerve, and full of self-pity and fear, he ran away. But he was wrong to despair. He was as wrong as Moses losing his temper in the wilderness, as wrong as Peter resorting to violence in the garden, as wrong as us poor, miserable sinners who tire of the fight and long to sue for peace, to find terms of mutual toleration with the demons from Hell.
Repent. For the gates of Hell shall not overcome the Church of Christ. God’s Kingdom on this earth is always feeble and small, always on the edge of annihilation. But, lo through the centuries, God’s people sing the martyr’s praise. For the way of the cross is the way to glory. Tribulation and hardship are the Father’s chastening upon his sons. And thus writes St. John: “Love has been perfected in us, in this, that we have confidence in the Day of Judgment.”
We have confidence that despite our frailty, our sin, greed, and fear, that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is enough. Tired, though we are, we rest in the Lord of the Sabbath who gave His life as a ransom for ours, who paid all our debt so that there is no more, who welcomes us more eagerly, with greater and deeper forgiveness, than the father of the prodigal son who welcomed back that poor, disillusioned boy. This is the Love that abides in us: the Spirit sent from the Father and the Son to guide us into the Way of all Truth, to offer perfect prayers with groans that words cannot express on our behalf, to keep us, to sanctify us, to lead us, comfort us, and to deliver us from all evil. This is the Love that casts out fear, that picks us up and dusts us off, feeds us, encourages us, and holds us fast. And where, does this happen? Where He promises, of course, in the Body given, the Blood shed, for you. For we proclaim in this Holy meal the death He died, the stumbling block and scandal of the Cross, which for us is the power of salvation and victory.
And so it is that we stand, in boldness and confidence (for if God is for us who can be against us?) and calmly say, “Bring it on. You can harm me none. I’m judged, the deed is done. One little word of Grace felled me, knocked the devil right out of me, and brought me up to life, born anew from above, by water and by Spirit. And now I’m His. I’m clean. I’m pure. There is no more, nothing else to do, to prove, to earn. My confidence is in the mercy that endureth forever.” That is enough.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana