In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The God of Abraham is a jealous God. He will not share the adoration of His children with anyone or anything else. You shall have no other gods. You are to fear, love, and trust in the God who called Abraham out of Chaldea, who parted the Red Sea and gave His holy Law to Moses, who multiplied the widow’s flour and oil in Zarephath, who sacrificed His Son to make you His, above all else.
It really comes down to just two options. There are only two gods. One has many names and faces, as many, in fact, as you could possibly want. You can call him “God.” You can call him “Allah,” or “Buddha,” or “Scratch,” or simply make up a new name. He doesn’t mind. He’ll go by anything. He conducts himself as the gentlest and noblest of all masters, existing only to better the existence of his servants, finding commonality amongst all religions, seeking peace and prosperity regardless of cost. His password is tolerance. He isn’t jealous. He is quite modern-minded, sensitive, enlightened, and patriotic. He doesn’t make any demands of his servants. He has no strict doctrine or moral code. He is convenient, never embarrassing, never harsh, never confrontational or condemning. He encourages His followers to enjoy themselves, to pamper themselves, to indulge themselves. He is never shocked by lewd behavior or deviancy. He understands. Life under him is a smorgasbord of personal choices and preferences. He embraces diversity and encourages free thinking. And he glibly tells his servants that they can have as many masters as they want.
But he is a liar. There are only two masters. All his seeming niceties are just bait. It is a trap. He deceives to enslave and eventually to devour. He is willing to bide his time for under that sheepskin of tolerance are claws meant for killing. He lures men to complacency with shallow sweet-nothings, like domesticated animals to the slaughter. Nonetheless, most of the world has fallen prey to his delusion. For he is far easier to take than the other option, the other God, the One of circumcision, sacrifice, and Eucharist. For the other Master is so old-fashioned and quite conspicuously, awkwardly jealous. He won’t allow multiple masters. He offends the sensitivities of fallen man. He calls them “sinners.” He is not tolerant. He tends to be stern. He won’t hear prayers in any other name. He is the God of Truth, the God of Light, not of ambiguity and shadows, not of silky promises in negligees, not of easy pleasure, but of discipline. He is Life. But He is found in death. If you will be His, than you can belong to no other. But you need no other. For no other is of any help, comfort, or aid. Repent. Jesus is One, the only One. And He still wants you.
What shall we eat? We shall eat the Body of Jesus, born of the Virgin, executed for crimes He did not commit, and raised again to glory by His Father given for you. What shall we drink? We shall drink the Blood of Jesus poured out outside the city gates for the remission of your sins. What shall we wear? We shall wear His righteousness, the wedding garment of joy that He provides by Grace.
About what then, shall we worry? Nothing. For all things pale next to this reality: God loves you in Christ Jesus and promises to remove you from this shadowy valley of pain and bring you to Himself in heaven. So what if code enforcement is making you paint the garage, the synod is crumbling around you, your job is on the line, your daughter has a drinking problem, they make fun of you at school, you can’t fit into your wedding dress anymore, and terrorists are threatening America! God is in control. He knows what He is doing.
When Our Lord directed the attention of His disciples to the sparrows and the lilies, it was not much better for them. They lived in an occupied country. Imagine East Germany after World War II. They were poor. Imagine having nothing to eat. I don’t mean not wanting to eat the can of creamed corn and tomato soup in your cupboard, I mean not having a cupboard. Imagine people not living much past the age of 50 and half the children dying by age 5. Imagine foreigners dragging off your adolescent sons to fight in their wars. In the midst of this Jesus says, “I take care of the sparrows. I’ll take care of you.”
From the world’s point of view there is always plenty to worry about. But worrying doesn’t change things. It doesn’t stop terrorists anymore than it prevents tooth decay. No mere man knows what the future holds for the stock market, for America, or for the Missouri Synod. The Scriptures are silent on those things. This is not the promised land. America is not God’s chosen country. We are not better than other people simply because we were born here. We are more fortunate, yes. But we didn’t earn it. In the same way, the Missouri Synod is not the last word on orthodoxy and Truth. Yes, we are fortunate, blessed by God, to have it. But it does not belong to us by Divine Right. Despise the Word of God and it can be taken away. Anyway, tomorrow America and the Missouri Synod and Redeemer Lutheran Church will all be thrown into the oven. There won’t be Americans or Missouri-Synod Lutherans in heaven. There will only be Christians, those who were baptized into Christ, heard His Word, ate His Body and drank His Blood for the forgiveness of His sins. No one will care if you were Finnish, German, Russian, or American, let alone what squabbling little Church body you allied yourself with. But despite that, despite the temporary nature of the things God provides for us now, we know this: Jesus is coming back. Death has been defeated. He will not abandon us to the grave.
For the meantime, it might get better and it might get worse. Lilies bloom, wilt, and die but new ones rise up behind them to bloom again. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Eat the Body of Jesus. Drink His Blood. Wear the clean garments of acceptance that He provides. All things pass away and are burned, save this: the Word of God. That we will not compromise. We will not lie about it to save face, to satisfy those deluded by the devil’s lies, to gain popularity with men. The Word made Flesh has paid your debt. You are forgiven, clean, and whole. And on the last day He shall call you forth from the grave. No man, no terrorist, no bureaucrat, no synod, no institution of higher learning, no government, no devil will stop Him.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana