O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Nice or Honest?
Nice or Honest?
Based on Mt. 5:13-20
Preached on February 09, 2014
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Fellow baptized saints, we face a real conundrum these days, don't we? Should I be nice or honest? But you know what I'm talking about. Anyone whose gone shopping for clothes with a friend has been plagued with this question. So what do you think? Am I going to be nice or honest?
And we can laugh about it when we're talking about fashion sense or some other matter of preference, but the truth is that this mentality has crept into everything these days. People don't want you to be honest, they want you to be nice. And not just for "don't you love my spandex," but for "if my boyfriend and I really love each other isn't it ok for us to sleep together?" "If I want to worship God in my own way, I can do that, can't I? I mean, if it feels good for me, it's gotta be right, don't you think?
We have a serious problem. For we have all bowed down before the god of "Nice." We have turned our eyes from the honest truth of God's Word and sold out to the god of getting along. The god of fake unity. The whore god that won't say no to anyone. We don't confess the truth of Christ, we are too busy preaching the get along god. Too busy being nice.
But I don't want you to get me wrong here, I'm not saying we should be looking for opportunities to be flagrantly honest - we're not picking fights - but when the time comes, have we not been called to defend the truth? Have we not been called out of darkness that we might proclaim the truths of Him who is everlasting light? How is it that we cuddle up with this darkness? Have we seen Jesus being nice like this, or is He truthful and honest, even to the point of His own death? How have we let the Dark One teach us to be dishonest, and think that "it's the nice thing to do?" So I'll tell you now, not all of this sermon will be nice, but it will be honest.
In our text today, we see Jesus teaching His disciples, later called the Twelve, who He would send out into the world to preach His Word. He is giving them the Words to preach. And teaching them what makes their preaching powerful. By this point, however, great crowds had started to follow Jesus because He was healing all the sick, so in order to teach His disciples, Jesus went up on a mountain and sat down.
He began with His beatitudes, or blessings, those lovely Gospel promises He wanted His preachers to proclaim, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." And so on.
And immediately after He has given them these Words of blessing to preach He says to them, "You are those which salt the earth. You are those which bring light to the world." The Word of God is salt. It is light. It is the only thing that will save this fallen world. And you are the ones I am sending out to spread it. But I warn you now, if salt has lost its taste, if you do not preach my Word, these same promises I now teach you, what is your preaching worth? Nothing. It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You may as well stop preaching. It doesn't matter how many people come to hear you, the Pharisees have a lot of people listening to them, without My Word, without my free promise of forgiveness, your words do nothing.
But wait a minute pastor, what if you're not a preacher? What if you haven't been sent out to preach like an apostle? How does this teaching apply to me? In the very same way! What you have not been called to do publicly in a pulpit, you have been called to do in private, in your vocations, to all those in your life. The promise of the Gospel is still the only thing that saves, the only salt, the only light and you have it there - on your lips. Your tongue confesses its saving truth all the time. Jesus is the Son of God, and He has died for the sins of the whole world, and He promises you forgiveness for free right now. It is true. You say it in the Creed. You sing it in the hymns. Chad and Mizue just confessed it before heaven and all of us. But Jesus warns you, if this is not what you confess with your mouth, it is not light you spread. Do not think that your words are saving anyone.
But you know it, just as well as me - that not everyone likes to hear these words. It isn't necessarily the "nicest" thing to say, but it is the truth. Which is what makes the rest of Jesus' words in our text so comforting. "A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house." Don't hide my doctrine, Jesus says. Don't hide the pure Word of God - the fullness of what God has revealed - even though that light might hurt the eyes of a bunch of people who don't like light.
Instead, let your light (this confession of the truth) shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. And what good works are those? The ones Jesus has been teaching them about the whole time. What are the first three commandments? Number One - have the true God. Number Two - speak, or confess, His Name rightly - His teaching - His doctrine. Number Three - receive His good gifts - the preaching of His Word, His Baptism and His Supper. These are the good works from which all other good works will flow. They are the source of the fountain, for they are about God. What a refreshing truth, there is no greater work than to confess Christ - to explain how He died and rose again for the whole world.
And I promise you, when people see this, when they hear this, and they find that you in fact believe this, and it shapes everything about your world - this is what will bring them to believe - when you can actually say "Yeah, I am a sinner. And that is wrong, and I don't want to do it. And I'm sorry I did. But Jesus was punished for me. He died, and He has risen again." Nothing will do more for mission than that.
You see, my preachers, and those who would confess my Name, Jesus says, this good news about who I am and what I have done - it alone saves. But it doesn't change the truth of my Law - it doesn't change my Ten Commandments - good is still good - evil is still evil - murder is still wrong, adultery is wrong, lying is wrong, stealing is wrong - why? Because it hurts other people. People need to be loved, and love is not a matter of how someone feels, or what someone wants. It is not a matter of "being nice." It is a matter of the order of the cosmos. The way I created things. And I tell you the truth, Jesus says, that until heaven and earth pass away, my Ten Commandments will always identify what is good and what is evil. You can't loosen them. You can't relax them. But most importantly, you cannot be saved by them - for that is why I am here - to fulfill them for you. To be them as a man in your place. I am the Word made flesh. The way, the truth and the life. You need me - and I am here for you. I forgive you for those times you have failed to confess My Name. I forgive you for bowing down before the false god of getting along. I forgive you for cuddling up with darkness, and put my light in you now. You are forgiven, confess it. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr