O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Be Rude with Your Faith
Be Rude with Your Faith
Based on Hebrews 10:11-25 and Mark 13:1-13
Preached on November 18, 2012
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Fellow baptized saints, we live in evil times. The clouds of judgment gather. How firmly are you holding onto the truth?
The other day I was watching my son interacting with his little friend Reed. Have you ever done this with two-year olds, just watch how they interact? It's fascinating, isn't it? My son saw that his friend Reed had a certain toy in his hand. And as most two-years olds do, he decided that all of a sudden he wanted that toy too. His eyes fixed on the toy, he lurched forward to snatch it from Reed's hand. But Reed was no slouch, after all he is a two-year old. He knew what was coming, and the flurry of activity that ensued can only be appreciated in slow motion. His hand tightened on that toy like a Darth Vader death grip. His entire body swung into action, twisting the toy away from the assailant's approaching hand. His feet were swift and stable, backing him away from this lethal threat. His voice cried out, "No! Mine!" in an attempt to scare away the thief and alert the nearby authorities. When the commotion was finished, Reed had successfully guarded his toy. My son was no longer interested.
In our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus teaches us to treat our faith the way Reed treated his toy. To be so strongly in possession of it, to put such value in it, that the slightest hint of foul play moves us to protect it so dramatically it would make a two-year old proud. No, Jesus is not teaching against evangelism. He is not anti-sharing. But today's lesson is not about sharing or evangelism. It is about being rude. It is about keeping what God has given you, from those who want to steal it from you. You are not dealing with a two-year old trying to steal your faith. You are dealing with a much craftier, much older, much more strategic enemy, one that wants to hide his approach. There will not be an obvious lurch for what you are holding, but a combination of efforts meant to put you in a position where it becomes difficult to hold onto to what you have. Your enemy does not play by the rules. He does not share. He wants to rob you of your faith and never let you have it back. So when it comes to guarding this eternal treasure, your faith, life and salvation, Jesus commands you to be rude and defensive, like a two-year old.
Jesus' words could not come at a better time. For when we look around we see the Evil One stealing faith on every corner, hoards of Christians changing what they believe, giving in to those pressures that want them to loosen their grip, to let go of the treasure that God has given them. The Evil One is on a major offensive in Canada, and you are his target. His strategy consists of a two-pronged attack, and it is all designed to make you let go of your faith in Christ. Whether he lulls you off to sleep, or scares and threatens you, have no doubt, there is a very real, very deliberate ploy at work to steal what lies in your hand. And your Lord speaks His powerful Word to you now to warn you about it.
"Be on your guard," He says. Don't let the lullaby of lies that the Wicked One whispers in your ear have you put down your guard. The deceitful messages of the Evil One are all around you, trying to lull your faith to sleep by wave after wave of falsehood. You hear them in the television shows you watch, on the news, and at the watercooler. They are unsuspectingly carried by those you love, those you work with, and even at times by you. But don't worry, he says. This is the first prong of his attack. The Evil One wants to you to relax in your faith, to lean back instead of leaning forward. He wants you to think that your grip alone will be enough, that you don't have to twist your body away - or step back - or cry out against the thief - He wants you to do the minimum possible in protecting your faith, so that as time goes on your grip becomes weaker and weaker.
Our human nature isn't helping us either, is it? We are just looking for reasons to lean back, searching for excuses to be lazy or overindulgent or reckless. We see our Canadian culture going down the drain, and does it drive us to Bible Study? No! We don't tighten our grip, in fact, ever so slightly we loosen our grip. These manifestly sinful people are the justification we need to be a little easier on ourselves, to lean back a little more. Think about it. Why don't we become more mindful of our own faith, when we see others being robbed of theirs? If you saw a thief coming down the street stealing each of your neighbour's mail, wouldn't you go out and make sure he didn't steal yours? Or would you think the thief had probably taken enough mail already, so yours would be safe? No, the Evil One will never be satisfied, no matter how many people lose their faith. This is why Jesus tells you to "Be on your guard." This is why He tells you that "the one who endures to the end will be saved."
Christ wants you to take this seriously. How can you be on your guard if you are not in God's Word everyday? How can you be on your guard if you do not hear preaching and receive the Sacrament every time it is offered? How can you be on your guard if other things are distracting you from protecting your faith?
In our epistle we heard, "let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." Are you holding fast, like a two-year old? Are you stirring up your fellow believer to love and good works? Are you increasing your encouragement all the more each and every week to those in our congregation that need it? Me neither. God has the same message for all of us. Repent. I have made you my child. The kingdom is yours. Do you want it? Then start holding onto it like a two-year old. Be on your guard.
Now the Evil One doesn't always operate so subtly. Having done this for a long time, he knows there is a time for diplomacy and there is a time for force. The second prong to his attack is to scare you into letting go. Threaten you. Bully you. Our Lord Himself lists a lot of things that seem absolutely terrifying. False teaching that will lead many astray. Wars. Rumours of Wars. Earthquakes. Famines. He even tells His disciples that they will be beaten, put before councils, made to bear witness before governors and kings, betrayed by their family and hated by everyone. Yeah, sign me up. But Jesus does not say we are to fear these things, only the Evil One wants you to think that. In this situation he comes along and demands that you give up your faith. And if you resist him, his face gets aggressive. His anger rises. He begins to shout in your face, even threaten to push you, hit you or worse if you don't do what he demands. Anything to make you afraid. Anything to make you fear some set of consequences he promises to dish out.
Do you feel you can freely express your faith wherever you want in this country? Do you feel your Christian identity, this precious treasure that God has given you and made you into is something you are allowed to hold onto, or have you been bullied to give up your faith, maybe regarding abortion, or homosexuality, or divorce, or sex outside marriage, or the truth that there is only One God and He is not found in all religions?
You see, the Evil One has created a new "first" commandment in our country, one that is based on fear. Thou shalt not make any judgments about right and wrong, for the moment you do, you shall be called judgmental. He has convinced us that being judgmental is the worst thing possible. We no longer fear God above all things, we fear being called judgmental above all things. We no longer stand up for the Holy Ten Commandments, because we are afraid of being called judgmental. We no longer study God's Holy Law, because the Evil One teaches us all we have to know - just don't judge anyone. This is not what Jesus preached. He said, "Repent and believe the good news."
Satan has made us afraid to do what is right for so long, that it has become a virtue to do what is wrong. It is a seen as a virtue in this country not to condemn evil. And condemning evil is seen to be immoral and wrong. The Evil One has made his new commandment and our country and many who call themselves Christians are worshipping him in it.
But who are we to trust? Who are we to fear? The father of lies, the very one threatening us, or our faithful God who has opened to us His holy places by His own blood? Where we have leaned back, Christ has leaned forward, even slumped forward upon the cross to protect us from Satan. Where we have been unfaithful, He has been faithful, making Himself an atoning sacrifice, so that we are forgiven. Where we have frozen in fear, He has faced the fires of hell, that His flesh might open the new and living way to our eternal safety with God in heaven. Christ has overcome the Evil One, and by holding onto Jesus we are eternally safe, no matter what the bullies may do.
When I was in high school, I saw a show where a kid was teaching his cousin how to fight off the cafeteria bullies. It went something like this: Back off, get your own sandwich. As a Christian, you are not defending your peanut butter sandwich, or your falafel sandwich, or your ham sandwich. You are not defending some novelty toy. You are defending your seat at the eternal wedding banquet. The marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom which will have no end. So be rude with your faith, hold on for dear life, don't give in one inch. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr