History and Divine Necessity

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Biblical Text: Luke 13:22-35
Full Sermon Draft

A lot of people these days claim “history” on their side. We are urged to “be on the right side of history”. I’m convinced this is actually derived from a Martin Luther King quote.

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

I first heard this quote modified about 15 years ago to drop the moral universe and replace it with history (Here is an example of that substitution). In fact I was surprised (and delighted) when I looked up the actual quote and its context to find moral universe. When you look at the context, which this sermon does, King’s moral universe is very defined. Where history, especially when it is claimed as a moral imperative, is always relative to the speaker, a moral universe is rooted in a larger context. King’s larger context, as the larger quote displays, is the bible, the faith and the Words of the Lord.

And that is the bedrock of the text. The only person who history is relative to is Jesus Christ. To understand the moral universe we much decide who we say Christ is. It is necessary, it is a divine necessity that Jesus continue his course. That fox Herod has no authority to stop it. Now there are a whole lot of things that we might think the divine necessity applies to or should apply to, but none of those are what God says it does. God applies that necessity to the cross. The one who had actual complete freedom chose the cross. The action is why King’s statement is true. The entire moral universe is defined by the love of God. A love that desires to gather his children under a crucified wing.

We sang a hymn new to the hymnbook and modern this morning that captures this mystery. It is paired with a pretty melancholy tune in the Lutheran Service Book, but no one would say that the combination is anything other than a tough contemplative song. For a people who might be more used to the modern praise song with snappy riffs, happy cords and simple refrains, In Silent Pain the Eternal Son (LSB 432), might just be the antithesis. What is really captured by it is the fact that the most glorious sight in the universe is a set of scars…that a body derelict and still on a cross is the definition of necessity and love.

1. In silent pain the_eternal Son
Hangs derelict and still;
In darkened day His work is done,
Fulfilled, His Father’s will.
Uplifted for the world to see
He hangs in strangest victory,
For in His body on the tree
He carries all our ill.

2. He died that we might die to sin
And live for righteousness;
The earth is stained to make us clean
And bring us into peace.
For peace He came and met its cost;
He gave Himself to save the lost;
He loved us to the uttermost
And paid for our release.

3. For strife He came, to bring a sword,
The truth to end all lies;
To rule in us, our patient Lord,
Until all evil dies:
For in His hand He holds the stars,
His voice shall speak to end our wars,
And those who love Him see His scars
And look into His eyes.

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