What is the virginity of Mary all about anyway? That is what this sermon is about. Matthew tells you, but he tells you by pointing you at the Israel’s story, in this case at Ahaz and Isaiah. I’ll cut this short, it is about hope. It is about how God conceives hope, when all our natural hopes are gone. But this sermon takes a longer look at that. And why the Virgin Birth should conceive hope in all hearts.
Memorial Day is always a tough one for the church. Everybody, including the preacher, wants to acknowledge the sacrifice of those slain in the nation’s wars. The problem with that is our memorials are not just about the individual, but they are judgements or statements about the cause. When the church simply baptizes the secular memorials, it does something that it doesn’t have the authority to do. What this sermon attempts to do is make a distinction between worldly glory and the glory of God. When we understand that distinction and their basis, we should be able to be in world, including giving proper recognition to patriots, but not be of the world, which would mean uncritically agreeing with a state’s declarations. Because there are times when the state’s demands are something the church cannot give. In those times we recognize we are Peter’s elect exiles, bearing the little while, for the exaltation to come.
This is one of those days where the assigned readings really help each other. What this sermon attempts to do is use Philemon and Onesimus as examples of the call Christ issues in the Gospel lesson. Like almost anytime the crowds around Jesus get too big you get a clear warning about the costs and order of discipleship – now the cross. Paul’s letter to Philemon is a great example of multiple ways that the cross can be seen. And the clarity of the choice being given when the cross comes.
Worship Note: I’ve left in two of the hymns for the day. The Hymn of the Day was LSB 688, “Come Follow Me the Savior Spake”. It is a 17th century presentation of the call of Christ to discipleship. Each stanza uses a slightly different metaphor that Jesus used and present it to us as the same call. LSB 685, “Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus”, was our concluding hymn. As we exit worship, after hearing the call earlier, and having heard how Christ has fulfilled the work for us, the close is our response.
Carrying crosses is a tricky subject. Or maybe I should write that discerning crosses is difficult. Sometimes what you think are crosses are just being a drama queen martyr. They could be avoided, but the scene is too desirable. Sometimes what we put as crosses are just common difficulties. A cross in the sense of the text is something forced on you by the world because you won’t put its priorities first. And more specifically, a cross is something you encounter because you specifically put Christ first. Jesus bore the cross, because he remained faithful to His Father. He would not give the pinch to the Sanhedrin or to Caesar.
This sermon looks at what are some very American or rich western crosses. It is tempting to dismiss them as crosses because of that adjective, rich western. But we don’t pick our crosses. Our trails are ours. I don’t say it in the sermons, but there is an old saying “those He wishes to destroy first he makes rich”. The deceptions of the world in the west are very attractive things. They are also often very good things, if in their proper order and time.
And that is the crux of crosses. They come not because the creation is bad. They come because Satan has marked his prey. They come because the ruler of this age wants you get things out of order. The faith of Jesus Christ gets things in the proper order.