Not Fame, But Glory

Biblical Text: Matthew 25:31-46
Full Sermon Draft

Looking at the word cloud I hope I didn’t abuse the pulpit today. When a name is bigger than Christ or Jesus or even a generic God, I get worried. That and nobody knows the Iliad, and the Brad Pitt movie didn’t really help, although Brad Pitt was the absolute perfect Achilles. Anyway, this sermon is a little more reflective of the text which is the last judgment. The last judgment scene tells me two things: a) what Christ is looking for from his sheep and b) the reality of final causes or end goals. It is these two things that are almost 100% in opposition to what the world at the time held out as reality. It is these two things that are becoming increasingly at odds with out world. What Christ is looking for is love of God expressed in love of our neighbor. Seeing Christ is the least. And what we do here matters, because we are made to meet our maker. We are made for glory, not fame.

In our current environment that call feel disappointing or oppressive, but that is the nature of life under the cross. The excellence of the Kingdom has nothing to do with the excellence of the world. The weight of the Kingdom is eternal while fame blows away.

So, this sermon might have been a little too narcissistic. I might have needed to hear it more than anyone else. But I do think it preaches the text in an honest and deep way, if not a direct way.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Joel 2:18-32 And Romans 11:25-12:13

Joel 2:18-32
Romans 11:25-12:13
The juxtaposition of Judgment and the Eschatological Time Frame
The role of the Spirit in that time
The wisdom, will and way of God

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Jeremiah 23:1-40 and Matthew 25:31-46

Jeremiah 23:1-40
Matthew 25:31-46
False Shepherds vs. The Good Shepherd
The true source of good works – in us vs. in Christ (by grace & faith & Spirit)

Daily Lectionary Podcast – 1 Samuel 1:21-2:17 and Galatians 6:1-18

1 Samuel 1:21-2:17
Galatians 6:1-18
The great inversion in the power of God, Hannah’s song and Mary’s Song, the judgment and promise of the cross

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Exodus 16:13-35 and Hebrews 10:19-39

Exodus 16:13-35
Hebrews 10:19-39
The grace of God which is abundant, enough and perfectly fit for everyone.

Biblical Baptisms – John of Damascus

John of Damascus IconThis excerpt struck me in sermon prep this week. From John of Damascus. An interesting coincidence as St. John of Damascus is also known as the Doctor of the Assumption, the Assumption of Mary, which was on the calendar this week. Not something that Lutherans typically mark, anyway, John on Peace, Division and Baptism…

A first baptism was by the flood for the cutting away of sin. A second baptism was by the sea and the cloud, because the cloud is a symbol of the Spirit, while the sea is a symbol of the water. A third baptism is that of the law, because every unclean person washed himself with water and also washed his garments and then entered the camp. A fourth baptism is that of John, which was an introductory baptism leading those thus baptized into repentance so that they might believe in Christ. “I indeed”, he says, “baptize you in water, but he that will come after me, he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire.” John purified with water in advance to prepare for the Spirit. A fifth baptism is the Lord’s baptism with which He was baptized. He was not baptized because he needed purification. He was baptized so that so that by making my purification his own, he might “crush the heads of the dragons in the waters” (Psalm 74:13), wash away the sin and bury all of the old Adam in the water, sanctify the baptizer, fulfill the law, reveal the mystery of the Trinity and become for us a model and example for the reception of baptism. We also are baptize with the perfect baptism of the Lord, which is by water and the Spirit. It is sad that Christ baptized in fire because he poured out the grace of the Spirit on the holy Apostles in the form of tongues of fire. The Lord says, “John indeed baptize with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire, not many days from now (Acts 1:5).” It may also be that he is said to baptize with fire because of the chastening baptism of the fire to come. A sixth baptism is that which is by repentance and tears, which is truly painful. A seventh baptism is that which is by blood and martyrdom. Christ was also baptized with this for our sake. This baptism is exceedingly sublime and blessed because second stains do not pollute it. An eighth baptism, which is the last, is not saving. While being destructive of evil, since evil and sin no longer hold power, it chastises endlessly.

It is nice to see someone beside Luther and the reformers point to repentance as baptism. Even though he mentions it earlier as the chastening baptism of the fire to come, that is what I take the “eighth baptism” to be – the final fire where the current heaven on earth pass away with all not washed by the earlier baptisms. A great bit of biblical theology and reading of the divine plan of salvation.

Pulling Back the Veil

There is one word that ties together all three major Supreme Court decisions of the last two days – lawless. What we must come to realize is that the United States is no longer a nation of laws, but a lawless nation.

The Voting Rights acts, regardless of true complaints about using 60’s era data in 2006 and the craven nature of the Congress in these regards, the VRA was extended with large majorities in House and Senate and signed by a President who received the majority of votes from the area most effected. The Supreme Court acted lawlessly throwing it out.

With the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) the reasoning is the same but worse. The act was passed many years ago and signed into law by President Clinton. It made a simple definitional statement about how the federal government would treat marriage experimentation by the states. Quoting Justice Scalia’s dissent (through Rod Dreher):

The majority concludes that the only motive for this Act was the “bare . . . desire to harm a politically unpopular group.” Ante, at 20. Bear in mind that the object of this condemnation is not the legislature of some once Confederate Southern state (familiar objects of the Court’s scorn, see, e.g., Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U. S. 578 (1987)), but our respected coordinate branches, the Congress and Presidency of the United States. Laying such a
charge against them should require the most extraordinary evidence, and I would have thought that every attempt would be made to indulge a more anodyne explanation for the statute. The majority does the opposite—affirmatively concealing from the reader the arguments that exist in justification. It makes only a passing mention of the “arguments put forward” by the Act’s defenders, and does not even trouble to paraphrase or describe them.
See ante, at 21. I imagine that this is because it is harder to maintain the illusion of the Act’s supporters as unhinged members of a wild-eyed lynch mob when one first describes their views as they see them.

The court again acted lawlessly where the first two branches of government were completely able to repeal DOMA should they desire. They compounded this lawlessness by putting into case law that the only reason for opposing fundamentally altering marriage was bigotry. If you are an orthodox Christian in the United States you are now a bigot and have been put on warning.

And the lawlessness continued with the CA prop 8 ruling. Even worse, prop 8 was a popular direct democracy ruling. In a state that is famously of the left coast (emphasis on the left), the popular ballot had altered the state constitution to enshrine the thousands of years view of marriage. The lawful way to have repealed this would have been to amend the constitution again. But the government of CA refused to defend what the people voted for. Federal judges tossed the ruling out. And the Supreme Court denied standing for those that would defend the voice of the people legitimately expressed. A cabal of black robed judges and craven politicians acted lawlessly.

Being a lawless nation, especially one where the lawlessness is exercised by those specifically given the authority to exercise the law, is a horrific and scary place to be. Let me transition for a second to what has been churning my gut for a while now, but the last 24 hours have just “pulled back the veil” completely.

First St. Paul on who is lawless, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4: “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.”

If that is a little apocalyptic for you lets ask the apostle John, 1 John 3:4-8″ “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”

Lets continue with the Apostolic testimony. From the writer of Hebrews quoting Jeremiah, Hebrews 10:16-18 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.”

And from Peter: 1 Peter 4:3-5 “For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”

And also from Peter: 2 Peter 3:17-18 “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

And for the “we follow Jesus only crowd” or “Jesus first, forget the Apostles” check out Matthew 7:23 ” And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'”…and Matthew 23:27-28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”…and Matt 24:12 ” And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”

I want to give Paul the last word in this section, Titus 2:11-15 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”

The lawlessness is being revealed openly. Satan has his day. This is what Paul talks about in Romans 1. We are being handed over. We see it in what Paul describes in Romans 1:24-32 and Galatians 5:16-26. In apocalyptic language we see the two beasts – the lawless state (who can fight against it? – Rev 13:4) and the false prophet (Rev 13:11-18). And I know that I’ve just gone into cloud cookoo land quoting those, but this is said for those who have ears – “here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints (Rev 13:10)”. The Lord reigns. He is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty and the judgement against the beasts has already been entered (Rev 19:19-21). This has happened before and unfortunately it will probably happen again. But it is your call to stand firm in the faith. To witness to the truth of the resurrection and grace of Jesus Christ in the midst of a lawless world.

When can you say…

As someone who likes the sound of his own voice, after seeing this I was actually speechless.
Here is the write up of the reporter asking the question. Here is the cspan video of the exchange.

The core of the speechlessness is this phrase by former speaker Pelosi…

as a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me when we talk about this. I don’t think it should have anything to do with politics. And that’s where you’re taking it and I’m not going there.

What she was referencing as sacred ground was the right to abortion post 26 weeks (i.e. third trimester). What she refused to answer is: what is the moral difference between what Dr. Gosnell did to a baby born alive at 23 weeks and aborting her moments before birth?

Now Ms. Pelosi has always said that she is a “practicing and respectful Catholic”. We normally give wide berth to people in defining their own religion. But…when can you say something like “I don’t think you understand the meaning of that word?” When are you allowed to apply a normative or prescriptive definition on something like religion? And when would you want to say something like that?

Paul gives some instruction (1 Cor 5:9-13), but God bless the church who tries to practice this…

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people–not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler– not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

That is not someone who admits to being such because that is called repentance. We are always sinners and saints. What that talks to are those who claim to be “practicing and respectful” Christians, but the fruits of that faith are nowhere visible. How judgmental…