The gospel text today is the end of Jesus’ missionary sermon, and it contains one of the hardest sayings of Jesus. “I have have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” That is actually understandable from Matthew’s Gospel, which I hope the sermon brings to life. It is just that we are more used to Luke’s Christmas story. Understanding peace and swords is the first part.
The second part is about why anyone would take up the call and what that means. It is an expansion on what should be the greater phrase, but we go ho hum to “the one who received you receives me, and the one who receives me receives the one who sent me”. What that phrase tells us is that we get God. We get the Father. Our reward? God. That should be stunning.
Sometimes you have one of those spooky encounters. This includes mine floating in a pool a few years ago. But the points is about the warning and the blessing of being a follower of Jesus. The warning could cause fear, a little like my story. But it shouldn’t, because the blessing is so much greater.
I also left in a great hymn at the end that captures everything. LSB 836
This is the completion of the reading of the Jesus’ missionary discourse or sermon on mission. The sermon is full of striking images, but this section has one of the most striking. “Don’t think I have come to bring peace, but a sword.” If the first part was about the inception of mission, the middle portion was about encouragement during mission, this last portion is about the results that can be expected. One of those expectation is the division of the cross. But the other expectation is the ultimate success of the mission. The preaching, teaching and ministry of the cross may bring a sword, but it also ensures due rewards through the work of the Body of Christ.
Worship note: I left in a song that we sang as a congregation for the first time. LSB 661, The Son of God Goes Forth to War. I’m have not in the past been a big fan of they hymns with martial images. That is not because the church militant is not a worthy theme, but I think even the hymnody that uses it often abuses it. Instead of aiming the martial spirit at what Jesus would – sin, the life of holiness – it become a triumphal “yea, us.” But in the context of the missionary discourse and the body of Christ this hymn sets it right. The invasion that started and was won by Jesus on the cross, continues from age to age in the church. Who will follow in their train the hymns asks? Those gathered singing – the prophets, the righteous and the little ones.
As we start the long green season the readings have dropped us into the Missionary Discourse. That is a fancy way of saying Jesus’ sermon on sharing the faith. We read the start of it last week. This week in the middle we have Jesus both telling us what to expect, but also his encouragement. The expectation is various levels of persecution. But we are still disciples. We are call to follow the crucified. The core of the argument is encouragement. In the face of persecution the natural response is fear. Jesus three times says stop fearing. And with each tells us a bit of why we should have no fear.
Telling our faith is an appropriate reading for the day. In the Lutheran Church- the Church of the Augsburg Confession – June 25th is celebrated as the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession. This is what should be known as reformation day. If you get me going what I’d say is that out of the Reformation came four churches. The first is the church of the Augsburg Confession (1530). Then came what we know as the Roman Catholic Church formed at Trent (1545-1563), The Anglican church with the 39 Articles (1562), and the Reformed Church which had its earliest generally accepted confession in the 2nd Helvetic (1562). The Lutheran versions have always been at great pains to say this is the faith that has always been confessed. Yes, the Romans ran away with the most people, but Augsburg is more true and the first flag raised in the ruins of the old Western Church, caused in much the same way that the missionary discourse begins, with Jesus recognizing the shepherds of the people have abused and left the post.
Worship Note: I left in two of our hymns today. The congregation was in great form especially in the opening, LSB 913, O Holy Spirit Enter In. I also left in our closing hymn, a sentimental favorite that is a great capstone to the text and sermon, LSB 725, Children of the Heavenly Father.
The text is part of what is called the missionary discourse. Jesus is sending the twelve out to proclaim the kingdom. As part of that sending are some stern warning about persecution. Right next to those stern warnings are some of the most treasured expressions of believers about the love of God. What this sermon attempts to do is demonstrate how this functions as the gut-check of discipleship. Luther explains the first commandment as “we should fear, love and trust God above all things.” The gospel is proclaimed as what the disciple is encouraged and expected to believe about Jesus: about the place of a healthy fear of God, but the primacy of trusting God and his demonstrated love for us in Jesus.
The recording begins with one of my favorite hymns in Lutheran Service Book (LSB #933 – My Soul Rejoices). It is a versification of The Magnificat or song of Mary. We used this as our Hymn of Praise this morning.