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.
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.