Don't Forget How To Blush
August 19, 2017
Verse: Luke 19:41–19:42
Christ Lutheran Church
August 20, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Don't Forget How To Blush
And when Jesus drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, "If only you had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Luke 19:41-42
It seems strange that such a gospel should appear in the Trinity season: Jesus weeping over the city he came to save, but that wanted nothing to do with him! It is the stuff of holy week but here it is in the middle of the summer.
So why is it here? Because tradition tells us that both times the Temple was destroyed it occurred in August. Once by the Babylonians in 587 BC, and once by the Romans in 70 AD. But what does that have to do with us?
We are not Jews. Quite the opposite. We know that Christ is the true temple of God. The one who was "torn down" by crucifixion and raised up again on the third day for our justification. (Romans 4:25)
Further it is the Christian faith that God now resides in Christ, who resides within the church's worship, the very thing we are engaged in at this time, and that we may peacefully approach him there, because it is the place he wishes to meet with us.
But let us ask again: what does this have to do with us? Though this reading may be out of season it should never be far from our minds because of the lesson it teaches: that God disinherited his chosen people. And that is about as strident a message as a Christian could ever hear.
It makes us wonder: if God disinherited them, will be disinherit me? After baptism, and a life time of his worship, will he disown me? Will he, in the end, remember my sins after all, and judge me for them?
If he did no one could blame him. We admit as much every Sunday when we pray that we justly deserve God's temporal and eternal punishment.
That statement counts!
It is true and it must stand on its own, at least for a time. If for no other reason than to sober up Old Adam who would drag us down to the pit of despair. Sinful nature is like an evil Siamese twin who can never be separated from you until the angels of God separate the wheat from the chaff on the last day. And since you must always contend with him you must always contend with harsh teachings like we hear today.
In the first lesson today Jeremiah says of God's Old Testament church: that they forgot how to blush! Their sins had reached such a pitch that their consciences were no longer operational. They normalized every sexual perversion, every form of idolatry; fraud and oppression were the national sport. Like a band of robbers nothing was out of bounds. Whatever God had taught Israel by Moses no longer meant anything to them. They tore off their rearview mirror, and quivered with the possibilities that lay ahead. With what new and exciting sin they could dream up tomorrow. What new stimulation would put a smile on their face and give them rest at last.
How about you? Have you forgotten how to blush? Have you normalized your particular sins of thought, word, deed, attitude or life style? Do you even bother to hear the word of the Lord anymore? To whisper a prayer of repentance? To bow your head in shame, and plead the merits of the cross to cover your sin? When it comes to the confession and absolution do you pray it with faith or is it simply a form of negativity to be endured? And what of the absolution? Do you think it is but a fellow sinners saying nice things, in a gentle gathering of nice people? Or do you hear the voice of Jesus in it from the cross saying: Father forgive them, for they know not what they do? That’s what you should hear and see when the pastor gives the absolution. Keep one eye on him, for he is God’s chosen minister, and the other on the crucifix.
In today's epistle lesson we are confronted with more bad news. For all of Israel's folly they were still the people God chose to disseminate his gospel to the whole world. But St. Paul says that they were unable to attain God's righteousness for themselves. And he says why: because they had no faith: faith in the Christ who God gave to make all men righteous, and all men just. Yet the Gentiles, who were not seeking righteousness with God, found it. Because when they heard the gospel they believed it! But do you believe it? Or do you stumble over the cross, and the Suffering Servant affixed to it by nails and by love? Do you stumble over his word to take up your own cross each day and follow him? Or over the seemingly humble means he provides to bless you: water, word, bread, wine, rites and rituals, ceremonies and celebrations. They are all of a piece.
We see the same theme repeated in today's Gospel lesson: Jesus has a meltdown. He is overcome by emotion that his people, whom had been groomed for centuries to meet him, rejected him and sought to destroy him.
And he let them do it!
Because his death was the lynchpin of God's strategy to cleanse us and make us inheritors of everlasting life.
Not only did the Lord weep and lament, he did more. Even at this very late date when the temple is about to become obsolete, when the glory of the Lord was about to leave it for the final time, through a torn curtain! Even now Jesus still finds it necessary to restore it to its proper usage. In a fit of anger he expels all the merchants who reduce religion to a business, and once again sanctifies the temple by his word: my house shall be called a house of prayer.
Today the church is God's House of Prayer because our Lord Jesus Christ inhabits it. Not just for us, but for all people who long for life, peace, rest and calm. It is the place where Jesus still teaches, just like he did then, and where people who merit "temporal and eternal punishment," find themselves acquitted, drinking the cup that runs over with life and salvation. You are those people. Amen.