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Agony

August 25, 2019 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Verse: Luke 13:22–13:30

Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
August 25, 2019
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Pentecost 11
Agony

And Jesus traveled through cities and villages teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. And someone said to him, "Lord! Will only a few be saved?" And so he said to them, "Struggle mightily to enter through the narrow gate for many I tell you will seek to enter and not be able.

“When once the master of the house should rise up and shut the door; and you find yourselves standing outside beating on it to gain entrance and urgently pleading, ‘Lord, open it to us;’ then he will say to you: ‘I don't know you, or where you are from?’

“Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence! You taught in our streets!’ “But he will answer, ‘I do not know you, or where you come from! Get out of my sight all you perpetrators of evil! There will be weeping and the grinding of teeth there when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but your yourselves excluded. People will come from the east, and west, from north and south and there eat the banquet in the kingdom of God. And behold! Those who are last will be first! And those who are first will be last.’” (Luke 13:22-30)

For the last three weeks Jesus has been teaching the church to discern what is temporary and what is permanent, what is worth pursuing and what is not.

It is instruction we all need because we are always making bad deals just like Esau, who we heard about in today’s epistle, who exchanged his birthright for a cup of soup. The future for the immediate. The eternal for the temporary.

But when it comes to the things of this life we do better. We scrutinize every transaction to determine if what we will get, is worth what we must give to get it. We join Costco and Amazon Prime in hopes of making good deals every day – and as often as we succeed we congratulate ourselves, and tell it to the world on social media. But why won’t we do that with things eternal?

Thank God that in today’s gospel the Lord sees our foolishness and teaches us better. Indeed, over the last three weeks a theme has been developing that is intended to draw us away from the immediate, so that we might gain that which satisfies and endures.

Jesus had strong words three Sundays ago for the man who was rich in earthly goods, but was not rich towards God. (Luke 12:21)

Then two Sundays ago we heard our Lord’s beautiful teaching on trusting God for the things that we need for this body and life. He makes clear that our heavenly Father knows that we need many things to live each day, and Jesus assures us that he will provide them all.

Last Sunday Jesus took an even sharper turn in his teaching! He spoke plainly about the cross that lay ahead of him. We learned in last week’s epistle that he found joy in it to be sure. Joy because by enduring it he was doing the will of his Father; and joy because by it he would win Rachel whom he loved, to be his holy Bride.

But we must not think that this joy came without agony! Without appalling agony and ghastly darkness, when our Lord accepted the cup of human sorrow, and drained it to the dregs.

We know this by his words in last Sunday’s gospel when, speaking of the cross that lay ahead of him, he says, “I have a baptism with which to be baptized and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!”

What did our Lord know about the cost of human sin, that we do not, that would cause the Rock of our Salvation to tremble?

Words fail us. But in one of the finest hymns ever written, hymnist Thomas Kelly puts these words on our lips:

“Ye who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly
Here its guilt may estimate
Mark the sacrifice appointed
See who bears the awful load
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed
Son of Man and Son of God”

And so when we ask God to forgive our wrongs “for the sake of “the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of your beloved Son Jesus Christ” –-then we have prayed a mouthful!

And so in today’s gospel we learn this lesson: that we, too, must agonize and struggle mightily if we hope to enter the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.

Or said another way: we must never think of our holy Christian religion as a hobby, part time pursuit, or handy accessory that helps us make it through the rough spots. But as our meat and drink, our life and salvation, and if it is anything less then today Jesus says to us: “get away from me you perpetrators of evil, I don’t know you!”

Yes, today our Lord calls us not only to enjoy the blessings, but also us to embrace the suffering that come from the Christian confession.

What sufferings? Today’s epistle answers the question best.

If we wish to enter the festal gathering we must endure the Father’s discipline. Those painful trials that God allows to come to us. Not as punishment for our sins – which have been dealt with once and for all on the cross. But as discipline, and training in righteousness just like Scripture states,. “Whom the Lord loves he chastens, and he disciplines every son whom he accepts.”

In today’s epistle the celebrant is aware of the thoughts on the minds of his hearers when he says, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant. But later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

What fruits? Greater faith in the power and amazing wisdom of God. With that comes peace; which gives calm; and then the ability to accept whatever comes our way. Because we have seen God deliver us many times before, and know that he will do so again.

In the words of today’s Gradual, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” (Ps. 34:19)

Yes, God has delivered you many times before and he will continue to do so; and be sure of this as well: that even as you are passing through the valley of the shadow of death, your Savior will uphold you with his nail scarred hands.

Hands that held the sorrow of all humanity within them. Hands that know well how to deliver! To right what is wrong! To raise you up each day! And to seat your at the festal banquet with Patriarchs, Prophets and the spirits of just men made perfect

-–and with Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant whose blood we drink today in Holy Communion, blood that speaks better things than the blood of Abel. Blood that speaks the remission of sins, life and salvation. Amen.