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Identity

August 2, 2020 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
Monday of Pentecost 9 (Voelz Seminar)
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Identity

I speak the truth in Christ - I am not lying, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit; that I have great sorrow and unrelenting grief in my heart wishing that I myself could be cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen, according to the flesh; they who are Israelites to whom belong the adoption, and the glory and the covenants, and Torah, and the worship and the promises; to whom belong the patriarchs and of whom is Christ according to the flesh, who is over all: Blessed be God unto the ages of ages, Amen.

But it is not as though the declaration of God is proved to have failed in as much as not all who are descended from Israel are Israel, nor are all the offspring of Abraham the Children; but, "In Isaac shall your Name be carried on;" and so it is not the children proceeding from physical descendancy that are the children of God; but the children who are children by promise that are counted as Offspring.
(Romans 9:1-8)

Dear Christians before we let ourselves get sucked into the vacuum of culture’s irrational reifications … before we import “begged questions” such as BLM into the church, or “hasty generalizations” such as systemic racism: let us hear St. Paul who speaks the truth and lies not!

Let us hear him say that in the church there is only one identity, one race even as there is “one Lord, one faith one baptism” by which you are counted as the offspring of God.

Those who carry the divine DNA of him who is the Eternal Son. The “logos” made “sarcs”. He who by his gracious incarnation is also the offspring of Adam, and of the Blessed Theotokos who bore Christ according to the flesh.

He who died on the Tree that grew from the same ground of which his human nature was taken. He who gives us his Body to eat via wheat of the same ground, and his blood to drink via vine of the same ground; and by whom we Gentiles who were “wild olive branches” were grafted into True Olive Tree by the Spirit who re-creates the face of the earth.

Has our preacher lost his mind? Possibly, but he doesn’t think so.

Instead he is naming our divine descendance! Naming it so that we do not get confused by the tsunami of cultural palaver. He is reminding us that we are in St. Paul’s words, “counted” as the offspring of God.

But if you wish to accuse the preacher of anything this morning – get in line – it is that he is putting the cart before the horse. Giving the conclusion of the sermon before the body of the sermon. The analogy, before the exposition.

What is the exposition of these verses?

Just this, that St. Paul had a bigger problem on his hands than we do in our current cultural wars. And make no mistake about it: Civil War 2.0 has broken out in America and it will be hotter than WW6, before it is over.

Know, too, that unless the God of Jacob should again “break the bows, shatter the spears, and burn the chariots with fire” (Psalm 46) that the chiliasts among us might be proved right: that the Parousia is just around the corner.

Yes Paul faced a huge problem: that of identity politics. Not in the world which is de rigueur … but in the church where it must never be given entrance.

You all know the players.

1) The Jews who had converted to Christ, 2) the Gentiles who had converted to Christ, and plenty of 3) Jews and 4) Gentile had not.

The last of these two identity groups caused Paul enough tribulation. But the ones who made the Lord’s prophecy come true, that: “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16) were without question the Judaizers. Those Jews who had become Christians, but who were convinced that Paul’s Gospel was wrong.

Convinced, and willing to kill to make their point: that if any Gentile wanted to be a Christian he first had to become a Jew. He first had to receive circumcision; the worship, the promises, the covenants, and so on which, as we know, terminated in Christ; and beyond him there is nothing at all !!

Though the problem did not seem as sharp in Rome as it was in Corinth or Galatia St.. Paul takes no chances. Instead he takes pains to establish the ONE gospel of Jesus Christ, so that the “truth of the gospel might be preserved for us.” (Gal. 2:5).

So that we sinners might know the crystal fountain of pure remission by the blood of Jesus; perfect freedom and true grace in Christ. The very grace that we praise at this hour; and will study in depth over the next 2 days.

Though his enemies were mighty! And implacable! They did not count on one thing: that Paul would be so …. Paul!

That Paul, like Jeremiah, would be a fortified wall of bronze to the Judaizers against whom they would fight but not prevail. (Jer. 15:20) But O what a pummeling that wall took!

When St. Paul sat in the baths at night, his fellow bathers must have winced and politely turned their glance for they saw, what we only read about in Galatians Gal. 6:17: that, “From now on let no man trouble me for I bear in my body “ta stigmata tou Hesou.” (the stigmata of Jesus).

And before your ministry is over O pastor, be you young or old, you may bear the same marks. Not just the resistance, threats of termination, and emotional scars that are a part of every minister’s life. But the visible ones as well – because the prevailing winds have changed direction.

If you believe that the extreme regulations for reopening a church are nothing more than an unfortunate inconvenience that all “public places” must bear equally, I hope you are right.

If you don’t believe that governors and other petty tyrants are blaming the spread of the flu on churches (while giving race riots a pass), again I hope you are right.

Nonetheless hear St. Paul today: that there is only one ancestry that counts in the church – all others excluded however culturally aromatic and it has nothing to do with face masks, or the color of one’s skin!

It is the ancestry that comes not through Abraham, but through Isaac, which is to say: through Christ whom Isaac perfectly typifies as the bearer of the sacrificial wood, and as the “husband of one wife,” Rebecca, the church!

And as you hold the one identity that counts in your frontal lobes; and reject all others as illogical, irrelevant, divisive and injurious to the neighbor – remember what stands written in the epistle from Sunday that: "For your sake we are put to death all the day long; regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."

But like the Lord whose glory we share, we too shall be undisputed victors!

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.