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Private Confession by appointment.

Fire

August 11, 2022 Pastor: Rev. Peter Mills

Proper 15/C [Pent. 10], Aug. 14, 2022: Ps. 119:81-88; Jeremiah 23:16-29; Hebrews 11:17—12:3; Luke 12:49-56.

Fire

“Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (vv. 28, 29).

God inveighs against pastors who, from the light of their hearts, corrupt his Word proclaimed in the power of its purity. Humans dream the worthless “straw” of false teachings; but God’s unadulterated Word is life’s nourishment as from enriched grain. If the human heart is dead, resistant stone; then God’s word comes on it, as a hammer to spark fire, either to repentance or to judgment.

Jesus, the pure incarnate word, is heaven’s Hammer. Speaking of himself, “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!” I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division …” (Lk. 12:49-51).

Last Sunday God “counted” Abraham as righteousness by faith (Gen. 15:6); giving pause to enquire, “what kind of faith?” The author of Hebrews answers: faith that is faithful, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross …” (Heb. 12:2).

Jesus, incarnate Torah of God out of heaven was cast on the earth with the force of an atomic explosion, right in the middle of your dining-room table, a place from which you might expect respite from worldly conflict.

But that is not the case, is it? The harmony epitomized by fictional families fails reality; neither “Ozzy and Harriet” (if you remember them) nor the “Blue Bloods” Sunday dinner rings true.

There is a reason families tend not to speak of business, politics, or religion at their dinner table: Jesus explains, “[F]rom now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three” (v. 52).

Society and politics in a sinful world are oriented in God’s law for civil order. But Jesus with his church is God’s expression for our salvation by word and sacrament, both law and gospel neither confused with the other.

The “religious” hearts of men and women are as the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day messaging their personal “dreams” over against God’s clear word. We posit “a different spirit” “another Jesus”, and “a different gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6, 7), conflating philosophies of men against God’s pure word.

Diverse opinions about “Jesus” around the dinner table marginalizes heaven’s Hammer as did the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day, arguing that betwixt man and God, “It shall be well” (Jer. 23:17).

But Jesus, God’s incarnate Torah has come, not to negotiate; rather for “division”. Jesus, lifted on the cross hammers and sparks a fire of crisis and judgment. By his atomizing, we either submissively relent of our “dreams” to God’s word, or not.

Here is the “division” within the families of men. By God’s word in our midst, some will repent and believe; others will resist in favor of old dreams and associations. For those who believe, our faith is counted righteous, that seeks communion with Jesus, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk. 16:16a);

Abraham’s faith and faithfulness was sealed in Circumcision; now, you through Holy Baptism, a better cleansing and putting off of sin, enter faith in Jesus’ crucified and resurrected flesh and blood, a salvation for which the patriarchs only hoped (Jn. 8:56).

Again, “what kind of faith, testifies to our righteousness before God?”; “what does righteousness look like?” Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees, never looking back. Moses, in today’s Epistle, heads a catalogue of faithful heroes. By faith Moses discerned God’s invisible “better inheritance”.

Moses was adopted into Pharaoh’s household, a prince of Egypt, cypher for all the world offers. But Christ, in both OT and NT, comes to men for crisis in the circumstances of our lives, requiring one to accept God’s invisible promises; or remain in the visible security among the families of men.

Moses could have remained in Pharaoh’s house but chose to align himself with the slave people of God; circumstances extended no other option; the Word had crashed into Moses’ life.

Moses was crushed by an attack on his Hebrew brothers to a new awareness of suffering (Ex. 2:11, 12). So confronted, Moses without fear, put his life at risk for God’s promise to Abraham, a better inheritance than the pleasures of Pharaoh’s table.

For the sake of sightedness (Heb. 11:26), Moses renounced Pharaoh’s table. Division from his worldly family, for unity with a new family was consummated by baptism through the Red Sea with the people of God.

Christ, the crucified Hammer of God, leads our way through this world. Baptism is where we first encounter spiritual crisis; either we hear Jesus’ word remaining unconverted, or we renounce old ties and associations for a new kinship (Lk. 8:19-21; 14:26; 21:16, 17).

There is no middle ground, Baptism is the Christian’s first suffering in the way of the cross; again, “in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.” That said, in our communion, with church as new mother and brothers and sisters in Christ, we patiently and painfully pray for those yet unconverted.

If we suffer on account of division within earthly families, still reward surpasses loss. It may, at first, be difficult to see the invisible reality, but as heirs of heaven you can look about in this place and recognize “the great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) gathered around a better Table where the one holy catholic and apostolic faith neither speaks human opinion nor dreams disputing God’s clear word.

As new family, we do not evade engaging God’s law and gospel for “peace” with a world of unbelief or heresy; rather such is the inexhaustible topic of our exodus conversation with Jesus (Lk. 9:30, 31), on way to a better place revealed the Last Day.

Jesus with Moses and Elijah, on the Mt. of Transfiguration represented “the great cloud of witnesses”, urging us to God’s word for fidelity in seeing Jesus only whose joy is the cross for our salvation. Amen.

pem.