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Onward Christian Soldiers

June 25, 2023 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

ARMORChrist Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
June 25, 2023
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Pentecost 4
Onward Christian Soldiers

You enticed me O LORD, and I was deceived; You overpowered me, and I was unable to resist. I have become a laughingstock all the day long, Everyone mocks me. For whenever I open my mouth cries out "violence," and predicts, "devastation!" For the Word of the LORD has become a disgrace to me and a cause of derision all the day long. If I say, "I will forget him, and not speak his name anymore," there is in my heart and in my bones as it were a fire burning. I am weary of holding it in, and I am unable to bear it. For I hear many whispering. There is terror wherever I turn. All my intimates say, "Denounce him! Let us denounce him," watching for my demise. Perhaps we can trick him [they say], then we will be able to extract our revenge.

Today’s readings are like a bucket of ice water over the head. They snap us out of our hypnotic state to insure that we can see the entirety of what it means to be a Christian.

On the one hand we love our faith and wild horses could not keep us away. It is our light, life and salvation that has brought us safe thus far; and assures us that we “can endure all things though Christ who strengthens us.” (Phil. 4:13). It forgives our crimes, remits our judgment and sooths us at all times, and in all places.

We can well identify with Jeremiah who says, “If I say, ‘I will forget him and not speak his name anymore,’ there is in my heart and in my bones ... a burning fire that I cannot bear.” And so we could no more stop calling on the name of Christ, and praising his priceless name, than we could hold our breath forever. Indeed “For us to live is Christ, and to die is gain!” (Phil. 1:21)

But on the other hand let us not ignore Jeremiah’s complaint, or the words of Jesus in today’s gospel, or the words of St. Paul in today’s epistle, which teach us that for all the joy and promise we possess, that the Christian religion is not a spectator sport, and that we must have “skin in the game.”

Why? Because to be a Christian is to be at war.

Not against flesh and blood, but against “principalities, powers, and spiritual wickedness in high places.” We can never afford to be drowsy, but must always “watch and pray.” Or as St. Peter says it, “Be sober, be vigilant, for your adversary the devil as a roaring lion walks about seeking whom he may devour, whom resist steadfast in the faith.” (1 Peter 5:7ff)

We must know that as Christians we are in the devil’s crosshairs, he whom St. Paul names “the prince of the power of the air,” which means that his influence is everywhere to be found. We experience his evil power by the temptations he sends to our fickle flesh; those “fiery darts” that can only be stopped by “the shield of faith.”

But the Evil One’s influence does not end there but he has infected the world at large: its ways, its perceptions, its institutions; and every person who embraces his cause. That is what Jeremiah was up against, as were the Lord and his disciples and so are we.

Now Jeremiah is a type of Jesus, and every word that Jeremiah spoke was a fore-telling of what Jesus says in today’s gospel. Jesus was the laughing stock of the world. When he said to the ruler of the synagogue whose daughter had died, “the child is not dead but sleeping,” the crowd could not stop laughing. (Mark 5:39ff) And when he brought her back to life, filling her father with unspeakable wonder, love and praise, they despised the Lord even more and stepped up the plot to silence him once for all.

Which only goes to show that math is not for everyone: because in so doing the devil made the greatest miscalculation of his bloody career when he incited men to kill their God and be forever done with him. Because by our Lord’s holy, innocent suffering and death our sins are atoned for, and by his glorious resurrection the power of death and the devil were brought to a screeching halt, never to rise again.

Nonetheless what Jesus says to us today is true, that Christians will be pursued, persecuted and hated by everyone for his name’s sake.

At this time we do not feel the heat of persecution as other Christians do, and have, throughout the world, and throughout history. But for the devil and his minions it is a clear case of “game on.”

What in living memory was normal for Christian culture: marriage and family, children, education, work and especially worship are nearly erased today – and anyone who wants those things back is the devil’s sworn enemy. And the words of Jesus are coming true before our very eyes today; especially this phrase, “children will rise up in rebellion against parents and have them put to death.”

Today this is happening under the rubric of Gaslighting.

Gaslighting happens when the culture encourages children coming of age to reject everything their pious parents ever taught them about: yielding their members to righteousness which leads to life, and not to sin which leads to death. (Rom. 6)

They convince children that their parents are to blame for all their problems because of their narrow-mindedness, and they are encouraged to divorce their parents, openly embrace their new “life-style” which always involves sexual perversion, and to hold their parents hostage by it. The latest form of this deviation is the trans-gender sin; which is a satanic thorn in the flesh, that appears to have won the day, and makes us think that our children are lost to us forever. That is what a distressed parent might think, but Jesus says, “this child is not dead, but sleeping.”

And so until they awake let us pray Jeremiah’s prayer, and put full faith and confidence in it:

“But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. O LORD of hosts, who tests the righteous, who sees the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause. Sing to the LORD; praise the LORD! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers. (Jer. 20:11-13)

Now the “evildoers” here mentioned are the devil, his operatives, apologists, and sympathizers upon whom the LORD will take vengeance! And we, and our besieged children, are the “needy ones” whom the LORD will deliver from their hands.

Come quickly Lord Jesus. Amen