Home > Sermons, The Holy Cross > When He Suffered He Did Not Threaten–Misericordias Domini Sermon

When He Suffered He Did Not Threaten–Misericordias Domini Sermon


Misericordias Domini

St. Peter Lutheran Church

1 Peter 2:18-25

April 22, 2012

“The World Needs the Royal Priesthood”

Image of the Good Shepherd from Roman Catacombs

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

 

  1. 1.       Andrew Sullivan…columnist, believer in Christ’s divinity, homosexual

Essay on the crisis of the American Church in Easter Newsweek.

 

There are many theological errors in his essay.  The Church must proclaim God’s law clearly, including about people’s sex lives, whether about homosexuality or rampant heterosexual unchastity.   And yet his central criticism of American Christianity and Christians perhaps gives us something to meditate on and with which to examine ourselves. 

 

We frequently complain about the dechristianization of the United States and about the collapse of what used to be moral commonplaces.

 

But maybe our country is not wrong to criticize us for hypocrisy and lack of compassion.  That in our zeal to testify clearly that God’s Law has not changed, we have not at the same time made clear that we are not angry at our neighbors, nor do we think that we are better than them.

 

So often, though we may continually preach the free forgiveness of sins on account of Jesus’ passion, received by faith alone, our actions say that the Gospel has very little bearing on real life.  We are not gracious to one another in the Church…and our words and actions often betray that we have little confidence that God’s grace in Christ is the power that enables the Church to fulfill its calling to make disciples of Jesus.

 

Tells story of Thomas Jefferson cutting up the bible.  Jefferson did this to boil down Christianity to what he thought was its essence—the moral teaching of Jesus.  Sullivan says, whether you agree with Jefferson or not that Jesus is true God and that He rose from the dead, you should pay attention to what Jefferson was saying because—

 

“What does it matter how strictly you proclaim your belief in various doctrines if you do not live as these doctrines demand? What is politics if not a dangerous temptation toward controlling others rather than reforming oneself?

 

All of which is to say something so obvious it is almost taboo: Christianity itself is in crisis. It seems no accident to me that so many Christians now embrace materialist self-help rather than ascetic self-denial—or that most Catholics, even regular churchgoers, have tuned out the hierarchy in embarrassment or disgust. Given this crisis, it is no surprise that the fastest-growing segment of belief among the young is atheism, which has leapt in popularity in the new millennium. Nor is it a shock that so many have turned away from organized Christianity and toward “spirituality,” co-opting or adapting the practices of meditation or yoga, or wandering as lapsed Catholics in an inquisitive spiritual desert.

 

The Church in America’s decline is due to Church’s attempts to influence/control culture by means of politics rather than the Gospel—the mercy of God in Christ.  And when that has been preached the Church’s witness in terms of merciful, gracious love toward the fallen has been weak.  Too often the church has been a society for moral, middle class folks longing for a return to traditional morality.  Too often the salvation Christ gives freely to those who do not meet our standards has not been heard or borne out by our actions.  It has not been apparent that the church is not the place for people of exceptional morality or for traditionalists, but a place where the dead are raised—whether “moral” or “immoral.”

 

  1. 2.      What is missing…

How Peter says to treat unfair masters.  Serve them with all your heart–not because they treat you well, but in spite of the fact that they don’t.

 

What is missing is love of enemies–mercy toward the merciless–love toward those who have not earned love–including those who continue to cause you pain, abuse you.

That is unworldly.  It is from another planet.  It is the church living as disciples of Jesus–living the life of Christ that has been given in Baptism.  (John 12: Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there my servant will be also.)

 

  1. 4.      What we do instead and why.

We are like Peter…do not want the cross.  Unbelief.

 

When we revile and threaten, injure in response to injury, we become evildoers ourselves.

 

Scatters the church.  Hirelings instead of good shepherd—we do not care about the sinners for whom Christ died, but seek to preserve ourselves.  The Church lives as though it is not Christ’s church, not the community of those who love their enemies, not servants and brothers of Jesus who bore the wrath of God for them.

 

Deceit found in our mouths, because we deny our sin and accuse others and justify ourselves.

 

  1. 5.       The example of the good shepherd…no deceit, did not revile or threaten—entrusted Himself to the just judge—God.
  2. 6.      Where the power to love enemies comes from—

 

Grace that is more powerful than sin and evil.

First of all, we receive this grace from Christ, who blots out the entirety of our sin with His blood.

 

The shame of Jesus death removes our shame before God.

His truthful mouth speaks the forgiveness of our sins.

 

This is who we are.  This is what we were baptized for—to do good and bear suffering without reproach, like Jesus.

 

Not that we can accomplish this; but we have already died in Baptism into Christ.  And thus we no longer are the self-seekers, revenge-getters that we were born in Adam.  We are in Christ—new creatures who overcome the evil of our enemies by showing love and mercy to them, and enduring the suffering that is inflicted on us.

 

Be comforted if you have suffered—you were called to this.  It was no accident.  God has not abandoned you.  This is the life we were given in Baptism.  Its end is everlasting joy.

 

If you suffer unjustly—joy because you are like Christ.

 

If you don’t have the power to love and forgive your enemies or those who wrong you, fear not. 

 

You have learned the truth about yourself—that you are unable to do this.

That is what Peter himself learned.

Loving enemies and forgiving them comes as we learn to believe that we are loved and forgiven by God in Christ despite our many sins.  As we continually return to Jesus for forgiveness and He shows us His wounds and pronounces absolution and gives us His body and blood, then, healed by His grace which overcomes sin, we begin to bear the sins of others and love them.

 

Grieveing—death and shame not the end of everything but rather participation in Jesus.

 

Jesus does not speak against us.  He does not curse or revile; He continually speaks well of us.  He speaks to the Father on our behalf.  And when we come to Him for forgiveness, He says, “You are righteous, innocent.”  “Your sins are forgiven.”

 

Peter: “You have returned”—not in that we do not struggle with sin; not in that we do not fall into sin.

            Believing in the forgiveness of your sins on account of Christ, you have returned.

            Baptized into Christ and believing that you are no longer what you were born in the flesh, but a little Christ.

            Thus you have returned to the shepherd and bishop of your souls.

“That you might die to sins and live for righteousness”: you have and you will.

  1. 7.       Vital importance of priesthood

This is not a world where there is mercy—where those we fail or sin against are willing to die in our place.

 

But mercy enters the world in Jesus Christ, who dies for His enemies; for the whole world.

 

And His mercy flows through the royal priesthood—His body, the church.

 

He who died for His enemies has made us free from death and hell;

 

Free, redeemed, and saved, we are able to suffer the loss of the pleasures and treasures of this world because we have treasure that endures in heaven;

 

So Christ’s mercy is shown in a merciless world through us, His body.

 

God grant it among us.  Amen.

 

 

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