Monday, August 9, 2010

The Things That Make for Peace

10th Sunday of Trinity – August 8th, 2010

Guest preaching at Trinity Lutheran, Covina, CA

Text: Luke 19:41-48

Grace mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ + Amen.

Jesus weeps. Most people in the ancient world rejoiced to gaze upon the city of Jerusalem: the beauty of her gilded temple, the power and strength of kings and armies, the wealth of Solomon, the holy city, mount Zion – I was glad when they said to me let us go up to the house of the Lord. But this house of the Lord had become a den of robbers and knaves. So, Jesus weeps over Jerusalem.

Like Jeremiah before Him, Jesus came to Jerusalem and received the same hospitality. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills its prophets and stones those who are sent to it, how often I would have gathered your children as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings –but you would not."

Jesus weeps. And the Chief Priests look for a way to destroy Him. Jesus Teaches. And the Scribes and Pharisees reject Him. The Son of God visits the Sons of Adam and He's nailed to a tree. The Stone that the builders rejected has become the Cornerstone. They did not know the day of His visitation. They would not know. They refused to know.

It's horrifically ironic: The chief priests and their cohorts tried to accuse Jesus of some kind of crime, they sought to destroy Him. They could not stand His teaching. They knew it was true. He spoke with Authority. People were hanging on every word. No one could out argue Him. He didn't contradict Moses or the Prophets. He didn't fall for their traps and tricks. And they couldn't deny the miracles He performed. There was no failure of any kind in Him and yet they wanted Him dead. Why? Because He was holy and they weren't. Because He was Lord and they wanted to be. He upheld the Law they constantly failed to keep. They were guilty and too proud to admit it. Jesus' Word of Law as too true, it struck too deeply. So rather than facing the Law's punishment they plotted to destroy it; to destroy Him. Kill Jesus and they're free from the Law, or so they thought.

And here's the irony it worked. They plotted and meant evil. But God meant it for good. While they schemed in hatred, God suffered in love. They did it to escape sin and its punishment; Jesus took on the cross to endure all sin and punishment, even of those who reject Him.

Jerusalem may not have appeared this ugly from the hills walking into town, but outward appearances can be deceiving…and Jerusalem was queen of outward appearances, like a finely-dressed woman, every hair in place, adorned with sparkling jewelry, attractive and enchanting like the old witch turned temptress in Snow White. She was all dressed up like Jezebel, but full of liars and hypocrites and who despised God's Word. Dazzling beauty outside, ugly and rotten on the inside. They rejected God's gifts. Rejected His Son. Jerusalem was not destroyed because she broke the Law but because she broke the Gospel.

Ooh, but she had it comin' didn't she?! Jesus wept but the dryness of her heart would not soften. Jesus cleansed the temple, but she just kept soiling her garments with lies, hypocrisy and rejection. Yes, when the Romans finally came in 70 A.D. with palisades and torches and battering rams and swords – she got what she had coming.

But if it is true that Jerusalem reaped what she sowed, then why, haven't you as well? Jerusalem has nothing on you. For who among us is without guilt? Who among us has never filled our lips with lies? Who among us free of hypocrisy, always rejoicing and gladly hearing and learning God's Word? We are as guilty as Jerusalem. Why should we expect anything different? No, we are rebels, enemies of God, foolish, stubborn and stiff-necked, always resisting the Holy Spirit. The temple of our hearts is a den of thieves.

And yet none of this would stop our Lord from visiting Jerusalem. For He goes down from the hills overlooking Jerusalem into the city of Peace to make peace between God and man – to end the war by offering His sacrifice on the cross in our place. As Jesus weeps in anguish over the city He's about to enter, He weeps not in wrath, but in love. He enters Jerusalem in order to die for all, even those who reject and sin against Him.

Jerusalem's failures and rejection would not stop our Lord, and neither you're your sin. He would rather pry that sin from your cold dead fingers by His cross than see you carry your sin to your own destruction. He goes. He enters. He suffers. He dies. He visits His people. These are the things that make for peace: nails and thorns, scourging and spear.

Blessed is He who is reviled and persecuted and uttered all kinds of evil against on our account, for great is the reward in heaven He gives to you.

Blessed is the Peacemaker, for His is the Son of God. Peace in Human flesh, come to earth to visit us, to weep in anguish over our sin and to take turn our sin-hardened hearts into joyful, prayerful praising hearts.

He enters Jerusalem for you – to reclaim you from the clutches of hell and the devil. He enters Jerusalem to cleanse the temple of your heart and drown your thieving, lying, hypocrisy-ridden old Adam in the water and blood that flows from His pierced side.

This is Christ's blessed exchange: His life for your death. Your Sin for His Holiness. His heaven is given to you because your hell was His. He got all that you had comin' so that you receive all that He has to give you. For now in Christ Jesus we who were once filled with lies and hypocrisy, sin death and rebellion have now been brought near to God by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace. He who wept over us in love also died on the cross for us in love, reconciling us to God. He went to Jerusalem to deliver you into His holiness. He cleansed the temple that He might replace it with Himself.

Israel of old used to go to Jerusalem to receive God's holiness from the temple – God's presence. God's holiness distributed and dished up in blood, guts and sacrifices. The temple looked more like a slaughter house than sacred ground. But forgiveness is a bloody business. And so it was for Christ. These are the things that make for peace: nails and thorns, scourging and spears, blood and sacrifice. Life is in the blood. God's Peace is in that blood. God's holiness is in that righteous shed-for-you blood that drips, and pours and gushes from the cross to your chalice.

These are the things that make for peace: You are baptized, washed in the holiness of His death and resurrection, a peace-drenching flood of forgiveness. You are absolved in the Name of Christ and live daily in His Peace. You hear and hang on His every Word for He brings peace through your ears to your hearts. He pours out His peace upon your tongue and lips as you receive the cup of salvation.

Now is the time of your visitation. Now the Holy one of Israel comes to you. And Jesus weeps no more. For His cross is your peace. All your sin belongs to Him so that all his peace belongs to you. Jesus for you, not just in Jerusalem but here in Covina and wherever you receive His gifts that make for peace. Wherever God gives you His gifts there you have His Son. To have His Son is to have peace, to be reconciled, to be a citizen of the Jerusalem that will never perish or fade or be destroyed. For in Him and in His Church you are Holy. You are His. And whoever Christ touches and proclaims as holy – no matter how unlikely that is in the 1st or 21st century - is holy.

The Peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the true faith in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting + Amen.

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