Thursday, June 14, 2012

Enemy Occupied Territory

One of the many difficulties in preaching is choosing which illustrations or examples to use and which ones to toss aside. I often keep some of these notes from the cutting room floor for posts here, future sermons or salient points worth diving into deeper during a Bible study. Last week's Gospel reading - at least in the three-year lectionary - was from Mark 3, Jesus' parable of the strong man. The second stanza of All the Earth with Joy is Sounding captures the text brilliantly,

Christ, the devil's might unwinding,
Leaves behind His borrowed tomb.
Stronger He, the strong man binding,
Takes, disarms his house of doom;
In the rout 
Casting out
Pow'rs of darkness, sin and doubt.
(LSB 462:2)

No wonder Abraham Lincoln used this text for his famous "house divided" speech in 1858. Jesus is talking about civil war, rebellion. And thus, we find ourselves, as quoted by Lewis below, in enemy occupied territory. We're stuck in the house of doom. Captive in the strong man's coffers. That is until the stronger man comes along, kicks in the door, breaches the devil's treasure keep to pillage death and hell. Jesus the divine Pirate comes for you, his plunder. Or, as Lewis mentions, depicts, Jesus is the rightful King who comes to quell the rebellion led by Satan in the garden. His cross is your victory. His resurrection is your guarantee. In Baptism He has conscripted you into his army of saints, placed the mark of His crucifixion on your forehead and your heart, placed His very Name upon you in order to bless you, save you, forgive you and bring you out of Satan's house into His own, from death to life, from curse to blessing, out of the wilderness back into paradise restored. And He even arms you with the whole panoply of God. For he calls us to take part in the great sabotage campaign, known as the Christian life in the one, holy, apostolic, catholic church. When you go to Divine Service, Christ continues to kick down the door of the strong man's house, binding him and rescuing you from sin, death and hell. When you receive the absolution, the strong man is bound when God's loosing words bring you forgiveness. When you are baptized and daily drown and rise in your Baptism, his cogs and gears are halted. When you kneel and eat Jesus' body and blood, the bread once declared a curse of the fall now comes to bless you, heal you and rescue you. When you declare the Good News - Jesus died for your sins - to your neighbor, the devil's ranks are confused like the Midianites before Gideon. When you sing a hymn of praise and join in the liturgy the devil flees from the battle field for he cannot bear to be in the presence of the Word of God.

Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel. Enemy occupied territory - that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book II, chapter 2).

No comments:

Post a Comment