This is War

Man against father… daughter against mother… daughter in law against mother in law…

Jesus knew about this war… this sword.. from firsthand experience. This war put Jesus’ family against him. His family said he was out of his mind (Mark 3)! This war had put his disciples against him in John 6.

Imagine for a moment, this beautiful place of worship you have here. Imagine all the sweat and blood that you put into building it. Imagine the tears of joy when a man and a woman were joined together in holy matrimony. Imagine the tears of pain and isolation and loneliness when a loved one has passed. Imagine the joy shared over Christmas programs and Easter and baptisms. Imagine for a moment, that other members of this church said you couldn’t worship here anymore. After all those memories, these are fighting words. This is war.

This is the very thing that the Apostles and early Christians dealt with. There place of worship was under assault by family members and friends and many of the early Christians were excommunicated because. The early Christians were excommunicated because they received Jesus, and the prophets who pointed forward to Jesus and the disciples who pointed back to Jesus. All the blood sweat and tears, the early Christians had put into their place of worship, and they could not worship there anymore. In some cases they were forced out by the sword! This is war!

This war! This war has been going on since the beginning of time.

My wife’s college roommate, Diane, went to Afghanistan teaching English as a second language in Kabul. While Diane was there, teaching and living out her faith, Gayle Williams was gunned down near the Compound where Diane lived. This really shook Diane because Gayle Williams was in Afghanistan for the same reasons Diane was. It got out that Gayle was a Christian and when she came out of her compound, the people of Kabul came against her. The very people that Gayle was trying to give a better life, gunned her down in opposition to Christianity.

This is what Jesus meant, he did not come to bring peace but a sword. This means war!

This war hits a little closer to home when raged gunmen took over Columbine High School. When the gunmen came to Cassie Bernall, they asked if she loved Jesus. Cassie said yes and her life was taken for it. This is War!

This war is in our world, it is in our schools and it is in our work place. This war doesn’t always end the same way but the battle is just as fierce.

In college, I worked at UPS, loading boxes. I’d always talk to my coworkers, asking where they went to school, how long they planned working there; those kinds of questions. My coworkers would always ask me the same kinds of questions. They found out that I was studying to be a pastor. Many of them would make fun of me for being a Christian. Mad-dog was the chief to make fun of me for being a Christian. This is war!

But Mad-dog wasn’t the greatest foe I’ve faced. My biggest foe follows me around every day. My biggest foe lives inside my own head. Yes, I am my own biggest foe. My foe tries to trick me into saying that I’m not worthy to follow God’s plans for my life. My foe tries to tell me that it’s okay love other things more than Jesus. Some days, I find it to love other things more than Jesus.

In order to make it out of this war, we have to love Jesus more than our families. We have to love Jesus more than the people we are trying to help. We have to love Jesus more than life itself. We have to love him more than our own feelings. (Moo 263) This war is a demand for loyalty that strips the sanctity of family ties.

To top it all off, Jesus indirectly commands his disciples and us to take up our cross and follow. We must take up our cross to be found worthy of him. 
To accept this mission of accepting the sword; to engage in front lines of this war is to take up your cross and follow Christ.
This is the Gospel message in this text. This is the central verse in our reading today. How can it be that taking up the cross is the central theme of our text, Seminarian? 
The cross is the central theme of any text.
But Blogger, didn’t Jesus do all the work on the cross for me?
You are right. So what do we do with this?

Luther says It is the will of God for us to take up our cross. The cross is understood as a punishment of death.  How is this Gospel? This is war! The cross is our war flag!

(1 Sam 2:6) the Lord kills and brings to life. He brings down to hell and raises up.

When we are brought to the waters of baptism, + the sign of the cross is made upon your heart and upon your forehead. Before we were baptized, we bored the cross. When we were baptized, we were buried with Christ. When we are baptized we are killed, we are brought down to hell. We are buried with Christ into his death. In the waters of baptism we are brought to life. In the waters of baptism we are raised up to new life!

Carrying the cross makes us ready for battle! As the words of the great battle hymn proclaim “Onward Christian Soldier, marching as to war! And the Cross of Jesus, going on before! Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe; 
               forward into battle see his banners go! 

This is war! And our baptism brings us together so we are not alone in this war. We have been given a band of brothers and sisters through baptism.

Jesus says, whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. When you receive his word and believe that you are raised to new life in baptism, you receive him. When you come to the altar, you receive substance and sustenance for this war. When you receive his word, attached to the food received at this altar, you receive Jesus. This is war!

 Brothers and sisters in arms, this is war and whoever loves Jesus more than anything else in the world, is worthy of Jesus. Brothers and sisters in arms you are worthy of Jesus. You are made worthy because of your baptism and you are reminded of your worthiness every time the sign of the cross is made. Brothers and sisters in arms you are worthy of Jesus because your sins have been forgiven through absolution. Brothers and sisters in arms, you are worthy of Jesus because you received his body and his blood for sustenance for this war!

Yeah: This is war! My dad pastured in Montana. On one occasion, while fighting on the front lines, he had the opportunity to baptize little Rebekah. Rebekah’s parents had already been baptized and they carried the cross and followed Christ and now had the opportunity to share this with their daughter. Rebekah’s grandfather was a hard boiled WWII POW Veteran. He didn’t have much use for the church or for his kids going to church. When Rebekah was brought to the waters of baptism, Rebekah’s grandfather was sure to be there. She had won his heart.

When Rebekah was brought to the front to be baptized, the entire Hahn family, including aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents were all in attendance. That day,  baby Rebekah joined the ranks, receiving the cross of Jesus on her little heart and her little forehead.

It was not in the foxholes where Atheists find God that Rebekah’s grandfather found God. It was at the frontlines of Rebekah’s baptism. He was overwhelmed by his sin and begged to be baptized that day, to join the ranks of so many believers.

This is war! This is a time to find out who loves you and who hates you because of Christ. Remember, in the heat of the battle, when it looks like all is lost, in the end, we will win. In the resurrection, we will receive our reward and be brought up to Jesus. We will receive our reward and have a life without pain or suffering. This war will end. This war will be over and you shall have forever life.

 
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