The Tenth Sunday after Trinity
“That We May Be Partakers”
Rev. Philip G. Meyer, Pastor Emeritus
St. Luke 19.41-48
16 August 2020
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
The unbelieving world does not know the things that make for peace. Today’s protesters do not know the things that make for peace. Ironically, the mainstream media insists that these protests are peaceful. After attacking federal buildings, businesses, and law enforcement officers, they have turned to another object. Protesters in Portland began throwing Bibles into a fire, stacks of them! [TheFederalist.com/2020/08/01]. They are trying to destroy the foundations of Western Civilization. Their goal is not peace but chaos. They aim at getting rid of all authority. At the top of all authority is God himself, so it is complete rebellion against God. They do not want to hear God speak, but speak he will!
The people of Jerusalem did not grasp the things that made for with peace. Peace is tied completely to Christ Jesus. God was visiting them in his Son. God hid it from their eyes. It was too late for the people of Jerusalem. God would bring utter destruction.
Jesus’ cleansing of his temple made it fit for his teaching. The temple’s original purpose was to be a house of prayer for all people but under the priests it had become a vast commercial enterprise. Pagan money could not be used in the temple and so money changers were necessary, but they charged exorbitant exchange rates. Sacrifices were necessary and these animals must be without blemish. One could buy one cheaper outside the temple but it had to pass the inspectors. who would disqualify the sacrifices. It was safer to buy them from the sellers inside, but this, too, came at an exorbitant cost. It is the way organized crime has always operated. The whole commercial enterprise was owned by the family of the high priest. These booths were known as the Booths of Annas. This was the reason that Jesus was brought first before Annas when he was arrested and then to Caiaphas [John 18.13]. Jesus had broken their monopoly. The worship of God had been used to exploit the people.
A corrupted faith must be cleansed. So, too, for us. It is why God disciplines us. It is out of love that God roots out our false sense of security in spiritual things. Our Lord’s directive to the Apostles after his resurrection still holds . . .
“ . . . that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Lk 24:46–47).
That we may obtain God’s gracious promises and be made partakers of Christ’s heavenly treasures there first must be repentance. We cannot short circuit this and expect to find grace. Jeremiah warned of backsliding. Through him God declared:
They hold fast to deceit;
they refuse to return.
6 I have paid attention and listened,
but they have not spoken rightly;
no man relents of his evil,
saying, ‘What have I done?’
Everyone turns to his own course,
like a horse plunging headlong into battle. (Je 8:5–6).
God will not allow the despising of his Word nor his authority. Jesus warned the Jews what would happen—not one stone of their precious temple would be left standing upon another and the human carnage would be brutal, and in 70 A.D. the Romans did exactly that. The temple was reduced to ruins and has never been rebuilt, and the Jewish people were scattered around the world.
But God’s Temple did not disappear because the earthly building was to be superseded by the Temple not made with hands, the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the writer of Hebrews instructs [cf. Hebrews 9-10]. It is through the body of our Lord Jesus Christ that we enter the true Holy Place, the presence of God, heaven. It is through his crucified body that we have peace with God and are made partakers of Christ’s heavenly treasures.
God continues to visit us with his Word, but perhaps we have been too smug about it. The time of our visitation calls us to repent of our despising his Word and his authority. In his explanation of the Third Commandment Luther warns us not to despise God’s Word. When we do not hold it sacred, when we do not gladly hear and learn it, we sin. To despise is to think little of it, as something of minor importance. It also means that one fails to support it by prayer and gifts. Our pandemic has given us many occasions to do just that because we have not been present when God distributes his gifts in the Divine Service, and I fear that it has been easier to fall into the comfortable practice of assuming that one need not repent nor exert any effort to hear and support preaching and the Word.
In a sermon on this text in 1534 Luther warned the Germans about despising God’s Word:
Therefore, I am worried that Germany will have to suffer a great calamity, whether at the hands of the Turks, or by some other war, hunger, or place. When that occurs at some time in the future, then bear in mind what I have said. For God will come after Germany and us Germans just as he did after Jerusalem and the Jews. [Luther’s House Postils, vol. 2, p. 378].
Prophetic words indeed! Because Germany despised God’s Word it suffered two horrific wars in the 20th century. Luther’s warning did indeed come to pass.
It seems to me that God is coming after the whole world with this pandemic, warning it to repent and know the time of his gracious visitation. This world will not stand forever, despite the efforts of the utopians to prevent carbon disaster or global meltdown, or whatever the cause of the day might be. There will indeed be a complete meltdown but it will not happen by man’s hand. God has reserved that privilege for himself. [2 Peter 3.11.13].
When one considers the sins of our nation why shouldn’t God bring his judgment upon us? Unspeakable evil is openly paraded and applauded by the “woke” crowd. If you don’t agree with them or go along with them, they will “cancel” you, harm you in any way possible, make your life a living hell. The wholesale slaughter of children in the womb, the lawlessness, the blatant disregard for morality and authority, the corruption in business and government, and the destruction of the family—we must repent lest we fall as did the Jews and as every other nation which has despised God’s Word. God will not let our sins go unpunished unless we repent! When we do not speak up we are complicit in these evils. Our silence is consent.
Yet, the wise know that today is the time of God’s gracious visitation, the time of salvation, even though it may not seem so. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. So did Jeremiah, the “Weeping Prophet.” So did Isaiah and Hosea. What God said through Jeremiah seems to square up perfectly with our age that we “hold fast to deceit,” refusing to hear God’s truth and repent:
12 Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?
No, they were not at all ashamed;
they did not know how to blush. (Je 8:12).
All these things were written for our learning. The time of our gracious visitation is now as Jesus comes to us in Word and Sacrament as surely as he came to Jerusalem, yet so much seems the same. Instead of repenting, much of Christendom holds fast to the deceit of Satan’s lies, that the Church must be “loving and tolerant” of abomination. They do not know what God has spoken nor do they care. People excuse themselves from breaking God’s Law. What is worse, they presume to sit in God’s place, challenging his authority. There is no peace when there is no repentance because God’s forgiveness is withheld and judgment will come swiftly.
Only twice in the Gospels is it recorded that Jesus wept. He wept at the death of his dear friend Lazarus, and when he came to unrepentant Jerusalem. Jesus wept for those who were forfeiting eternal life. God does not wish any to be lost. Jesus still weeps for those who refuse to repent. What brings joy to the angels of God is one sinner who repents [Luke 15.7].
“This is a fearsome lesson . . . a really gruesome account,” said Luther. God does not want to bring punishment upon our world but when the world despises his Word and refuses to acknowledge the things that make for peace, horrific judgment will come. It comes for all those who have not accepted the peace of God, those who have not confessed their sins and received Absolution in Christ. Only the blood of the one true sacrifice can cover sin, not the blood of bulls, lambs, or birds, not the mechanical incantation of God’s Name. Only Christ’s blood can wash us clean. Only Christ can give us peace. Only Christ. Only Christ.
And so we prayed in the Collect of the Day:
Mercifully grant us such a measure of your grace that we may obtain your gracious promises and be made partakers of your heavenly treasures . . .
Lord, in Your mercy, . . . Hear our prayer.
In the Name of the Father and of ✠ Son and of the Holy Spirit.