nullPentecost 7 2019, Proper 12
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
July 28, 2019
Gen. 18:20-33, Col 2:6-15, Luke 11:1-13

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itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
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Picture for a moment an old fashioned ball room where everyone is dancing gracefully to the music of the band.  Handsome men in tuxedos lead beautiful women in evening gowns around the floor in an elegant waltz.  It is poetry in motion; everyone is moving together; everyone is in harmony.  There is a smooth, stylish, flow.  But then you notice a new dancer on the floor.  He is wearing shorts and sandals and is dancing to a rhythm that is completely different from the rest of the dancers.  He looks awkward and out of place.  The other dancers start to stare and shoot dirty looks at the out-of-step dancer.  He doesn’t fit in; he doesn’t belong.  One of the couples takes the man aside and tries to help him to get in step with the music and find him proper clothes so that he fits in.

There are the graceful, elegant, stylish folks and there is the awkward, out-of-step dancer.  Which do you want to be?  Would you rather be one of those dancing in harmony or the awkward one dancing to the beat of a different drummer?

Now it may be just a sentimental memory, but it seems like there was a time when being a Christian in this nation felt more like being one of the well-dressed people on the dance floor moving together in rhythm.  Unbelievers were the ones dancing out-of-step to the music.  That is the sentimental memory.  But that is not the current reality.  Things have changed.  Most people in this nation are not church-going Christians.  It is estimated that only 20 percent of the population attends church weekly.  The fastest growing religious group in the United States is the nones.  N-O-N-E-S.  No religious affiliation.

The number of nones is growing and we are daily shown by the mass media how wonderful it is.  How the world moves along just fine with all of its fads and fashions and technologies and everyone is quite happy with themselves, even though they have abandoned the truth of the Gospel.

This week, the United Nations issued its World Happiness Report, and declared that the happiest country in the world is Finland.  Interestingly, it seems that happiness does not have much to do with faith in Christ.  While about 80% of Finns claim to be Christian only about 2% of the population attends church weekly.  They are supposedly happy, but what the world calls happiness is a poor substitute for true peace.  Finland was once a deeply Christian nation made up mostly of Lutherans.  What happened?  The same thing that is happening here in the U.S.  So many have been taken captive Colossians 2:8 (ESV) 8 …by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.[1]  They had the truth of the Gospel and they have given it up for the lies of the world.

            As those around you more and more move to the rhythm of the things of the earth you will find that you are out of step.  You will appear awkward and out of place.  You will find that you don’t fit in with the world.

You have received Christ Jesus as Lord.  You are rooted in the Lord Jesus.  You are built up in Christ.  You are established in the faith.  You walk in Christ.

As you walk in Christ you move to the rhythm of the Lord Jesus.  You walk and move to the rhythm of things above.

As those around you more and more move to the rhythm of the things of the earth you will find that you are out of step.  You will appear awkward and out of place.  You will find that you don’t fit in with the world.

You won’t fit in because you walk in the truth of God; you walk in the free gift of salvation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  You seek God’s will in the words of Holy Scripture.  You have God’s law and God’s Gospel.  You have forgiveness, life and salvation given to you in the waters of Holy Baptism and given and shed for you in Christ’s Body and Blood in Holy Communion.  You have Christ Jesus for you.

But the world does not want Jesus.  The world does not want the true God.  The world does not want God’s law.  The world does not want God’s commands regarding good and evil.  The world does not want God’s sweet Gospel of forgiveness.  The world does not want a crucified and risen Jesus.  The world wants a Jesus that stays out of the way.  The world wants a Jesus that blesses sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  The world runs on lust and greed and selfishness and anger and slander and obscenity and lying.

The world chases after ever new and ancient teachings where they can find their god in nature, in crystals, in meditation, in yoga, in themselves, in some made up religion where there is no hell, and heaven is some kind of endless orgy.

So many churches cannot bear to be out of step with the world and they literally fly the flag to celebrate same-sex immorality.  They celebrate the identical same-sex immorality that brought about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah which Abraham prayed to prevent.  The world approves, recommends and encourages casual sexual intimacy; intimacy outside of the bonds of marriage.  The world thinks it quite strange if a couple does not move in together and instead waits until the wedding.  The world says you must not only accept, but celebrate, sexual immorality in so many of its various forms, and if you don’t, you are considered a hateful, judgmental bigot who should be forced to change.  The world wants to force you to dance along to their music and gets angry if you refuse.

Far too many churches are dancing to the world’s rhythm as they preach and teach a theology of prosperity in which they say God’s main purpose is to bless you with health and wealth.  These churches are very popular because they are preaching what people’s itching ears want to hear; not a message of sin and forgiveness, but the message of success.  The message of success fits so well with the rhythm of the world and people can feel at home in a world driven by greed and achievement.

The world promotes strife and anger.  This can infect Christians.  The world encourages division and wrath.  The world wants you to hate those with whom you disagree.  The world wants you to use spiteful, angry words towards them.  The world wants division to tear people apart and see others as the enemy because this stifles the spread of the Good News of Jesus.  When we treat those we disagree with like enemies we lose the opportunity to bring Jesus’ healing to people who are desperately in need.  Everyone needs Jesus but far too often we allow ourselves to fall into the rhythm of the world and instead of bringing the healing salve of Jesus’ forgiveness to people, we bring anger and vile talk.  We want to simmer in our hatred for others, but Jesus tells us, Matthew 5:44 (ESV) 44 … Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…[2]  Pray for those you disagree with.  Pray for opportunities to bring the healing salve of Jesus’ forgiveness to wounded souls around you.

You have been freed from sin.  Jesus canceled your debt.  He nailed it to the cross.  You are free from the guilt and shame of your sin to walk in Christ and bring His love to the world.  In baptism you have died with Christ and you have been raised with Christ.  Put to death earthly things and look to things above.

Colossians 3:12-14 (ESV) 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.[3]

There is great temptation to give up being different and join in moving to the rhythm of the world, but you do not belong to the world, you belong to Christ.  Knowing you are forgiven by the blood of Jesus, walk in Christ to the rhythm of things above.

Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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