In today's Reading through the Prophet Jeremiah, we have the people of Judah rejecting the Word of the Lord. There were some who said to Jeremiah, "Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord, or you will die by our hand." They were so hostile to the word of God that they were plotting to kill the messenger.
They refused to hear what Jeremiah said because he spoke harsh words - words of condemnation and judgment, words calling for sorrow and humble repentance. Jeremiah preached the unyielding, unchanging Law of God. Nobody likes to hear this sort of thing, not in any century. They rejected Jeremiah, just as many preachers today are rejected if they proclaim the Law of God in its purity and strength.
What about you? Do you love and accept the preachers of God's Word even when they are not pleasant? As God's commandment says, do you hold preaching and God's Word sacred and gladly hear and learn it, or do you avoid the Word, which is to despise it?
If you stand with the Word of God, be prepared for people to be offended at you. For example, if you say that abortion is a horrendous evil against God's Law, then certain people will avoid you. If you say that homosexuality is a sin against God's will, then you will be seen as judgmental and unloving. Even people within the Church have left over these issues, and they surely will again.
People do not like the Law. They do not like to be told that they need to repent. They want to be accepted as they are.
Do you love repentance? It is true that repentance is difficult and harsh at times. It is putting to death the sinful flesh. It is saying that your heart is not right with God by itself. Yet Christians ought to love repentance, because that is where we meet the Cross of Christ.
In the same way, Christians should learn to love the Law of God, even though it keeps on condemning us and knocking us down. It digs deeply into us like a surgical tool. But we ought to love it, because it is God's Law working for our benefit to lead us to our Savior.
The Law and repentance keep us from becoming complacent about sin. They keep us from getting comfortable with our own sinfulness.
If we learn to love repentance, then we will learn to love the preachers of the Word even when they rub us the wrong way with the Law.
Brothers and sisters, you do not love repentance as you ought to. You do not love the Law as you should. For the flesh in each of us finds it much easier to justify itself and dismiss the Law as someone else's opinion.
If Jeremiah were here, how easy would it be to turn away from his preaching? How easy to be found there, right alongside the Jews, plotting against Jeremiah? Perhaps we might not actually plot to take his life. More likely, we would simply pressure him to stop preaching, or get him to move somewhere else, or if that failed, just go down the street to another congregation. Or perhaps we might withhold offerings, which is to cut off the support of his life.
That is the way in America. People listen to the preacher, and if they disagree, then they ignore it. They plug their ears. Or worse yet, they work to undermine the preacher. Surely that should never happen among us. But it does.
The preacher's job is to proclaim Law and Gospel in their full power, to slay and to bring to life, to tear down and to build up again. Woe to the preacher who does not do that. But woe to you if you fail to listen to the Word when it is preached. Woe to you if you fail to humble yourselves and repent. Woe to you if you reject a preacher of the Gospel, because then you are rejecting the One who sent him.
Jeremiah said he was a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. So you ought to be also. You should be so intent with receiving and standing by the Gospel that you gain enemies right and left. To be a friend of the Gospel is to be an enemy of the world.
But you should be humble, because your cause is committed only to the Lord. He is your hope and your protection, not yourselves. You should look only to Him in trust, not to your own abilities. In this world, you may not have vengeance against those who mistreat you. Justice may not be visible to your earthly eyes.
Everyone is tempted to make justice happen by their own strength or wisdom or planning, or to make peace using their love. But peace for us Christians is the Gospel, and our strength and wisdom are Christ crucified. In these let us find our lives and our justice.
For God has provided for you a gentle Lamb, led to the slaughter, the spotless Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. He was innocently led to slaughter for your offenses, and His Blood covers all your iniquities. He is the perfect sacrifice offered once for all. Although your sins crushed Him, and although He was truly slaughtered for you on the Cross, nevertheless He lives, risen and ascended, to rule over His Church for all eternity.
Jesus was cut off from the land of the living. He who was eternal and deathless entered the grave for you. He was rejected by man and God alike so that you are accepted by God into His Kingdom.
Although they tried to erase His Name from the earth, the Name of Jesus has become the greatest Name of all, the Name above all names, the only Name by which we must be saved. At the Name of this innocent Lamb who was slaughtered, every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth.
The Lord's vengeance takes place upon the Cross. There He has repaid every sin with bloodshed. There He has killed the vile offender. But He became the vile offender. He took your place. You have sinner; He has suffered. "Vengeance is Mine!" says the Lord. Indeed, for the Cross is the vengeance of God. He has punished and He has revenged the vile crimes of your sins.
All those who trust this Savior in faith have everything He gives. He pours out forgiveness and salvation and life. He gives the grace of God freely. He gives unity with God. All these gifts are for you, given by Jesus Christ your Lord.
You have been unfaithful. He is faithful to the last. You have disobeyed the Law. He obeyed it to the letter.
He alone is the perfect Prophet and the perfect Preacher. He did not cease His preaching when He ascended to heaven. Instead, He continues to preach through His called servants, and to speak through all of His priests anointed with His holy water. He speaks forgiveness in every absolution. He feeds us with forgiveness in the Supper. Christ Jesus Himself goes on preaching, your Prophet forever.
To Him alone be all glory, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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