The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
God is NOT okay with sin. I know that this isn’t groundbreaking news to any of you. Of course God’s not okay with sin. If there was any doubt, our lessons for today make this abundantly clear. We know the history. We understand why Jesus weeps on that Palm Sunday. We understand why God expresses so much anger to Old Testament Israel. All of these people—both Old and New Testament—rejected God and His Word. They all sought their own version/semblance of peace, and they all rejected God’s peace. They all wanted salvation on their terms. They all wanted to do their thing, and they weren’t going to be told differently. Such thick-skulled, hard-hearted unbelief never turns out well, does it? The weeping, the anger…none of this is difficult to understand.
As straight-forward as this all is, there is one point I would like to single out and focus on for today. Speaking through Jeremiah, God goes on to tell these unrepentant rubes that they’ve gone so far off the deep end in their sin that they don’t even know how to blush anymore. I want you to think about what God is saying here. The people are no longer embarrassed by their sin. Adam and Eve were ashamed of their nakedness. They at least tried to cover up their sin. Their efforts were all in vain…but at least they tried. They were ashamed. Not these folks though. They’re no longer ashamed of themselves or the sins they commit. It doesn’t faze them anymore. In fact, they were proud of who they were and what they did. Instead of blushing in shame because of their sin, they fanned out like proud peacocks, boldly putting their sin on full display. They were proud and they were at peace.
Now, I know it’s easy to look at all of this and shake our heads in disgust and dismay. No wonder God was so angry! But what about us? If I were to say that we no longer blush at our sin, I think everyone here would agree…to a point. Culturally, there’s no denying the fact that we no longer blush at our sin. As a nation, we’re no longer ashamed of our sin. Instead, we celebrate it. Homosexuality? Celebrated. Abortion? The murder of innocent children? That, too, is celebrated and promoted by millions upon millions of people today, some Christians included. “If you really love America and a woman’s right to choose, you’ll vote for X candidate because every woman is entitled to such health care.” People say this with a straight face, and think nothing of it! People who call themselves good Christians say this and vote for this and aren’t ashamed in the least! They can’t even blush! I understand why Jesus wept.
What about those other sins that WE no longer blush at; sins a little closer to home? I think back to my childhood (which wasn’t that long ago), and people were still ashamed to say that they were living together outside of marriage. Scandalous! If you talked about it, you talked about it in hushed whispers. Parents were ashamed if their kids were “shacking up,” and the perpetrators weren’t exactly bragging about it. Nowadays? Now even many Christians encourage their children to live together so that they can “try it out” and see if they’re “compatible” before taking the marital plunge (if they take the plunge at all). Sticking the head in the sand, seeing nothing and saying nothing, has given way to ringing endorsement and praise…and no one blushes. Sex outside of marriage? “So what? What’s the big deal? Everyone does it.” Divorce? Gossip? Slander? Adultery? Covetousness? Greed? That’s called “Tuesday” in Hollywood and politics. That’s any given day in our own households (if we’re brave enough to be honest). And nobody blushes.
But, again, I know we all know this. Those are indeed all sinful things, and although we don’t always blush and repent, we do know and believe what God says about such things. Our sin grieves our Lord. We know and believe that Jesus isn’t smiling when we commit these sins. I don’t think anyone here is that far out in left field. (If so, please don’t come to the communion rail, and be sure to see me after the service, because we need to chat.)
What about rejecting Christ and His Word? I know that sounds crazy to our ears, because what faithful Christian would ever reject Christ…but hear me out. Here [Word and Sacrament] are the things that make for peace. Here is God’s peace, right here and right now. Are these means of grace rejected and despised? Is this peace of God rejected and despised by “good” Christians? All the time! This is what makes it so maddening to Christians who actually believe what God says about these things. God’s peace and redemption, given so freely and fully in the waters of Holy Baptism; given so freely and fully in His own Body and Blood (just like He so clearly says)…and self-professed “good” Christians willfully plug their ears and turn their backs on it all. The fish are biting. The pool is calling. It’s too hot. It’s too cold. It’s too rainy to go outside. It’s too nice to be inside. What’s most distressing is that people don’t even blush when they say such things. I understand why Jesus wept. I understand why God was angry.
Those close to us turn their backs on this tangible peace of Christ, and we get angry if someone dares to call it what it is—rejection of Christ. Instead of admonishing such foolishness, we take it upon ourselves to pronounce peace and blessing upon such disobedience, as if God Himself is perfectly fine with it. “Hey, we all love Jesus. It doesn’t matter where you go. Jesus knows you love Him. As long as you’re in church somewhere.” Really?! Here is Christ, right? You say you believe it. I want you to imagine Jesus’ response to this foolishness. “Yeah, Jesus, I love you, and even though this is where you give me your body and blood (like you say), I’m going to go to this other place (which openly denies your real presence) because they have fun stuff for the kids.” Hmmm…maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see Jesus smiling and happy with such rejection. Doesn’t this foolishness make you angry? Doesn’t it make you blush…even a little? It should.
Here [the crucifix] is the divine wrath of God against all sin, and believe it or not, it is here in this divine and righteous anger of God that we, through faith, are able to recognize His Gospel love for us. Here is where God pours out all His wrath and punishment against sin—here, on Christ Jesus…not on you. Here is the One who has paid for each and every one of your sins on His cross; who died and rose again for you in order that you might have His gift of eternal life, and have it in overflowing abundance. This alone should make you hit your knees in repentant thankfulness and weep tears of joy! Here is the peace of God; the peace [singular] that surpasses all human understanding.
And the greatest thing of all is that none of this is hidden or done in secret. God wants nothing more than for everyone to partake and receive His absolutely free gifts of grace, mercy, and peace. He holds out these gifts constantly to all people, inviting everyone who is weak and wearied; everyone who labors under the yoke and bondage of sin, to come to Him and be yoked to Him and His righteousness and His peace, “for My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” If only people would recognize and clamor for the things that make for true peace!
Now, I’m not going to end by giving you some false hope that by simply having faith in God life will now be easy and cross-free. I say this because many a person does wind up rejecting the peace of God because they didn’t find the version of peace they were looking for in their daily lives. They stopped having “fun.” The bills still kept coming. The sickness only got worse. The loved one didn’t get better. The marriage still failed. Friendships were fractured and families were split because of the divisive nature of the cross. The unrest and lack of peace in their lives tempts them and causes them to reject the peace of God. It’s sad, but some people prefer the false and fleeting peace of the world. It’s just easier. I understand why Jesus wept.
Folks: Here is the peace that surpasses all understanding. I know it doesn’t look like much, but richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad times and everything in between, here is the peace of Christ, freely held out to you. “I am with you ALWAYS.” No matter how bad life in this fallen and sinful world may get, we belong to Christ. Nothing and no one can ever snatch that away. No man can rent asunder the love that Christ has for us.
These are the things of true peace, and may this peace of God, which far surpasses all human understanding, guard and keep your hearts and minds in the one and only source and giver of peace—Christ Jesus Himself.
In His holy name…AMEN
Feel free to use any or all of this sermon for the edification of God's people.
Send Pastor Jason Zirbel an email.