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August 14th, 2022

Sermon by Pastor Ron Nelson

August 14, 2022, Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Turtle Island

JESUS SAID TO HIS DISCIPLES: “I CAME TO BRING FIRE TO THE EARTH.”

FORGET THOSE SWEET HOLY CARD IMAGES, YOU MIGHT FIND IN YOUR FAVOURITE BIBLE

STORE, WHICH HAVE HONEY DRIPPING FROM JESUS’ LIPS. JESUS WAS NO WIMP. JESUS WAS

NOT APOLITICAL. HE MAY NOT HAVE BEEN A ZEALOT, HE MAY NOT HAVE BEEN CALLING FOR

MILITARY CONFLICT, BUT HE RECOGNIZED IT WOULD TAKE SPIRITUAL CONFLICT TO BE A

DISCIPLE.

IN OUR TRIP THROUGH THE GOSPEL OF LUKE THIS YEAR, WE HAVE PASSED A DIVIDING LINE, A

MEASURE NOT OF WORDS OR CHAPTERS, BUT OF INTENSITY. THE NEW TONE BEGAN IN LUKE

9:51, WHICH TRANSLATED LITERALLY, SAYS, “WHEN THE TIME CAME THAT HE WOULD BE

TAKEN UP, HE STEADFASTLY SET HIS FACE TO GO TO JERUSALEM.” NOT MUCH BEFORE THAT,

JESUS HAD TOLD HIS DISCIPLES THAT THE MISSION THEY WERE SHARING WOULD ENTAIL

SUFFERING AND DEATH. [LUKE 9:22-23]. SO, JESUS PURPOSELY SET OUT TO CONFRONT HIS

FATE IN JERUSALEM.

THE GOSPEL OF JOHN TELLS US THAT WHEN JESUS DECIDED TO GO TO JERUSALEM, THOMAS

LOOKED AT THE OTHERS AND SAID, “LET US GO ALSO TO DIE WITH HIM.” YOU SEE, THEY HAD

NO REASON TO THINK THAT THE REST OF THE STORY WOULD BE A PICNIC: JESUS AND

EVERYONE IDENTIFIED WITH JESUS WERE HEADED TOWARD THE INEVITABLE CONFLICT WITH

THE RELIGIOUS AND CIVIL AUTHORITIES OF THE DAY. FROM THE BEGINNING OF SCRIPTURE

GOD’S PROPHETS ARE CHOSEN BY GOD OR JESUS TO BE THE CONSCIENCE OF THE PEOPLE.

THEY ARE TO PROCLAIM GOD’S WORD.

BY THIS STAGE IN JESUS’ STORY, JESUS KNEW FULL WELL THAT HIS MESSAGE THREATENED THE

POWERFUL PEOPLE. JESUS ALSO KNEW THAT SCRIPTURE AND TRADITION TESTIFIED THAT

PROPHETS NEVER FARE WELL WITH ANYONE WHOSE PLANS AND SCHEMES DO NOT PRIORITIZE

THE COMMON GOOD. YES, WANTING TO DO GOOD JUST GOES AGAINST THE GRAIN OF SO

MANY PEOPLE. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS WATCH THE NEWS.


>HOW ELSE CAN YOU EXPLAIN ANTIVAXXERS, FOR INSTANCE?

>HOW ELSE CAN YOU EXPLAIN PEOPLE YELLING AT NURSES AND DOCTORS?

>SHOOTING EACH OTHER IN THE STREETS ETC.

NOW, JESUS’ COMMUNITY TURNED PRIMARILY TO THE PROPHET ISAIAH TO HELP THEM

INTERPRET JESUS. ALL THE PROPHETS WERE JESUS’ FRONTRUNNERS AND THEIR LIVES

PROVIDED A GOOD FORETASTE OF WHAT HE WOULD EXPERIENCE AS GOD’S MESSENGER. BUT

INSTEAD OF THE USUAL ISAIAH, TODAY WE HEAR ABOUT JEREMIAH, THE “BEST” COMPLAINER

AMONG THE PROPHETS. MAYBE THAT IS WHY HE IS A FAVOURITE OF MINE? JONAH DID LOTS

OF WHINING ALSO, BUT I HOPE WE KNOW JONAH’S COMPLAINING WAS MORE OF A COMIC

RELIEF THAN SERIOUS PROPHECY. IN TODAY’S FIRST LESSON, JEREMIAH HAS BEEN DEALING

WITH A KING WHO WANTS TO KNOW GOD’S WILL, BUT HE LACKS THE COURAGE TO OBEY IT.

SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD POLITICIAN, EH? SO, JEREMIAH KNOWS AND TELLS HIS PEOPLE THAT

THEY ARE IN AN UNWINNABLE WAR. CHAMBERLAIN PROBABLY TOLD THE TRUTH AS WELL,

BUT I AM GLAD WE HAD A CHURCHILL. SO, AS WE HEAR IN OUR JEREMIAH PASSAGE, THERE

ARE GOOD REASONS WHY PROPHETS ARE OFTEN TEMPTED TO KEEP THEIR MOUTHS SHUT.

THE OFFICIALS SAID TO THE KING, “THIS MAN [JEREMIAH] SHOULD BE PUT TO DEATH.” NOW

THAT IS ONE WAY TO MAKE CERTAIN THE PROPHET DOES NOT DELIVER GOD’S WORD, JUST

KILL HIM.

OUR LOCAL MAYOR HAS NOT KILLED ANYONE BUT SHE SURE CAN SWEET TALK SOMEONE OUT

OF SAYING WHAT “HE REALLY THINKS.” YES, YOURS TRULY AT A CANADIAN CLUB LUNCHEON

DID NOT TELL HER WHAT HE REALLY THOUGHT. ROMERO, BONHOEFFER, MLK, TWO

KENNEDYS, DIED FOR THEIR BELIEFS AND IF “MY FRIENDS” ON THE RIGHT HAD THEIR WAY

TRUDEAU AND BIDEN WOULD JOIN THEM. JUST LOOK AT THE “HORN HONKERS’” PARADE

SIGNS.

JEREMIAH IS EVENTUALLY DELIVERED FROM THE OFFICIALS, BUT EVERY TIME HE OPENED HIS

MOUTH TO TELL THE PEOPLE WHAT GOD WANTED OF THEM, HE HAD TO REMEMBER HOW

CLOSE HE HAD BEEN TO BEING KILLED. IN FACT, IN CHAPTER 20 OF JEREMIAH, JEREMIAH

HIMSELF WISHED HE HAD NEVER BEEN BORN.

WHY WOULD ANY DECENT POLITICIAN WANT THE JOB? EH? SAD TO SAY MANY OF OUR

LEADERS WANT AFFIRMATION RATHER THAN REALITY.

JEREMIAH WAS PERSECUTED AND NEARLY KILLED FOR THE MESSAGES HE PREACHED. SO,

WHAT GIVES PROPHETIC PEOPLE THE DETERMINATION TO DEFY MORTAL THREATS? THE

MEMORY OF SOME OF THE “CLOUD OF WITNESSES” MENTIONED IN THE LETTER TO THE

HEBREWS TODAY, MAY GIVE US A HINT. REMEMBER JOAN OF ARC? HOW MUCH OF THE

STORY IS TRUE OR??? BUT FOLLOWING WHAT SHE DESCRIBED AS “VOICES”, SHE SAVED THE

REIGN OF KING CHARLES VII OF FRANCE, BUT ENDED UP BURNED AT THE STAKE ON MULTIPLE


CHARGES, INCLUDING HERESY [INTERESTINGLY HOLDING FAST TO HER EXPERIENCE OF FAITH

RATHER THAN OBEYING THE CHURCH AUTHORITIES WAS CALLED HERESY.] WERE THERE SOME

GOOD, KIND PEOPLE IN THE GOVERNMENTS AND CHURCHES WHO DID NOT TRY TO BEAT “THE

INDIAN OUT OF THE INDIAN” IN THE RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS? WE WOULD HOPE SO, BUT THE

MORE I HEAR, I AM NOT SURE. ALL KINDS OF THINGS WERE SAID ABOUT JOAN, INCLUDING

THAT SHE “DRESSED LIKE A MAN.” SHE WORE TROUSERS, CAN YOU IMAGINE? BUT LET US BE

CLEAR, LIFE THEN AND NOW ALWAYS COMES DOWN TO JEALOUSY OF RELIGIOUS AND

POLITICAL LEADERS WHO LOST/LOSE THEIR CAUSE TO PEOPLE LIKE A JOAN OF ARC. JUST

REMEMBER, WOMEN, PEOPLE OF COLOUR, NEW IMMIGRANTS, LGBQ, THE LIST IS ENDLESS OF

PEOPLE SPEAKING OUT AGAINST THE STATUS QUO. I HAD NEVER HEARD THE IDEA THAT JOAN

OF ARC WEARING MEN’S CLOTHES WAS ONE OF HER SINS? OSCAR ROMERO WAS KILLED BY

POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS LEADERS WHO FOUND HIS DEFENSE OF THE POOR AND THE TRUTH

WAS A MORTAL DANGER TO THEIR RULE. MLK JR. PREACHING ABOUT EQUALITY AND JUSTICE

BROUGHT HIM MULTIPLE THREATS, BEFORE HE WAS ASSASSINATED.

EVERYONE WHO IS MOTIVATED BY WHAT HEBREWS CALLS “THE JOY THAT LAY BEFORE

HIM/THEM,” HAS THE CONVICTION THAT LIVING THE TRUE VALUES OF GOD, NOT SOME

INSTITUTIONAL CHURCH VALUE, IS WORTH “THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP.” THE TITLE OF

BONHOEFFER’S BOOK. YES, I BELIEVE THAT RELIGIOUS PEOPLE ACTING FOR THE COMMON

GOOD, HAVE TO BE INEVITABLY INVOLVED IN THE POLITICAL AS WELL.

MARTIN LUTHER DID NOT LIKE THE LETTER OF JAMES. BUT IT IS JAMES THAT TELLS US THAT

FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS A SHAM. THAT IS A BURDEN WE LUTHERANS HAVE TO BEAR. IF WE

IMITATE JESUS, WE MUST BE AWARE OF THE DIVISIONS IN SOCIETY THAT WE WILL COME INTO

CONTACT WITH AND THAT IN SOME CASES WE WILL CAUSE.

SO LET US GO BACK TO HEBREWS. “WE MUST RUN WITH PERSEVERANCE THE RACE THAT IS

SET BEFORE US, LOOKING TO JESUS THE PIONEER AND PERFECTER OF OUR FAITH.” BEFORE

ANY OF JESUS’ DISCIPLES SUSPECTED JESUS WAS DIVINE, THEY WERE CERTAIN HE EXPECTED

THEM TO INTEGRATE SOME OF HIS PROPHETIC CHARISMA INTO THEIR OWN LIVES.

THE AUTHORS OF HEBREWS AND LUKE BOTH TEAR INTO US FOR NOT BEING BRAVE ENOUGH

TO PROCLAIM EVEN THE SMALL BIT OF GOD’S WORD WITH WHICH THE SPIRIT HAS GIFTED US.

NOW WE KNOW WE ARE NOT “FULL-TIME” PROPHETS BUT AS OTHER CHRISTS WE

FREQUENTLY RUN INTO SITUATIONS IN WHICH WE SAY NOTHING, WHEN SOMETHING SHOULD

BE SAID. WE SHOULD NOT PRETEND TO BE OVERLY PIOUS, BUT ESPECIALLY AMONG FAMILY

AND FRIENDS NEITHER, FOR INSTANCE, SHOULD WE HESITATE TO CONFRONT RACIAL OR

PREJUDICIAL REMARKS. IT SEEMS THAT THE JOY OF AN EARTH ON FIRE WITH THE LOVE OF

GOD, AN EARTH ON FIRE WITH GOD’S JUSTICE, WAS THE VISION THAT DREW JESUS OUT INTO

THE WORLD. COULD IT BE THAT THE FIRES THAT ARE LITERALLY DESTROYING OUR PLANET

COULD MAKE IT WORTHWHILE FOR US TO TAKE SOME SMALL STAND ON THE CLIMATE CRISIS?


INVITING US TO SEEK INSPIRATION FROM THE CLOUD OF WITNESSES, FIRED WITH THE JOYFUL

VISION OF GOD’S REIGN ON EARTH.

MAY TODAY’S WORSHIP REMIND US THAT FAITH DEMANDS ACTION FOR THE COMMON GOOD

--- NO MATTER WHAT THE RISK.

JEREMIAH’S STORY IS TOLD IN TODAY’S FIRST READING. BECAUSE HE DARED TO SPEAK AN

UNPOPULAR TRUTH TO A DISINTERESTED AND HOSTILE PEOPLE, HE WAS THROWN INTO A

CISTERN AND WAS LEFT TO DIE.

IN OUR SECOND READING, THE AUTHOR OF HEBREWS TELLS OF THE MARTYRDOM OF JESUS

AND ENCOURAGES US TO BE STEADFAST IN OUR STRUGGLE AGAINST INJUSTICES.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE PRESENTS JESUS AS A REVOLUTIONARY WHO HAS COME TO SET THE

WORLD ABLAZE AND BE A SOURCE OF DIVISION.

NO MATTER HOW WE LOOK AT THESE THREE LESSONS, EACH OF THEM IS TELLING US THAT

FAITH IS A FIGHT FOR TRUTH, FOR JUSTICE, FOR MERCY AND FOR OBEDIENCE TO GOD AND

NOT THE RULERS OF THE DAY. SOME OF US HAVE EXPERIENCED CONFLICT AROUND OUR

FAITH. I DO NOT THINK ANY OF US HAVE PAID THE PRICE OF DISCIPLESHIP IN BLOOD AS MANY

HAVE DONE AND SADLY, STILL DO. HOW DO OUR CONFLICTS REFLECT WHAT JESUS TOLD US

TO EXPECT? ARE OUR EXPERIENCES MERELY UNCOMFORTABLE OR INCONVENIENT? DO OUR

LIVES REFLECT THE SERIOUSNESS OF OUR COMMITMENT TO THESE LESSONS TODAY? YES, IT

CAN BE JARRING TO REMEMBER THAT OUR DISCIPLESHIP CAN DISTURB OUR PEACE, AND YES,

EVEN DIVIDE US FROM ONE ANOTHER. WE CANNOT ALWAYS PREDICT WHEN OUR TESTS OF

DISCIPLESHIP WILL COME, NOR WHERE WE WILL CROSS THE THRESHOLDS THAT DIVIDE OUR

LIVES INTO BEFORE AND AFTER, OLD AND NEW. TODAY’S LESSONS INVITE US TO KNOW WHAT

IS WORTH LIVING FOR, OR YES, MAYBE EVEN DYING FOR, IF IT COMES TO THAT.


LEAD ON, O KING ETERNAL!

TILL SIN’S FIERCE WAR SHALL CEASE,

AND HOLINESS SHALL WHISPER

THE SWEET AMEN OF PEACE,

FOR NOT WITH SWORDS LOUD CLASHING,

NOR ROLL OF STIRRING DRUMS,

BUT DEEDS OF LOVE AND MERCY

THE HEAVENLY KINGDOM COMES. [ELW 805]


AMEN.

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