Monday, June 23, 2008

Sixth Sunday in Pentecost

Jeremiah 20:7-13
Bror Erickson

I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, “Violence and destruction!”
For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long.
If I say I will not mention him, or speak any more his name!” There is in my heart as it were a burning fire, shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in. and I cannot.

Jeremiah utters these words after being beaten, and locked in the stocks by the false prophet Pashhur. They are the frustrated words of a prophet caught between a rock and a hard place. Life would be easier for him if he would just shut up, but the Holy Spirit won’t let him. The life of a prophet is never very comfy. The world despises the word of God. The world loves false prophets. They are everywhere. Some claim to speak for God. Others deny God exists, but claim to have found enlightenment, rules for living etc. They feed off the poor, and flatter the rich. Some claim to be Christian, but preach anything but Christ. Others do not even make the claim. But they all have one thing in common, they can’t bear to hear four simple words proclaimed on behalf of Christ: “Your sins are forgiven.” A false prophet won’t preach that. It is a stumbling block to the Jew, folly to the gentile. That is why it makes the one who speaks it a laughingstock. It will not be accepted by the world. It is folly, they say. It will upset things, we can’t live without rules. The world is like the boy on the playground that can’t help but be the school yard monitor. The world does not want you to get away with it that easy. But it is the only way, forgiveness. It is an insult to the gravity of the cross to think you can make up for your sins yourself. But believing it, or proclaiming it, and you can’t help either, will make you a laughingstock all the day.
In many ways being a Christian can be an easy thing. The burden is light, the yoke is easy. It is the forgiveness of sins. What could be easier? We don’t do anything to be saved, we simply believe by the work of the Holy Spirit, that Christ died for our sins. It doesn’t have to be complicated, or hard. For the most part there aren’t many things about the Christian life that are going to distinguish you from your neighbor, the law abiding citizen who votes on election day, and takes the trash out to the street. People tend to make it harder than it really is in that regard. Self righteous pride always likes to show off with certain prescribed rules one sets for oneself. But what distinguishes the Christian is not so much the Christian’s life, but his confession of Christ.
People don’t know how to deal with that. They laugh at it. Confessing Christ will lose you more friends than it will gain you. Today it has become popular to ridicule Christians, partly because the most people see of Christianity are the very awful caricatures, that don’t even resemble true Christianity, but are touted as such on T.V. If I thought Benny Hin, John Hagee, Joel Olsteen were representatives of Christianity, I would laugh at it too. Who wouldn’t? Unfortunately too many wouldn’t, because too many see that as true Christianity. And that sort of thing doesn’t just happen on TV. It happens in plenty of local congregations also. But even true Christianity, Biblically based, sin forgiving Christianity gets laughed at.
People don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to hear that Christ is the only way: the truth the way and the life except by whom no one goes to heaven. They want to hear that Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Wicca and Karma are good religions too. The world wants its false prophets to speak and be heard. They also want to silence the voice of Christ, the gospel, and ravage the sheep that follow it. Jeremiah knew this. He had seen persecution more than most of us ever will, overt and painful persecution.
But he had to speak, love compelled him. He had to speak out, the Lord would not shut his mouth. That is the way it is sometimes. You can’t stay silent. Etiquette tells you to. The bar rules say change the subject. There is polite company in the room, too good for Christ. But you can’t. The subject is there, the wall of silence has been breached. Now you have to explain. You do so in as gentle a matter as you know how, but firmly confront them with Christ. For your heart is weary from holding it in, like a burning fire in your bones, the Holy Spirit comes over you, and you begin to speak. For in that hour it is not you, but the Holy Spirit, Mark 13. And then you know what it means that in the last day God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh, and your sons, and daughters will be prophets. But sometimes it leaves you empty, like it did Jeremiah.
Your friend, your colleague, your family member, they don’t just reject Jesus, they reject you. It can be heart breaking. It broke Jeremiah. He fought against it with all his might. He did not want to be prophet. He did not want to speak God’s word anymore. He wanted to get along. He was tired of losing friends. Sometimes we blame ourselves. We think it was us. We didn’t say it right. We were too forceful. We made a fool out of ourselves. And so you did. Who cares? God does, and He looks down from heaven with a smile on his face lifting his countenance upon you, He gives you His peace. Saying “maybe you didn’t do the best job, but I forgive you. In any case you spoke the words I gave you. You spoke the word of God, and my Holy Spirit went with it. Who knows its purpose? Only I do, and He never returns to Me empty, but accomplishes My purpose whatever they may be.” We don’t have to be down on ourselves for screwing it up. Who is to know we did? Christ spoke the word of God perfectly every time, yet few followed Him. Don’t be discouraged, your sins are forgiven in Christ, who stands by you like a dread warrior. It is not you who will be shamed in the end, but those who persecute you, for the Lord of hosts, sees your heart and mind, and commits His cause to you. He delivers your life, from the hand of evildoers. By forgiving your sins. And for that the world persecuted Him, and sentenced Him to the cross, where He died for the world, covering the stain of sin, with His blood.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord Amen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this! It reminds me of a sermon from June 22 on this site: