Monday, August 15, 2011

Eighth sunday After Trinity

Eighth Sunday after Trinity
Matthew 7:15-23
Bror Erickson

[15] "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. [16] You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? [17] So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. [18] A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. [19] Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. [20] Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
[21] "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. [22] On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' [23] And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' Matthew 7:15-23 (ESV)

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and cast out demons in your name, and do many might works in your name?’ and I will declare to them I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of Lawlessness.’ “ I never knew you.

I never knew you… It seems incredible. How can it be? That the omniscient God does not know someone who has done such great works in his name?
Just the other day I got into a little discussion with a lady who could not believe I’d have the audacity to say Mormons are not Christian. It’s been somewhat an on going conversation, I guess. I let her digest what I have said, and I withdraw to think about what she said, knowing full well that given another week the conversation will start there again, and maybe I’ll have a more tempered answer than my snarky confrontational personality might have off the cuff. I keep reminding myself it isn’t about winning a debate, but communicating the gospel to win a soul, and maybe more. And as an aside, I’d like to say that I don’t mean to Mormon bash, or what have you. But I do figure if I get in these conversations with Mormons, than you do too, and it might help you answer their queries if I relate to you my own experiences and the way in which they relate to the texts I’m preaching. This lady thought I should think Mormons are Christian for two reasons, 1. They use the name Christ in the name of their church. I pointed out to her that in the history of the church many who were not Christian have used his name. The New Testament warns against this happening, and even has it happening! This is actually what God speaks against in the second commandment. When he says you shall not use my name in vain, or misuse my name. Well he means you should not use it for false prophecies, for the spread of false doctrine, for the lying, and so forth. That someone uses the name, does not mean at all that they are Christian, does not mean they are known by Christ.
When that failed she said, well then just look at our works. And there I was a bit dumbfounded. Seems like such an unchristian thing to say. What awful pride a person must have to say, look at my works. You mean the one’s Isaiah and scripture say are “filthy rags”? Even our best works are compared to used feminine hygiene products. Look at my works? See I guess I have been tempted on occasion to take pride in some “good work” I have done. More often than not, I look at my works and it makes me crave confession and absolution. Just saying.
It is a double edged sword though, as Jesus says, you will recognize them by their fruits. And He talks about good trees bearing good fruit. Though even here there is a paradox. He says you will recognize them by their fruit, and by them he does not mean Christians, but false prophets from prophets even The Prophet, Jesus Christ.
This is a place I did not want to go at this time thinking it probably wouldn’t be heard well. But seriously, I’m looking at your works, mam. I see what your “church” does, and you expect me to then think of you as Christian, while you blaspheme his name? It scares me. I mean talking to a lady on a plane some years ago, who thought is was such a great thing that alcoholism was so low in Utah, a disputed fact by the way, but was not concerned at all when I pointed out that Utah seems to have the highest abuse rate for anti-depressants. Well, you invite me to look at your works, at your fruit, and I see despair, and hypocrisy, and Warren Jeffs.
See these are the people, who on the last day will be pointing at their works and crying “Lord, Lord!” But I mean not to pick on Mormons alone. Just happens that was the conversation I had recently and it seems apropos. A concrete example of someone being trained to point at their works as confirmation of their Christianity, which is not a good thing for sinners like you and I to do. For every supposedly good work we have done, there are other works that tend to show our truer colors as sinners. I don’t want to let us off the hook.
See there is a greater problem behind all of this. In the End Jesus answers, I never knew you. And this strikes at the heart of what it means to believe, what it means to be Christian. Being Christian is not so much knowing Christ, but being known by Christ. Of course the two should go hand in hand. Being known by Christ bears fruit in knowing Christ. In wanting to know Christ, in wanting others to know and be known by him, including your children, whom God tells you to baptize and bring up in the ways of the Lord, which means bringing them to church, and confirmation on a regular basis.
Jesus answers these people, I never knew you. They, in vain appeal to their use of his name, but he never gave it to them to be used in the way they used it. Now, for Jesus who is God, who is the Judge, to say he didn’t know them does not mean that he did not know of them. He knows all. It is to say they did not have the gift of faith. There was no intimate knowledge of them. They did what they did without his permission to spread lies in his name.
The ultimate question is not do I know Jesus, but does Jesus know me. Any body can throw his moniker around. But to be known by him is to have his name put on you by him in Holy Baptism, to live by grace and forgiveness. And these are the fruits by which we know Jesus in return. He gave us his name in baptism, he forgave us all our sins. He is our Lord. And just as we know false prophets by their fruits, dead works that lead to despair and hypocrisy. So we know Jesus by his fruit, death on the cross that brings us life in the fruit of that cross, his body and his blood, the New Testament that is the forgiveness of sins and life. Life we know we have because he was raised from the dead on the third day. And we were buried with him into his death, that we might rise to walk in the newness of life. Newness of life, that is what you have now. The greatest joy in the world, manifesting itself with love. A joy that does not point at your own works, but says look at His fruit! Do you see that? There in the midst of death He gives life, he makes the tree of death, the tree of life. For that fruit fell to the ground dead, but that seed did not die, when planted in the ground, but sprang to life, life that gives life to the world, life to you.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

1 comment:

Frank Sonnek said...

not do we know Jesus but rather
does he know us?!

I do believe I am going to plagarize that line for all it is worth. Excellently Lutheran and Christian Bror. Thanks!