THANKFUL LIVING: LOSING YOUR LIFE!
A Sermon on Matthew 10:24-39 by Samuel Zumwalt
The Third Sunday after Pentecost, 25 June 2017
Matthew 10:24-39 © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers]
24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. 26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
THANKFUL LIVING: LOSING YOUR LIFE
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christians are made by Holy Baptism through which we are joined to the death and resurrection of God’s Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. While we are washed only once in the name of the one true God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), we lose our lives daily as we return to our Baptism. In the daily prayers section of the Small Catechism, Martin Luther reminds us to sign ourselves with the holy cross as we rise in the morning and before we go to bed each night. In the morning, we thank God for the gift of the new day and ask that He keep us from all sin and evil. In the evening, we thank God for the gift of the day past and ask His forgiveness for those sins that we have done and left undone.
At all times, we ask that the Father send us His holy angel to guard and keep us from sin and every evil. Holy Baptism is a way of life. We renounce daily the forces of evil, the devil, and all his empty promises. We confess the Apostles’ Creed, the faith into which we are baptized. We pray the Lord’s Prayer where He teaches us to pray to do our Father’s good and gracious will…like His beloved Son Jesus. This is God’s story into which we have been baptized.
The world’s story began with a question: “Did God actually say?” Before that question was asked and before our first parents rebelled, there was Paradise, perfect intimacy with God and with each other. After that question, the world’s story of autonomy, literally being a law unto oneself, began. It is the story of the culture around us. It is the story of the identity politics that dominates that the 24/7 news cycle, the world of academia, and entertainment. The practice of Holy Baptism is in fundamental conflict with the world’s story. Either the one true God is the center of everything and the ruler of everything. Or we are. There is no compromise. There is no middle ground. There is no negotiated peace agreement. Either God is God and we are His creatures, or we make ourselves God. In so doing, we attempt to throw Him out of the world which He has made, which He owns, and for which He has given His life! (Cf. Luke 20:15).
If we practice our Baptism daily, if we lose our lives with Jesus daily, we will make ourselves targets for the world’s scorn and ridicule. There can be no negotiated peace treaty. It is a winner-take-all fight. Indeed the culture around us will attack us relentlessly with the goal to co-opt us, silence us, or destroy us. When the center of everything and the owner of everything becomes the autonomous person, there can be no room for the one true God and for those who have been baptized into His name. This is what the Lord Jesus warns His disciples, including you and me, in today’s Gospel lesson. Either God is the center, or man is the center. There is no middle ground. There can be no compromise. The devil and the world understand this completely. The sinful self (the old Adam or Eve) also understands that Baptism is the death of the sinful self, and so he or she resists returning to Baptism: “Let Baptism be a cute naming ritual. Let Baptism be what my family does. But don’t let Baptism be the death of me!”
When we have been buried and raised with God’s beloved Son Jesus in Holy Baptism, we have died the only death we will ever have to die. Yes, the old body we received at the moment of conception will eventually die, but the new child of God created in Baptism will share eternally the life and love of the one true God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)! Even when our old bodies die, yet we will live! And our Lord has promised He will make all things new at the last (Rev. 21:1-7). Thus, the baptized children of God will be raised from the dead in new imperishable bodies to live forever worshiping the one true God.
When you are baptized, you have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). Marked with the cross of Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit, the baptized now live with the promise of internal peace that is part and parcel of living as God’s beloved children, who regularly receive God’s life and love in the Word and Sacraments. Meanwhile, the baptized continue to live in a war zone where there can be no negotiated peace. Sadly, our own hearts and minds become a war zone, particularly when our nearest and dearest relationships become enemy-occupied territory. Our nearest and dearest relationships literally can tear us apart. On the one hand, this person is my beloved parent or spouse or child or in-law to whom I owe my love, respect, encouragement, and support. On the other hand, my first and highest loyalty belongs to the one true God who has made me, owns me, and has redeemed me with the precious blood of Christ! I am His purchased at great cost on Calvary’s tree. I am His, and that changes everything!
The practice of the Christian faith begins at Holy Baptism where we are made disciples through no effort or merit of our own. This is what the Risen Jesus told us two weeks ago as He sent His apostles to make disciples of all ethnic groups, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Having made disciples by Baptism, the apostles were sent to teach these disciples all that the Lord had commanded them (Matthew 28:16-20). That same apostolic mission and ministry has been given to Christ’s Church, and this apostolic mission and ministry has been laid on the heads and shoulders, the hearts and minds of pastors on the day of their ordination to the Holy Ministry. Pastors are set apart to baptize and to teach, to proclaim Jesus Christ and Him Crucified in Word and Sacraments for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. If it seems your pastor is constantly saying the same message, there is one clear reason. That’s the only message Christ has given and commanded the pastor to preach!
The old Adam or Eve may come to worship hoping for a message of negotiated peace with the world. The old Adam or Eve may come to worship hoping to be made to feel comfortable and even safe. The old Adam or Eve may come to worship expecting to have things his or her own way. Woe to the preacher who gives the old Adam or Eve strength to carry on! For God will be God, and the old Adam or Eve and all his or her comforters will be destroyed.
James has written: “Count it all joy, brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (1:2-3). This is how we grow up and mature in the Christian faith and life by the testing that comes with living in a war zone. Getting knocked down, getting betrayed, getting our hearts broken, and getting lied about and attacked comes with being baptized into the Lord Jesus’ death and resurrection.
So, then, those who are single, or single again by abandonment, or widowed and yet willing to marry again, please remember that marrying someone who does not practice the Christian faith puts you at greater risk to make compromises. There can be no negotiated peace agreement. Either God is the center, or someone else will foolishly try to claim the center! If you are raising children or want to raise children in the Christian faith, how can there not be two competing worldviews if one of the parents does not practice the Christian faith? Even if your spouse has no objection to your practicing the faith and raising your children in the faith, the children now have a model of an other-centered life, a model of a life where God is not center! Pray daily for a good husband or wife, a good father or mother for you children, who gladly and joyfully dies daily to him- or herself as a baptized child of God!
There are many who foolishly try to make peace with the world and peace in their homes where there can be no peace. What does this mean? Peace-making for the sake of compromise with other-centered stories will bring nothing but heartbreak eventually. This does not mean that we are relentlessly attacking the people we love or even the people we don’t love. This means that by practicing the Christian faith always we let it be known who and Whose we are. We let it be known where the line is that we cannot cross without being faithless to the God who made us, who owns us, and who has redeemed us with His precious blood. We do not have to be mean or mean-spirited in living our Baptism. Just the opposite. We can lovingly live the faith with integrity…although that will often not be without pain!
The strength for living our Baptism and dying daily to ourselves does not come from within or from self-discipline. It comes from receiving the life and love of the one true God week after week in the Word and Sacraments. It comes by daily returning to our Baptism, confessing our sins, and being encouraged and directed by listening to the Word of God day by day.
Dear ones, those words of encouragement we speak to each other before the benediction each weekend are not some catchy slogans. These are the daily habits and practices of the baptized people of God: “I will strive to pray daily, worship weekly, read the Bible, serve at and beyond St. Matthew’s, be in relationship to encourage spiritual growth in others, and give of my time, talents, and resources.”
In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
©Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church
Wilmington, North Carolina USA
Thankful Living: Losing Your Life
“O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” (The Daily Prayer of the Church, 616).
Matthew 10:34 “….I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
St. John Chrysostom (late 4th – early 5th century Patriarch of Constantinople): “…this more than anything is peace: when the disease is removed. This is peace: when the cancer is cut away. Only with such radical surgery is it possible for heaven to be reunited to earth. Only in this way does the physician preserve the healthy tissue of the body. The incurable part must be amputated. Only in this way does the military commander preserve the peace: by cutting of those in rebellion” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Matthew 1-13, 210).
Matthew 10:36 “And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”
St. Jerome (late 4th – early 5th century translator of the Latin Vulgate Bible): “The whole world is divided against itself for the sake of faith in Christ. Every house contains both unbelievers and believers. And a necessary conflict has been sent to break an evil peace…For this reason David prays in the psalm, ‘O God, scatter the peoples who delight in war” (211).
Matthew 10:37 “…and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
St. Augustine (early 5th century Bishop of Hippo in northern Africa): “Let us answer our father and mother when they justly say, ‘love me.’ Let us answer ‘I will love you in Christ, not instead of Christ. You will be with me in him, but I will not be with you without him.’ ‘But we don’t care for Christ,’ they say. ‘And I care for Christ more than I care for you. Should I obey the ones who raised me and lose the One who created me?’” (212).
Matthew 10:39 “…and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
St. Cyril (early 5th century Patriarch of Alexandria: “Here Jesus calls the departure of life from the body the ‘loss of life,’ speaking figuratively. ‘He who finds his life’ refers to anyone who too highly values transitory existence and as it were sells it at a profit. He will face the hands of death when he is sent to unremittable punishment and death” (213).
1. Do you assume that peace is the absence of conflict? Jesus says quite the opposite.
2. Are you constantly valuing your closest relationships more than God? Jesus says, “Don’t!”
3. Are you constantly clinging to this life as if it is the only one? Jesus says, “That’s bad news for you!”
(Read this aloud daily until everyone in your home can say it from memory.)
Christian Questions with Their Answers
Prepared by Dr. Martin Luther for those who intend to go to the Sacrament
[The “Christian Questions with Their Answers,” designating Luther as the author, first appeared
in an edition of the Small Catechism in 1551, five years after Luther’s death].
After confession and instruction in the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the pastor may ask, or Christians may ask themselves these questions:
16. Why should we remember and proclaim His death?
First, so that we may learn to believe that no creature could make satisfaction for our sins. Only Christ, true God and man, could do that. Second, so we may learn to be horrified by our sins, and to regard them as very serious. Third, so we may find joy and comfort in Christ alone, and through faith in Him be saved.
17. What motivated Christ to die and make full payment for your sins?
His great love for His Father and for me and other sinners, as it is written in John 14; Romans 5; Galatians 2 and Ephesians 5.
18. Finally, why do you wish to go to the Sacrament?
That I may learn to believe that Christ, out of great love, died for my sin, and also learn from Him to love God and my neighbor (Luther’s Small Catechism).
1. Pray for every unbaptized child and adult you know and for the child’s parents, too.
2. Pray for your unchurched loved ones and friends. Invite one or more of them to worship.
3. Discuss with your spouse, your family, or a friend why God wants us to examine our hearts prior to our receiving the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar. If we are not sorry for our sins or do not believe ourselves to be sinners in need of Christ, what are we, in effect, saying to the Lord Jesus as He comes to us by His Word of Promise in His Holy Meal?
4. Make a habit of taking a Bible from the cart outside the door and, before communing, read through all Luther’s questions and answers on pp. 1065-1066.
For Husbands and Wives
Repeat daily: “I (name) take you (name) to be my wedded wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my faith.”