S-1268 11SAP/3C 8/28/11 Hymns LSB(O) #594; S#430; LS. #851; #633; #867; (C) #854 v 1,3,5
Text: Jeremiah 15:15-21; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28
Them: “It’s Hard!” (Romans 12:9-13)
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost is from the Epistle lesson: “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Romans 12:9-13).
Introduction: In Nomine IESU
People of God, chosen and beloved, there are certain things in life that are hard on us and hard for us: Hard for us: To confront someone who speaks evil of us, to forgive those who hurt us and to let go of past sins. Hard on us: To be away from the one we love, lose a child, deal with mom’s Alzheimer, go through divorce; fail a test, get laid off, or lose your farm.
However, these things are not as hard as what the Apostle Paul asks us to do in the text. Pastor Paul tells us to do those th ings that are almost impossible. Love others more, be kind, and don’t pay evil for evil, be patient in tribulation. But to do these things is not easy.
Do you like to forgive someone who hurt you or shamed you? Are you able to love the one who smeared your name and reputation? Can you honor those who dishonor you? Do you fervently pray for your enemies? To be sure “It’s hard” to do because we are not people who pray for those who hate us and want to kill us. We are not willing to forgive quickly the ones who do us wrong.
As you and I listen to Pastor Paul, we cry out saying: “Paul, you got to be kidding with what you are asking of me a follower of Jesus Christ!” Paul, you have lost your mind, you can’t be serious! But he is not kidding and indeed he is very serious about what he asked.
But this is not the only thing he asks. In another book he writes: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:4-7).
Can we honestly say that we have done these things? Has our love been patient and kind? Have we always rejoiced in helping others or do we grumble when they ask us? How many times have we kept record of the wrongs others did to us? Do we forget easily the evil against us?
To be sure even among the most ardent lovers and couples here have had their bouts. Maybe they have not had an all out 15 rounds knockout fight. But there has been the silent treatment. There has been the slamming of the door shut that rattled the glass. There has been the departure that left burned rubber and there has been that look that kills. PAUSE.
We are all guilty of not doing what the Apostle Paul asks us to do because we are selfish and self-centered sinners. More often than not we want to get revenge instead of giving brotherly affection. More often we want to give them a knuckle sandwich than the kiss of peace.
But what Pastor Paul has written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote to help Christ’s followers and we should be doing them. What He has asked of us indeed IS HARD! He asks us to let our Gospel light shine and glorify our heavenly Father.
Paul is not the only one who asks us to do the hard thing. Jesus does too. In the Gospel lesson today, the Savior asks us to carry our cross and follow Him. But we complain. “Lord, the cross is heavy and I can’t carry it! Lord, I don’t want this cross, give me someone lighter! Lord, let someone else carry the cross!” But Jesus doesn’t release us of our responsibilities as His redeemed children. He declares: “If you want to be My followers, take up our cross and follow Me.” What Jesus is asking of us IS HARD. We cry out. “LORD, I CAN’T DO IT!” What Paul and Jesus ask of us is hard indeed. To be sure it is downright impossible! We can’t do what they ask. We don’t have it in us. PAUSE.
But don’t think for a moment that it was easy for Jesus the heaven-sent Savior to carry the cross either. But that is why He came. Certainly Jesus could have taken the easy way out. He wouldn’t have had to die for the sins of the world—yours and mine. Certainly He could have turned His back on the mission and ministry that He was sent by the Father to do. He certainly wouldn’t have to do it. He could have let us remain in sin and suffer the punishment of hell.
But that would have been the easy task. Jesus didn’t come to do the easy thing; He came to do the hard thing. He came to carry the cross. And He did carry the heaviest cross the world has ever seen. Upon this cross was the weight of all the sins of the world, beginning with the first Adam and ending with the last son of Adam and daughter of Eve. This cross He carried all the way to Calvary. Upon it He was extended and nailed. Upon it He suffered the agony of hell and God’s wrath. Upon it He did what Paul asked of us—to forgive others.
You my brothers and sisters in Christ should know that it was hard for the Savior to do this act of mercy and win our salvation. This thing was so hard that He prayed in the Garden. When Christ prayed for us in the Garden, how difficult it must have been for Him sweating droplets of blood in His anguish. “Father, take this cup away from Me...But not My will but Yours be done!” The Savior prayed for those who beat Him and nailed Him to the cross: “Father, Forgive them...” And the Savior did earn our salvation and completed His mission of rescue and deliverance. PAUSE.
To be a follower of Jesus Christ is hard. It demands a sacrificial life of us. We are called to imitate our Lord and Savior. But oh, how hard that is. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE. No matter how much I love my wife, I don’t always love her as I should. No matter how much I love this congregation, I have a hard time loving all of the people and serving them faithfully. No matter how much you love me, there are those days when you struggle loving me. That is the nature of the beast.
The Christian life is hard. The point is we can’t do these things on our own. It is impossible for us sinful humans; but with God all things are possible. Christ did take His cross and carried it all the way to Calvary; died on it, so that life while difficult at times is not impossible. In fact it is guaranteed by the cross.
Because of the Savior’s faithfulness, you and I can do what we couldn’t do on our own. Because of His love, we are able to love others and show kindness and serve them more. Because of His mercy, we show mercy and compassion. Because of His forgiveness, we forgive others the wrong they have done us.
Jesus did the hard thing so that we can live in peace. This doesn’t mean that we don’t follow His decrees or commands, but rather live for Him, obey Him and serve Him with all of the gifts He has given us. And when it is hard for us to do something we rely upon Him for strength, wisdom, fortitude and love to do the hard thing.
Today, the Holy Spirit has led to this house of worship for a reason—to strengthen you in your walk of faith. Today, because of the Word and the Sacrament, you are enrolled in the ministry of the cross bearing. Today, by His strength alone are we able to do the impossible and point many to the One who has redeemed them and bought them with His own precious blood. God grant us the ability to always do the hard thing. Amen.
Now the peace…
Soli Deo Gloria.