Sermon: Epiphany 7.2011

Text: Matthew 5:38-48
Date: 2011.2.20
Occasion: Baptism of Nolan George Bayer
You will be perfect,
as your heavenly Father is perfect.

In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A Christian has no enemies.

Jesus is infinitely profound here as He continues to preach to His disciples. As He speaks, He weeds out the immature disciples from the mature ones. It's as if He says, Do you really know what it is to be Christian. I've already told you the key to understanding who you are in Me, now I'm getting a bit deeper into the mystery. If you fail to understand even these things, then you prove that you really don't get it, that you really haven't been paying attention.

Have you been paying attention. Do you get it? Let me sum it all up for you again in case you missed it the past few weeks: Jesus began with what we call the Beatitudes. There He described all the variety of His followers as: Blesséd. But this not on their own account, for being poor in spirit, sorrowful, even merciful and peacemakers are really nothing too great, in fact they are pitiful in themselves; in themselves yes. But yet Jesus still calls them Blesséd, and on account of these pitiful things, but that's because they are connected with Him, the Blesséd One of the Father: Jesus was the sorrowful One, He was poor in spirit, He the merciful and the Prince of peace. In summary, they are blessed / because He is blessed.

Next, our Lord made the Old Testament reference to his disciples as being the salt of the earth. They are salt because they have saltiness, that is, they are Christian because they have Christ. In the same way they are the light of the world, not that they give off their own light, but that Jesus Christ, who is the Light of the world, shines in and through them.
I hope you are starting to see the point now; what it is to be a Christian.

Moving on. / In last week's portion of Jesus' Sermon, Jesus switched tactics. Instead of telling them who they are, Jesus tells them who they are not. He took a few of the supposedly easiest of the Laws: murder and adultery to name a few, and He explained how they are impossible to keep. / In other words, what it is to be a Christian, is not found in the keeping of the law. And He continues that very thought into this weeks portion of the Sermon. But instead of explaining the impossibility of the Law, Jesus goes a bit deeper and explains it in terms of the impossibility of the Gospel. And then gives us this summary statement: “Therefore you will be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (More on that in a bit. But first I want to go back a moment.)

I started the sermon with this phrase: A Christian has no enemies. This is essentially what Jesus says in today's Gospel reading: turn the other cheek, give more to the thief than what he planned on taking from you, outdo the harsh demands of your tyrant boss, and do not turn away the needy. This describes the life of the disciple. It is a life of service, of sacrifice, of love. It is being Christ to others, and this because Christ has been all things to you.

But if all we get out of this weeks Sermon from Jesus is another layer of guilt for our already insufficient lives, well, then we've missed the point, again. And so I'm wondering. Do you really get it? If you were to be asked, What does it mean to be a Christian? / What would you say?

I know that there are some of you who really do get it. Perhaps you can't explain it in sufficient words, but who really can, anyhow. I've seen evidence of it: your actions, your comments here and there: showing me that you just can't get enough of the things which make you a Christian. Your heart aches for them. You want your Savior, Jesus, more and more. Far beyond being legalistic or pietistic, you would have the Sacrament every day if it were offered, (you've said this to me.) You get a bit envious when you read that the Early Church in Acts used to gather together to hear preaching and break bread daily in their sanctuaries. You have voiced your appeal, to me and others. You wish that Christ would, as St Paul writes in Colossians 3, that Christ would dwell among us richly.

And that is really the point. You are in-the-flesh examples of those who truly understand what Jesus is saying here in His Sermon, you know what it truly is to be Christian. It's not an acquired thing, it doesn't come from keeping the law or being a nice person or having a good family name or anything of the sort. Being a Christian comes from being in Christ. And that's perfect, that's complete, that's what peace is all about. And that's what Jesus is telling His disciples. In other words Jesus says, “You cannot fulfill the Gospel, the Good News, it is fulfilled in me.”

In this portion of His Great Sermon, Jesus is speaking the very words that He was going to fulfill. He would turn the other cheek as He was not only slapped, but whipped across the face and shoulders and back. Not only would He give up His tunic, which the soldiers cast lots for, but he would give up everything, even His soul for those men, and for you. And He did it, so that, when you, the needy ones, go and ask Him for anything, He gives you far more than you could ever imagine. Not only does He walk one lifetime with you, but He walks two, now and in eternity, carrying you all the way.

Do you get it? God be praised if you do, it is the work of the Holy Spirit. This kind of perfection, the heavenly Father's perfection, has been bestowed upon you already, in your Baptism, just like precious Nolan, who is now perfected in Christ, fully a part of the kingdom of God, a son with Jesus of the heavenly Father. But then that's not all. Nolan will continue to be perfected. Because there is yet something unfulfilled for us, for all of us, even for Christ Jesus. His work is not done. It is perfect, but it is not done. He will come again, and when He does, Nolan and you and me and our departed loved ones will be perfected one last time in our resurrection, just like our Savior and brother Jesus' resurrection. Until then, Nolan and you and I need to continue to be perfected, or rather, preserved in our perfection, by the very gift of perfection and peace, our Lord's Body and Blood. And so we are this day, thanks be to God!

And by the way, a Christian has no enemies because in Christ, there is now no opposition, no condemnation, no resistance. God has made peace. His kingdom doesn't operate like the worlds. In the world there is opposition and the worldly ones do see you and others as enemies; but its all one way. For Christ has reconciled us: first to the Father and also to each other. You are truly made free in Him. So go ahead, take Jesus at His Word; use your freedom, your perfection, your peace and ask the heavenly Father; all of you, for there is no partiality with God, see if He will give you far more than what you could ever imagine. Dare to ask Him that you would truly learn what it means to be Christian, and would be perfected in His righteousness, weekly, daily, among your brothers here and your family at home. See if He will dwell among us richer and richer.

In +Jesus name. Amen.

[Artwork by Ed Riojas]

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