3rd Sunday of Pentecost June 21, 2020

“Faith in Jesus and Standing Before Our Heavenly Father!” Matthew 10:21-33

      Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

      The text for our sermon meditation is the, the Chapter.

      “5These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, . . .

      21“Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. …. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

      Blessed and happy Father’s Day. Certainly we need to hear the blessing from somewhere, because this passage seems antithetical to words of blessing.

      When we think of having a father, there is a certain expectation of protection and support. A father who cares for his family provides such material blessing for them. He gives guidance and encouragement when needed. He also gives discipline out of love for his children. Children should feel secure with the presence and attention of their father.

      As we hear the words of Matthews Gospel account, there is a difference of response within the household. Instead of security and encouragement there seems to be an air of discord and rebellion. There is adversity and betrayal. What could possibly have planted such a seed of discontent in the household that bears the fruit of rebellion and betrayal?

      As we heard last Sunday, Jesus gave authority to His disciples to go into the towns and villages of Israel to bring them the reign of heaven. This Sunday we continue the reading from St Matthew. These words follow the instructions given by Jesus to His disciples. Jesus is warning them of the response to the message they were to proclaim, to herald.

      To understand this response, we must first understand the problem is not the message that is heralded. No, the problem is what is already present in the villages and towns. The problem is what is already present in the homes of Israel. The problem is what is already in the hearts of those who live in the homes of Israel.

      What is that problem? It is nothing less than rebellious and sinful hearts. Consider what the rebellious and sinful hearts of people already inflict upon themselves and those around them. There is already depravity of thinking and desire. There is already anger and strife. There is already mistrust and misplaced condemnation.

      This is what Jesus is teaching his disciples about the people they will encounter on their mission. In another place Jesus tells his disciples that he is sending them out as sheep among wolves. As we know, wolves look upon sheep as prey. They ravage and destroy the sheep and consume them fully. There is no mercy shown and no quarter given.

      So this is the situation and the response that will be given to those who are bringing the message of the reign of heaven. Family relationships will become ever more strained to the breaking point. It will be as if there is war within households. Siblings will become adversaries. Parents and children will be opposed to each other. Death will reign because sin abounds.

      Why will this be so readily visible? What is the catalyst for setting this process in motion? It will be the message brought by Jesus’ disciples. What is that message? It is the proclamation that God has truly come to His people. God comes to save that which is lost. God comes to set right what has been wrong. God come to redeem that which is sold into the slavery of sin. God comes to free that which is bound in the chains of death. God comes to break the reign of Satan and to defeat this strong man in his own realm.

      What is so devastating about this message from God? It is a message of accountability and obedience to someone other than oneself. We chafe at the command of God to live humbly and under His will and commandments. We cringe when God seeks undivided worship and faithful obedience from us. Consider what happened to the first pair of brothers born to Adam and Eve. One brother gave undivided worship and faithful obedience to the God of all creation. One brother only went through the motions. The latter brother delivered up the former brother to death.

      How did Cain respond to God’s call to repent of his sin? Cain denied responsibility for both his sin and his brother’s life. Instead of repentance he continued in rebellion, even to the point of denying God’s authority to punish sin. He accuses God of being unjust in His punishment, and seeks to negotiate a more just outcome. Cain desires God to be more tolerant of sin.

      What of our day? Insurrection and violence continue as they have in every generation since Cain abused his brother Abel. Cities are ablaze by the hands those who are anti-government and anti-police. They rebel against authority and seek to transfer power from the properly established order of government to radical factions that seek to spread chaos and unrest.

      It is into this roiling mess of human devastation that Jesus sends his disciples. They bring with them a message that will turn this world on its head.  They bring a message of healing and reconciliation. They bring a message of peace and humility. They bring a message of righteousness and the forgiveness of sin.

      In contrast to the worlds view concerning the value of life, human or animal, we have God’s view of life, human or animal. Jesus compares the lives of his disciples to the life of a small sparrow. Such small birds were sold in the market place two for less than one cent. There is little value placed upon them by society. They are plentiful but insignificant to people.

      Yet, God places great value upon them. He knows when they fall to the ground. Their deaths do not fail to register on God’s heart and mind. Why is this so? It is so because God gave these small sparrows life and purpose in this world. They add to the beauty of this world and have a place to fill in this world. They are not insignificant to God.

      Likewise the hairs on your head. I read somewhere that we have approximately 140,000 hairs or hair follicles. God numbers them and puts them in place. He also created them to grow and lengthen over time. He created them to have color and texture. The hairs on our head serve a purpose of protecting the head and conserving the heat produced by the body. Such a gift from God is valuable in His sight. He knows when the follicle stops producing hair. He knows when a hair falls out. He knows why the hair falls out, be it genetic or caused by stress and trial.

      Jesus then says that we are of much greater value to God than the sparrows who fall to the ground and the small hairs of our head. We have been created in the image of God. We have been given the gifts of God for support of our day to day life. These gifts are spoken of as the rain which falls on the evil and the good, and the sun which shines on the just and the unjust. Such provision from the hand of God is to be received with thanksgiving.

      Moreover, the provision of God for our salvation is great. This is the word the disciples are to bring to those to whom they are sent. The sheep whom we heard about last week are to be told of God’s redemption which is drawing near in Jesus Christ. They were to be given the hope of which God promised long ago. They were to hear the voice of David’s Shepherd who brings God’s provision for those who are weighed down under the burden of sin and unrighteous treatment.

      Would this message be favorably received? Not in every case. Our Lord instructs His disciples to leave those people who reject their message and seek people from other places. There will be others who will listen and find hope in the One who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary and subsequently to suffer under Pontius Pilate, to be crucified, to die and rise from death on the third day.

      You have received the benefit of this great salvation. God has called you through this same Gospel of salvation to know His mercy and care. Such mercy and care is much needed in our time. We have been somewhat separated from each other by social distancing. Some are still unable to leave their homes and venture out into the public. It is easy to begin to think that you are truly alone in this confusion. There are feelings of abandonment. Even Christians may begin to think God has left the building and turned His back on them.

      Nothing is further from the truth. God is where He said He will be. He is the true Father who provides for His children. He continues to make His presence known even in the face of this current time of opposition and time of trial. Over the past few weeks you have continued to be fed on God’s Word. Albeit it was online live video. Yet, the Word and presence of God was still made known to you. God confessed His presence to you if you will.

      You are reminded of God’s presence in the hymns that we sing. You are reminded of God’s presence in the liturgy we speak. You are reminded of God’s presence in the readings you hear and the sermon which is proclaimed. God comes to you in His most sacred meal give to you from His altar.

      Through these means God assures you of His presence. God is here in this house of worship.  He is also where you find yourself from day to day as you walk by faith in Jesus Christ. He relieves your fears and strengthens your faith so that you will not become anxious and doubt His control for your life. The cause of anxiety is fear. The cause of fear is doubt. The foundation of doubt is feeling a lack of control. The perfect love of our heavenly Father cast out such fear. As Scripture says, “cast all your anxiety upon Him for He cares for you.”

      In such time we must remember the words of our Savior as He endured the cross of suffering. He felt such abandonment when He cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Yet, Jesus continued to entrust His life to the hands of His Father in heaven. We may be bowed down for a brief moment of time. Yet, we have the assurance that God will lift us up in His time and bring us salvation and relief. With Jesus we give our souls into the hands of our heavenly Father and He shelters us in His almighty hands.

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