29. May 2022
These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.
In Name of the + Jesus. Amen.
Your life as Christians is not easy. Jesus never promised it would be. He describes your life as bearing burdens and carrying crosses. This yoke of responsibility is placed on you; you didn’t get to choose it. Everyone has the burden of the sinful flesh, the lying charms of the accuser, and the rampant wickedness and moral decay of secular culture. These causes are common to all men.
But the suffering of the Christian is distinct from those outside the faith. It is precisely our confession of Christ Jesus alone as mediator and redeemer that sets your suffering apart. Confessing Jesus Christ crucified is your cross to bear, a burden made lighter only by the daily forgiveness of sins, restoration to faith, and comfort in the promises of eternity.
Because you know Jesus in His Word and the Father by His Son, you have had your eyes opened to the reality of your situation. Jesus has revealed the root cause of all suffering: your rebellion against whom God made you and has given you to be. You are like the child who refuses to receive discipline, honor their parents and other authorities, and loves to do whatever is the opposite of what they say. Jesus exposes your sinful flesh that loves falsehood and would prefer to listen to liars than the One who is the Truth. Jesus opens your eyes to see the world for what it is, with its darkness, devils, and pleasures.
It would be far easier for you if you didn’t know these things. You could live according to the imaginations of your heart, live according to the lies of our degenerate age, or live in open rebellion to the book of nature and the revelation of the eternal truth in Scripture. You could eat, drink, and be merry in the vain life of the heathen.
It is easier, that is until you know Jesus. He has given you to understand and comprehend the cause of the emptiness and waste of a life that it is to live outside of faith. And yet, even then, some would rather ignore and forget what they once were according to their Baptism. They see themselves in Christ, but in times of difficulty or abundance, they walk away and return to the desolation of life outside of Christ, His Church, and the gifts He freely gives.
You might think yourself above apostasy, but consider how we “were all made to stumble.” What did you do when our unelected managers told us they would fine or imprison you if you dared to gather of Divine Service during their imposed disaster? For my part as your pastor, I failed you by casting off the command of God to listen to the deceitful mandate of men. Had it not been for the courage of our state legislature, how long would I have persisted in withholding the gifts in the public assembly? No doubt you think I am too hard on myself. The elders and council agreed with the decision. “You were just looking out for what was best for us, pastor!”
The Lord has repented me. I refused to believe the Scriptures regarding the truth revealed concerning the world, the civil estate, and the prince of this world. Until Christ comes again, there will continue to be those driven by power, ambition, and greed mixed among those who live in service, humility, and meekness. I can make all the excuses I want about civil government, times of crisis, the fog of war, or even the good intentions of men. But I chose the lighter burden, the easier path, the safer strategy over the clear, inviolable commandments of God and the office of Christ Jesus. Regrets aren’t enough. Please forgive me.
In hindsight, how could this happen? How could I and so many other pastors, congregations, and our members fail to continue in the Word and Sacraments of Jesus? What did we believe was different that our brothers and sisters in times of plague, disaster, and war never before thought and ceased to gather in public assembly? How did we fall prey to such grand deceit, manipulation, coercion, and destruction that was the COVID-19 response? Many of our fellows still refuse to gather, obscure their faces from God and you, and will not eat and drink of the medicine of immortality offered here. The damage is done, scattering the sheep, effectively cutting them off from the source of Life and convincing them that their sacrifice is a service to God.
How could this happen? Jesus tells you, “These things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.” Your betters consider themselves your managers, whose knowledge, insight, and prophetic powers surpass the eternal Truth revealed in God’s Word. They have placed themselves above God’s Word, claiming to know what is best for you and humanity. They have visions of a future where suffering, disease, poverty, and even death itself are overcome by human ingenuity, technology, and effort. For them, there is no need for forgiveness in Jesus, the Father’s providence for all created life, nor the ongoing instruction and nurture of the revealed Word by the Spirit. Not only do they not know the Father nor the Son, but they do not want anything to do with them. They are gods, and for them, God is dead. And now many who think themselves Christian have likewise cut themselves off from Christ.
But there is good news! Jesus has not failed you and will not forget you or any of those whom He has called by name in Holy Baptism. He is even now moving heaven and earth to restore and renew your trust in His Word. He overthrows anyone or anything that you have given fear, love, or trust. God will be your God, and you will be His people. He sends the Promise of the Father to you to call you back home, to gather you again to the Christian church, to open your eyes again to the only way of life and escape from death, and to set you apart again as trusting people of God.
The third person of the Holy Trinity, whom Jesus calls the Helper, Advocate, and Defender, given to you at your Baptism and renewed in Holy Absolution, preached and taught into your ears, is always at work in you to change your heart and mind, rebuild what you tear down, and enliven what seems to be dead or dying. As this Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit testifies of the Truth, bearing witness to Jesus. He directs your attention back to Jesus, the author, and completer of faith. He applies to your hearts again the absolving forgiveness of Jesus. He restores over and over the good creation that you are as God’s own child.
And now you know again, that whatever or whoever gets in the way of Jesus will be exposed and overthrown. No matter what tyrannical acts, greedy grabs, or authoritarian impositions are thrown at you, remember that you are God’s own, and He is even now working all things for your good.
But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin