Second Weekend of Lent
March 17, 2019 | Bryan Simmons
Passage: Luke 13:31-35
I'd like to focus on the Philippians text. And it is certainly St. Patty's Day today isn't it? So top of the morning to you All!
And a lot of things that we do on St. Patty's Day have nothing to do with St. Patrick. And I'm gonna interject one of those things to the leprechaun. Leprechauns are devious little creatures right? And they like to trick you and -- is it: eat you? Is that what they end up doing? It depends on what movie you watch about them I guess. But the Philippians text is kind of like a leprechaun. It likes to trick us.
When it's actually telling us a different thing. I'm going to read it again just so it's fresh in our minds. Paul writes: "brothers and sisters join in imitating me and observe those who live according to the example you have in us, from many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. I have often told you of them and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction. Their god is the belly and their glory is in their shame. Their minds are set on earthly things but our citizenship is in heaven. And it is from there that we are expecting a savior the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. Therefore my brothers and sisters whom I love and long for, my joy and Crown stand firm in the Lord in this way my beloved.
In this leprechaun context it functions like this. We have this pot of gold dream that we, we look at this text and we look at these walls and we consider it to be kind of a secure barrier and so that when we are in this building any time Paul says "them" it's got to be somebody else.
So we go "yeah!" Their end is in their destruction and their God is the belly. They're set on earthly things but we -- our citizenship is in heaven, right?
I don't really enjoy this text either. It's a difficult text to read especially for the Lutheran.
Because the Lutherans -- we love that baseline understanding of Christianity, right? Simply believe that what Jesus did for you is actually true and embrace the reality that is set before you. You are forgiven, that you are promised eternal life. And that – this -- is entirely the Lord's doing for you.
And then as good Lutherans we tend to like to leave it at that and feel good about it.
But Paul is always talking about this conflict between the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of this world. And it's always rearing its ugly head when he talks about this tension that you and I have where we're caught in between, as Christians baptized into this wonderful reality . . .
Our citizenship is in heaven. It's a beautiful thing. But at the same time. That we are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, we still live this life. In the kingdom of this world and there is a tension. For the kingdom of heaven has values of love, forgiveness, peace, life. In the kingdom of this world has values of power, authority, death, and control.
And we're caught in between when Paul talks about people who live as enemies of the cross of Christ. It was certainly clear in the day of Rome, when a lot of those enemies were very outspoken, but we as disciples can be enemies of the cross of Christ ourselves when we violate the Kingdom of Heaven in favor of the kingdom of this earth. And it's an easy thing to do. And I would argue that there is not one of us that makes it through the day without being an enemy of the cross of Christ. At some point. I'm as guilty of it as you are.
There is a tension there.
There is a tension there. We've got the Kingdom of Heaven that embraces mercy, that embraces of forgiveness. And we've got the kingdom of this earth that likes to live as close to the book as it can -- right? We have rules set up and we hold people to those rules.
Meanwhile the Kingdom of Heaven eradicates all of that -- because the death of Jesus Christ for our sake goes beyond rules -- goes beyond laws. We are completely unworthy of it. And yet we have it. But when it comes time for us to hold someone's feet to the fire. Right? When's the last time you did this? Especially if it's somebody that you know needs to be knocked down a peg, right? It can be fine to embrace that Kingdom of the earth mentality and hold that over somebody . . . maybe it's an in-law you don't get along with, or a brother and sister. Maybe it's a co-worker that, uh, maybe brags about themself too much, and you finally can catch him in something that you can hold over him. It's an easy thing to get into. Sometimes the right thing to do is different in the Kingdom of Heaven versus the kingdom of this Earth. For in the kingdom of this earth oftentimes the right thing to do is hold something over somebody else, because they indeed transgressed a rule, a law, or regulation, an unspoken thing -- the Kingdom of Heaven is always working for mercy. And I hate preaching this because I know that there are things that transpire just this last week that I violated this. And I feel like, in the middle of Lent we can dwell on these things and feel really bad about it. And say that we're not doing enough for the sake of a kingdom, that we're not doing enough for Christ -- but I think that ignores the gospel message itself. Because the beauty about this, the beauty about the gospel message, is that not only: Do you have forgiveness and mercy and peace turn a love of God and the promise of eternal life through the cross and resurrection of Christ, but that as you go on expected to live in the kingdom and abide by the rules of the kingdom -- that forgiveness never goes away. That forgiveness never goes away when you screw up you can come back to the Lord, and ask for that forgiveness. At the very least we're doing it once a week when we come here . . . because of the mercy of Jesus the cross of Christ and the resurrection, we are forgiven and we are allowed to continue on -- trying again and again and again. Because while we live in this tension of the kingdom of Earth and the kingdom of heaven we will never fully understand the kingdom of heaven itself. But we will keep trying and as Paul says join in imitating me and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.
And the only reason that Paul is worth imitating is because he is doing his best to imitate Christ. And as you and I all know it is an impossibility to imitate Christ. We rely fully on Jesus even to attempt to imitate what Jesus has been doing.
And so in that way it's easier to imitate Paul, because in Paul's failings we find ourselves. In Paul's successes, we can yearn for, we can keep trying, we can fail. But we can get up, and try again.
And in love as God loves and see this world as God does. It is so easy to look at this world and try to strong arm the kingdom of Earth -- to see it as a defeated thing -- as this wasteland of just misery and hopelessness. But that's not the way God sees this world.
God sees this world as something worth dying for. And in that redemption you and I have a hope beyond hope because we are loved.
The kingdom of heaven is here. We can live in it.
We are citizens of it. And we can fight against the kingdom of this world with that same love.