Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

All Saints

"Facing Persecution in the Name of Christ"

Matthew 5:11-12

November 6, 2016

The national election is Tuesday. For most of us, we'll be happy that it's finally over and done. In spite of our frustration, we still need to pay attention to the issues beyond the personality deficiencies of the two presidential candidates. The real problem is in the judiciary branch of the government which has been legislating rather than dispensing justice for the average citizens. The next few years are going to be especially challenging to the Christian church. We are facing both covert and overt persecution from the very government we have expected to protect our liberties and freedoms.

Jesus tells us to expect this persecution. He isn't just rattling off a list of pious platitudes. As you read through the Beatitudes, do you notice the progression? The first are the simple "blessed are . ." These seem to be directed to Christians in general. Verse 10 becomes more direct. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake." The last two verses are downright personal. They are directed straight to us. Note the pronouns.

Matthew 5:11-12. "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The time has come for us to ask how these words apply to us. When we think of persecution, we think of the holy martyrs in the Roman Coliseum. We think of Christians slaughtered by Muslims. We think of those who suffered in the communist gulags. We have not experienced these things. Yet, our Lord is speaking to us.

Where is the persecution coming from today? As we look at American society, I think of three groups who constantly assail the church and each of us because we are members of Christ's church.

The first group is what I call a collection of "Angry Atheists." These are angry intellectuals who think the Holy Scriptures are beneath their philosophical constructions of life as they see it. The Bible is incomplete, primitive and too morally rigid. They are intolerant of any religious expression and are working to remove any religious reference from the public square. To these people faith is a sign of weakness although they have faith in their own theories of philosophy.

The second group is characterized by "Demonic Drag Queens." Once upon a time, our nation had the attitude of "live and let live." Even if we were uncomfortable with certain lifestyles, we understood that in a free society people can live as they choose. Now, those who choose a life-style outside the ordinary seem determined to force it on everyone. It's not a matter of toleration but one of mandatory acceptance.

The third group is the "Furious Feminists" who worship at the altar of abortion. All they think about is the "right" to murder the unborn. Not only do they demand abortion be allowed at many time during a pregnancy but they demand all hospitals and doctors must participate in this murder. They will not allow for exemptions because of religious belief. All must conform.

What is the common focus of their anger? It's directed to the church with the screeching "you can't tell me what to do." You might wonder why they're still angry with the church. The church no longer has the influence or clout in the world it once did. Gone are the days when the heads of state cowered before the authority of the church. Today, the world pretty much blows the church off. So, why all the anger?

They are angered when the church says "No!" They are angry when the church says "No!" to amoral evolutionary theories of life. They are angry when the church says "No!" to all kinds of immorality and deviant sexual behavior. They are angry when the church says "No!" to the murder of the unborn for the convenience of the liberated and enlightened feminist.

Like angry children they cross their arms, stomp their feet and scream, "you can't tell me what to do." This tantrum is not only directed to the impersonal organization called the church, it is directed to you. Any time you uphold the teachings of the church, you are a target of persecution. Any time you give witness to Christ, you also speak the Church's "No!" to them.

They want this "No!" silenced. They don't want to hear "No!" from the front lines or from the sidelines. They don't want to hear the "No!" anywhere in public. They don't want the "No!" to be taught by the church. They want to abolish the "No!" and relegate it to the bone-yard of archeology. In order to achieve this, the church, and this means you, need to be silenced.

As we continue to give witness to Jesus Christ, we will experience persecution from those who would have us silenced. This is nothing new. Listen to what our Lord tells us, "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

The picture of the church in glory is described by John in his Revelation. Who are these? They have come through the great tribulation. They are the saints who allowed the Lord's yes to be "Yes!" and His no to be "No!" We are among their number as we face the anger of the world when we refuse to be silenced by their demands that we say "yes" when our Lord speaks His emphatic "No!" to their world view and behavior.

Because we dare to disagree with the new world order, we are facing persecution. Yet, if we cower before the cultural elitists, who is going to point out to them that the emperor has no clothes? The church is one of the last hold-outs of common sense. What once was common sense in dealing with human behavior has become a rare and scarce commodity.

Saying "No!" isn't always easy but it's not impossible. The Lord gives us strength to stand our ground. He forgives us when we fail. He forgives angry intellectuals and furious feminists when they repent. He helps us to promote what is good common sense in a world gone crazy.

The Lord comes to transform our anger and egotistical self-righteousness to the traits listed in His Beatitudes. The power of the Holy Spirit not only transforms us but can even transform demonic drag queens, the angry atheists and furious feminists. We pray that they, too, would hunger and thirst for righteousness and find satisfaction in the peace of Christ. With the Lord anything is possible, for greater is He who is within you than he who in the world.

He doesn't expect us to do battle alone. He equips us to deal with the demonic and the angry. He comes to us in the sacrament this morning to assure us of His forgiveness, to strengthen our faith and help us live as His people in boldly speaking His "No!" to a world that doesn't want to hear anything but "yes." The time of persecution is upon us. By the grace of God we will persevere as did the martyrs and faithful throughout the generations. Blessed are you, for great is your reward in heaven. Amen.


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