The apostle Paul is going WAY overboard! He’s asking for the IMPOSSIBLE for Christmas. Dontchathink?
I mean, the Holy Apostle today THIS on His Christmas list . . .endurance, hope through the encouragement of Scriptures, and – get this! – harmony with one another in accord with Christ Jesus, that together we may with one voice glorify God!
I dunno. Seems like a lot to ask for Christmas!
Dear Christian, the Holy Apostle is not trying to bust your bank account or send you all over town for the gift that no one has when he says, “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
I know that sounds like a tall order. But the Apostle to the Gentiles, to US – the people who are used to living and thinking like pigs, only, now we are Christians. The Apostle is calling you to FAITH. He’s putting you the only place where Advent will ever be peaceful and Christmas will ever be a joy.
He’s putting you in the Lord Jesus Christ – where you endure with God the Father forever.
Don’t be in doubt about that. There’s hope! And I mean, there’s confidence and certainty, even for us sinners! And if there is that between sinners and God, if even GOD and people like us can go on together now – because Jesus got wiped out and killed - then sinners can go on together with one another, being of one mind, once voice. So, Merry Christmas to Paul, a few weeks early.
Yes, I know this all seems so hard to imagine. Together? WITH one another? Enduring – together!?
It’s a pretty Norman Rockwell painting, but try putting REAL people around that table!
When two people get married, they promise to love, honor and cherish – UNTIL DEATH PARTS US! That’s enduring, and everyone is quick to make that promise.
Then, the better gets words, the better off gets just a little poorer – after all those Christmas bills come due! And the health goes south. Sickness, frustration, Prince Charming shows himself to be a regular old toad!
Enduring ain’t so easy, is it?
Take another example. When we confirm someone in the
Faith and admit them to the altar, we speak as if God wants that person to endure. We ask the catechumen if he wants to hold to this Confession, even till death. And no one does that kicking and screaming. That’s when the church and pastor are still new, and you’d almost think things will never change.
Then the newness wears off. The preaching gets old, even a little predictable. Maybe even a little personal and challenging. It’s like, maybe the pastor actually wants us to grow up in Jesus!
Now, “I don’t have to endure THAT, do I?!”
Add to that the more exciting, divergent preaching going on around us, which seems so novel and exciting – so much less demanding on our hearts and minds, because it fits in with what everyone believes already, and THEN what? You know.
Dear Children, God wants us to endure!
We wants us to stay with Him on the same page He is – the One with JESUS FOR us written all over the place! The One where Jesus is our only life and hope and peace with God and everybody else! The One where all that Jesus did for us in dying in our place is GIVEN to us freely in such simple means as Water, Bread and Wine, and the words of a man which, no matter how foolish or hard or off-kilter they seem, if they are still delivering what JESUS put in place, they’re all God wants us getting – this or any other Christmas!
That tops the list for St. Paul this morning. And he’d like us all agreeing on that.
The encouragement of the Holy Scriptures is JESUS – dying in your place, rising from the dead, and pouring out His presents in His Means of Grace.
That puts you on the same page with God, and that’s what St. Paul calls harmony. It’s being all together with Jesus Christ in the one true faith!
Harmony is NOT what people like to think these days. If there is discord and disharmony, how do people get peace? They quit enduring, don’t they? They go their separate ways. They agree to disagree, and then they leave each other. Ah, sweet peace!
Want to know what REAL harmony is? What St. Paul means today? What the BIBLE means? Do you still care about such things? I know you do!
According to the Bible – the Holy Scriptures, which are written for our learning, our encouragement, our hope – harmony is this: To think the same way. To agree. To be of the same mind.
It means what the pastor calls us to in the Liturgy before we have the Supper: “Lift up your hearts.” And you remember what you say? “We lift them to the Lord.”
Actually, the Latin text is simply: “We have them to the Lord.” That’s where they are in harmony together. Where God’s Word is calling us at peace with Him because of Jesus, and if
we’re at peace with Him, we MUST be at peace with one another.
And since the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, aren’t attending different churches today, that say different things about Baptism, Absolution and this Supper – they are all of one mind that babies should be baptized and that this is really Jesus’ Flesh and Blood for you in bread and wine! In us, with us?
Since God’s all together in that, He wants us all believing the same thing. That’s harmony, peace, encouragement, hope. It’s enduring, through better and worse, through good and bad!
So, before you come to the Altar, St. Paul says, “Have your hearts and minds and mouths to the Lord. Then you’re together with each other, too. Then sinners can endure before God and also with each other. Then your Advent and Christmas are merry.”
In Christ, dear people, there is harmony with God. God is of one mind about this, and you can tell. You have His Word on it.
In the Garden, Christ endured to the end like this. He prayed, “Father, if it be your will, let this cup pass from me.”
Doesn’t sound as if Christ wants to go the distance, does is? Could it be, those fellows God has given Him to be disciples, who are over there sleeping, not keeping watch, not helping Him out in His hour of need, simply aren’t worth dying for?
You bet! You who cast each other off, who won’t put up
with the faults and failings of the next guy, you who are out the door at the first sign of trouble – just like ME – aren’t worth dying for. And Jesus prays that way in the Garden!
Then, He endures. He has His heart and mind to the Lord. He prays, “Nevertheless, not MY will, but THINE be done!”
God is not divided on Jesus. St. Paul is urging us toward agreement in faith, as we are instructed by God’s Word. He wants us to BE TOGETHER with ONE VOICE glorifying God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
See why I urge you to the study of God’s Word?
Sometimes, people accuse us of saying that we Lutherans are the only ones who are right; that we’re the only ones going to heaven; that everyone else is damned.
One of our members, in the last month, discussed closed communion with another family member – not of this congregation. They were not of one mind, not in harmony, not together saying the same thing. What did OUR member hear? “Are you saying I’m not forgiven?”
If you’ve talked about these things to anyone you care about, you may have heard it. I heard it about a month ago when I spoke to someone about going to a different church, which isn’t in harmony with us, which doesn’t say the same thing we do about God’s forgiveness freely given, even to babies. What did I hear? “Are you saying they’re not saved?”
A couple of weeks ago, I spoke to a mother about the importance of having her babies baptized. “Are you saying their damned if they’re not baptized?”
I want to prepare you for these things, dear Christians. I want you to endure, even through such moments. I want you to be encouraged by the Holy Scriptures, which are able to give you hope. But I don’t want you fooled by the methods of this world to get you to harmonize falsely by saying, “It really doesn’t matter. Who can be sure? Everyone says something different. Let’s just agree to disagree. Let’s just be tolerant. Let’s not argue.”
The Bible never talks like that, so don’t you. St. Paul wants us harmonized in Jesus Christ, saying the same thing together, speaking with one mind. And what are we saying when we talk with people who speak with a different mind regarding Jesus and His Gospel? When we refuse to accept that salvation is something we have to DO something to get? When we will not lend our mouths in agreement with anything that speaks contrary to God’s Word? What are we saying?
We are NOT saying that no one’s getting to heaven except us Lutherans. We are NOT saying that everyone else is going to hell. What are we saying? Well, let me get your mouths together in saying the same thing, and the best way I know how is to get your ladies together in saying what is most true of us husbands. . .
Ladies, look at your man – daughters, you can look at your fathers – if you have neither, you can look at me, because we pastors are men, and are often what most men are. Ready? Together, that means, in harmony, ladies. Look at your man and say: “You’re wrong!”
See? That’s what we’re saying, when Christians don’t say the same thing about Jesus – that He died and rose and by that finished our salvation. That He gives salvation freely, even to infants, because salvation depends on HIM and not on us. It’s a gift, like the gifts that even Christians in this county will be giving to their little babies come December 25th!
We’re saying they’re wrong, not in keeping with the testimony of God’s Word, when they deny the Savior’s Blood and Body in the Bread and Wine.
Husbands, did they tell you that you’re not a Christian? No. They said: “You’re . . . WRONG!”
Did they say you’re going to hell? No. They said: “You’re WRONG!”
And that can’t simply mean you disagree with them. To be wrong means to be in error. And if the only reason we say anyone is wrong is that they are in step with us, well, that requires us speaking differently, now, doesn’t it?
Ladies, if your men just don’t agree the carpet should be blue or that they need to wear a tie or something, don’t say: “You’re wrong.” Say, “I disagree with you.” It’s shorter, not as satisfying, but it’s more correct.
St. Paul doesn’t urge us to reduce all things to simple disagreement. That’s what people do when they say, “No one REALLY knows if this is what God means.” Then, we all just keep our own opinions to ourselves and live in peace.
That isn’t harmony, as St. Paul urges on us here today. He wants us of one mine, saying the same thing, agreeing in what God’s said to us in Jesus Christ.