Trinity Sunday
Pastor George Pejakovich
Matthew 10:24-39

WHEN NIKITA KRUSHCHEV BECAME THE LEADER OF THE SOVIET UNION AFTER THE DEATH OF STALIN, HE GAVE A SPEECH TO THE ASSEMBLY OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY LEADERS IN WHICH HE DENOUNCED STALIN AND HIS RUINOUS POLICIES. AS HE WAS SPEAKING, A HECKLER IN THE BACK OF THE ROOM YELLED OUT, “WHY DIDN’T YOU DO THIS WHILE HE WAS ALIVE?” KRUSCHEV BELLOWED OUT, “WHO SAID THAT!” THE SILENCE WAS ABSOLUTE, AND NO ONE DARED TO EVEN COUGH. AFTER A WHILE, KRUSCHEV QUIETLY SAID, “NOW YOU KNOW.” IT WAS, OF COURSE, FEAR OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF SPEAKING OUT.

SOME THINK THAT THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW IS THE EARLIEST OF THE GOSPELS, AND WAS WRITTEN FOR THOSE JEWS WHO HAD BECOME FOLLOWERS OF THE CHRIST AND THE FIRST MEMBERS OF WHAT WOULD BECOME THE CHURCH. WHEN THEY CONFESSED THEIR FAITH IN JESUS AS LORD, THEY WERE CAST OUT OF THE SYNOGOGUES, AND MANY WERE DISOWNED BY THEIR FAMILIES, WITH FATHERS REJECTING SONS, AND HUSBANDS AND WIVES, AND WHOLE FAMILIES, BEING DIVIDED BY THEIR FAITH. IN ADDITION, BY THE TIME OF MATTHEW’S GOSPEL, THE ROMAN EMPIRE WAS TREATING CHRISTIANS AS ATHEISTS, BECAUSE THEY WOULD NOT WORSHIP THE EMPEROR, SO BEING A CHRISTIAN COULD GET ONE DENOUNCED, ARRESTED, TORTURED, AND EVEN CRUCIFIED. THE EXAMPLES OF PETER AND PAUL ARE MERELY THE MOST PROMINENT. IN THE GOSPEL FOR TODAY, MATTHEW REMINDS THE CHURCH OF THAT TIME, AND US, OF WHAT JESUS TOLD HIS DISCIPLES WHEN HE SENT THEM OUT TO PREACH THE GOOD NEWS; THAT DISCIPLESHIP HAS A COST.

IT IS OFTEN DIFFICULT FOR US TO GRASP THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP, SINCE WE, IN THIS COUNTRY, ARE RARELY PERSECUTED FOR OUR FAITH, ALTHOUGH OUR COMFORTABLE FORM OF CHRISTIANITY APPEARS TO BE INCREASINGLY UNDER ASSAULT, AND MARGINALIZED BY THE SECULAR POWERS THAT BE, AND DIRECTLY ATTACKED BY RADICAL TERRORISTS AROUND THE GLOBE. ONE WOULD HAVE TO BE BLIND NOT TO SEE WHAT IS HAPPENING TO CHRISTIANS IN IRAN, IRAQ, EGYPT, AND WHEREVER THEY ARE A MINORITY. YET, THE WORDS OF JESUS STILL STAND; DO NOT FEAR. A DISCIPLE IS NOT ABOUT THE TEACHER, NOR THE SLAVE ABOVE THE MASTER, HE SAID, IT IS ENOUGH FOR THE DISCIPLE TO BE LIKE THE TEACHER AND THE SLAVE LIKE THE MASTER. IF THEY ARE GOING TO CALL HIM, THE MASTER OF THE HOUSE WHICH IS THE CHURCH, BEELEZEBUB, THEY ARE ALSO GOING TO MALIGN THOSE WHO BELONG TO HIM. HE TOLD THEM TO EXPECT THE PERSECUTIONS WHICH WILL COME TO GIVE THEM STRENGTH AND COURAGE IN THE FACE OF THE WORLD.

“SO HAVE NO FEAR OF THEM;” HE SAID, “FOR NOTHING IS COVERED UP THAT WILL NOT BE UNCOVERED, AND NOTHING SECRET THAT WILL NOT BECOME KNOWN. WHAT I SAY TO YOU IN THE DARK, TELL IN THE LIGHT; AND WHAT YOU HEAR WHISPERED, PROCLAIM FROM THE HOUSETOPS.” THIS IS THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH, TO PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL OF THE GREAT GOOD NEW IN CHRIST JESUS TO ALL, UNDER ALL CONDITIONS, WITHOUT FEAR OF THE CONSEQUENCES, KNOWING FULL WELL THE COST WE HAVE TO PAY, EVEN AS JESUS PROCLAIMED THE COMING KINGDOM OF GOD KNOWING THE CROSS LOOMED BEFORE HIM. THIS MISSION CAN’T BE CONSTRAINED BY FEAR OF EMBARRASSMENT, REJECTION, OR EVEN DEATH. GOD WATCHES OVER THE SPARROWS, AND, AS THE OLD HYMN PROCLAIMS, “I KNOW HE WATCHES ME.” SO, JESUS TELLS US, THERE IS NO REASON TO FEAR THOSE WHO CAN HURT US, THEY CAN CONTROL ONLY OUR PHYSICAL BEING; GOD IS THE STRENGTH AND THE HOPE OF OUR ETERNAL SPIRIT.

THE GOSPEL IS OFTEN SYMBOLIZED AS A DOUBLE – EDGED SWORD; IT CUTS THROUGH THE FALSEHOODS OF THIS WORLD, BUT IT ALSO CUTS US APART FROM THE WORLD. THIS IS THE SWORD THAT JESUS BRINGS. IF WE ACKNOWLEDGE JESUS ABOVE ALL THINGS IN THIS LIFE, THEN WE SEPARATE OURSELVES FROM ALL THINGS IN THIS LIFE. THAT IS THE SOURCE OF THE DIVISIONS AND CONFLICTS OF WHICH JESUS SPEAKS. WHEN WE REJECT THE WORLD FOR THE SAKE OF JESUS, THE WORLD REJECTS US. WE DON’T SEEK THIS REJECTION, BUT ARE WARNED TO EXPECT IT. WHEN I FELT THE CALL TO ORDINATION, MY FATHER REJECTED ME, AND, AS HURTFUL AS THAT WAS, I HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO ACCEPT THAT REJECTION IF I FOLLOWED THE CALL OF CHRIST. WE LATER RECONCILED, BUT I HAD TO BE PREPARED TO ACCEPT THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SILENT CHRISTIAN; WE ARE CALLED TO PROCLAIM THE LORDSHIP OF CHRIST BEFORE THE WORLD, TO ACKNOWLEDGE HIM BEFORE OTHERS, AS HE WILL ACKNOWLEDGE US BEFORE THE FATHER IN HEAVEN. THAT WILL ALWAYS HAVE A COST; DISMISSAL, REJECTION, HUMILIATION, HOSTILITY, AND, EVEN, PERSECUTION. YET, FOR THE SAKE OF THE KINGDOM, WE MUST SPEAK THE GOOD NEWS OF THE GRACE OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS, NO MATTER WHAT COMES. IF WE WANT TO FOLLOW JESUS, WE MUST ALWAYS BE AWARE THAT FOLLOWING HIM MEANS CARRYING A CROSS, AND LOSING OUR LIVES FOR THE SAKE OF OUR LIVES IN HIM.

WHEN WE SEE NEED, WE MUST ADDRESS IT. WHEN WE SEE INJUSTICE, WE MUST CONFRONT IT. WHEN WE SEE HATRED, WE MUST CONDEMN IT. WE MUST ALWAYS LOOK AT THE WORLD AROUND US THROUGH THE VISION OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, AND PROCLAIM TO THE WORLD THAT GOD’S WAY, THE WAY THAT JESUS BROUGHT INTO THE WORLD, AND FOR WHICH HE DIED, IS THE ONLY TRUTH, THE ONLY WAY, AND THE ONLY LIFE. THIS WILL HAVE A COST, BUT THE ONLY WAY TO BE FAITHFUL TO OUR LORD AND GOD IS TO LIVE THE LIFE OF THE CROSS WITHOUT FEAR AND WITHOUT REGRET.

MARTIN NIEMOELLER WAS A PROMINENT LUTHERAN PASTOR AT THE TIME OF HITLER’S RISE TO POWER. AT FIRST, HE SUPPORTED HITLER, BECAUSE NEIMOELLER WAS AN ANTI – COMMUNIST. HE WAS SOON DISILLUSIONED, AND BECAME ANTI – NAZI. WHEN HITLER STARTED TO TAKE OVER THE CHURCHES, APPOINTING HIS OWN BISHOPS AND SYNOD LEADERS, NIEMOELLER, ALONG WITH BONHOEFFER AND OTHERS, FORMED THE “CONFESSING CHURCH” AS A COUNTER TO WHAT WAS NOW THE NAZI CHURCH. HE WAS PICKED UP BY THE GESTAPO, AND TOSSED INTO PRISON TO AWAIT HIS TRIAL BY THE NAZI SPECIAL COURT. HE WAS SUDDENLY TERRIBLY AFRAID. THE RUMORS OF WHAT HAPPENED TO PEOPLE TRIED BY THE SPECIAL COURT WERE FRIGHTENING. AS HE WAS TAKEN ALONG THE SEEMINGLY ENDLESS CORRIDORS TO THE COURT ROOM, HE HEARD THE LOW VOICE OF HIS GUARD SPEAK TO HIM IN LATIN, WHICH ONLY THE TWO OF THEM UNDERSTOOD. IT WAS A VERSE FROM THE CATHOLIC VERSION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS. “NOMEN DOMINI TURRIS FORTISSIMO.” IN ENGLISH IT IS, “THE NAME OF THE LORD IS A STRONG TOWER. THE RIGHTEOUS RUNNETH INTO IT AND ARE SAFE.” THESE WORDS DISPELLED NIEMOELLER’S FEAR AND RENEWED HIS CONFIDENCE IN GOD.

HE WAS CONVICTED OF SEDITION, AND SENT TO DACHAU. HE SOMEHOW SURVIVED DACHAU FROM 1939 TO HIS LIBERATION IN 1945. AFTER THE WAR, WRACKED WITH GUILT BECAUSE OF HIS FEAR TO CONDEMN THE NAZI ATROCITIES, HE WROTE THE FOLLOWING. “WHEN THEY CAME FOR THE SOCIALISTS, I DID NOT SPEAK OUT BECAUSE I WAS NOT A SOCIALIST. WHEN THEY CAME FOR THE TRADE UNIONISTS, I DID NOT SPEAK OUT BECAUSE I WAS NOT A TRADE UNIONIST. WHEN THEY CAME FOR THE JEWS, I DID NOT SPEAK OUT BECAUSE I WAS NOT A JEW. WHEN THEY CAME FOR ME, THERE WAS NO ONE LEFT TO SPEAK OUT.”

WE ARE THE ONES CALLED TO SPEAK OUT; TO PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD, AND MAKE HIS TEACHINGS KNOWN TO THE WORLD; FROM THE ROOF TOPS IF NECESSARY. THIS WE CAN DO WITHOUT FEAR, BECAUSE WE ARE DEAD TO SIN, DEAD TO THE WORLD, AND ALIVE TO GOD IN CHRIST JESUS. THE WORLD WILL PASS, WE WILL PASS, BUT NOTHING CAN TAKE AWAY THE LIFE EVERLASTING WHICH IS ALREADY OURS IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD.
AMEN

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