Sun, 15 July 2018
(Is.1:10-17; Ps.50:8-9,16-17,21,23; Mt.10:34-11:1)
“Your hands are full of blood!
Wash yourselves clean!”
Elsewhere in Scripture we read, “The Lord chastises those whom He loves” (Heb.12:6), and this truth is made evident in our readings today. The Lord commands us through the prophecy of Isaiah, “Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good.” Our psalm continues the same theme, declaring again in the voice of God, “You hate discipline and cast my words behind you.” And the lesson is fulfilled in Jesus’ own admonishment: “Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me.”
How difficult for many to hear Jesus’ words: “My mission is to spread, not peace, but division.” How in conflict with their image of a pleasant Jesus placed so neatly in a politically proper box. How they would anesthetize themselves against the suffering of the cross. But the same Spirit who speaks through Isaiah, proclaiming, “Hear the word of the Lord, princes of Sodom! Listen to the instruction of our God, people of Gomorrah!” is He who speaks through the Son, who Himself condemns the towns that do not receive His preaching and presence to a worse fate than these infamous cities. Our Lord is no less offended by “worthless offerings” and “octaves with wickedness.” He is no more deaf to our disobedience or blind to our sin. In fact, as He is the fulfillment of the love of God in the forgiveness and grace He offers all, so He is the fulfillment of God’s justice in the ultimate judgment of every soul.
“I will correct you by drawing [your sins] up before your eyes,” the Lord declares through our psalmist. And does not Jesus call the Pharisees “a brood of vipers” (Mt.12:34)? Does He not call Peter “Satan” (Mt.16:23)? Does He not open all our eyes to the sin upon our souls to save us from final damnation? If He did not do this, could He say He loves us? Is it not by this cross placed firmly upon our backs that we rise from the sin weighing down our hearts? Otherwise, would we not drown in sorrow?
Brothers and sisters, do not try to ration away your cross by vain supposition. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing who would convince you there remains no place for the wood, for the blood. The world is ever and more a place of sin, and the devil ceases not to lead souls to perdition. Be warned by the Lord of all. Stand chastised in His love. Wash yourselves clean of all pride and vanity; be not as he who “brings himself to ruin.” You are called to be the Lord’s image in the world; and the Word made flesh ends His life on earth fixed to a cross. Accept His gift of love.
O LORD, let us be brought to nothing for you;
let all the sin within us die
that we might be your disciples.
YHWH, let us welcome you and your Word and those who bring it to us. Though your Word is hard, it is our means of salvation, for only the Son’s Cross leads to life; only your chastisement will break our hardened hearts. O let us love you above all others!
We are sinful, LORD, pretending a love that is empty and false. And so, what do we merit but condemnation for our turning our hearts from you? No better than the lands of Sodom and Gomorrah, our house is full of wickedness, our hands full of blood. We do all but to please ourselves; our sacrifices are but to feed our bellies, and so are no sacrifice at all. Bring our sins up before our eyes! that we might see and turn away from them.
Your sword, O LORD, your sword alone will separate us from our sinful deeds. Your Word alone will save our souls. Let us cherish your discipline as once we treasured the vain things of this world. The word of your prophets let us desire that we might receive a prophet’s reward.