The Third Sunday after Epiphany (A)
“The Word of the Cross” – Part One
January 22, 2017
Sermon Text: – 1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Peace be unto you from the One who is God incarnate, our Savior, Christ Jesus. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
One could rightly look at today’s sermon theme entitled “The Word of the Cross” (Part 1) and smile in that, truth be told regarding the sermons that have been preached from this pulpit, the theme could read, “The Word of the Cross” (Part 26,341)!
If there is, thankfully, one aspect or characteristic which sets apart Lutheran preaching… and should be true of all Christian preaching… it is that again and again the Word spoken is the Word of the Cross.
And if you or others came to hear anything else, you are going to be disappointed… because when you come right down to it… to our faith… to our hope… to our salvation and what we literally pin our eternity on… there is nothing else but the cross.
Not so in many congregations if you were to make the circuit this weekend and hear what is being preached and proclaimed in them far and wide. Cute little vignettes being told, heart-warming stories relayed, thought provoking quotes from famous people being put out there for consideration…
… the musings of the pastor or “worship leader” who felt God told him or her to preach on this or that, even though the feeling didn’t come from God, but the spicy pulled pork they had for lunch.
… messages of how God wants you to be happy, healthy and wealthy and the eight steps for making that come true.
… how to be a better Christian man or woman, husband or wife, mother or father or just a successful person… a better you!
But for those who face real challenges in their lives… real problems, real burdens…
… those who labor and are heavy laden under the weight of sin and a guilty conscience…
… those who mourn, those who are torn, confused… those who suffer, those who seek guidance and direction, true comfort, not to mention true freedom, peace and solace…. these things are only found in the Word of the cross… the Message of the cross.
It is truly a revelation for many… many who have sought these things in a million and one other ways… to find that the answer… their answer all this time was Christ… is Christ and Him crucified.
And from that moment on, the image of the cross could not be more dear and near to them… to see it… to make it… to retrace it on their forehead and their breast as was done at their baptism… as is now done maybe everyday of their life… as will be done, if possible, at the end of their life as their pastor conducts the beautiful rite of the commendation of the dying upon them.
What an amazing revelation it is… for even those who have been in the Christian church all of their lives… the revelation of the cross that at one time may not have meant all that much, now means everything.
Well did the prophet Isaiah say, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.” (Isaiah 9:2)
Make no mistake about it. It is the light of Christ and Him crucified… Jesus, the very Son of God on the cross as we… yes, you and I… more and more come to realize what it means… what our Lord did for the likes of us poor sinners… what all He tasted and endured for us and for all.
I want to make an analogy here, but in one sense I am hesitant to do so because the one is infinitely greater than the other and I do not want to confuse the same. But now having said this… I will do it.
This part Friday, Donna and I watched the inauguration of our 45th President of the United States, Donald John Trump. And what struck me and brought great joy is the number of times and the number of places you saw the American flag waving and proudly displayed. A truly great symbol… one that encapsulates all that is good about our country… the land of the free… the home of the brave… to whom God has shown and showered great blessings upon… a myriad of blessings which are so easily taken for granted.
And one cannot help but think of all the patriots… men and women alike… who have given their lives for this country and its flag… many of them had the flag on their uniforms when they died in battle.
As I said, in an infinitely greater way… greater sense… is the symbol of the cross and the freedom won by it… upon it… Who was on it… Who died on it and what He, Jesus, did for us men and for our salvation. He… Jesus, the very Son of God and what He did not just for one nation, but for every person of every nation, tribe, tongue and race.
And here, we are not talking about that which effects mankind for a little while. Rather, we are talking about eternity. We are talking about the difference of being in heaven or hell for all eternity and as your pastor, I encourage you by the Spirit of the living God to wrap your hearts and minds more and more upon that fact… the reality of it all and where you will spend eternity… for it is quickly coming upon you and me… when time is no more and it is just from “everlasting to everlasting.”
If it is hell, it is because of your own doing, your own unbelief, your own obstinance and stubbornness. There will be no one else to blame.
If it is heaven, it is because of Christ’s doing and more specifically, what He did on the cross for you… and your faith in the same, belief in the same… your rock-solid conviction.
St. Paul tells us that “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1st Corinthians 1:18)
To us who are being saved, the word of the cross is everything. It is the power of salvation… the power to forgive, remit, cleanse, heal and make holy.
It could not be sweeter, more important or more applicable to literally every hour of every day of our lives and twice on Sunday (I just threw that in because it sounded good).
But it is all good. Jesus, by the way of the cross made it so. And in following our Lord and Master… ours, too, is the way of the cross… the “theology of the cross” where we know, believe and accept that suffering will come before glory. As was the way of Jesus, so it is our way and we therefore bear our individual crosses in cheerful submission to our Lord’s holy and perfect will for us.
Yes, we do it “cheerfully” because we know our Savior will bless us all along the way through this life and… we know without a shadow of a doubt… how it all ends! Thanks be to God. Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“The Word of the Cross – Part One”
1/22/17 The Rev. Mark H. Hein
St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL