Sermon for Pentecost 6
Proper 7 “a”
+ In the Name of God, the Holy and Undivided Trinity
What is it to love the holy Name of Jesus? What does it mean to “acknowledge Him before others.” And what is it that is so offensive about this witness that it enrages the authorities and splits up families?
[By the way, I cannot forbear to set this passage next to all the prattle about “Christian family values.” The prattlers should be referred to Matthew 10: 21,
Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death.]
But what incites all this betrayal and persecution? Saying
that Jesus is the Messiah? Proclaiming that He rose from the dead? I
don’t think so. Oh I suppose that kind of thing can get you into
trouble, but only rarely. Jesus wasn’t talking about the Nicene Creed! (Although even that was risky for a certain period in the Fourth
Century.) But the authorities don’t usually care much about
orthodox opinion. When he said that the disciples would be hauled into court
and flogged and put to death, He wasn’t talking about the dangers of
right belief. And Paul didn’t lose his head in
I think it goes back to last
week’s Gospel, and Krister Stendahl’s
observation that while the message of the Church is
Jesus: His Person and His work, the message of Jesus was the
Jesus’ cause was the
inauguration of the
Later Christians have tended to see
this work as a sign of His authority to forgive our sins and to justify
us. That seems to have been Paul’s main concern. Or at least it was what
Paul wanted to say to the Romans on this particular occasion. Maybe Paul
thought the people to whom he wrote were hung up on sin/ righteousness and they
needed to break out of that mind-set, that paradigm. “So
O.K.”, he says, “Adam sinned and we all died, as you know. But then
Jesus Christ died and negated our sin. The sin of the old Adam brings death;
the death of the New Adam brings un-sin, or justification.”
It’s neat, balanced, symmetrical. But maybe
it’s not a whole theory of atonement, as we later came to think of it. It
certainly doesn’t necessarily mean that Jesus Christ “paid
for” our sin in some way, as Anslem of
Canterbury thought – and following him the whole
God is mad alright, but He’s not mad at us, He’s mad at our sin – at our human structures of injustice and cruelty, and at all the inhuman disfigurations that mysteriously infect His creation. God is mad at Guantánamo, and torture, and war for oil, and imperial systems of acquisition and greed that give a handful of people a billion dollars a year and lower their taxes and then cut off funding for shelter and medical care for the poor. That kind of thing is the object of the dread wrath of God.
This is the message of the
The malice that opposes the
Our bodies may well perish in the
process. But they will perish anyway. The annihilation of soul as well as body
is all that we really have to fear. Soul here means, I think, not a kind
of ghost inhabiting our flesh, but life itself: the redeemed life of union with
Christ in His Church. Hell is the
But if we really love the Holy Name
of Jesus and really devote ourselves to His cause –
the LORD is with me like a dread warrior;
therefore my persecutors will stumble,
and they will not prevail.
They will be greatly shamed,
for they will not succeed.
Their eternal dishonor
will never be forgotten.
O LORD of hosts, you test the righteous,
you see the heart and the mind;
let me see your retribution upon them,
for to you I have committed my cause.
Sing to the LORD;
praise the LORD!
For he has delivered the life of the needy
COME, LORD JESUS!