All Saints’ Day 2018
November 4, 2018
“The Gates of Hell; Divisions”
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior and Good Shepherd Jesus. The basis for the sermon today as I continue this sermon series called “The Gates of Hell” is Luke 22:22-24.
(Jesus said) “The Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” And (the Disciples) began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this. Then a dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.
My dear friends,
Today is the 3rd sermon in this series that I call “The Gates of Hell.” So far we have examined how neither sin nor the world nor even the gates of Hell themselves can ever stop the Christian Church on earth despite statistical analysis or demographic reports. Today we consider a new issue – divisions among us.
That text I read from Luke 22 took place during what we call Maundy Thursday. Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread – His Body – and gave it to the disciples. Luke tells us that they received the wine – Christ’s blood of the Covenant – then immediately quarreled about “which of them was to be regarded as the greatest” (Luke 22:24). Really?! How quickly we can go from the Lord’s Table to the devil’s business; it’s only about 50 feet from the altar to the door, and A LOT can happen after 51 feet!
These men were brothers twice over. They had a shared humanity; sons of our first father, Adam, and they were now by His Supper blood brothers with Jesus. Yet they fought. The history of the world is the history of feuding brothers: Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his eleven brothers. God is our Father as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer; Christ Jesus is our Brother, making us all brothers and sisters of one another, not by a shared humanity through blood alone, but by faith, by a common, shared forgiveness. How then is it that you murmur and grumble about those whom Jesus has joined to Himself?
The words that I use to start every sermon are easy to gloss over, a standard sermon opening you’ve heard a thousand times: “Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father” (Colossians 1:2). When you hear that, you might have a Pavlovian response; when you hear those words, you instinctively yawn…“boring! Get it over with already!” Yet that greeting is intentionally for you, for I desire that you have grace, mercy, and PEACE! To whom are these words spoken? To you…to the saints, faithful brothers and sisters…co-heirs of the Kingdom, members of the family of God.
It’s unrealistic to expect you’ll never experience division in your relationships, on the job, and even in church. Everyone cannot ALL be right or ALL be wrong, so you’re naturally going to have divisions among people. But arguing in the church is like arguing in marriage: if you’re trying to win, you’ll lose even when you win. Beware of loving the fight. You may “win” the disagreement or argument, but you “lose” way more in terms of the relationship. Sure, you might win that battle, but you are slowly losing the war. Disagreements and debates are necessary; but the moment we love winning more than we love one another as saints and faithful brothers, we’ve lost even if we win.
Divided or not, we share a common existence as the people of God. Look around you…these people are your family; your brothers and sisters who share in the inheritance in Christ. We are all in Him, with Him, buried with Him, raised with Him. Alive in Him. Fights and misunderstandings from time to time? Sure. Will we fall because of divisions? Never. Not even the gates of Hell will shut down the Church on Earth.
I have a brother Mike. There is nothing I did to make him my brother, it just happened that way. In the same way, our congregation, our district, our Synod, our families, our own calling as disciples of Jesus—none of it is our own doing. God the Father has done that, delivered us, transferred us to the Son’s kingdom, for He has redeemed us. Having a share in an eternal inheritance, co-heirs in the kingdom of God, ensures that not even the worst problem, the worst issue, the worst divisions among us will cause your demise as a child of God or the ultimate demise of the Church on Earth. The Saints will always be the saints; we will always stand as the redeemed people of God and never fall.
There is a story that when the British and French were fighting in Canada in the 1750s, Admiral Phipps, commander of the British fleet, was told to anchor outside Quebec. He was given orders to wait for the British land forces to arrive, then support them when they attacked the city. Phipps’ navy arrived early. As the admiral waited, he became annoyed by the statues of the saints that adorned the towers of a nearby cathedral, so either out of hostility or boredom, he commanded his men to shoot at them with the ships’ cannons. No one knows how many rounds were fired or how many statues were knocked out, but when the British land forces arrived and the signal was given to attack, the admiral was of no help. He had used up all his ammunition shooting at the “saints.”
Yes, the world will continue to “fire” at us, and we will because of sin in our midst “fire” at one another from time to time. There may be times when we may disagree on policy, procedures, or practices. We are still the saints, made holy by the blood of the Lamb. We are faithful brothers and sisters because we have a Brother who was faithful unto death, even death on a cross. In Him will we live, in Him will we die, and His life will be our life forever, because there is no division – not even the dividing gates of Hell themselves – that will ever divide or destroy the Church on Earth.