Norman Rockwell, from his 1943 Four Freedoms series.
Part three of Sunday’s sermon.
(…continued) #5) In the meantime, those who believe in Jesus should not just sit around discussing the fate of those who do not believe in Jesus. Rather, we must simply do what he says in the time he has given us. And Jesus says, in Matthew 28, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
#6) Many people these days do not like all this emphasis on Jesus. But when we are talking about the afterlife, Jesus is the one I want to listen to, because he is the only one I know of who has been there and back.
About 150 years ago, there was a man who made a careful study of all the religions of the world. Not finding any that suited him, he decided to develop his own religion. He took what he thought was best from all the religions, added some wise tid-bits of his own, put it all in a book, and tried to start a movement. But he had a hard time getting it off the ground. So he went to a marketing consultant (or whatever they called those people back then), and asked his advice on how he could get a hearing, and promote this new and improved religion. The marketing man gave him this advice. He told him to first of all get himself killed, preferably in public and in some horrible way, with his body all mangled and bloody so everyone could see he was dead beyond all doubt. Then he would need to get himself buried, and, stay dead in the grave for a while. Then said the consultant, “Then come back to life and start preaching. You’ll get a hearing then; people will listen to you, your book will sell, and you will change the world. That’s what worked for Jesus, and I’m sure it will work for you, too.”
#7) One last point. In our great United States of America we have freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and I like that. I like that for me and I like that for my Muslim neighbors. And we should be able to talk about religions and about our differences, without somebody calling us names like Islamaphobic, or Christ-hater, or anti-Semitic; and without someone being offended or having their feelings hurt whenever someone says something they disagree with. We are going to disagree. We are different. We do believe different things. You can say that all religions are ‘equally true,‘ but only if you believe all religions are false.
Russell Vought says all Muslims are condemned. Many Muslims would say Russell Vought is condemned. I have had discussions with Catholics, Baptists, and even other Lutherans who think I am condemned. Great! Let’s all keep talking, and maybe minds can be changed and someone who isn’t right with God can get right with God.
I’ve listened to Muslims, I’ve heard Muslims debate Christians, and I’ve read about Muhammed and how he came to his conclusions—and I’m not convinced that Muhammed was a prophet of God. But I don’t resent their efforts to convert me, and I’ll even keep listening.
Unfortunately, this kind of discussion is becoming almost out of order in our society today. You can’t even point out the obvious facts about our differences without somebody like Bernie Sanders having a fit, and we are all the worse off for it.
But we Christians should know something about this. After all, we read the Bible every Sunday here in church, and much of that book was written in the midst of persecution, misunderstanding, intimidation, and name-calling—as in this morning’s Scripture readings. But stand firm, keep looking to Jesus as ‘the way the truth and the life;’ and the truth shall set you free; and, make you odd.
Matthew 28:18-20 — Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
I Peter 3:14-16 — Even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
O God of all the nations of the earth: Remember the multitudes who have been created in your image but have not known the redeeming work of our Savior Jesus Christ; and grant that, by the prayers and labors of your holy Church, they may be brought to know and worship you as you have been revealed in your Son; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
—Book of Common Prayer