Faith in Persecution

Message Title: Faith in Persecution
Theme: Faith
Season: Ordinary Time
Main Text: Hebrews 11:29-12:2; (we are not persecuted)
Scripture Reading: Luke 12:49-56
RCL Scripture: Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19; Jeremiah 23:23-29;
Psalm 82; Hebrews 11:29-12:2; Luke 12:49-56
Focus: God’s faithful servants were steadfast regardless of their circumstance.
Function: To embrace the uncomfortable messiness of faith and walking the redemption journey.
Other Notes: faith practiced in life- chairs, traffic, utilities, supply chains, politicians, fencing

Once again our camera did not record properly, here is the FB live recording of the service: Liberty Baptist in Tipton, IN

SCRIPTURE READING: Luke 12:49-56 49 “I came to cast fire upon the earth. How I wish that it was already ablaze! 50 I have a baptism I must experience. How I am distressed until it’s completed! 51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, I have come instead to bring division. 52 From now on, a household of five will be divided—three against two and two against three. 53 Father will square off against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother; and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” 54 Jesus also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud forming in the west, you immediately say, ‘It’s going to rain.’ And indeed it does. 55 And when a south wind blows, you say, ‘A heat wave is coming.’ And it does. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret conditions on earth and in the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret the present time? 

FAITH IN LIFE:

  1. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: What is something you wanted to buy in in the last 2 years but couldn’t because of supply chain or price changes? TP, pick-ups, Xbox, PS5, formula, gas
  2. Faith in Supply Chains- Our faith in supply chains has been rocked. Americans have been spoiled with consistent access to food, necessities, and luxuries that 2020 came as a huge shock.
    1. 2020
      1. TP shortage
      2. Panic buying food
      3. Chip shortages
    2. Formula shortages
    3. Russia/Ukraine War
      1. Oil company price gouging & finally going down
      2. Rise in food costs
  3. While we could get lost in the details of why each of those supply chain disruptions happened (since there are multiple interpretations), we instead will consider how we felt.
  4. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: how many of you felt anxiety, fear, or helplessness was supply chain issues have continued to unfold? Or other feelings?  
    1. Anyone buy chickens, garden, or purchase an acreage to help provide in the midst of uncertainty? … just us? 😀

TRANSITION:  In our text for today we will see more stories of faith. The faith of some leads to victory, while the faith of others ends with death or suffering. Can we be faithful regardless of outcome?

MAIN TEXT: Hebrews 11:29-12:2 29 By faith they crossed the Red Sea as if they were on dry land, but when the Egyptians tried it, they were drowned. 30 By faith Jericho’s walls fell after the people marched around them for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute wasn’t killed with the disobedient because she welcomed the spies in peace. 32 What more can I say? I would run out of time if I told you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets33 Through faith they conquered kingdoms, brought about justice, realized promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 put out raging fires, escaped from the edge of the sword, found strength in weakness, were mighty in war, and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured and refused to be released so they could gain a better resurrection. 36 But others experienced public shame by being taunted and whipped; they were even put in chains and in prison. 37 They were stoned to death, they were cut in two, and they died by being murdered with swords. They went around wearing the skins of sheep and goats, needy, oppressed, and mistreated. 38 The world didn’t deserve them. They wandered around in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground. 39 All these people didn’t receive what was promised, though they were given approval for their faith40 God provided something better for us so they wouldn’t be made perfect without us. 12 So then, with endurance, let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne.

EXPLAINATION:

  1. Gospel
    1. I’M UNCOMFORTABLE- Jesus brings FIRE AND DIVISION?!!
    2. We think we know how to read the signs of the times but we mess it up.
  2. Hebrews
    1. The faithful who God provides victory:
      1. The wandering generation: Exodus
      2. The promise land generation: Jericho, Rahab
      3. The Judges generation: Gideon, Barak (Deborah & Jael), Samson, Jephthah
      4. The Kings generation: David, Samuel
    2. The faithful who God is with in their suffering:
      1. The Prophets
      2. The Maccabean Brothers
      3. Martyrs
    3. A call to perseverance regardless of circumstance

INTERPRETATION:

  1. A RUSH TO HAPPY ENDINGS: We like to look at stories of pain from the healed, redeemed, restored angle. Let’s rush to the happy ending. They suffered BUT LOOK AT THE DIFFERENCE THEY MADE! They died BUT LOOK their death led to restored relationships. They went to prison BUT LOOK they’re sober and strait-laced NOW. We perceive that it is our DUTY to get to the happy ending.
    1. Today’s passage in Hebrews lists off these amazing stories of faith … but if I’m honest… it feels a little bit like rushing to the happy ending. These are stories of struggle, suffering, and even death. YES, God claims them, restores them, and even in death they are healed. BUT! The story can also be sad.
    2. It’s ok to remain in the mess.
  2. UNCOMFY PASSAGE: The Hebrews passage feels like the EXACT opposite of the Gospel passage.
    1. Jesus is talking about bringing fire and causing division. …. Uuuummm Jesus… you ok?
      1. How does this passage work with the prayer of unity that Jesus prays in John 17?
      2. Is the GOOD NEWS of Jesus about division and fire? NO. The GOOD NEWS of Jesus is about restoration, redemption, and resurrection.
      3. This is NOT justification for hell, fire, and brimstone

APPLICATION:

  1. BACK TO INTRO: Since 2020, we’ve been in survival mode. Supply chains have been hit and people are “looking out for their own.” We don’t like being uncomfortable, therefore we hoarded provisions for OUR PEOPLE. We stopped caring for the vulnerable and EMPTIED the shelves in grocery stores. We fought for the last roll of toilet paper. I don’t care if you need it, I WANT IT! IT’S MINE!
    1. Does that sound like good news? Does that sound like living like Jesus? How did we get here? Is this what Jesus’ hands and feet look like? OR are we unable to read the signs of the times?
  2. Persecution in America:
    1. One of the mindsets that wears me down as a pastor is that of the “American Christian Martyr.” We’ve talked before about Christians who claim persecution when Starbucks changed their holiday cup design or if a store wishes you a “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Those things are not examples of persecution but evidence that we live in a cultural melting pot.
    2. Being uncomfortable isn’t persecution. Equality isn’t persecution. Correction isn’t persecution.
      1. Being corrected or called out for your failings isn’t persecution.
      2. Though it is frequently claimed, American Christians are not being persecuted today.
    3. We have been so busy trying to protect OURSELVES that we have ignored our responsibility as Christ followers to GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES. We’ve been fighting about covid shots or toilet paper INSTEAD of fighting FOR the people in need & at risk.
  3. EXPOSING A WOUND OF DIVISION: it would be easy to look at Jesus’ words here at face value and ignore the rest of the gospels and the rest of scripture. Fire isn’t the fire of destruction but of refining. Division is sorting truth from lie. This isn’t a unity that comes from ignoring conflict. This division comes from finally revealing the disagreements and requiring truth to win. It would be easy to use these words to justify the animosity American Christians are breeding.American Christians are persecuted.NO!We are the majority, not the minority. We are the ruling class. We are not threatened.  If we assume Jesus is embracing fire and judgement, we would be ignoring the wound in our churches and letting it fester. The absence of conflict is not peace.
    1. UMC & LGBTQ+ decision led to a church split
      1. This wasn’t a recent revelation. This has been a source of tension that has been building for a while. The infecting division has been exposed, now it’s time to clean the wound and start the healing process.
    2. Some divisions don’t make sense in my mind: the topic of homosexuality and female pastors. Excluding both groups seems illogical to me: We would rather have less Christians? We would rather have less preachers? Yes, let’s have less people talking about Jesus and living like Jesus. We wouldn’t want knowledge of Jesus to get around to the rest of the world… they might bring in their baggage.
      1. I only want new Christians IF they are completely finished with their redemption and restoration. I don’t want any work-in-progress Christians here.
        1. WHAT?!!!?!? That’s not the gospel!
        2. Jesus didn’t kick Judas out.
  4. Perseverance of faith regardless of circumstance:
    1. What if we simply acted like Jesus to others rather than trying to convert them?
    2. What if we loved people without reservation or evaluation?
      1. Regardless of political party
      2. Regardless of Gender
      3. Regardless of religion
      4. Regardless of citizenship

CONCLUSION: Intsead of claiming persecution because we are uncomfortable, let’s embrace the mess.  I will stand by Jesus’ teachings; that may lead to division by people who *think* they know what Jesus says. They *think* of a Jesus who condemns or “brings fire.” “Here’s your one-way ticket to Hell!” Rather than a Jesus who left his divine place, entered humanity, DIED ON A CROSS, and defeated death so that we may live. A Jesus who invites us into the messy process of redemption.

Let go of the label “persecution” and embrace the “work in progress.”

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