Alienated By Jesus; Sanctified In Truth

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says that the world will hate the disciples, that the world will hate Christians.  Sorry for the grim news this morning.  I wish I could soften that up a little bit, but I really can’t.  You see, the reason why there will be hostility from the world towards Christians is because the world first hated Jesus.[1] 
My friends, often times we wrongfully communicate to individuals that they should become a Christian because there will be all sorts of peace, tranquility, and that the Christian life is full of ease.  We wrongly communicate that the life of a Christian is one where we go through life simply riding on fluffy clouds, hearing harp music with not a worry in the world.  Problems: what are those?  Tension and hostility: never!  No, my friends, this is not how it is.  Now, it is true when we are in Christ that we do have peace with God, for  our sins are not counted against us; however, even though this is the case, there is a great deal of tension still when we walk in the here and now. 
In the here and now—in our day-to-day lives, in this vale of tears—we most certainly do have tension and hostility.  This unfriendliness comes primarily from three enemies.  The first aggression is our sinful nature: full of rebellion towards the Lord.  The second hostility is the Evil One: he wants to kill, steal, and destroy our faith in Christ.  The third source of hatred is the world: we war with the methodologies of the world, the values of the world, and the beliefs of the world.  Indeed, we are at odds with the ways of the world because we are not of this world.  We experience hatred and hostility from the world because we are not of this world. 
Not of this world?  That phrase sure seems odd to hear, especially since all of us have been born of a woman, raised by parents, are of flesh and blood, eat the world’s food, drink the world’s drinks, breathe the world’s air, hold jobs in the world’s marketplaces, and so forth.  That stated, even though we are in the world as Christians we do not think, speak, act, or believe as the world does.  What the world deems as right and wrong, we don’t necessarily deems as right and wrong.  When the world says, “jump,” we are often compelled to sit.  When the world tells us to sit, we are often compelled to jump.  Overall this nonconformity does not seem to bother us too much for who doesn’t like to be a bit different at times.  However, when this noncompliance leads to tension and brings forth hate, the tables turn.
My friends, when tension and antagonism pours out upon us Christians we typically see two responses.  Otherwise stated, it seems that there are often times two responses to how we interact with the world that is in opposition with us.  On the one hand we cut ourselves off totally from the world.  We create a fortified castle to live in, thus attempting to distance ourselves from hostility to alleviate the tension.  We say that we are not ‘of’ the world.  On the other hand, we can seek to eliminate the antagonism with the world by intertwining ourselves with the world so that we become ‘one’ with the world.  We say to ourselves, “How can there be tension with the world if we have joined ourselves to the world?”    
Beware! Both of these options have severe downfalls. 
If we dig a moat around ourselves, reinforce the walls, pull up the draw bridge, run into our fortified castle, and keep the world ‘out there’ in order to keep us safe inside our metaphoric castles, all that we have accomplished is basically nothing except creating our own castle, a castle ruled by our own self-deception.  Permit me to explain.  If all our time and energy and abilities are spent on keeping evil away from us—keeping sin out in the world and away from us—we can end up forgetting that sin is much closer than we think—it is inside the walls of the castle roaming freely.  That’s right, when we build the walls up, dig the moat, and pull up the draw bridge, we more times often than not end up being a bunch of self-righteous jerks within our own exclusive castle where we excuse ourselves from sin and shift blame to everything outside our walls, while not recognizing the sin inside the walls of our self-made castles.
Dear friends, we have seen in the scriptures and through the history of the church that we can certainly take ourselves out of the world, but we cannot take the world out of ourselves.  In other words, the world and the devil that are ‘out there’ are most definitely our enemies, but our biggest enemy is right here on the inside, behind the walls, inside the moat, and behind the drawn bridge… the biggest enemy is you—your very own sinful nature that dwells inside the castle. 
Listen, you can make the walls higher, secure the draw bridge more, and make the moat deeper, but you cannot escape the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I.  The more we attempt to separate ourselves from the world, the more that we simply isolate ourselves with our sinful nature.  It is futile at best.  Furthermore, Jesus does not pray in His high priestly prayer that Christians should be taken out of the world entirely. 
With that stated, if the end goal is not for us to be taken out of the world, the obvious conclusion or assumption might be that we should become ‘one’ with the world.  To be ‘one’ with the world is where our Christian beliefs and values combine with the beliefs and values of the world.  It is when the Christian faith is amalgamated with the ideologies of the world, resulting in the world loving us.  It is when we lower the metaphoric draw bridge.  Better yet, it is when the walls are brought down and the moat is filled with dry ground, so as to let everything mix together.  To be one with the world is where tolerance reigns; there are no standards, there are no distinctions, and as they say, we are in bed with the world.  
As a result of belonging to the world, we become skillful at concealing our sins.  “Stinginess is disguised as good money-sense; lust becomes [passionate love]; cowardice becomes caution;”[2] the killing of unborn children is the right to choose; greed is camouflaged as ambition; homosexuality turns out to be a committed emotional relationship; euthanasia is cloaked as compassion; rioting masquerades as justice; and on and on and on.  And naturally when our conscience bothers us the world simply points us to a medicine cabinet of solutions or other options to numb the pain of a convicting conscious.  Feeling guilty due to greed?  “Nah, you are just ambitious.  Furthermore, remember the charitable act that you did last month.”  Feeling bad about a sexual sin outside of marriage?  “No reason to feel guilty as long as it was within a committed relationship.”  And so it goes.        
Dear friends, Jesus in our Gospel reading is not calling us to strike up a balance between abstaining from the world and joining the world.  He is not calling for a balancing act where we are to have one foot in the world and the other foot out of the world.  This text is not about you joining the world and it is not about you constructing your own castle, for this way of thinking assumes that you have the ability to overcome and interact with the world by your own strength. 
Repent one and all!  Even though you are in this world—you live, work, marry, and eventually die in this world—you do not belong to this world.  Repent one and all!  Even though you separate yourself from this world—you build tall walls, fill up moats, pull the draw bridge, and reside in a castle—you are still powerless to counterbalance the world.  Repent one and all for you are not of the world and are not of your self-made metaphoric castles.    
Baptized Saints, you who have ears, hear.  You are not citizens of your own self-made castles of protection.  You can’t build the walls high enough; you can dig the moats deep enough. 
Baptized Saints, you who have ears, hear.  You are not of this world.  It does not possess you.  It does not regulate you.  It certainly does not love you.
Baptized Saints, you who have ears, hear.  “You are in this world but you are of another world, the heavenly Fatherland.  You are a citizen of heaven [by your baptisms] who lives for a while—a very, very short while—here on earth.”[3]  Do not run from the world or dive into the world, for you have been baptized and you have been sanctified in the truth of the Word.  “[The Lord] has made you holy.  That does not mean He has made you a ‘good, morally upright person.’  To be holy means to be claimed by God as His very own.  You do not belong to the world; you belong to God; you are holy, His very own, God’s treasured possession, kept in Christ, the holy One of God.”[4] 
Like little Alaythia Jane today, you have been baptized.  When you were baptized your citizenship changed: no longer apart of the world and no longer needing to create your own citizenship. 
In Christ! 
Baptized into His death and resurrection!
Eating and drinking from the Altar of Christ.
You are home in Him. 
You are not embedded in the world or behind the walls of a self-made castle, but you are buried deeply into the wounds of Jesus.

“You are of Christ.  You are holy in Him.  He gives you that holiness that is His very own, for you to share.  He washes away the mud of this world, cleanses you of every stain [of self-righteousness], makes you as He Himself is: a pure and sinless child of the Father.” [5] 
And when your journey is done, “He’ll take you from this vale of tears, from this desert of wandering, into the land flowing with milk and honey, onto streets of God, midst angelic choirs singing, announcing the arrival of another citizen of heaven, who made it to home sweet heavenly home.”[6]
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] See also John 15:18-19.
[2] Chad L. Bird, Meditations and Sermons (Copyright 2014 Chad Bird), 182.
[3] Ibid, 183
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid, 184.
[6] Ibid.

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