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Memorial Cemetery Sermon

May 28, 2017

Seventh Sunday of Easter                            Trinity Lutheran Church

28 May 2017                                                    Murdock, NE

 

Memorial Cemetery Service

Luke 3:1-14

 

What a preacher! John the Baptist, that is! Calling people to repentance. And then to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”

 

Those fruits are simple acts of social kindness that begin appropriately in the desolate desert where John baptized sinners to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah where nights are very cold and grub is hard to come by. “The man with two coats should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”

 

You would think that producing fruit that keeps with repentance would mean that you would have to quit your job in disgrace. Especially if the religious leaders and the radical Berkeley students despise you and call for your immediate resignation. Can you imagine the protests at the sight of tax collectors and Roman soldiers? The Pharisees were always going ballistic but they went ballistic on steroids when Jesus welcomed tax collectors to be his disciples – Matthew and Zacchaeus for example.

 

Well, John the Baptist’s call for producing fruit that keeps with repentance is to act honestly in your profession. If you collect taxes “don’t collect any more than you are required to.” If you are a soldier, especially the mercenary kind, “don’t extort and don’t accuse people falsely – be content with your pay.”

 

Again, soldiers can remain soldiers. Just do your soldiering honestly and with honor. Do it to help and not to harm. Not for your advantage but for others.

 

This is in keeping with the biblical teaching that God uses creatures to take care of creatures – people to take care of people. God uses soldiers as His instruments in the civil realm to keep the peace. To protect the innocent and the nation. And sometimes that means going to war. Yes, sometimes that needs to take place.

 

God protects. God cares. God acts for you, His creature through another creature, the soldier.

 

As a citizen I am called by Jesus to love my enemy. But a soldier has the duty to kill the enemy. Romans 13 teaches very clearly that God has appointed earthly rulers to restrain sin and has given them the authority to “bear the sword.” The soldier, acting under a lawful chain of command under the authority of the state, therefore has a legitimate calling from God, who Himself acts through human vocations.

 

Dr. Martin Luther in his writing “Can a Soldier Be Saved?” advised that the soldier should look at soldiering this way: “It is not I that smite, stab, and slay, but God and my prince, for my hand and my body are now their servants.” The Christian soldier, living out his faith in his vocation, loves and serves his neighbors by defending and protecting them. Yes, soldiers can abuse their license to kill. Luther goes so far as to say that soldiers should refuse to fight in wars that are clearly evil. But those who have the Christian vocation of being a soldier may fight “in good conscience.” Before God soldiers should be humble and repentant. But before the enemy, they should “smite them with a confident and untroubled spirit.”

 

No wonder then that many who are buried in this cemetery did just that. And God used them as His instrument to help you. To protect you. So that you can live freely. Have a family. Keep a job. Worship Jesus.

 

Thanks be to God for using them as His instruments.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

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