“Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace good will toward men.” And ever since the holy angels sang those words, well-meaning people have been talking about peace on earth. What kind of peace? The peace that ends wars. After all, World War I was once called The War to End War, but it didn’t. Yet every year at Christmas people talk and sing about the peace Jesus gives as if it’s the end of wars and the beginning of utopia.
There’s just one problem with that. Jesus says, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” He’s come to create division? What kind of division? Not the math problem. Not the boundary between Oakmont and Verona or Verona and Penn Hills. Nor has He come to divide families, even though He admits it happens because of Him. He has come to divide us from the world.
Today we cast these 3 young ladies headlong into the front of that battle. They didn’t realize it when they first went to a Concordia, and I sure didn’t when I entered high school at Michigan Lutheran Seminary in 1996. The USA was a much different place back. Not only did we not have to deal with the soldiers of a different religion, our land was much more in line with our morals. It may not have been as Christian as we’d like to think, but at least the strangeness of the last few years was nowhere near the thoughts and fears of churches and schools alike.
But how things have changed! The government makes rules about public school restrooms and is forcing on this country definitions of marriage, sexuality, and gender utterly opposed to both God’s Word and natural law. The day may come that our schools stop using any federal funds lest they force us to compromise our confession. If you want to see the division Jesus talks about, see it here. For when church and state collide, we must obey God rather than men. Now there’s division!
But why has Christ come to make division? Doesn’t He want everyone to be at peace? After all, the world seems to like “peace at all costs.” We must coexist, bumper stickers tell us, which means we have to let anything go. The only unacceptable thing is not letting anything go! Why must we trouble them, like Elijah troubled Ahab? Why can’t we just give in and play nice and get along?
Because we have a different master. Our Master is The Savior, Christ The Lord. Their master is the devil, the old evil foe who means deadly woe – deep guile and great might are his dread arms in fight, and he knows well how to use them. With deep guile he brought sin into the world. With great might he uses that guile to turn the sinful minds of men to madness.
But he is not your master. Christ has broken the chains that bound you to him. He has dissolved them in the waters of Baptism. You have therefore rejected the devil and all his works and ways. You have pledged yourself to Christ your dear Brother as a dear child of your heavenly Father. You have declared to Him that you want to live like it. You have ordered the devil to leave you alone. You declare to the world that your sole desire is to keep God’s commands. And if there’s anything the world can’t stand, it’s somebody keeping Christ’s commands.
Why is that? Because it can’t stand the smell of death. It covers over death all sorts of ways – just think how funerary practices have changed during our lifetimes! It can do away with the smell; after a while you forget it, leave it behind, and even think it won’t come for you anytime soon. But there is a smell of death the world can’t escape, though it doesn’t realize it. It’s a smell that fills the earth, the scent of The Rose that bloomed upon The Cross and burst forth in glory from The Tomb. The smell it can’t stand is Christ Crucified.
Why can’t it stand that scent? How can it smell it anyway? After all, His Tomb is empty. It’s been empty for nearly 2000 years and The Church that covers it has been filled ever since with the scents of candles and incense – the sweet smells of our Crucified and Risen God. So how does that smell go through the world? After all, I can’t smell this candle. The smell is smelled through The Word of God that is proclaimed throughout the world.
But what’s the problem? Doesn’t God’s Word taste sweet to us and smell like a lovely rose of eternal life? To you it smells sweet because it forgives your sins, but to the world it smells like a corpse flower because it doesn’t want to give up its sins. It loves sin. What is the root of that sin? It’s not the desire to do things that aren’t natural. It’s not even the desire to force us to do things we know are wrong. It’s unbelief.
How can we say that? Just see those who oppose us because we hold to traditional morals try to get along with those who oppose us because of our faith in Christ as God – even though those same people also oppose the agenda of those who hate our morals. The Death and Resurrection of Christ has created a division in humankind: between those who believe in Him unto eternal life and those who do not believe in Him unto eternal damnation.
The division is between Christ and Satan, between life eternal and death eternal, between believers and unbelievers. Those who don’t believe serve Satan. Those who believe serve Christ. Satan cannot stand that. He hates God, he hates you, and he hates what happened on The Cross. So he wants to destroy the division. He who with great guile caused Adam to sin hates that Christ has died for all and taken away from him at the font a people. He wants everyone to die with him in hell eternally, and he works on you to try to make that happen. But Christ wants you to live with Him. Therefore He forgives your sins.
That’s what His peace is all about: His forgiveness. For your sin has separated you from God. It has put you at war with Him. But your Jesus has taken the war into Himself. On the Cross He absorbed all God’s wrath, going all the way to suffer the eternal pangs of hell for you. Now God has no more wrath for you, but only peace which leads to eternal life.
So what should you do? Line up on the battle line. How? Confess your sins and be absolved. Receive His Supper. For here in God’s House, at God’s Service, you get the strength you need to oppose the devil, to tell him you want to do what God commands because you are thankful for His grace. Since you wage this battle daily, you need daily food. So take time for daily prayers and devotions, that God’s Word may fill you every day and give you the strength you need for the way.
Teachers and staff, new and old, don’t forget this. Redeemer Lutheran School exists first and foremost because we want to tell as many people as possible in the Pittsburgh area about Jesus. That means not just telling people Jesus died for them; it also means proclaiming all His Word teaches. For His Word opposes sin precisely so that sin can be forgiven. We stand up against wickedness so we can proclaim The Gospel that will forgive those who have desired to live wickedly but want to repent.
So in this new school year, and every year, God calls us to remain faithful to His Word, to His Law and His Gospel. Peace with the world leads to eternal death, but He has promised to give the crown of life to those who are at peace with Him. God grant that we ever confess Him before men and be faithful unto death, that we may receive the crown of life.