The Seventh Sunday after Epiphany

  1. Walk In Truth
  2. Walk In Love
SERMON TEXT:  2 John 1:1-13

The Elder,
To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth—not only I, but also everyone who knows the truth— because of the truth that remains in us and will be with us forever:
Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, in truth and love.
I was overjoyed to find out that some of your children are walking in the truth, in keeping with the command we received from the Father. And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing a new command to you, but the one we have had from the beginning—let us love one another. And this is love: that we walk according to his commands. This is the command: Just as you have heard from the beginning, keep on walking in it. Many deceivers who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh have gone out into the world. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist. Watch yourselves so that you do not lose what we have labored for but receive a full reward.
Anyone who goes on ahead and does not remain in the teaching of Christ does not have God. The one who remains in this teaching has both the Father and the Son. If someone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house. Do not even wish him well. For the one who wishes him well shares in his wicked works. I have many things to write to you, but I did not want to do it with paper and ink. I hope instead to be with you and speak to you face to face so that our joy may be made complete.
The children of your chosen sister greet you.

Sermon Audio, Video, & Transcript

Learn From St. John How To Walk

Grace mercy and peace to all of you from God our father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Dear brothers and sisters, the word of God for this seventh Sunday in epiphany is from 2 John 1:

The Elder,

To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth—not only I, but also everyone who knows the truth— because of the truth that remains in us and will be with us forever:

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, in truth and love.

I was overjoyed to find out that some of your children are walking in the truth, in keeping with the command we received from the Father. And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing a new command to you, but the one we have had from the beginning—let us love one another. And this is love: that we walk according to his commands. This is the command: Just as you have heard from the beginning, keep on walking in it. Many deceivers who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh have gone out into the world. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist. Watch yourselves so that you do not lose what we have labored for but receive a full reward.

Anyone who goes on ahead and does not remain in the teaching of Christ does not have God. The one who remains in this teaching has both the Father and the Son. If someone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house. Do not even wish him well. For the one who wishes him well shares in his wicked works. I have many things to write to you, but I did not want to do it with paper and ink. I hope instead to be with you and speak to you face to face so that our joy may be made complete.

The children of your chosen sister greet you.

Dear brothers and sisters,

This letter is only 13 verses long, but it contains some wonderful truth in its brevity. It contains St. John’s instructions to a particular congregation in the ancient world about how to walk. In this instruction about how to walk is appropriate for us today as well. As we all learn to walk, we seek to walk in truth, and we seek to walk in love. The Elder wrote this letter. It’s possible that John was one of the older people in the congregation. We don’t know exactly when he wrote it, possibly near the end of his life. We don’t know to whom he wrote it. From the expressions where it says the chosen lady and her children and some of your children are walking in the truth, and where at the end the writer calls on the children of your chosen sister who greet you, makes it pretty clear that we are not talking to ordinary lady, but rather a lady in the sense of a church and a sister congregation. The children of this chosen lady of course are the people who belong to the body of Christ within this church. And so the elder writes the letter how to walk. As you came in today since this is my last Sunday preaching among you maybe some of you looked at the picture of the five pastors in the entryway. I know one of you did for sure. In the middle of course is the big Shepherd, the picture of Jesus with his sheep. He’s the important one. There’s Pastor Bill Godfrey pictured on the upper left who serve this congregation from ‘75 to ‘77. Pastor Rich Kugler, who served from ‘77 till ‘89. Pastor Goeglein, who served from ‘89 till ‘99, and I having served from ‘99 to the present. If you look at that picture you can see that I was at one time very young. You can also then see from the present expression in my hair and on my face that I am now among those who are considered elders. But there was a time that I was even younger than that picture.

Love, if it’s absent from truth, is chaos, and truth, if it is absent from love, is cruelty.

There was a time about a year after I was born I think it was, when my legs were too weak to support me for walking, I lacked the coordination and I lacked the knowledge of how to do it. I couldn’t walk it all. After about 12 months however, of exercising my legs by kicking and crawling, and by playing I was finally able to stand up and take a few steps. I wasn’t very good at it at first. In fact, I fell down a lot. I don’t remember this, but my parents who were there they tell me it’s true, that I would stand up and I would walk a few steps and I would fall down. That continued for a while until I really got the hang of it, and you can tell that by this time, 50 years of practice, that maybe pretty good at walking, and most of you also are pretty good. Except, for every once in a while when we may trip or fall. And so it is with a Christian or a Christian congregation, we need to learn how to walk. We need to gain the knowledge about Christ before we can walk in his paths. Before we can follow in his footsteps, we need to learn and we need to know and we need to grow. It’s important to know who Jesus Christ is. He is the important one. It’s important to know that he is the true Son of God who also became flesh. He is the son of Mary, the son of man. He calls himself his favorite term for himself and the gospel’s. As the elder, St. John reflects upon this chosen lady, this wonderful congregation that he remembers so dearly, he rejoices because he has found out that some of her children our walking according to the truth.

we know that God loves us, because of what Jesus did. The true son of God becoming human,… taking that humiliation to the cross suffering…the guilt that you and I had piled up upon ourselves. Dying there to suffer the wages that you and I deserve to receive because of our sin’s.

In other words, they know who Jesus is. He has received a report from them that tells him that Jesus is still being correctly preached in this congregation, and for that he rejoices. He rejoices also to know that not only is Christ being preached, and is known among the congregation, but that people are imitating him. We heard what that imitation is in our other readings for the day. Joseph in the Old Testament, sold into slavery, taken into prison, and left there to rot for many years until finally God worked his deliverance. Revealing to him the meaning of of Pharaoh’s dreams and elevating him to a position of authority which was below only the Pharaoh of Egypt. When Joseph’s brothers came looking for food, which was so scarce at that time, Joseph welcomed them and even kissed them, and cried over them. The apostle Paul in one of his letters speaks to the the people of God of all times and says, if anyone is evil to you, pay them back with kindness. If anyone mistreats you, then speak kindly to them, echoing the words of Jesus, who said some of the shocking things like, if someone strikes you on one cheek turned to him the other also. If someone steals your coat give them your shirt as well. If someone asks something of you, do not withhold your blessings. Then he says you should love those who can’t pay back your love. Lend to those who can’t repay your money, and that you should do good and love even your enemies. When the apostle John, when the apostle Paul, when Jesus≤ and when Moses said to love your enemies, they were not kidding. They were serious, because God’s word is truth, and that truth-that truth that God loves us and that God wants us to love one another-it is that truth that remains in us and will be with us forever. You can’t have this truth, unless you know the love of God. You can’t have love unless you know the truth of God, at least not in a pure sense. Love, if it’s absent from truth, is chaos, and truth, if it is absent from love, is cruelty. Truth and love going together, it’s like the left foot in the right foot as we learn to walk.. We have to know the truth, and we have to know the love, and we have to see how they balance each other, and how they work together. We know that Jesus is the true God, because of the testimony that God has sent in his word, and because of the Holy Spirit that through that word has filled our hearts and convinced us of the truth of Scripture, and we know that God loves us, because of what Jesus did. The true son of God becoming human, taking on human flesh, taking the way of sorrows taking on the humiliation of our sin and guilt, and taking that humiliation to the cross suffering therefore the guilt that you and I had piled up upon ourselves. Dying there to suffer the wages that you and I deserve to receive because of our sin’s.

That is the truth, but you know as well as I do that not everyone who reports himself as a teacher of Scripture, teaches the truth about Jesus Christ. The apostle John tells us that there are many deceivers who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. He says they have gone out into the world. John might have in mind here a very specific number of people who were not teaching that Jesus is true God in his day. There were people had broken away from the apostles. They were separatists. They did not teach that Jesus is true God, but that he is something less than God. And what does John say? He does not mince his words. He says, such a person is a deceiver and an Antichrist. How important is it that we continue to have the truth of Jesus Christ is true God and true man? Well, the apostle says watch yourselves so that you do not lose what we have labored for, but receive a full reward. In other words, if you follow those who preach that Jesus is something other than true God, if you follow after those who teach false doctrine, who deny truths of God’s word, or who add something to them, then you could very well lose the salvation that Jesus worked so hard to provide to you. If you follow after falsehood, you can lose the salvation that the Holy Spirit worked hard to implant in your heart. So listen to that truth and walk in that truth. John says anyone who goes on ahead and does not remain in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. All of these heretics, all of these false teachers, the false prophets who are in the world, none of them woke up one morning and said I think I’ll become a heretic. None of them woke up one morning and said I think I’m going to invent something new that’s going to lead people to hell. In fact, Jesus calls the false prophets wolves in sheep’s clothing. One of the characteristics of false prophets is they can be very convincing. They can speak very winsomely. They can probably convince you that they are innocent sheep, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. In other words, the effect of their false teaching is to lead to the destruction of many people. John does not want that to happen to the children of this dear lady. He says that if someone comes and does not bring this teaching of the apostles, don’t welcome him into your home. Do not wish him well. He says if you give material or spiritual support, or any kind of support to these false teachers, that you are sharing in the wicked work.

The overall tone of St. John’s letter is love. That God inspiring John is telling him to tell us that we need to love one another above all, but love as I said before must never be absent from the truth or else it can be misled. Love for God’s word, love for God’s glory, love for God’s people, will always move us to stand firm in the truth of the Scriptures. That means sometimes we must say things that others won’t understand, and might even think is cruel. One of the characteristics of our synod, and of our churches is that we do what we can to stand on God’s word alone in its truth and purity. And with all humility we seek to subject ourselves and to submit ourselves to that teaching, even when it doesn’t make sense to our reason, and even when it is not popular in our society today. It is my prayer that this congregation and our synod, and each of the children of this congregation, this dear lady, will also remain true and faithful to that word of God. And that as you do remain in this truth that you will also love one another. One of the legends that is told about St. John is that when he was very old-and you know that St. John is the only of the 12 apostles who did not die young as a martyr but he rather lived into his elder years and died a natural death-St. John, one of his last sermons that he preached when he was in Ephesus is reported to have been this; he stood up and he said, dear little children love one another and with that he didn’t have any more strength, and so he sat down and the sermon was over. One of the best sermons ever, also one of the shortest. The apostle John’s spirit which is the same as the apostle Paul, and Joseph, and Jesus Christ, may that spirit of love prevail among us, and may it always characterize our congregation. Love for one another, love for the community, love for the truth, and faithfulness to that truth. The apostle John in the last sentence of his letter (which probably the length of this letter is because it fit one piece of parchment paper and when he ran out of room on that paper he closed off his letter) he said I have many things to write to you now as I like to write more, but I’m not going to instead I would prefer to be with you and speak to you face-to-face. So, that our joy may be made complete there is joy even as Christians say farewell to one another joy because we know that we will meet again when the Lord has finished whatever he wants to accomplish through us on earth. God is going to call us from this place to the heavenly gates where he will welcome us, and where we will rejoice to see Him as He is. There we will look around and we will see the people that we have known on our earthly journey. Those who have come to know Christ through us. Those who have told us about Christ. Those that we have worshiped with side-by-side. As we gather together before that throne, I’m sure that I will look to the left and the right, and I will see you there and we will bow down together, and we will worship Christ because he’s the important one.

Years from now God willing you will have forgotten about me, but years from now I want you to remember Christ, the important one, that you may know the truth of who he is and that he may always motivate you and empower you to share his love in word and in deed. So, as you learn to walk, learn to walk well, with truth and with love.

Amen

 


Bible Readings

FIRST LESSON:  Genesis 45:3-8a, 15

Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” His brothers could not answer him, because they were terrified by his presence. Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me, please.” They came closer. He said, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be upset or angry with yourselves for selling me to this place, since God sent me ahead of you to preserve life. For two years now the famine has been in the land, and there are still five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me ahead of you to preserve you as survivors on the earth, and to keep you alive by a great act of deliverance. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He kissed all his brothers and wept over them. After that his brothers talked with him.

SECOND LESSON:  Romans 12:14-21

Bless those who persecute you; bless, and do not curse. Rejoice with those who are rejoicing; weep with those who are weeping. Have the same respect for one another. Do not be arrogant, but associate with the humble. Do not think too highly of yourselves. Do not pay anyone back evil for evil. Focus on those things that everyone considers noble. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, maintain peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay,” says the Lord. But: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. For by doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

VERSE OF THE DAY:  Luke 6:36 (NIV)

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

GOSPEL: Luke 6:27-38

“But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, offer the other too. If someone takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes away your things, do not demand them back. “Treat others just as you would want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? To be sure, even the sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even the sinners do the same thing. If you lend to those from whom you expect to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even the sinners lend to sinners in order to be paid back in full. Instead, love your enemies, do good and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the unthankful and the evil. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. In fact, the measure with which you measure will be measured back to you.”

X