Lectionary Homily for the 21st Sunday after Pentecost [2021]

Originally published at: Lectionary Homily for the 21st Sunday after Pentecost [2021] | Confident.Faith

  • Amos 5:6–7, 10–15
  • Psalm 90:12–17
  • Hebrews 3:12–19
  • Mark 10:17–22

Perhaps I am not prudent. On who is prudent shows a great deal of care and thought for the future. As our Old Testament reading states: Those who are prudent will often hold their tongues in an evil age — the implication that speaking the truth may be futile or even harmful (most likely to the speaker). And we are to walk as the wise, not as the foolish. And yet, we must, as Christians, speak the truth. Although the days are evil, to us falls the imprudence of speaking the truth.

God is Truth. To deny the Truth is to deny God. Those who deny God before men will one day answer before the Judgement Seat. Praevaleat veritas ruat caelum — let the truth prevail though the heavens fall. We are not permitted to deny the truth; we are not permitted to look to the consequences and then decide if we will speak the truth. The Gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing, but for us it is the truth and power of God.

Now, we must be careful to distinguish what is and what is not truth, in the sense we are employing here. I have a Golden Retriever — this is a true statement. If I tell you that I have a Chihuahua, then I have lied to you (and, God willing, that will forever be the case), but I have not denied the truth. The truth is something more than mere correspondence with reality, mere accuracy. On the other hand, if someone tells you that men and women are the same or that men can become women or women become men, then that person has denied the truth.

Truth is fundamental; it flows from the nature of God. Truth also pervades Creation — dogs are not cats, men are not women, light is not darkness. Simple lying is not a denial of the truth — if a murderer asks if your wife and children are home, it is your duty to lie. (n.b., the Eighth Commandment is "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.", not ‘Thou shalt not lie.’)

We live in an age when people do not even echo Pilate: ‘Quid est veritas?’ — ‘What is truth?’; instead, we are surrounded by those who simultaneously deny the existence of objective truth and advance clear lies that ‘must’ be believed. Worse, so very many Christians simply go along with these lies. You may lose your job for speaking the truth, but would you rather lose your soul for holding your tongue? The wise of the world hold their tongues to preserve their hides, but we fools for Christ gladly proclaim the ‘foolishness’ of the Gospel — and all the rest of God’s truth — for we know that to die for Christ is gain.

In a worldly sense, it would have been prudent for Martin Luther to remain silent in the face of Rome’s errors and lies. Instead, he took his stand upon the only firm ground of truth — the Word of God. He brought down upon himself the wrath of the secular authorities — both pope and Emperor. For much of his life, he was a wanted — and even a hunted — man, but God preserved him through to the end, and he died of old age in bed. God may have another end in store for you — you may not die comfortably in your bed — but praise Him and give glory to His Name in all things. Remember your Confirmation oath: You sword to ‘suffer all, including death’ before you would fall away from our shared Confession.

The times are evil, and they are certainly not getting better. However, we are not required to win the battles God gives us; we are merely required to fight. So, stand for the truth no matter the cost. Do not deny God in word or deed. Run the race to win; hold your original confidence firm to the end. If we are faithful, the Lord may yet turn to use and be gracious to us.

God willing, we may live to see a resurgence of the Church, and of our people. But nothing in this life is guaranteed — we may not even live to see tomorrow. We must always remember that we are sojourners here, and this is not our true home. Nevertheless, there is work to be done while it is still day.

Part of the good works you render to your neighbor as service to God is speaking the truth. To partake of — or, worse, to advance — the lies of our evil age is to fall below the Christian duty of care. Every person who speaks the lie further entrenches it; every person who fails to speak in opposition to the lie weakens the resolve of others and thereby strengthens the lie.

When it comes to the truth, one who refuses to yield may alter the course of nations or of history, but surely such men have a better go of things when they are surrounded by others who similarly cleave to the truth. Further, your highest duty is to God, and unflinching adherence to the truth is unwavering obedience to God.

Our present society is not founded upon Christ, but upon a collection of lies. We are under no obligation to adhere to such lies or to support those who do. To the persecutor of God and His Church, we owe only unwavering opposition, eternal enmity. We are called to hate evil, for there is no love without hate. However, it is certainly possible to hate without love.

The world will hate you, as it hated Him first. If you speak the truth, reprove in the gate, and seek justice — or even merely support those who do so — then you will be hated by the world. And let us be clear, here: We do not mean so-called ‘social justice’, for such is an evil from the very pits of Hell; no, we mean justice as commanded by God and contained in His good Law. So-called ‘social justice’ is a perversion and a denial of justice and is, consequently, a denial of God before men.

But where is the comfort in this? It is everywhere. We may be comforted knowing that God prepared our good works for us; we may be comforted knowing that Christ will not lose a single sheep from His hands; and we may be comforted knowing that the war has already been won. We are fighting a defensive action — we must merely hold out until our Lord returns, or we are relieved from duty.

Sin, death, and the devil have already been defeated. Although the times are dark and the days evil, these are but the birth pangs of the new Creation; this old world is passing away, is doomed to fire. We, however, are being saved by the Gospel, by the very power of God. In the waters of Baptism, you were united to Christ in His death and resurrection. You will not taste the second death.

Do not worry overmuch about the state of the world, for the outcome is wholly in God’s hands. Do your duty as father or mother, son or daughter, brother or sister, or neighbor. Even if the world is to end tomorrow, do your duty. As Luther put it: ‘Even if I knew that the world would end tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree today.’

Amen.