Sermon: Sunday After the Ascension – May 28, 2017

Rev. Gregory G. Perez

 Resist!   We are living in an age where that word has tremendous influence for some people.  For others, not so much.  It is not a word unfamiliar to those who claimed Christ as their Messiah and Redeemer.  For these ‘Christ-believers,’ it was a word that would charge them up; make them stronger disciples of Jesus Christ.  We hear it in our epistle this morning: “Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith.”  The bottom line for those first century Christ-believers:  Since the devil is not resting, neither should the Christ-believer. 

The Christ-believer should be aware of all those forces that would pull him or her away from Jesus Christ.  But the Christ-believer of that first century lived a different life than the Christ-believer of today.  You and I do not know persecution or suffering for the sake of the Gospel, as others have known.  The early Christians were persecuted and mocked because of their practices as followers of Jesus.  They were isolated by their families if they converted to ‘The Way.’  And because they believed that Jesus, not Caesar, was LORD, they were going against the establishment, the Empire, the ruling class. 

The Christ-believers established communities marked by love and solidarity with each other – even those suffering for the sake of Jesus in other parts of the empire.  Part of their responsibility as a Christ-believer was to be in solidarity with others who suffer because of Jesus; thus, they were to resist all temptations to go over to the other side, to the side of the authority, the empire.  Remember:  since the devil is not resting, neither should the Christ-believer!

Historically, these believers would have known persecution, because this letter was written most likely during the reign of Domition (81-96 Common Era).  As one commentator, Miguel de la Torre, wrote in one of the biblical commentaries, “Early Christians were persecuted not for what they believed, but for what they did.”  He continued by saying, “they preached a message of preach good news to the poor, freedom to those imprisoned, sight to those blinded, and liberation to those oppressed is to reject conformity with the prevailing power structures.”

In other words, you and I – the modern day Christ-believers – ought to stand up for others suffering for the sake of Jesus Christ.  You and I should build communities marked by love, compassion, mercy, justice, equality and peace.  Even if it goes against the empire or other power structures, so be it!  With social disorder comes the fear of suffering at the hands of the privileged, the powerful, the rich and those committed to the dark truth about the empire. 

 Now, I am not saying for you to go out and start a war or a riot; what I am saying, is that today, the Epistle challenges us to rethink what it means to be a Christ-believer.  It challenges us to cry out when we see injustice and inequality; to cry out when we see the suffering of others at the hands of brutal people.  Today, two families are mourning the loss of their loved ones simply because they stood up to a bully who was berating a woman wearing a Hijab.   

At the same time, how can we stand silent at the horrific actions of a barbarous fraction of a religion that is supposed to be about peace, who commit such horrible acts against innocent children and young people? 

This morning I have no answers to the situation of our world today.  I only know that I am challenged by the Good News of Jesus Christ to focus more on doing than on doctrine.

 Miguel de la Torre challenges the modern-day Christ-believers to be more relevant for today’s world by focusing on orthopraxis/correct action rather than orthodoxy/correct doctrine.

It’s not difficult to grow bitter, angry and resentful towards others for what we hear and see on the news today.  It is also not difficult to become complacent and indifferent towards all the bad things we see around us, happening to others at the hands of the empire, the mighty and the powerful.  It is much nicer to stay in our corner of the world and in our own homes, safe and secure and alone.  But I’m afraid that this morning, we are told that as Christ-believers, we have the responsibility to stand with those other Christ-believers who are suffering because of their love for Christ.  Even if it is done on our little piece of earth, even if this small community can build a family where love and compassion and mercy are practiced, then perhaps others will follow.  More importantly we Christ-believers should not grow cynical or indifferent or complacent.   We should resist the trappings of the empire and its powerful who would tell us otherwise, or who would try and dissuade us from doing what a true Christ-believer would do. 

Remember, since the devil does not rest, neither should the Christ-believer.