In today’s gospel our Lord Jesus Christ speaks about the great feast to which so many have been invited, yet despite the invitation so few attend. He doesn’t talk about the hatred that those, who do not want to give up their lifestyle together with their lands, their oxen and their wives have for those who actually do follow their Lord’s call to follow him and leave everything else behind. Yet this is a part of Church history and the apostle St. John highlights it in today’s Epistle reading. Here he mentions both the hatred of the world against the Church, but also about the enduring love of God for his children and their responsive love towards their heavenly Father. Whoever follows the call of the triune God to partake in the heavenly feast partake in his love, grace and mercy. Yet on the other hand they also become the target of the worlds violent and passionate hatred. This is the experience of God’s people throughout the ages. They are persecuted with vengeance, their peace is constantly put under pressure with legal and illegal means – menace by sword and death. There are numerous examples which seem to speak loud and clear about the victory of this world’s people over God’s people in the holy Christian Church. Their hatred seems to triumph over the children of God and followers of Jesus Christ. This has happened so often that we can take it for granted even – and shouldn’t be surprised. In the same vain we should be very skeptical where the Church seems to triumph in glory and the manifestation of its own success and well being. It might just be that these people are no longer part of the Church, but rather some worldly sect or partisan grouping that lives for itself and strives after it’s own goals with independent purpose and motivated drive – part of the world, accommodated into its way of doing things and far removed from following Jesus and his ways. For wherever people follow Jesus there the hatred of the world is aglow and martyrdom, subtle or grotesque torture and even brutal onslaught and passionate warfare will not be far off.
Almighty, eternal God – you show us your heart and passionate love in your son Jesus Christ. He’s like a mirror reflecting your will and burning love towards us. You have poured out his love into our hearts through the gift of faith. We ask you: Grant us the grace that we love each other and yours from the bottom of our hearts and with passionate care even under pressure of this worlds hatred. Let us love not only with words, but also with deeds and in truth so that your love and eternal live will stay with us constantly. Give your Holy Spirit to give us his blessed testimony that we are brought from death to life in Jesus Christ, our Lord and in this faith be saved now and forever. Amen. (Hamburg hymnal and prayer book 1871)
Even if tears are your most precious pearls while sighing and painful crying are your best hymn, your blood is the only crimson gown and deprivation your only constant treasure and good – then Zion don’t despair, you can still trust in God so fair.
Do they threaten with shame and bondage, with greatest pain and even death – for sure you’re not at the end and forsaken. Remember eternity, keep the faith and fix your eyes on Jesus. He’s in control and will strengthen you all the way – without fail.
Rejoice – the end is near and the final evening is drawing nigh. Commit yourself into God’s caring hands. He’ll liberate you from all shame, blame and heinous flame and crown you with his eternal crown. Zion, you’ll rejoice once more so let the world be – God is yours and that’s our glee! (Joachim Pauli 1635-1708)
This is a rather free translation of Wilhelm Löhe’s devotion for second Sunday after the high holiday and festival of the Holy Trinity. It is found on Pg. 229 in Lob sei Dir ewig, o Jesu! (Eternal Praise to you o Jesus!) edited by A. Schuster and published in the Freimund Verlag, Neuendettelsau 1949.