Monday, August 22, 2011

Not even the gates of hell...

+ 10th Sunday after Pentecost +
August 21, 2011
The gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18b
In the war for your soul, there is no neutrality. Whether we realize it or not, we are all making daily choices to either compromise with evil, or to overcome evil with good. This great divide has been illustrated countless times in books and movies. One of my favorite examples comes from Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings: As Gandalf unravels the mystery of the ring, he discovers to his dismay that the head of his order, Saruman, has compromised with the evil spirit that rules the land of Mordor. In contrast, the little hobbit Frodo offers himself to become the ring-bearer and carry it to final destruction at Mt. Doom, “though I know not the way” as he humbly says. Which will triumph: Saruman’s scheming or Frodo’s sacrifice? Saruman’s foolish compromise or Frodo’s uncompromising faith? A classic illustration of how the Son of Man came to destroy the works of the devil not by building armies or seizing power, but by His perfect sacrifice of love on the cross. In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Strengthened by God’s promises fulfilled in the cross and resurrection of His Son, we can live and work together even in humility and great weakness for the triumph of love over all the forces of evil.
1. Like hobbits, we don’t always realize what powerful gifts God has given us!

a. The first disciples too thought about an earthly kingdom.

b. We are satisfied with forgiveness and heaven when we die.

2. We see in Jesus how the kingdom of heaven conquers all other powers
a. Judges 16:1-3. Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute and went to bed with her. When the Gazites [heard] that Samson was there, they surrounded the place and waited in ambush for him all that night at the city gate. While they were waiting quietly, they said, "Let us wait until dawn; then we will kill him." But Samson stayed in bed until midnight when he got up, took hold of the doors of the city gate along with the two gateposts, and pulled them out, bar and all. He put them on his shoulders and took them to the top of the mountain overlooking Hebron (a distance of no more than nine miles!).

b. Daniel 2:31-44. 31 "My king, as you were watching, a colossal statue appeared. That statue, tall and dazzling, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was terrifying. 32 The head of the statue was pure gold, its chest and arms were silver, its stomach and thighs were bronze, 33 its legs were iron, and its feet were partly iron and partly fired clay. 34 As you were watching, a stone broke off without a hand touching it, [a] struck the statue on its feet of iron and fired clay, and crushed them. 35 Then the iron, the fired clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were shattered and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors. The wind carried them away, and not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
36 "This was the dream; now we will tell the king its interpretation. 37 Your Majesty, you are king of kings. The God of heaven has given you sovereignty, power, strength, and glory. 38 Wherever people live—or wild animals, or birds of the air—He has handed them over to you and made you ruler over them all. You are the head of gold.
39 "After you, there will arise another kingdom, inferior to yours, and then another, a third kingdom, of bronze, which will rule the whole earth. 40 A fourth kingdom will be as strong as iron; for iron crushes and shatters everything, and like iron that smashes, it will crush and smash all the others. 41 You saw the feet and toes, partly of a potter's fired clay and partly of iron—it will be a divided kingdom, though some of the strength of iron will be in it. You saw the iron mixed with clay, 42 and that the toes of the feet were part iron and part fired clay—part of the kingdom will be strong, and part will be brittle. 43 You saw the iron mixed with clay—the peoples will mix with one another [c] but will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with fired clay.
44 "In the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not be left to another people. It will crush all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself endure forever.

3. Filled with the Spirit, the Church, despite her weakness, storms the gates of hell.
a. Examples from Acts of the Apostles – intercessory prayer.
b. As we speak the truth in love and exercise simple acts of service we fulfill the promises of Christ. Jude 20-25 But you, dear friends, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life. Have mercy on some who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; on others have mercy in fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now, and forever. Amen.

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