13th Sunday after Pentecost 2016 | In memory of Ed Burke

Bible Text: Luke 12:48 ff


Let’s begin at the end.

Let’s begin with a storm.


They all saw it coming.

The high schoolers at Camp Pineshore this week were very bright.

They’d been working hard in Bible Study,

And they’d been playing hard in the water and the volleyball pit.

They were happy and carefree.


But when the mountain in the distance was no longer visible,

When the thunder began to roll and the breeze started kicking up sand

they knew it was time to bunker down.


They saw. They heard. They put it together. They got inside.

And then they did what kids do.

They played games.

And they prayed for safety and sunshine.

They even sang hymns. Yes, some kids actually do that.


It seems normal enough. Natural enough. It seems to be common sense.

Ask yourself: Why would you do anything else?


In our OT text this morning, the prophet Jeremiah writes to the false prophets who tried to take the edge off of God’s Word, and to their hearers:


Behold, the storm of the Lord!

Wrath has gone forth,

a whirling tempest;

it will burst upon the head of the wicked.

The anger of the Lord will not turn back

until he has executed and accomplished

the intents of his heart.

In the latter days you will understand it clearly.


Of course our world is a stormy place.

It is full of anger and war and death and false doctrine and unbelief.


Naturally, you’d like to see the skies clear.

You’d like to see anger turned to joy,

And war turned to peace.

So much so that you are willing to pretend;

To live in a false peace;

To enjoy a functional détente with your sins and the sins of others.

To gamble on which parts of His Word God actually takes seriously,


Is to ignore that at some point the Kingdom of God actually mean division.


Most of you know by now that despite the freedom of life in Christ,

Despite the free forgiveness of sins;

Despite the true peace between God and men won by Jesus on the cross,

And the invitation to a life of mercy and grace and joy –


Most of you know, that despite all of that, most people simply will not have it.


So pretty soon, if folks are honest about God and His Word, you get the division:

It’s three against two, and two against three.

Families turn, friends scatter,

and the enemies of the Gospel come with swords to do some dividing of their own.


But then Jesus tells us that He has a fire,

And He can hardly wait to get it burning.


And then He tells us that He has a Baptism,

And He is absolutely in distress until it is accomplished.


Together, that fire and that baptism are the sole intent of His heart.


The Baptism to be accomplished is bloody.

It is the blood He Himself will shed at Golgotha.

It’s whips and nails and wrath, and a darkened sky.

It’s the God’s punishment for sin

burst on the head of the only Righteous One,

Made wicked for your sake.


Thus Jeremiah’s prophecy is completed:

the anger of the LORD is turned back,

for in the free Sacrifice of Jesus

He has executed and accomplished the intents of His heart.


And yet Jesus is not done.


After His rest in the tomb.

After the harrowing of hell,

After His glorious resurrection and Ascension,

Jesus gets to cast fire on the earth.

And so He does.


His is the fire that fell on the Apostles at Pentecost,

His is the fire of the Holy Spirit that fell on you at your Baptism,

His is the fire that burns hot at the proclamation of His Gospel.

His is the fire that burns off impurities.

And one day, that fire will make the Church One.


Of course now we struggle with division.

And it’s only comfortable for those who would have a false peace;

who would live outside the fire of Pentecost,

Or perhaps just turn down the heat.


Please don’t do that.

Especially when the only peace you can really trust is the one offered right here, today, by Jesus Himself.

That peace is here in His forgiving Absolution, declared to you.

That peace is here in His Life-giving Gospel – burned into you like purifying fire.

That peace is delivered to you now, personally, one by one, in His Flesh as you receive His own Body and Blood into your mouths.


This peace, Jesus alone, will see you through.

I know that because I have see it.

The peace which divides man from his sin.

This peace, the peace between God and man.

This is the peace that saw Ed (Burke) through his death and into life.


It’s here in Psalm 139 – the last words I got to share with Him:

            O LORD, you have searched me and known me!

            You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

                        you discern my thoughts from afar.

            You search out my path and my lying down

                        and are acquainted with all my ways.

            Even before a word is on my tongue,

                        behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

            You hem me in, behind and before,

                        and lay your hand upon me.

            Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

                        it is high; I cannot attain it.


Where shall I go from your Spirit?

                        Or where shall I flee from your presence?

            If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

                        If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

            If I take the wings of the morning

                        and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

            even there your hand shall lead me,

                        and your right hand shall hold me.

            If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,

                        and the light about me be night,”

            even the darkness is not dark to you;

                        the night is bright as the day,

                        for darkness is as light with you.


            For you formed my inward parts;

                        you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

            I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

            Wonderful are your works;

                        my soul knows it very well.

            My frame was not hidden from you,

            when I was being made in secret,

                        intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

            Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

            in your book were written, every one of them,

                        the days that were formed for me,

                        when as yet there was none of them.


            How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!

                        How vast is the sum of them!

            If I would count them, they are more than the sand.

                        I awake, and I am still with you.


When I last saw Ed he was asleep.

Behold, he is awake forevermore.

He has awoken, as the Psalmist writes, and Christ is still with him.


He is still with Ed, and He is still with you.

And so you can rest easy in the storm.

You are safe in the refuge of the Church, in Jesus Himself.

You are among friends and saints and angels:

All the company of heaven, Ed too, gathered around the heavenly throne,

Where there is no division at all, but only perfect peace.

About Pastor Hopkins