Video of the Divine Service is here. The sermon begins around the 27:15 mark.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It is easy to get caught up in culture wars. Especially with the internet; especially with our polarized political situation; especially when the media and the political parties are telling you that this is a two-sided war only. You are either on this side or that side; you are either left or right, conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat. You are not allowed to agree with anything on the “other side,” nor are you allowed to disagree with anything on “your side.” Even if we agree or disagree with various people in various political parties, our culture war is not between different groups out there; it is between the Church and everything else. And while we were getting angry and yelling at people out there, our own house was burning down. It is easy to see the destruction in the world and in the government and in the schools. It is not as easy to see or acknowledge the destruction in our own lives, in our families, and in our congregations. In a lot of ways, we are throwing rocks from inside glass houses. We can see that the culture has changed; but how did it change? It didn’t change because a bunch of godless liberals, or a bunch of hypocritical conservatives, suddenly arrived from other shores, or another planet. What happened happened in our own homes and in our own congregations.
And that’s why the real culture war is happening not so much in the world, although we see the bitter fruit of it there. It happens inside us, and in our families, and in our congregations. Culture is related to the world “cultivate”: to prepare the ground, nourish, grow. Have we been cultivating the life of Christ? It is time for judgment to begin at the house of God. And that’s why what Paul says here in 1 Timothy 2 offends everyone, in the world, and our own sinful flesh. The goal is a peaceful, quiet, tranquil life, godly and dignified in every way. This is the opposite of everything the pundits say. Don’t live quiet, peaceful lives! Fight! Fight them. They are against you! Make an impact by direct action! The thing is, if Christians live quiet and peaceful lives, godly and dignified in every way, the battle won’t go away. The devil and the world hate Jesus and His Church. We won’t have to go looking for the war; it will come to us. The devil will work to destroy everything we build, because he knows that the family and the congregation are the most important places, where God does His battle against all the forces of evil. Paul isn’t telling us not to fight; he’s telling us where the main battleground is.
So what are our weapons? Prayer, first of all. We pray for everyone. Everyone. We pray for everyone on every “side.” We pray for everyone who is in a position of authority. And we pray that they would do the work God has given them to do, so that the Church can do the work God has given her to do. If the government does its job, Christians lead peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way, and this is pleasing to God our Savior, because He desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. There is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and His rebellious creation; between man and God is the one Man, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself as a ransom for all people. God’s work of saving goes hand-in-hand with His work of ruling in justice through the governments of this world. So we pray for them, especially if they are not doing what God commands. Because God put them there and He can remove them. So we pray and pray and pray.
Paul assigns prayer with holy hands to men, and adornment with good works to women, but those are in opposition to common temptations of anger and quarreling, and external adornment. Nevertheless, prayer and good works, in whatever vocation we have, are the tools of a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
Where do dissension and violence and fighting come from? They come from us, descended from Adam and Eve. They come because we follow our first parents and repeat their actions over and over and over again. So Paul is essentially saying, the peaceful and quiet life demands the discipline of our sinful flesh. The world and unbelievers will never discipline their sinful flesh; why would they? Our war is, first of all, inside us. We need that one mediator, the one ransom, not only for the whole world, but for you, for me. That’s why we’re here. If we were righteous and holy altogether, we would no longer need Jesus. But that one mediator is here. Here He cultivates new and abundant life. Here He prepares the ground, nourishes, and brings about growth in formerly wild and bad trees. And He gives you His Holy Spirit to battle your sinful flesh, to discipline your natural desires, and your natural feelings.
And that happens by means of a word we have learned to hate: submission. Our flesh says, we will not submit to anyone! We are autonomous individuals, a law unto ourselves! If that is so, we are not Christians and we do not have the Holy Spirit. We are following Adam and Eve straight into death. But you have the Holy Spirit, and your flesh is going to be daily put to death. So we do the opposite of Adam and Eve. Adam was formed first, which means God gave Him the word and command first. And then he gave it to Eve. But Eve did not listen to that word of God from Adam. Instead, she listened to the serpent, and she decided for herself. She saw the fruit was good for food and a delight to the eyes, and it was desired to make one wise. She decided, she took, she gave to her husband and he ate. Which means that Adam didn’t listen to the voice of God either. Instead, he listened to his wife and he ate the fruit.
So God comes to find Adam and says, What did you do? And he says, The woman You gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit and I ate it. God asks the Eve, What did you do? The serpent deceived me and I ate. So Paul quotes her own words: the woman was deceived. Neither of them listened to God; they listened to their own desires and their own words and the words of others. This is the discipline of our flesh: to submit to that word of God, only and forever. Why should the woman not teach the word in the congregation? It’s not because she is not able, or that she can’t do it well, or that she is inherently evil, or worse than a man. It is because she did not receive the word in the Garden; but she taught the word of the serpent to Adam. And the man must teach the word of God, both in the family and in the church, because he refused to do it in the Garden. Do the opposite of Adam and Eve, and submit to the Word of God, according to your vocation.
And both the man and the woman, the son and the daughter—they will be saved through the birth of the child, the descendant of Adam and Eve, the Son of God and the Son of Mary. He is the one mediator for every single person, in our customary temptations and our customary sins, to gather us out of our rebellion and independence, and to put to death our sinful flesh. And He alone cultivates His life among us, by His living word and living body and blood. And since He has already won the war against sin and death, then the Church can become again a refuge for sinners, a refuge for the weary soldiers of the culture wars, a refuge for the burdened, for those who are tired of pursuing their own desires and struggling for power. Here Christ is the savior of all, of you and of me. In Him we strive to lead peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way. Today He renews you in faith toward Him, and in love toward one another, in holiness and self-control. And we will continue in them until He finally leads us out of battle to the full peace of Christ, to the truly quiet life, undamaged by the world, the devil, and our own sinful flesh.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 9/16/22