Sermon for the Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, AD 2020

Jeremiah 26:1-16

The gospel writers give almost no information about Sts. Simon and Jude besides Simon’s name and Jude’s brief mention in John. The extrabiblical traditions about these apostles are also rather mixed and confused, given the difference of names in the different gospels. Compound this with the fact that their feast day is three days before Reformation Day, and they really get no respect in Lutheran circles.
Wouldn’t we rather talk about the Reformation than Simon and Jude? What is there to talk about with these two? How do we commemorate men we know nothing about? As AC XXI says, our churches “teach that the memory of saints may be set before us, that we may follow their faith and good works, according to our calling, as the Emperor may follow the example of David in making war to drive away the Turk from his country. For both are kings.” So then, who follows the example of obscure apostles?

Obscure preachers like us. Preachers who won’t be a Martin Luther. Maybe you preach as well as Martin Luther, not to say anything personal, but you very likely will not be a world-changing figure like Martin Luther. Yet you are a preacher like Simon and Jude. Although unlike them you were not blessed to see Jesus’ earthly ministry, his passion, death, and burial, His ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit, as “those untimely born” we are those “blessed who do not see, and yet believe.” If we’re lucky, our names will be somewhere in a list at a church we served. And in a hundred years, people will only know our names. Just like Simon and Jude.

Where Simon and Jude were sent to preach, and whom they were sent to preach to, isn’t our concern. That was for them. Some traditions say they were martyred casting demons out of a Zoroastrian temple in Persia. What they were sent to preach we already know: The same thing we preach – repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. We know Jeremiah was sent to preach repentance and forgiveness as well.

Like Simon and Jude, Jeremiah was not to omit one word of the message he was to preach to the people. He was not to trim his message for fear of consequences from his hearers. He was to go to the place where the most people would hear and tell them to repent of their sin, and maybe God would relent from destroying their city and temple.

Jeremiah is a model in courage for we obscure preachers. He did not cut his message short to appear more winsome to his hearers. He did not avoid preaching to those who needed to hear it. He did not back down when confronted. As usual, the religious leadership, the priests and false prophets led the opposition to Jeremiah because he attacked their source of false assurance. God had given so many promises to Zion and the temple that there was no way in their minds He would let it be destroyed, no matter how they acted. They were God’s people, and this was the true place of worship – it was Jeremiah who was wrong! The Blessed Prophet Jeremiah did not back down. He doubled down on his message. Jeremiah did not care what happened to him, but he stressed that he spoke the words of God with the authority of God. Their quarrel was with God, not with him. If they chose to kill him, so be it, but that wasn’t going to help things with God.

Fortunately for Jeremiah, the laymen came in the nick of time to support him. Already condemned of blasphemy against the temple, he was saved by legal precedent.  Fortunately for us, that precedent would not later stop Christ from going to his death on the cross. Accused of blasphemy Himself, the chief priests and false prophets would destroy the temple of Jesus’ body. Yet Christ would raise that temple again in three days.

The message we preach is that there is no other temple than this in which one can be saved – not the bank, the capitol building, or any other place of self-made worship. We must break the idols of those we preach to, and many will find this very offensive. They did with Christ. If the traditions are true, they did so with Simon and Jude Thankfully we also preach to those like the laymen in Jeremiah’s day who recognize the words of God and the authority that comes with it.

Therefore, we can be obscure preachers, but courageous preachers – preaching the word of God without cutting out the offensive parts, never backing down, never resting on our own authority, but on the authority of the Word of God. Like Simon and Jude, maybe at best only our names will be known in a few decades, but God has called us where we are now because he needs us, in particular, as individuals, to preach His Gospel. We never know if we will be preserved like Jeremiah, or led to martyrdom like Simon and Jude, but abiding in Jesus Christ, we have already died and risen. Know that if the world hates you, it hated Christ first. A servant is not greater than his master. You have been called by name, and you name may not abide to fame in this world, but he fruit of your preaching will abide. For whatever you ask the Father in the name of Jesus will be given to you. Amen.
This sermon was preached for the matins service of Northern Illinois Confessional Lutherans on October 28, 2020.

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