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Not So Easy, Or Is It? - By Pastor Thomas Engel

Life has many things that are, on one hand, easy, but, on another hand, they are not so easy.

Here are a few examples to consider:

Thinking about kicking a waste-of-time habit like watching reality television is easy, but doing the kicking of it is not so easy.

Who’s hooked on 90 Day Finance with it’s ups and downs of romance and love? If you are, please talk to me after church. I’ve missed a few episoides.

Talking about starting a new habit like a plant-based meal plan is easy, but eating those tofu burgers is not so easy.

Promising to do something is easy like helping a friend to move bright and early on Saturday morning, but the follow-through on that Saturday morning is not so easy.

Planning a tight budget is easy, keeping that budget is not so easy, especially with online shopping-one click and it’s on its way.

Talking about doing things to save the planet is easy, but taking a bath with a bucket of cold water is not so easy.

Judging someone is easy like saying, “What is easy for me should be easy for you,” but seeing from the perspective of another person is not so easy.

To make rules for someone else is easy, but applying those rules to yourself is not so easy-it’s a “for thee, but not for me” kind of thing.

It’s here on Sunday mornings that we do a lot of talking about faith, discipleship, and the Christian life. We talk about trusting our Lord and living out what we believe.

All of that’s easy, but as we go out in life with all that it can dish out to us, living that life of faith is not so easy.

Preaching is easy, but practicing what we preach is not so easy.

Well, I’m going to try to argue is that talking about what we consider not to be easy can be easy for us.

Let’s start with a quick retelling of the Old Testament reading for today.

We have to go back to the events before the reading. That event is one that we learned in Sunday School.

To prove that people were worshiping false gods, Elijah challenges them by asking the prophets of Baal to call upon their gods to start a fire.

With given enough time, those gods can’t start a fire.

When it’s Elijah’s turn to start a fire, he calls upon God, and the Lord sends down fire, and the barbecue begins.

At the beginning of today’s reading, we hear that Elijah killed those false prophets of Baal.

King Ahab tells his wife, Queen Jezebel, about what Elijah had done. Queen Jezebel is a person of action and orders Elijah to be killed.

It seems that Queen Jezebel was a very competitive person and did not like that her gods lost the fire contest. As a sore loser, it put her over the edge to hear her team of false prophets had lost, and, then, all were killed.

Elijah hears the news about the orders that he was to be killed, so he runs.

It’s here in the story that we need to ask a question.

If Elijah knew the power of God to the extent the the Lord can send down fire from heaven, why did he not believe that the Lord could save him from Queen Jezebel?

Isn’t that just it? Some situations we can handle, and when it comes to others, we can’t.

Elijah knew that he knew that he was going to suffer persecution. Thinking that someone who has the intent and the means to put you to death is enough to make most people want to run.

We have to put persecution on the top of the list of suffering.

I don’t think persecution is even easy to talk about. It’s definitely not something easy to go through.

As Americans, we “probably” won’t ever suffer because of our faith.

I say “probably” because we never know the future, but we are free to worship as we please with the windows wide open for anyone to hear.

This sermon could be about persecution and how we are not to run away from it like Elijah did.

I don’t think Elijah had the strategy to run now so to fight on another day. He was running out of fear.

Again, if Elijah saw fire from heaven come down, why did he not know that God would stay with him while going through persecution?

What can we, who are as free as can be as Americans, get from Elijah’s story?

I could go on about how we are not to run from persecution, but as we know that persecution won’t likely ever happen, that would not be a good use of time.

We can talk about how there are Christians in the different parts of the world that are suffering today.

And, yes, we should support those fellow Christians who are persecuted by our prayers and help.

An organization that tracks Christian persecution around the world has this on their site:

The numbers of God’s people who are suffering should mean the Church is dying—that Christians are keeping quiet, losing their faith, and turning away from one another,” he stated. “But that’s not what’s happening. Instead, in living color, we see the words of God recorded in the prophet Isaiah: ‘I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert’” (Isa. 43:19, ESV).

In the data, we see that persecution is increasing. Of course, this is bad news, but it also shows that Christians are standing their ground, or to say, are still standing up for Jesus.

The word “persecution” is a strong word and gives the impression of suffering the likes of torture.

It’s well worth our time to consider those Christians who undergo horrific suffering for their faiths in the world today.

Although we do not suffer like that here in America, we do have to consider that the church here is not doing well.

Our hardship is far from horrific, but we have our troubles of another kind.

Many Americans suffer from the contentment of leading superficial lives.

Or as I read in a theological journal, the author of the article said Americans are “living lives of disillusionment” meaning that an increasing number of people tend to comfort themselves with the likes of binge watching of movies and sports, eating junk food, and self-medicating with alcohol and drugs.

A decreasing number of people are not going to God for their comfort. They are not running from God like Elijah, but they are languid to what is most important to their lives-faith.

Most people will say that they have faith worked out in their own minds. And, that’s just the problem.

Faith can only come from God, and when people make faith out for themselves, they are not far from acting like Queen Jezebel and her prophets worshipping false gods.

Persecution of the Christian faith is subtle here in America, but it’s becoming more pronounced as Christian values are wrongly judged as oppressive.

Christian values are severely questioned, whereas other values go by with a free pass.

What could be worse is that many Christians are not standing up for what they believe, but they cave-in to the other values.

It could be said that with the decline of worship attendance that many Christians are taking their faith and freedom to worship for granted by not attending church.

It probably won’t happen, but, to say one more time, a time may come that we may have to hide and not be able to worship with our windows open.

Scripture has many instances of people of strong faith who had times of weaknesses.

And it’s hear that we can apply the Old Testament reading to ourselves.

We have already talked Elijah who ran from threats of persecution.

There are others who are runners, hiders, and deniers.

After Adam and Eve sinned, they tried to hide from God in the garden. We can talk about David who hid his sin of adultery and murder. Then, we can talk about Peter who denied knowing his friend and Lord. In the same way, we can talk about all the disciples who hid out in the fear of the Jews after Jesus’ death.

Talking about having Jesus in every part of our lives is easy, but keeping him in every part of our lives is not so easy.

The Epistle reading from Ephesians shows the qualities that Christians are to have.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Reading what we are to do is easy, but doing those things is not so easy in our lives that can be complicated with a lot of messy things.

Do you really mean that I have to find a way to get along with my co-worker who keeps getting on my nerves?

Do you really mean that I have to forgive my sibling who hurt me with some awlful words?

Let’s go back to our examples of people in Scripture and how God handled their situations.

Adam and Eve did meet the consequences for their sin, but God also promised them a Savior. God had an angel come to Elijah, and this angel gave him what he needed to continue to be a prophet.

With David, God sent Nathan who showed David his sin, and David went on to write Psalm 51 that shows his confession of sin and his asking for forgiveness.

Jesus restored Peter and all of the disciples as the ones who would go out into the world to share the Gospel, even when they faced persecution.

Talking about sharing the Gospel is easy, but the actually sharing of the Gospel in a hostile world is not so easy.

Maybe because we know of the indifference of people that we talked about earlier, we know people don’t want to be bothered by anything else than they already know for themselves, and maybe we think they will get angry with us, so we don’t bother to share our faiths.

We know they like their self-made comfort zones and don’t want to get out of them, and we have to admit the same about ourselves.

In coming here this morning to church, you got out of whatever zone you were in to come to worship to hear God’s Word and to participate in the Sacrament.

But, before you tap yourself on the shoulder for getting here this morning, let’s remember God came to Adam and Eve, Elijah, David, Peter, and the disciples.

God came to you this morning, and maybe He needed to send the Holy Spirit with a tow truck to get you out of bed, but He got you here for what you need most, His Word and Sacrament.

Not to minimize how hard life can be, but it can be easy when we know how God is working in our lives.

St. Paul thought he could do better work if God removed a physical disability that he had, but God said, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

For Elijah’s long journey, the angel gave bread and water that would last for the trip.

Jesus says that all we need to do is to seek God’s kingdom and all else shall be given to us.

Also, Jesus talks about all that we do is a heavy burden like an ox with its yoke, but with Jesus in our hearts, minds, and lives, Jesus also says carrying that yoke is light and easy.

In our confession this morning, we gave Jesus our heaviest load, all of our sins. We know that they are forgiven by Jesus’ work on the cross and his rising on the third day. Loving one another in this contentious world is not easy, but, by living in faith, it’s easy.

Having hope in a world of despair is not easy, but, by living in faith, it’s easy.

We hope we will always be free as we are here in America, and for those who are not free in places in the world, we should often think of them and pray for them.

Scripture says that if one suffers, we all suffer.

For all people who are carrying heavy loads, we pray for them that they can live by faith and find comfort and care.

We pray that every person, including ourselves, can take what is not so easy to be easy in Christ Jesus.

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