Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany (2020)

It’s been quite the fad these last few years where people have safe spaces. Areas where you can’t criticize a person for their personal beliefs and opinions. Made popular on our countries so called places of higher education. Safe spaces. A place where you can be wrong with no consequences for your beliefs. A college student believes in abortion and you tell them a unborn child can feel pain and they say, “Be quiet you can’t speak in my safe space.” Someone believes marriage and divorce is of no consequence. Jesus says there are grave consequences.

Today God isn’t so concerned about political safe spaces, but to consider where do we try to find safe spaces with sin?

Today God invades your safe space. God encroaches upon your personal space. God breaks into your circle of trust. God knows your thoughts. He hears your heart and today Jesus says, It aint pretty.

You see it appears that many people in Jesus’ day thought that they could be angry with someone and not forgive them. As long as they didn’t physically harm the person they weren’t breaking the 5th commandment. Their mind was their safe space from God that they could harbor thoughts of anger and think, “Well I didn’t act on it so I’m safe from sin.”

Men thought they could gaze upon a woman with lust and as long as they didn’t touch they were safe from the sixth commandment. This goes for women too who would lust after a man.

All other religions would congratulate you on not acting. What self control. What chivalry! How well behaved. They wanted to commit adultery, but didn’t. Isn’t that a great accomplishment? Shouldn’t that account for something? Jesus says, “Pathetic.” “Lost” “Liable to the judgement of God and being sent to hell.”

For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

Luke 16:15

How’s that for a safe space? Christianity is all about finding a true safe space, not a safe space of pride or anger, but a safe space that rescues us not only from our outward sin, but also those sins we may think aren’t so bad. In Christ Jesus is our safe space, or rather forgiveness, complete forgiveness.

And so Jesus today is asking us to consider what we might consider our safe spaces. Do you talk about people when they aren’t around when you should speak highly of them? Commonly known as gossip. You might say, “I don’t say anyone’s name pastor…or I was just kidding.” Jesus says if you just think ill of your neighbor.

This even applies to social media. Do you lament people openly on Facebook or Twitter war?

Do you lust for that which God has not given you? You all have safe spaces. Places where you would claim no sins, no faults.

Look what Jesus says in verse 23, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. “

Jesus says don’t even try to offer God a sacrifice if you aren’t reconciled to your fellow man. God doesn’t just approve of a sacrifice just because you do it. God cares about your heart. “If someone has something against you”. Jesus here is destroying this notion that outward behavior is the only standard for sin. It goes much deeper. Sure you have friends in your circle of trust, your safe space, and every once in a while you have a little disagreement and make up. That’s easy. Jesus wants to set the stage though for you and God. What about your enemies? Do they have something against you?

Usually we might be tempted to think, “If they have a problem, they should come and talk to me.” Jesus says no. You must leave your safe space of thinking you’re innocent and be reconciled! You must abandon your safety net of thinking you have nothing to confess yourself. Isn’t it the case so often when someone sins against us we really notice it? However when we’re the ones who sin we like to trivialize it. “I’m not perfect but you did this…” Did you hear how Jesus described the wickedness of sin? Your neighbors sins don’t blot out yours. All sin is wicked and deserving of hell. The fact that we’re willing to trivialize our sins shows that there’s something terribly wrong with us.

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. Jesus says this twice! That’s how wicked sin is. And Jesus’ point is that you could cut out eyes, cut off your hands but really cutting off body parts won’t save you from hell. The old carpenter joke, cut it twice and it’s still too short. My grandfather always said that and I think I’ve finally found a theological point for that!

Cut it twice and it’s still too short. You cutting yourself will do nothing. You sacrificing your body will do nothing for your sins because God has something against you.

That’s the crux of the matter. Who of us could give a sacrifice? Jesus is pointing us to himself. For it is only he who was without sin. It is only Jesus who can say there is nothing against him. Jesus was perfect. Jesus didn’t need a safe space. He was willing to let God invade his heart. For God to measure his life.

This is why we come here to God’s house to first confess our sins. To leave our safe space. We say to God, “Forget our body parts oh God, we deserve to be wholly cut off from you. There is nothing in us that is good. We have sinned against you in thought word and deed.” Don’t play around with that confession my friends it’s serious business. Sure we sometimes might read through it without thinking but that’s not the problem of the liturgy. That’s you!

So drop your safe space. Stop claiming innocence. The devil is the accuser God is the judge. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

How is it that we could pay to God enough for our sins? What will you give to God? Jesus has paid the last penny on the cross. God sent his son not to condemn the world, but to save the world. Jesus intentionally gave up his innocence and took your guilt. The cross is the opposite of a safe space.

Jesus speaks so harshly today so that we would turn from sin. That we would be disgusted by sin, not so much everyone else’s but first our own. Jesus speaks so harshly about the depth of our sins so that we would know how complete his forgiveness is. Yes Jesus even forgives the wicked thoughts you have had. All of it wiped clean by his cross. He has purchased you from your sin, from the devil our accuser has been silenced. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

When Jesus baptized you he promised you a safe space in him. A place of freedom from worry. Freedom from sin. Yes we do have a safe space in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

God has invaded our safe space this last week with the death of our dear sister in Christ Charlene. Our safe space of maybe taking for granted our time with each other. Our safe space of thinking life will just go on as it is. Our sister Charlene is truly now safe. She is safe from sickness. Safe from even her own sin. She has run her race. We are still here, though the day you will see Christ is closer today than it was yesterday. Do not look for safe spaces in this life except where Christ’s forgiveness is found, his word and sacrament. Do not neglect to be reconciled with others. Paul warns against the safe places of the flesh, jealousy and strife. Let that not be the case for you.

Let God water you by his forgiveness that’s his safe space. Let him grow you, you are God’s field, God’s building. No matter where you are, even standing over your grave and death, wherever you are you are safe. No one can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Amen.