Saturday, July 6, 2013

Trinity 6 Sermon

Trinity 6 – July 7th, 2013 – Matthew 5 

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost +
          It seems that Jesus spends an awful lot of time teaching us how we are supposed to treat each other.  At times, I almost feel like a broken record up here – is Jesus teaching us about loving our neighbor again?  Yes.  And He does this for a very simple reason.  We tend to be bad at loving our neighbors.  That whole second table of the law can give us problems.  But Jesus teaches us today about what the law is, what it is for, and uses our neighbor as examples of how deep and full God’s law is.  So let us listen to the Word of the Lord this morning.

          For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Therefore, whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.  God has given us His Law.  There is right, and there is wrong.  Either something is allowed, or it isn’t allowed.  Either something is good, or it is bad.  That’s the way it is.  We live in a society that wants to make all sorts of exceptions, that wants to blur the lines between right and wrong, that says Morality is changing.  God’s Law, His decree of what is right and what is wrong doesn’t change – and this means when we say what is right and what is wrong, we need to check with God’s Word.  If God’s Word says something is wrong, we have to say it’s wrong.  God says no fornication, so pre-maritial sex is out.  God says no homosexuality, so we can’t say its right.  That’s the way it is, whether we like it or not.  We listen to God’s Word.  Also, we don’t condemn things that God doesn’t condemn.  No where does God say that drinking is a sin – so we don’t say drinking is a sin.  Now drunkenness, that’s wrong.  If you are uncomfortable drinking and it goes against your conscience, scripture says not to go against your conscience.  But is alcohol itself evil and wicked?  No – God never says that, so we can’t.  What this all boils down to is when we are discussing what is right or wrong, we don’t look to what we think or feel, we don’t look to what our friends and neighbors think or feel, we look to God’s Word and what He says, and we follow God’s Word.  This means our sinful flesh doesn’t like what it hears in God’s Word, and we will want to make excuses, to dance around the issue, to make up our own laws which we like, but we aren’t supposed to avoid the law – we are to keep it.
          In fact, hear what Jesus says.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  The law is to be kept.  Period.  Think of the nicest, best person you know, the best “Christian” that you’ve met.  You are supposed to be even better than them – you are supposed to be striving and working to be always better and better, to know God’s Word more, to follow His will more.  We are to be righteous.  Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.  That’s how we are to live.  And just because we are forgiven doesn’t mean we should shrug off sin.  What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means!  That’s Paul in Romans.  Your life as a Christian, the nuts and bolts of it, is a struggle to give heed to God’s Word and His law, to seek ever more to learn how to live it in your life.
          And we fail at that.  Our sinful nature ducks and dodges the law.  We try to get the bare minimum done, or else we ignore the law completely and just do what we want.  But no, we are supposed to fulfill the law, to actually do it, to fill it to the brim.  And Jesus gives us an example to explain this.  You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; and whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.  God’s law is deep.  There is depth there.  His Law isn’t a simple thing, easy to do.  So we have the 5th Commandment – Thou Shall Not Kill.  Simple, right?  I haven’t killed anyone, never put a knife in someone, so I’m scot free, right?  Not quite, says our Lord.  The Law says if you murder – you are liable to judgment.  Jesus says that this means even if you just are angry with your brother – you are liable to judgment.  That being angry with someone is tantamount to killing them in your heart.  When you are angry, you are guilty.  Period.  Likewise, when you insult someone, not only are you guilty, but you are “liable to the council.”  How guilty are you if you take that anger that is in your heart and express it by insulting, by speaking ill of someone – you are liable not just to judgment, not just to the local guys, but to the council, to the big wigs.  Insulting someone is a federal offense – it isn’t just the local cops coming for you, it’ the Feds, the FBI gets called in.  And then – whoever says, “You Fool” is liable to hell.  Now, the word here, you can translate it as fool – but it was basically a swear word in Jesus’ day.  So Jesus says if you’ve cussed someone out, it’s not just a guilty verdict and a little fine.  It’s hell.  The book is thrown at you.  Cussing someone out means you deserve the death penalty.  This is how serious God’s law is.  And this is how deep it is.  I doubt there’s many of us here who can say we’ve never sworn at someone – because yelling “you jerk” or “darn you” in anger is the same thing as cursing – it’s improper language in anger.  We fall short of the law, and often.  And we get this – go look at the Commandments in the Small Catechism – Luther gets this down pat.  The Law implies much about how we live, how we are to treat our neighbors, and we fall short.
          Jesus does something else to explain just how important this is.  So 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.  Which is more important to God – the cash you toss in the plate, or how you treat each other?  Which is more important to God – that you come here all dressed nice and put on the good face and smile, or that you actually love your neighbor and respect each other?  How you treat each other is how you treat God.  Whatsoever ye have done to the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.  I mean, these are the first things we learn – I know, because I remember them in the King James because I learned them before the ESV version came out.  This is the point that Jesus makes.  The Law about how we treat each other is vital – because when you sin against your brother, when you don’t love them like you ought, you fail to love God.

          And so we deserve hell.  Our righteousness by no means surpasses that of the Pharisees.  Plain and simple.  But hear what our Lord says.  Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or Prophets; I have come to fulfill them.  Jesus doesn’t come to us and say, “that’s alright right, just do what you want.”  Jesus isn’t some doe-eyed happy-clappy sap that tickles your ears.  He’s blunt.  I’m not doing away with the Law – there still is right and wrong.  But here’s what I am doing – I am fulfilling them.  This is what the Gospel is – that Christ Jesus has fulfilled the Law in our place, in our stead.  That Jesus Christ is righteous, and that He applies this righteousness to us, He covers us in His righteousness, He pours it on and over us, so that we are declared not guilty.  Or as our hymn just put it – “As by one man all mankind fell/ and, born in sin, was doomed to hell/ so by one Man, who took our place/ We all received the gift of grace.”  Christ is righteous, and on the Cross He takes your punishment.  We get the “taking our punishment thing.”  We get the whole paying off our debt idea.  Truly I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.  Jesus pays that off for us and we are sprung from hell.  That’s a common idea.  But Jesus points us to another aspect of His salvation here.  In His Word, in Baptism, He gives you His righteousness, He covers you with it.  Jesus says, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  This is completely true.  Your righteousness has to be better than that of the scribes and Pharisees, and that still holds to this day.  And your righteousness does exceed the scribes and the Pharisees, because Jesus has given you His righteousness.  That’s what happened at Baptism – you were covered with Christ – He brought you into the family, and all that is His is yours.  That’s what happens when the Gospel is preached to you, that’s what happens when you receive His Body and Blood in the Supper – He literally gives Himself to you.  That’s why we say that the Supper strengthens us in love towards God and towards our neighbor – because in it we receive Jesus’ own righteousness.
          That’s what the Gospel is.  The Gospel message isn’t that God doesn’t care about sin anymore.  The Gospel doesn’t mean you can go and do whatever you want.  This is the Gospel – that Christ has paid for your sin fully; that you are forgiven, and that in His Word and sacraments He gives you this forgiveness, and not just forgiveness, but He gives you His own righteousness and strength.  Your life is His life now, Christ Jesus lives in you and through you.  This is what we celebrate and rejoice.  Not just that Jesus has wiped my slate clean, but that Jesus comes to me over and over, gives Himself to me, all that His to me, so that I might be His own and live under Him in everlasting righteousness and holiness.

          Dear friends in Christ – behold what Jesus has done for you.  Whereas you are breakers of the law, whereas you lack righteousness, Jesus steps in and says, “Father, forgive them their sin.  I will take their punishment.  And not only that, I will give them my life, so that You might be pleased with them as You are with Me.”  This is what God does in His Word, this is the gift He gives us, this is what we sing and proclaim all our days.  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost + Amen.

1 comment:

Steve Martin said...

Nice job, Rev.!

I need to hear it, again and again and again.

And I never tire of hearing it. I pray that I never do, anyway.

Thank you.