Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sermon: Trinity 6 – 2011

31 July 2011 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 5:17-26 (Ex 20:1-17, Rom 6:1-11)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

To the world, the Christian faith is absurd. To our reason, the Christian faith is impossible. To our sinful flesh, the Christian faith is offensive. But, dear friends, to “all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus,” this faith is a revelation from the very God who created us, who redeems us, and who has made us His holy people through water and the Word.

In faith, we hear the words of our Lord not with mockery, not with offense, but humbly and with joy.

For our Lord has words of life and salvation for us today, dear friends, words of renewal and reclamation, words of reconciliation and peace. Our blessed Lord was sent into the world not to abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them. And in so doing, our Lord brings healing and reconciliation – between men, and between man and God. He has come into our existence to redeem existence, to build up that which has been torn down, to bring to life that which is dead.

So, dear brothers and sisters, why should we cling to that which is dead in us? Why would we want to hold onto grudges and hatred? What could be so important to our angry, hateful, sinful, dying flesh as to begrudge our brethren to the point at which we should “leave our gift there before the altar and go”?

But “to whom shall we go?” we ask rhetorically with St. Peter.

For even when we are being wronged, when we are being lied about, when we are being slandered, or even (God forbid!) persecuted and tortured for the sake of our confession of Christ, what good comes from responding with hatred? We should pity those who oppress the church. Better yet, we should pray with the church for those who hate us, and to plead with the Lord “to forgive our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers, and to turn their hearts,” even as our dear Lord did on the cross. For has He not said, “Take up your cross and follow Me”?

For the cross is not merely a divine punishment for sin, it is also a divine reconciliation of the sinner – all of us “poor miserable sinners.” Through our Lord’s cross, the Law and the Prophets are fulfilled in our stead, the guilt of sin has been purged on our behalf, and the enmity we have by virtue of our sins with God and with men, has been eradicated in spite of our unworthiness – by His worthiness, by means of His grace, and by the power of His love.

The commandments have indeed not been abolished – “not an iota, not a dot,” but have rather been brought to completion by the One who suffered at our hands for our sakes.

We can love those who attack us because He loved those who attacked Him. We can continue to pray for peace because He has secured the peace. We can pray for those who hate us, because He prays for those who hate Him – even to the point of dying for them and continuing to call them to repentance.

This is why even in our litigious society, dear friends, we do seek reconciliation. We do strive to “come to terms quickly” with our accusers to avoid having to go to court – even when we are the innocent party. And then, dear brothers and sisters, if they will not listen to us, if they spurn our entreaties, if they refuse to repent – even then we are to pray fervently for them. This is what it means that our righteousness must exceed “that of the scribes and Pharisees.” It is not enough only to love those who love us – for even the heathen do that. It is not enough to follow the Law to the letter – for we lack the power and the righteousness to do so. But the good news is this: our Blessed Lord has followed the Law to the letter, and He gives us that righteousness – even the rightouesness that loves those who hate us – as a free and full gift.

So what do we have to complain about, dear friends? For “if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.” And just as “death no longer has dominion over Him,” neither do death and its allies: Satan and our sinful flesh, rule over us and drag us away from our salvation. This is indeed what it means that we the baptized are exhorted by the apostle to “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

It is this kind of life that transcends death itself. This is why Christian funerals often invoke St, Paul’s inspired exhortation: “For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His…. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again.”

Once again, dear friends, death has no dominion over our Lord, and death has no dominion over you. Death has no dominion over you! The Law and the Prophets are fulfilled in Christ. Your sins have been paid in full by Christ. Your lives are a ransom of Christ. Your very existence as a creature, as a forgiven sinner, as a saint made and kept by the Word is a testimony to Christ.

For it is Christ who fulfills the Law, Christ who fulfills the prophets, Christ who has expunged our sins, Christ who bids us to die and rise with Him, Christ who reconciles us to the Lord and to our fellow man, and Christ who grants us everlasting life.

Dear friends, hear the Word of our Lord Jesus Christ. And what’s more, do not resist as that divine Word has its way with you, saves you, and restores you. To resist God’s call to repent and to love your enemies is to resist life itself. To choose hatred and rage is to choose death. To refuse to reconcile with your brother is nothing other than spiritual suicide.

Our Lord does not call us to be this way, to be alive to sin and dead to God, but rather the very opposite: to be “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

That, dear friends, is what it means to be a Christian, a redeemed sinner, a recipient of the free gift of everlasting life.

So let the world scoff, let the devil attack, let your sinful flesh offer up feeble lies – only cling to Christ and His Word, His sacraments and His love, His life and His salvation, His gifts and His grace. For He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the One who has come to fulfill everything for you, now, and even unto eternity.


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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