Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 6 – 2017

23 July 2017

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

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

The Ten Commandments. 

Just recently, a display of the Ten Commandments was run over by an angry Atheist.  The Ten Commandments are depicted in the halls of Congress.  The Ten Commandments was the title of a hugely influential movie back in the days of the Hollywood Biblical epic.  And the Ten Commandments are one of the Six Chief Parts of the Christian faith that Luther insisted every Christian know as part of the Catechism.

Today, the Ten Commandments remain a subject of great debate, from whether they should be displayed on public property, to how they are properly numbered, and even today as a dispute among Lutherans who argue about the value of the Ten Commandments as a guide for holy living.

We Lutherans say that in the life of the Christian, there are three uses of the Law: First, the Curb, which describes the law as a civil code to keep social order, second, the Mirror by which we examine ourselves to see our sins and as well as our need for a Savior, and third as a Guide, by which we Christians are taught how to live a Christian life.

I do believe these are all correct ways of looking at the Law, but in the case of the Ten Commandments, I think there is still another way to understand  them: as a prophecy.  And I think that this understanding of our fulfilling the Law perfectly after the resurrection can be seen as the completion of the Third Use of the Law.

In other words, we know that we are not to have other gods.  We know that this is a sin.  We know that we are guilty of this sin and need a Savior to rescue us.  And we know that to lead a God-pleasing life, we must struggle to avoid this sin.  But think about the good news that St. Paul has preached anew to us in the epistle: “We were buried therefore with Him (Christ) by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” and that “we would no longer be enslaved to sin…. So you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

In baptism, our Old Adam is drowned.  We rise again to “newness of life.”  And in our own resurrection, we truly will not have other gods, nor misuse His name, nor defile preaching and His Word, nor rebel against authority, nor kill, nor misuse sexuality, nor steal, nor lie, nor covet that which was not given us.

For as St. Paul says, “We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing.”

Dear friends, after the resurrection, with the coming of a new heaven and earth, after we have been raised again incorruptible, when our course in this fallen and corrupted world is over and we have been restored to incorruptibility, we will live once more in a world where everyone keeps all the commandments.

Can you even imagine it?

The Book of Revelation tries to put the unspeakable into human words.  It is like the Garden of Eden all over again, only without the Fall.

I believe that this is the true message of the Ten Commandments, or maybe more accurately, the completed message – and it is Jesus who completes it.  

Yes, it is true that the civil law is still necessary in our fallen world to keep order.  And yes it is also true that we poor miserable sinners still need to be reminded of our sorry state, our need to repent and to be driven to the cross, to the blood of the Lamb, so that we can be rescued.  And yes it is true that we also still need to be guided to live the life the Lord has called us to live, even as we struggle against sin, death, and the devil in this world of darkness.  

But let us not forget our ultimate destination: being restored to our original glory, not as spirits floating around the sky, but as resurrected human beings, created in God’s image, designed to experience life through the senses in a physical existence in a physical world – one that will not wear out or run down, one that will never end!

Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

“To fulfill them,” dear brothers and sisters.  Yes indeed, we need civil law to keep social peace, and we need to be called to repent and look to our Savior, and indeed we need to be guided along our journey in this fallen and dangerous world.  But let us not forget that Jesus has fulfilled the Law – not only for us (not so we can ignore the Law and live any way we want “that grace may abound…. by no means!”), but He fulfills the Law for us and with us, redeeming us, and leading us to overcome sin and death, so that we will indeed live perfect lives for eternity.

Our Lord warns us not to be like the Pharisees, who “will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  For our righteousness must exceed “that of the scribes and Pharisees.”  Our righteousness must be true, not merely a hypocritical show.  It must be real and genuine, in thought, word, and deed, in the heart, and expressed in good works.  And yet, we know that of our sinful selves, we cannot keep even one of the commandments, nor can we grow into mastery of them by trying harder. 

And yet, in Christ, we can “walk in newness of life” and we can “be perfect” as we have been commanded.  We can and we will be perfect, not only because Jesus is perfect, but also because He is merciful and He gives us His righteousness as a free gift, because He loves us, and we receive this gift by grace – even if we were baptized as infants, incapable of anything other than to receive that which is given to us in love.

And so, dear friends, the only way that our righteousness can exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees is if our righteousness is Christ’s righteousness.  And that is precisely what we celebrate this day, knowing that in baptism, we are given this gift, and in hearing His Word and receiving His body and blood, Christ’s righteousness becomes our righteousness – and that righteousness transcends space and time and even the grave, even unto eternity, when our Lord fulfills the Law and the Prophets in us, in our deathless bodies and sinless souls.

Yes, indeed, the Ten Commandments are a crucial part of God’s Word, for they are also God’s promise in Christ Jesus – by whose blood we have been redeemed, and by whose Word we shall arise to eternal life.  Thanks be to Him 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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