Sunday, July 28, 2019

Sermon: Trinity 6 - 2019

28 July 2019

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

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

We Lutherans are people of Law and Gospel.  We recite the Law, that is, the Ten Commandments when we learn the catechism as children.  We learn the commandments by heart, as well as the explanation of each one.  And so, we give the Law its rightful due.

The name of our Churches in German is “Evangelical” – since we are the people of the Evangel, the Gospel, the good news.  Our Lutheran tradition  was born because we needed to remind the church and the world of what the cross means: free and full forgiveness of sins, salvation from death and hell, and eternal life to all who are baptized and who believe this good news.

Of course, we like the Gospel much better than the Law.  And in fact, there were, and are, some Lutherans who diminished the Law so much that they taught (and teach) a heresy called “Antinomianism”).  This was such a problem that part of our Book of Concord had to address the problem.  

But, dear friends, it shouldn’t be a problem among us.  For what good is a Gospel without a Law?  What is forgiveness unless there is sin.  The woman who anointed the feet of Jesus loved much because she was forgiven much.

And so as tempting as it is to ignore the Law and just focus on the Gospel, we don’t dare do this.  We need the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins, because we are “poor miserable sinners.”  And before there could be an Easter, there had to be a Good Friday.  Our Lord, the crucified one, our Lord and Master, is also our Rabbi, our teacher.  And He teaches us about the Law and its place in the lives of Christians in His Sermon on the Mount, a portion of which our Lord preached to us again today:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”  And don’t think for a moment that because Jesus fulfills them that we can remove, ignore, or relax even an iota or a dot from the Law.  In fact, what does our Lord say?  He says, “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.”  He goes on to warn us preachers against relaxing the law and teaching others to do the same.

Of course, pastors and celebrity preachers who diminish the Law become very popular.  They tell people what their itching ears want to hear.  They acquire for themselves followers who want the Gospel without the Law, and sometimes they amass great fortunes and teach others that they can do the same.

Meanwhile, dear friends, our society is collapsing.  Our civilization that once put Christ at the center now no longer believes in sin.  We Christians dare not follow their lead, because we know where it leads.

We live in an era of neo-Pharisaism.  The Pharisees were convinced of their righteousness, and made sure to virtue-signal to everyone around them.  Our secular Pharisees do the same today, virtue-signaling their political correctness and denying that anything is sinful.  In their religion, the only sin is calling sin a sin.  To them, it is a sin to confess and preach the Law.  But what are they left with, dear friends?  For if there is no Law, then there is no Gospel.  And all that is left is pretending to be righteous – no different than the Pharisees our Lord preaches against in His Sermon on the Mount.

“For I tell you,” says our blessed Lord, “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Our Lord tells us that it isn’t good enough not to murder anyone.  The Fifth Commandment goes much further: “Everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire.”

The righteousness required of us by God is more than we can possibly imagine keeping.  We cannot obey the Law on technicalities.  We are expected to be perfect, even as our Heavenly Father is perfect.  

And so, dear friends, this is why we need the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins.  We receive that forgiveness in Holy Baptism, and it is ongoing in Holy Absolution, in Holy Communion, and the preaching of the Word.  This is what the Divine Service is all about.  If you’re not a sinner, then you don’t need to come to church.  Stay home and write a book about how perfect you are, so much better than all of us “poor, miserable sinners.”

Meanwhile, those of us who need forgiveness will continue to meditate on the Ten Commandments, and we will continue to be brought to sorrow because we fail to “fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”  We misuse His name, we despise preaching and His Word, we despise and anger our parents and other authorities, we fail to help our neighbor in his body, we are lustful, dishonest, and covetous.  We are guilty, and we know that apart from reconciliation, we will be judged, placed under guard, and thrown into the prison of hell, and that we will remain there eternally because we cannot “pay the last penny.”

We need Christ to pay the last penny, to reconcile us with the Father, to forgive us our sins by His blood shed upon the cross delivered to us in Word and Sacrament.  Dear friends, that is why we are here.  That is why we continue to come back here.

As St. Paul reminds us again, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  We were buried therefore with Him 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.”

The apostle reminds us that being buried with Christ, we will rise with Him “in a resurrection like His.”  For “we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”

That is the Good News, dear friends!  That is why we are the true Evangelicals, the people of the Gospel!  We have forgiveness, life, and salvation by grace through faith – and we have this forgiveness won for us by our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ precisely because we have transgressed the Law.  We know the commandments, and we know that we have failed to keep them.  We know that we have aggressively and deliberately broken each one.  We are guilty and have no excuse.

We do not relax the law or pretend that we can ignore iotas and dots.  Rather we know the Law condemns us.  We have no place to flee – except to the cross and to the arms of our Savior, our Mighty Fortress within whose walls we are protected from the accusations and threats of the evil one.

And so we are indeed people of the Law – sinners who admit our guilt and who know that we are without excuse.  And we are also people of the Gospel, pleading the blood of Christ as our salvation.  For “we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die gain; death no longer has dominion over Him.  For the death He died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God.  So you must also consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

In Christ Jesus, dear friends.  Not in yourself, and not in a mangled Law with missing iotas and dots that are swept under the rug.  We are alive to God in Christ Jesus, in Him alone, in the One who visits us here and now to set us free from sin.  For He has come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets!  Thanks and praise be to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, now and even unto eternity!  Amen.

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

No comments: