Monday, July 16, 2012

Sermon for 7/15/12--Trinity 6

Shallow Righteousness 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

When you walked into church this morning, were you carrying a grudge? Did you bring with you some anger against someone that has hurt you? Did you come to the Lord's house this day seeking His forgiveness while having secretly tucked away anger toward someone in your life? What grudge against another person or disagreement is clinging to you as you come here today? What proof might be laid against you that you killed someone this week—if not with a gun or knife, then with your angry words and vicious looks?

The Lord has given us His holy Law, the Ten Commandments. They're summarized by saying "Love God and love your neighbor." The words of Jesus expose and lay bare our self righteousness. We who walk with our heads held high while casting a nasty glare at those we don't like—we are robbed of any excuses before God for our murderous behavior. Jesus illustrates this by showing us what the Fifth Commandment really means. The Lord tells His hearers: "Until heaven and earth pass away, not one little bit of the Law will pass away.  Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there's no way you're getting into the kingdom of heaven." The scribes and Pharisees have an outward self righteousness. Look at the example Jesus gives of the Fifth Commandment: “You shall not kill.” The religious and holy people of Jesus' day figured they kept that commandment as long as they didn't cause the physical death of their neighbors. If you don't take a life, then you haven't killed and thus have kept the Fifth Commandment. One down; only nine to go to be holy!

But Jesus won't stand for shallow righteousness. If you're going to keep the Fifth Commandment, then keep it all the way: have no hatred or anger and bear no grudges against your neighbor. You break the commandment when you are angry and hateful towards others. You murder when you speak words that pierce and wound. So look at your life again. Have you murdered your husband or wife this week? How about you kids? Have you murder your brothers or sisters this week? Parents, have you been killing your children? If that is the kind of righteousness without which we won’t get into heaven, we're all doomed. We're all murderers and deserve the death penalty ourselves—not just for now but for all eternity.

So what hope is there for murderers? There is only one hope: the One who comes to keep the Law and fulfill it. Jesus, the Son of God who came not only to keep the Fifth Commandment but the other nine as well; Jesus, whose perfect life is demonstrated in His perfect fear, love and trust of God the Father and His unwavering and pure love for His neighbor. He knows you cannot keep the Law. He gave these commandments to bury you under the judgment of sin. But then He came Himself to keep them in your place. And He even overcomes death by rising the third day.

What wonderful news! You are forgiven because Jesus died on the cross! Now you can treat each other like dirt; you can hate and despise and speak badly toward others and it's all forgiven. You can go on sinning, knowing that it's all been taken care of, right? Not so fast! St. Paul asked that question of the Romans: "Should we go on sinning so grace will abound? Certainly not!" Rather, Paul explains that by baptism into Jesus, you have died to sin. Because you are baptized into Christ, His death and His resurrection are your death and resurrection. Sin has no power over Jesus; and because you belong to Jesus, sin has no power over you.

My brothers and sisters, the salvation Jesus accomplishes for murderers is delivered to you at the font in Holy Baptism. It's also given in Absolution and the Supper. But in Baptism you are united to the death and resurrection of Jesus in such a way that His death is now yours. You are dead to sin because you have died in the water and the Word with Jesus. You have risen from the dead because at the font, Christ's Word and promises have given you new life. Sin simply has no power over you. It no longer owns you. It can't accuse you. It can't convict you. Jesus, who has lived perfectly and died under God's judgment has given Himself to you at the font and therefore you have been justified, redeemed, rescued from sin.

You know that you cannot perfectly keep the Law. You fail miserably! So confess it! Acknowledge it! Plead for God's mercy to such a murderer as you! And then get to the altar, where the verdict of "not guilty" is declared to you once again. Come to the Lord's house where you will hear over and over that your innocent Savior Jesus has taken your guilty place. Live daily in your Baptism which declares that you are dead to sin and alive with God. Rejoice that Jesus has kept the Law for you. Rejoice that His righteousness is far beyond that of the scribes and Pharisees. And rejoice that His death is yours, His life is yours, and His righteousness is yours in the waters of the font. Rejoice in that good news which for you. And now, when you leave church today, the forgiveness of Jesus means all that you'll leave with today is what you can carry in your hand.  In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

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