Sunday, September 02, 2012

Sermon for 9/2/12--Trinity 13

“Do This and You Will Live”

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

‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” That is the summary of the Law of God. Love God; love your neighbor. “Do this and you will live.” There are lots of preachers out there who will tell you that if you have faith and if you try hard and if you learn the life-enrichinging principles they teach, that you'll be able to keep God's Law. We like to think it's just a matter of making good decisions so we'll be able to love God and love our neighbor.

But to see what the Law apart from Christ looks like, just look at the priest and the Levite. Seeing a guy half-dead in a ditch, they pass by on the other side of the road. When we take the Law—love God, love your neighbor—and we give it a go apart from Christ, this is where we end up. Like the young expert in the Law, we try to justify ourselves. We show God how good we are by doing the commandments. But when someone falls into a ditch by their sins, we don't pull them out. We pass by on the other side. Husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, dear Christians: do you think that you can despise each other and still claim to love God? Do you think that you can hold a grudge and be angry at someone and still say you love God? You can't love God. You can't love your neighbor. You can't get yourself out from under the judgment of the Law. When you think you are demonstrating love as you are commanded, Satan beats you up, robs you, and throws you in a ditch. The Law won't do you any good there.

But then, along comes the Samaritan. The Samaritan, despised by the Jews, sees the poor man in the ditch and saves him. Who is that Samaritan? Who could possibly live the Law like that? That's Jesus keeping the Law. He comes to rescue sinners who have been tossed aside by the Devil, robbed of righteousness and left for dead. Jesus comes to keep the Law to save us. He comes to love God and to love His neighbor.

How can that be? Look at what the Creed teaches us about Him. Jesus is true God, begotten of the Father, and He also true man, born of the Virgin Mary. That makes Him both God and neighbor. When the Father commands the Son to save sinners, Jesus does it. He goes to the cross for you. He hangs there for you. He dies there for you. Jesus is crucified, bearing the wages of sin, perfectly loving God in His obedience and perfectly loving His neighbor in His sacrifice. The Law is fulfilled. There, on that bloody cross, God and neighbor are loved perfectly by the Savior who is God and Man. He perfectly keeps the Law. He saves the man in the ditch. It is Jesus who loves God and loves His neighbor.

That perfect obedience, that salvation, that perfect love is given to you. It is given when Jesus, the Good Samaritan, pours His healing medicine on you in the waters of Holy Baptism. He carries you to the Inn, His holy church, where puts you under the care of His innkeeper, the pastor who Jesus sets apart to care for you until He comes again, leaving your pastor the Word and the Sacraments to provide for your health.

Have you loved God and your neighbor as you are commanded? Of course not. The Law shows us so. But Jesus kept the Law perfectly. He loves God the Father and He loves His neighbor. He has put His perfect obedience on you in Baptism and has fed you that obedience in His body and blood in His Holy Supper. Do you love God and your neighbor? In Christ, the answer is yes. Christ within you has kept that Law. This is what St. Paul means when He says that the Law kept us under sin until the time of the Promise. By itself, the Law condemns us. But in Christ, the Law is kept. Your sins are forgiven. That's the rescue the Good Samaritan has given you. To tell you, “Do this and you will live,” is now nothing more than to tell you that Christ lives in You for the benefit of your neighbor and the glory of God. 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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