Monday, September 23, 2013

Sermon for 9/22/13--Trinity 17




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

The Catechism students are learning this week about the Third Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” In the Old Testament, the Third Commandment had to do with honoring God for His work in creation by resting on the seventh day as He did. In Jesus’ day, it had become a day of obligations with weighty rules. There were things you absolutely could not do, like lighting fires, doing any kind of fighting, or even performing physical labor. You were allowed to take only 2,000 steps outside the city. By keeping these and other requirements, a Jew could prove his dedication to God.

Jesus was the fulfillment of the Sabbath. His rest in the tomb sanctified and fulfilled the Sabbath rest for His people. When Luther wrote his Small Catechism, this is how he described obedience to the Third Commandment: “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” The Sabbath is all about the Word of God: first about what God has done for His people both in creation and in redeeming His people through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus for us, and then in how we thank God for these wonderful gifts.

Let us be clear about something: the Law and the Commandments of God were not given so you have a way of proving to others how much religion you have. It was not given so that you could judge others who don't measure up as well as you. The Law was given to show you that you are doomed. The Law was given to show you that you need Jesus. Think about it. There's a guy with dropsy, which is edema or swelling. He’s a pretty sick guy. If we go by the letter of the Law, there's no help for this guy on the Sabbath. The Pharisees don't have to help him. God could rightly say, "Well, if you last until sundown, maybe then I’ll help you." But that's not what Jesus does. He rescues the man from the Law by healing him—right then and there…on the Sabbath even! What does that show us? What does this mean? It means that Jesus rescues us from the curse of the Law. By itself, the Law would kill us. So Jesus keeps and fulfills it to save you. He keeps every commandment for you and dies on the cross to pay the price for your failure to keep the Law. He says, "I don't care what day it is. If sinners need saving, then I'm going to save them. If that means 'breaking' the Law as man understands it, then so be it." Your Savior won't let anything stand in the way of His saving you!

So what does it all mean? It means you don't grab the highest place by telling God what you deserve. The Law isn't given for you to show off. Rather, the Law, in showing us our sin, throws us down to the low spot. And then it's Jesus who says to you in Baptism, in Absolution, by preaching and His Supper, "Come up to the high place." After all, wasn't it Jesus who held the top spot? Did He come down in the flesh to take the bottom spot on the cross? And then He rose again and was exalted to the highest place, this time taking you with Him. You have the best place now—but not because you earned it or took it. You have the best place because Jesus does, and He lifts you up to sit beside Him by His grace and mercy. So now, the Law isn't your way of making others think you're holy or trying to prove to God that you're holy. Now it's the way you learn to love and serve your neighbor. Christ has ascended to the highest heavens and brought you with Him. You don't have to get their by stomping down someone else. They are brought along too, healed and forgiven by Jesus. 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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