Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sermon for 2/16/14--Septuagesima



A Better Way

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

There is a better way to live. We can be happy for our friends and our neighbors. We can rejoice in their prosperity. We can seek to serve them, to honor them. We can help them to protect and improve their property and income instead of trying to get it for ourselves. We can encourage their spouses, employees, and children to do their duty. We can refuse to think or say evil of them, refuse to tolerate gossip. We can put the best construction on all they say and do. We can treat them the way we want to be treated. The only thing that stops us sin.

Why should we be jealous of one another? Why should we begrudge a rich man? After all, his wealth does not take away from us. His work has probably helped us and our economy. How sad it is when we will not take a man at his word beyond what we ourselves can endure. We are jealous of God-given abilities, but we don’t know the weakness or crosses that are paired with them. What’s more, we aren’t prepared to do the hard work it takes to hone our own gifts. It is foolish to assume that anyone is really any happier than you. All men suffer in this life. You never know what someone is going through—at work, at home, or even in his head.

Repent. There is a better way to live. It is in accordance with the Law. It would bring great blessings upon our nation and society, churches, schools, and families. Our lives would be far happier. The only thing that stops us is sin. Sin is no small thing. But it is already defeated. It stopped us, but it did not stop God.

The fallen heart of man cries out: “unfair.” But that won’t stop God either. He is like the foolish owner of a vineyard who overpays. He is good and generous. He does not reward according to works. Even though Jesus was perfect in every way and was worthy of all good, the Father forsook Him on the cross. He left Him to die for sins He did not commit. It was not fair. It was grace. And by that awful sacrifice, He overpays in mercy to sinners. He is forgiving and loving for the sake of His Son. By the blood and death of Jesus He gives you a wage of eternal life. He treated His Son as though He were you: guilty of selfishness, guilty of a lack of self-control, guilty of overeating, of negligence, vanity, jealousy, and pettiness.  He treated His Son like He was you so that He might treat you as His Son and reward you for His work; that He might Name you as His own; that He might love you forever.

God is generous. He loves you. He does not judge you except as His own perfect beloved and well-pleasing Son. He has provided more than the bare necessities of life. He is good. Rest in His grace. For your own good, at times you may be asked to bear some of the heat or the burden of the day, but that is because He would not have you standing idly by in the devil’s marketplace, subject to the temptations that destroy men. He would keep you close to Himself. He would have you know that He is your comfort and relief, your only Help and Shield, your only Hope. Who knows what good will come of your suffering? The world may see your faith in the midst of trial and learn that forgiveness is stronger than despair and death. You may never know. But in the end, the reward promised in the Christ will be yours.

The Law shows us a better way to live. But there is an even better way to live than the Law. It is a life lived in grace, basking in forgiveness, resting in the peace that passes all understanding, dependent upon God’s goodness and mercy for all things. It is the way into which you have been Baptized, the way which is fed by the Holy Word and the Lord’s Supper. There is nothing, not even sin, to stop you. 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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