Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sermon for 5/12/15--Trinity VI



The Law Always Accuses

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

The Law of God is impossible for fallen men. That is why we hate it and try to weasel out of it. We make excuses. We try to minimize our sinful choices by calling them “the lesser evil” or “extenuating circumstances.” We vainly imagine that we could create something more reasonable. But to hate God’s Law is to hate God’s Word. What the Law demands is not merely an outward obedience, but a perfect obedience, inside and out, pure heart, mind, and body. We have acted like spoiled teen-agers demanding the keys the family station wagon and at the same time griping that the car isn’t cool enough. All the while, we are white-washed tombs, clean on the outside, but decaying on the inside. Our hearts are turned inward. They are suffocating from the self-destroying thoughts and desires that plague us, even as we race around trying to keep up appearances.

Measured from the outside, the scribes and the Pharisees were better than us. They dedicated their lives to the study of God’s Word. They spent hours in disciplined prayer. They made sacrifices. They weren’t divorced. They weren’t obsessed about their appearance. Jesus says of them, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Which of you will cast the first stone at them? Who is going to say that his righteousness exceeds theirs? We have broken God’s commandments. We are no better than other people. We deserve to die. We deserve to be thrown into the fires of Hell.

But there is One whose righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, One born apart from the passions of man, One born of a virgin, One born in the line of David. God is His Father. He is the fulfillment of the promise to Eve in the garden; holy for the unholy. He was pure, without malice, greed, or lust. The world counted Him as stricken, smitten, and afflicted—cursed by God. But still, He loved the world that hated Him and laid down His life for it. He was above the Law. But He kept it anyway. He knew no sin, but allowed the Law to punish Him for all the sins you ever have, or ever will, commit. He laid down His life, specifically, precisely, deliberately, and particularly, to pick up yours, to spare you Hell’s tortures. He stood in your place. The last penny has been paid. Justice has no more demands. There is no one to accuse you. The Law is satisfied and you go free. For the righteousness of the truly Righteous One has been transferred to you in the waters of Baptism. It is yours. It far exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. It is perfect. It is without blame. It is free.

The Law has been satisfied, fulfilled, and completed—all for you. But it has not been abolished. It is still how God desires us to live and describes the best way to live. When we break it, there are consequences. People get hurt. Our lives are made more complicated. Sin is dangerous and deadly. But that being said, it is just sin. And we sinners who have been born from above by water and the Spirit are not slaves to sin. Christ, our Lord, died to sin and has been raised again. And we have been joined to that death, buried in the waters of Holy Baptism with Him, and raised up again to life with Him. We live daily in the forgiveness of sins, in the daily rhythm of confession and absolution, contrition and confidence, hearing God’s Word and eating His Supper: not above the Law, but freed from it’s condemnation, full of the hope of the glory to come, and eager for the Day of His return.

The Law still stands, for heaven and earth have not yet passed away. On this side of glory, it will always accuse and convict us. There is only one solution, one escape, one righteousness that is enough: the blood of the Lamb. Hell’s demands have been met in Christ’s flesh. Jesus lives, and the Law now finds no fault in you. You are covered. The angel of death passes over. The Law is fulfilled. The gift  of that flesh and blood from the Altar is freely bestowed upon you, for Christ has answered the Judge and reconciled you to Himself. There is no one to accuse 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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