Saturday, October 10, 2015

Sermon for 10/4/15: Trinity XVIII

Forgot I hadn't posted this yet. Sorry for the delay.




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

People want to be religious because they think that, by figuring out some law and rules and commandments, they can live their lives the right way. People want a religion that spells out exactly how they should live. They want rules and guidelines so they know how to stay on God's good side. So Jesus boils it all down to two: Love God and love your neighbor. So how is that going? We like to say we love God, but there is usually a long list of people we can't stand. The thing is, you can't love God if you don't love your neighbor. That’s why the world can't stand religion: it's got too many rules we can't keep! We believe wrongly when we think that the Bible is about the Law and how we can live a good life. Now don't get me wrong: the Bible certainly gives us the Commandments, and the Commandments teach us how to live. But they don't give us the ability or the power to do keep them. When we break them, all they do is condemn us!

It’s important to understand our Lord’s words the right way. He says that everything in the Law and the Prophets hangs on these two commandments. When Jesus says "the Law and the Prophets," He means the Word of God, Holy Scripture. He means Himself. So when Jesus says that the Law and the Prophets—which mean Jesus—all hang on the commandments, He's talking about His own death on the cross. The Law itself says, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree." So Jesus does not mean that the Bible tells you how you can save yourself. He means that He Himself will hang on the judgment and curse of the Law against sin when He hangs on the cross. The cross is death. Death is the curse, the sting of the Law. Jesus receives that curse when He hangs on Calvary. This means the Bible and true religion are not about the Law teaching us how to live. They are all about Jesus living and dying for us upon the very Law that we could not keep! This is why He asks those Pharisees whose Son the Christ is. To save us, Jesus can't just be some guy. Only the Son of God, the one who is true God, begotten of the Father, and true man, born of the Virgin Mary, can save us from our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, since Jesus hung on the cross, since He hung upon the judgment and damnation of the Law, since He hung on the tree of death to give us life, do not hang your hopes on the Law! Don't try to think of a way to please God by how you live! Instead, hang your hopes upon Jesus! Hang your faith and trust upon Him. Jesus hung on the Law in your place. At the holy font, in the water and word of Holy Baptism, the Lord Himself hangs His name on you to mark you as His own, one who is redeemed by Christ. In the Absolution, our Lord hangs on you His Word that declares you are forgiven and your guilt has been pardoned. In the Sacrament, Christ Himself takes the same body that hung on the cross and the same blood that poured out on the cross and gives them to you as the sure and certain promise of forgiveness, life and salvation, upon which you can hang all your hope and faith.

The Law will sound good only as long as you can keep it. The moment you break God's commandments, the Law will leave you hanging. But Jesus was nailed to the tree to hang on the Law for you, and you are saved. No longer do you have to figure out which commandment is most important; no more trying to figure out how much good you have to do. You have Christ, the Son of God, who hung on the cross for you. Upon Him everything hangs. Upon Him everything depends. Your salvation hangs on Jesus, who sits at the Father's right hand, and who makes a place for you there with Him. 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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