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A Spirit of Righteousness
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Righteous scribes and Pharisees studied and immersed themselves in and lived according to the letter of the Law. That’s not evil in and of itself, for it shows great respect for our Lord and His Word. It shows a desire to live not as you prefer, but as the Lord requires. That’s the righteousness of the scribe and Pharisees—and we wish we could attain even that! But today our Lord tells you that, by His Spirit, you reach for a greater righteousness: a righteousness that desires not simply to learn the letters and words of God, but also to inquire after the Spirit. This is a righteousness that does what is right not only because God said so, but also because it is the way of Life, because there’s no other way for Christians to live. This is a righteousness that lives not from the fear of missing the goal, but from a Spirit-given love for God and a desire to live like His redeemed children. This righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees because it lives not just by the words of God, but in Christ Jesus, who is the Word of God in the flesh, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
Our holy Lord gives you a glimpse of the Way that He is when He describes some of the commandments. He says, “You have heard that is was said to those of old…” But our Lord is not denigrating or setting aside or negating or abolishing what was said. Instead, Our Lord wishes you to look through the letters to hear the Spirit. And in each instance, the Spirit shows you that the Way of the Lord ought to be your way—not just then, when you reach the goal, but now as you strive and struggle—for the Way of the Lord is not just the way to the kingdom, but also the way our Lord desires to live in you and through you, now and forever.
So what stands in your way? What blocks your path? What gets you off track so that you turn away from Christ and choose your own path? You are turned from the narrow way by love of self; love of getting even; love of having your rights met; love of revenge; love of holding grudges; love of hiding; love of material pleasures; love of being in control; and ultimately, love of what you deem worthy of your love and attention.
Yet by His Spirit, our Lord keeps calling you away from your self-chosen loves, calling you to Himself, the beloved Son of the Father. By His Spirit, our Lord persists in calling you away from your love of holding something over someone, and to the love of growing and maturing in intimate union with Him and with all men. By His Spirit, our Lord determinedly calls you away from your false loves which drive you into the darkness. And by His Spirit, our Lord gives you the courage to embrace Him as your true Love, to live only for Him.
So this is the righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees? It is not resisting, but submitting in trust and confidence to the Lord Jesus whose love for you knows no limits, whose love for you transforms and transfigures your whole way of life, whose love for you brings you the superabundant mercy of God, whose love for you allows you to bury your meanness and pettiness, and whose love for you teaches you to fear nothing except the fear of losing Him.
Such love has been poured into you by the Holy Spirit. He has, in a wondrous and miraculous mystery, bound you to our Lord Jesus. And just as wondrously, He has bound you to each other and to all Christians living and departed. By this Holy Spirit you have the Righteous One as your righteousness. And by the Spirit you get to live as one who is loved by God and to live as one who shares the love of God. May that Spirit strengthen, feed, and grow this love of exceeding righteousness within 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.