+ Reformation Sunday
TEXT: Romans 3:19-28
DATE: October 26, 2014
St. Paulís Lutheran Church, Dallas
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† We talked about this
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† in our confirmation class recently:
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† how an infant is a perfect example of human sin.
Think of sin
not as evil actions or bad deeds or demented thoughts,
but think of sin as our natural desire
to want to be in control,
to want to be our own gods,
to want what is best for ourselves.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Infants donít care at all
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† how little sleep their parents have gotten
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† or that they have visitors
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† or that theyíd like to watch this movie,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† or about anything else concerning their parents
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† or anybody else.
An infant only knows and cares about itself Ė
whether it is hungry,
or has a gas bubble stuck in its belly,
or an uncomfortable wet or messy diaper,
or feels sick or lonely.
And it lets them know it.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† It is the natural inclination of us from birth
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† to want what is best for ourselves.
And that is the reason one of Godís words to his people
is the word that demands,
or as St. Paul and Lutherans put it,
the word of law.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Because while God loves you intimately and deeply,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† you are not the only person in this world.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† And† God loves those others, too.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† In fact, as one person has said,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† the entire world, with one trifling exception,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† is made up of others. (John Andrew Holmes, source unknown)
And God realizes that our natural, self-focused perspective
tends to prevent us from remembering that.
So God gives us the law Ė
makes demands of those of us
who would follow his ways
and live our lives according to his ways Ė
a law that is all about how we relate with others and with God.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† We can see what that way of life looks like,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† if you turn the ďshall notĒs of the Ten Commandments
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† into positive actions like ďshallĒs.
Then, we discover that
Godís way of life means
loving and obeying only the God who created us,
using the name of God for the purposes God gave it to us Ė
to pray, praise, and thank God, and to bear witness to God,
and to be intentional about setting aside a time to do that.
None of those are the kinds of things
that our natural, self-centered self likes.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Godís way of life goes on to demand
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† that we honor our elders and others in authority
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† as those who give and preserve our life,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† honor and preserve the life and livelihood of others,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† honor and protect human relationships,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† protect and respect other peopleís belongings,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† speak well about others,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† and defend our neighborís things and wellbeing
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† as if they were ours.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Our nature of selfishness
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† doesnít like any of those either.
So one of Godís words to us Ė
to our sinful, self-centered self Ė
is the demanding word. The law.
Godís expectations of us.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† At the same time, God speaks to us
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† the word of the gospel.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† The word of grace, mercy, forgiveness,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† restoration and reconciliation.
Itís the word that follows
the ďOopsĒ we say Ė aloud or to ourselves Ė
when we realize weíve messed up living
the way God demands us to behave.
And God says, yeah, you messed up.
But I love you. I forgive you.
Letís start again at the beginning.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Itís the word of life that comes after death,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† the word of mercy that follows failure,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† the word of grace that follows shame,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† the word of healing that follows injury,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† the word of salvation that follows condemnation.
God speaks that word to us all
in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus
and our baptism into his death.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† And that is the point St. Paul makes
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† in our reading from the Romans,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† and that is the eureka moment Luther found
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† to be freedom and life for himself
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† in his own understanding of Godís words to us.
There is nothing you can do Ė
not even keep those Ten Commandments perfectly Ė
there is nothing you can do to earn
Godís word of the gospel to you Ė
Godís word of grace and mercy and forgiveness and salvation.
It is Godís unmerited word to you. Period.
And God speaks that word to you
in faith in our Lord Jesus
and his death and resurrection. Period.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† That is Godís other word to us:
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† the word of the good news of the gospel,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† the word given in faith.
Law. And Gospel.
Demand. And grace.
Obedience. And faith.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† And yet, we canít separate these words
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† or imagine that Godís second word to us
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† somehow undoes that first word.
We are not saved by living according to Godís demands.
God saves us by his grace.
But Godís demands for our living
are still Godís expectations for us
as his beloved children.
Living in obedience to Godís law is still our goal
and Godís expectation.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† It just needs to be clear to us
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† that we live obeying those laws and Godís demands
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† not to get right with God
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† but because God has made us right with himself,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† and that is the way
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† that people who are right with God live.
It doesnít mean God doesnít have expectations of us
or we donít have obligations
as believers and members of his community.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† We do.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† People of faith live according to those ways
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† the Ten Commandments guide us to live.
And people of faith gather to worship,
read the Bible and learn all they can,
give their money for the church and others,
serve others with works of charity and gifts of resources,
love other by treating all people with respect and hospitality,
invite their neighbors to church and church activities,
and share the good news of their salvation in Christ with others.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Those are Godís demands and expectations of us
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† and the way we get to live
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† as believers and members of his community.
Think of it this way:
Many people do work
they endure, or muddle through
as an obligation to pay the bills.
But they do it, because they have to.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† On the other hand,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Iíve often said
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† that I am blessed enough
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† to get paid to do for my occupation
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† what I feel called to as my vocation.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† So while the work may be no less taxing,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† I get to do what Iím made to do
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† and there is a certain confidence and freedom in that.
The first example would be living under the law
as a fence that limits us
or an obligation that controls us.
Those who are like me, on the other hand,
get to live in the law and do what freedom sets us free to do.
That is how living Godís way and according to Godís demand and law looks
for us people set free and saved by faith in Jesus.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† We still need the law
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† to remind us of those things, of course,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† because that sinful nature of us
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† doesnít like any of it.
But we are called to live that God life,
not for our salvation,
but because we are thankful
that God has saved us.
Itís because this is the way Godís people get to live.
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