February 19, 2017 — Epiphany 7
Sermon Text — Matthew 5:38-48
Sermon Audio —
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Living the Looney Life
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Matthew’s gospel account the 5th chapter.
Questing for Holiness and our Looney Tune
You have heard that it has been said. Many of you have watched it with your own eyes. Recorded long ago our sinful nature found animation on Saturday mornings. You have heard his name, Carnivorous vulgaris, that wiley creature of old. You know his tune, his constant pursuit of the elusive Acceleratii incredubis. Will all his might and all his resources the wiley one hunts his prey. He chases. He sets traps. He devises plans with His never ending gadgets and inventions. He was a prime member of Acme international before anyone ever heard of Amazon. And with all of his efforts and with all of his might and with all of his resources, what did Carnivorous vulgaris ever get for it? Nothing! He failed . . . everySaturday. He ran off a cliff, blew himself up, ran into the rocks, or the rocks fell on him. Yes, beloved, you know of whom I speak. His name is Wile E. Coyote and his prey is the road runner. And this Wile E. Coyote is the humorous, animated picture of your sinful pursuit to be holy on your own.
In many respects, This looney tune, is the story of your life. Always chasing, yet never attaining, always trying yet never succeeding, always making use of gidgets and gadgets, fads and fashions, methods of madness to make yourself holy, to be the saint you know you have to be to win salvation and never quite getting it. This is not just your story, or my story, this is the world’s looney tune. This is bad theology put into practice, the fruit of bad anthropology gone to its extreme. It is our never ending quest to be holy and like Wile E. Coyote we always seem to find ourselves running off the cliff or standing beneath a pile of rocks or running into some sort of wall we thought was the right way.
Returning to the Law
Jesus’ words this morning give us what we by nature think we need to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. He gives us the Law. Humanity loves the law. That’s why we love government. That’s why we’re so concerned about our government and our laws. Government is all about Law and we think the Law is the path to holiness, that gadget from God’s hardware store, that Acme instruction manual that will once and for all enable us to capture our prey. So we Jesus says, don’t resist an evil person, or turn the other cheek, and go the extra mile, and especially love your enemies, we hear a check list of things to do to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. Do this, do that, don’t do this, have the right attitude about that and you will make it, you’ll finally be good enough.
Like Wile E. Coyote we give it our best. And we think our best just might be good enough. But, we keep trying because we have doubts about our best. That’s just it isn’t it? No matter how passionate we are about chasing and catching that holy road runner, we never get. No matter how pious our lives, no matter how many times we turn the other cheek, or go the extra mile, or try to love our neighbor, at least the ones we like, we still fall short. We still want revenge and sometimes, we even post about it on Facebook. Husbands and wives complaining about each other to their friends and family. Kids protesting their parents or their teachers, or their boss. We can’t even be nice to our digital and virtual friends how can we truly love our neighbors? We can’t even love the mother or father of our children, you know, our ex – how can we love our enemies? Jesus words don’t make things easier they actually make things worse. Following God’s law does get you further along the path on your quest for holiness. Certainly not! In fact, the further you travel it, the rougher it gets. The more you do it, the more deadly it becomes. Try harder. Be more sincere. Do better are all catch phrases that could be posted on the snapshots of our lives. Truly we are Carnivorous vulgaris. We are vulgar meatatarians as we live out our days consuming our neighbors in the hopes of seizing equality with God.
You see beloved, Jesus doesn’t give us these words in our text because He thinks we can do it. Not at all. He gives us these words in our text because we think we can do it! And until that thought is crushed we will never be ready for salvation. Until we drive off the cliff, fall into the rocks, run into a wall, we will never stop trying to get it done ourselves, our way, by our works and our merits.
We need a reason to give up trying to fulfill the law.
We need to fail before we can be victors.
We need to turn around or we’ll be lost forever.
We need to fall off the metaphoric cliff and die before we can be raised again unto newness of life.
We need to stop striving and know that the Lord is God.
We need to let God be God which means to let Jesus be our Savior. If you want more law, Jesus will give it to you. But don’t be deceived, more law is not good news. More Law will not be any more successful for you in your spiritual life than Wile E. Coyote’s list of gidgest and gadgets was in capturing the Roadrunner. Don’t be a Looney tune. Give up your endless pursuit of holiness. Surrender. Repent. And believe the gospel.
He Became Sin
Giving up doesn’t mean you lose. Surrendering doesn’t mean you fail. Repenting doesn’t mean you go home empty handed. In fact, the opposite is the case. Because the Law, more or less of it, depending on where you are on the “I’ve gotta save myself path” is not meant to save you . . . but to kill you. And once the Law has killed all your hopes and dreams of being your own savior, then and only then are you ready for the gospel of Christ. Letting God be God means letting Christ Jesus do the saving, healing, binding up and setting free. You are sinner and cannot win your salvation. He is no sinner, but the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus wins for you. Jesus is circumcised for you. Jesus is baptized for you. Jesus does the law in all its fullness for you. His righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees for you. Jesus knew no sin, did no sin, yet became sin for you that you might become the righteousness of God. Though being in every respect God Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be seized, but He emptied Himself and took on the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men and being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on the cross. Letting God be God means letting Jesus do the saving.
For Jesus is God’s salvation in the flesh. Jesus is God’s Son sent to deliver you from sin, death, devil and hell. Jesus is God’s humiliation for your stubborn pride. Jesus is God’s answer to your quest for holiness. Jesus is God’s Way for you to get what you don’t deserve and to be spared of what you do deserve. For through the death of Jesus on the cross God is both just in punishing my sin and your sin, and the justifier of sinners by offering Him as the blood covering for my sins.
The wages of sin is death! That is true. And God takes no delight in the death of the wicked! That also is true. Therefore God put sin and death to death through the death of His own son so that you and I don’t have to die for our sins. The death He died He died once for all. The cross was the trap set not for the road runner but for the wiley ones who think they can save themselves.
No one gets past the cross. For unless you give up you cannot win. Unless you surrender you cannot succeed. Unless you die you cannot be resurrected. Unless you come to Jesus you cannot come to the Father. For no one gets to the Father unless He comes through the Son. No one gets past the cross of Christ. All will eventually bend the knee. For this Christ God raised from the dead on the third day and He has been highly exalted above all others, most especially above you and me. Therefore at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Dead in the Water
So where does that leave you and me this morning? Well, if Jesus’ words this morning do what they were given to do – that is put our Old Adam to death – that leaves us dead. The Law kills. The Spirit gives life. If we are be saved by grace through faith, then we cannot attempt to “do our part.” The law is given to kill, the “do our part” part of us so that the Spirit can give life. In other words, the Law blows up in our face, traps us in our own works, pulls the pavement out from under our feet, and piles the rocks upon our heads. The Law names us as Wile E. Coyotes so that we can be renamed as sons of the Father. The Law names us sinner. And that’s exactly what we need to be because Jesus saves sinners. The Law leaves us dead and that’s exactly where we need to be. For Jesus raises the dead. The Law brings us to nothing and leaves us no other options but Jesus who is to be our everything.
Thus we are brought to living water. For the Lord of all has His own tools to work His wonders. These are not from Acme international but from heaven above. The Spirit gives life and the Spirit gives life through water, words, bread and wine. The eyes are given no candy but the ears are blessed with heaven. For these give God’s Word and where God’s Word is given through these, God’s Son is given; His life, death, resurrection for the saving of bodies and souls, sinners like you and me. To sinners Jesus says be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. The baptized say “amen, this is most certainly true,” not because they’ve earned but because this is exactly what Jesus gives in water and word. His Word gives it because He has won it. His Word performs it because He has suffered it. His Word creates it in us, because all things were created by Him and apart from Him nothing was created that was created. What you have as His Christians you have as His gift, not because you earned it but because He loves you and gave Himself up for you.
Christ to the World
Beloved in the Lord, as salt and light, as His disciples, we are not given to work the law for our salvation. Jesus is not the president and C.E.O. of Acme international delivering new and exciting gadgets to further us along the path in our pursuit of holiness. Not at all. Doing the Law is not the way to righteousness. Being good doesn’t make one Holy. But . . . being holy because we share by grace in His holiness does work its wonders in us. Being righteous, because Christ has clothed us with His own righteousness, does move us to love our neighbors. Getting God’s Word, rightly distinguishing His Law and His Gospel, sets things straight, orthodox, everything in its good and proper order. Good trees bear good fruit. Christians do Christ-like things. Disciples do what their teacher taught them. Sons of the Father love those whom the Father loves. You and I cannot do this perfectly, nor can we do it without Christ. But in Christ, the Spirit of our God works these works in our lives. In Christ, empowered by the Gospel, the good news of the Love of God for us, we in turn can grow to love even our vilest enemies and therefore season our dull world, and enlighten the darkness around us, even if only for those who cross our path. Bearing such good fruit, doing good works, being salt and light, disciples of the one who loved us apart from any merit or worthiness in ourselves, we then are Christ to the world. And as Christ to the world we can say, there’s a better way, there’s a better life, Come and see. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!