Sermons

Summary: Year C First Sunday of Lent March 4, 2001

Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church

Web page http://lordofthelake.org

By The Rev. Jerry Morrissey, Esq., Pastor

E-mail pastor@southshore.com

Heavenly Father empower each of us here at Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church to know our identity as your children through our baptism. Amen.

Romans 10: 8-13

Title: Grace

In chapter nine Paul reflects on what went wrong with his own people, the Jews. He concludes that they tried to do it, righteousness, a right relationship with God, their own way and on their own terms. They put God’s revelation, what they called the “Law” second and their own power first, a fatal mistake. In trying to avoid sin by their own power they committed a greater sin, the basic one, the sin of Adam, idolatry. They ultimately worshipped themselves in the form of their own will power. Paul knows that this is a misinterpretation of revelation not restricted to the Jews. All are vulnerable. All the more reason to get things right. Simply put, we cannot get it right with God unless we get Christ right, unless we go to God, relate to him and others through Christ and his power. The Law came to represent something it was never intended by God to represent. The Law, God’s revelation of himself, was meant to be a challenge, yes. But not a challenge a human being could meet without grace. Overcoming all other temptations begins with recognizing that one cannot do so alone. Humans need a savior, one more powerful than themselves. Recognizing that is not merely an intellectual exercise, it is a full time commitment to that savior, a dependence upon him for, in, and above all, all things, all people, one’s life.

In verse eight, “the word is near you”: In Deut 30: 11-13, Moses is quoted as saying of the old Law that it is “not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky…Nor is it across the sea.” Paul is quoting verse fourteen, here to make the same point. The word is near, accessible to all open to it. It is only “difficult” and “distant” if faith is lacking. Without faith, the Law, the Word, the will of God, God himself remains inaccessible. Faith is the key to the door, the path to the goal, the light in the darkness.

That is, the word of faith that we preach: Though Paul understands “word” to have several other levels of meaning, here he restricts it to “faith.” But not any faith, the faith as preached through Paul but by Christ himself, the faith, he says in several other places, which he himself received.

In verse nine, “if you confess with your mouth”: Paul is commenting and expanding on the quote from Deut 30:14. He clearly means something deeper than just mouthing the right words, namely that “Jesus is Lord.” One, of course, must mean them and that is demonstrated by living out what they mean. Faith allows and enables this to happen.

Jesus is Lord: This is probably the oldest creedal formula and the shortest of Christian faith. “Lord” was a term for God. It is now applied to Jesus.

“And believe in your heart”: The heart was considered to be the seat and center of the intellect, emotions and will. In other words, “with all your being,” totally, really and truly.

“That God raised Jesus from the dead”: It is all God’s initiative and doing. Faith does not bring these transcendent events about, that is, the incarnation, the resurrection. God does. Faith does not cause them. God does. Faith accepts them- as saving events.

In verse ten, “justified…saved”: Paul repeats his point for emphasis. To be justified, in a right relationship with God by being declared by God as “not guilty” and to be saved, given the very life of God, amount to the same reality. It presumes and depends on faith.

In verse eleven, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”: Paul quotes Is 28:16. “To be put to shame” means “disappointed,” “shaken,” “proven guilty.” It was pretty risky business for a Jew to convert to Christianity. At a minimum he or she would be disowned by family and publicly ostracized, that is, put to shame. Over time, Gentiles would have it no easier. Yet, Paul assures them that where and before whom it counts, there would be removal of shame. This is the shame that comes from guilt, not the “shame” that comes from rejection.

In verse twelve, “no distinction between Jew and Greek”: Paul does not mean that both will equally suffer rejection from their peers, family and nations, though they will. Rather, he means that the “word of faith” is accessible to all, regardless of birth, status, position, etc. Christ is an “equal opportunity” savior. Open to all, salvation is not accepted by all. Those who do accept it are not accepted by the world.

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