Summary: God transforms our lives by the Holy Spirit for a threefold purpose: His Glory, our benefit, and for the benefit of others.
August 30, 2009 13th Sunday after Pentecost
Text: Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-9
Grace, mercy and peace from God the father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Since first coming to this congregation a little over seven years ago I have had numerous very pleasant experiences. I am thankful for the many people here that went --- and still go --- the extra mile to make us feel welcome. I pray that I also model this hospitality.
One of the most memorable times was during the building project. Doreen, Katie and I returned from a servant event week at camp pioneer and I started working here on our new building. There were initially some messy times in the giant watery hole.
Eventually the foundation was completed. The day that we pumped the wet concrete into the cement block walls will always hold a special place in my memory. Framing in the basement classroom walls with welding sparks dropping from above and dodging hot sparks also left a lasting impression. This was truly a scene out of Dante’s Inferno.
After the foundation was completed and the concrete poured for the first floor we celebrated the completion of this phase with a nice prayer breakfast and then proceeded to install the wall sections that were framed the previous weeks. As pleasant as breakfast and prayer was, we continued, we didn’t sit around satisfied that the foundation was done, the sun was shining and our stomachs were full. We continued and built upon that foundation.
Each week we are reminded of our spiritual foundation. We freely confess our sins and are reminded that Christ died for our sins. In the sermons we hear the skillful application of law and Gospel. Each week “Christ Crucified” is preached --- a stumbling bloc for Jews and foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. We weekly rebuild this foundation -- we know that we are justified -- that is saved --- by God’s Grace -- His sacrificial love for us. This faith that we have is His gift --- it is not from ourselves.
Many Christians think that there is a little something they must do to be saved. Vicar Zach put it this way “Some people think that it’s like eating in a restaurant -- Jesus buys the meal and we leave the tip. NOT TRUE --Jesus bought the meal and provided the tip. Salvation is 100 percent the work Christ on the cross. This is the foundation -- without this --- the walls and roof would collapse. There would be no salvation because we can not keep the law.
The law that God gave us is not a burden that is meant to defeat us, break us and finally tame us. Obedience to God’s will is part of the sanctification process -- it is part of our being transformed by the Holy Spirit to be more “Christ Like.” It is not to be buried in the old testament and forgotten. Don’t we regularly pray “Thy will be done”? We don’t need to look far to find His will.
Because of our human tendency to mess things up we seldom talk about sanctification because it is easy to get legalistic. We get self righteous and smug. We think we are better that others. The religious powers at the time of Jesus loved the laws that they made -- they put a burden on people that was not necessary. They let go of the commands of God and held on to the traditions of man.
They loved sacrifice -- especially if it was public -- but ignored mercy. As a matter of fact don’t we sometimes prefer justice when mercy would be far more Christ Like?
Today’s lesson from Deuteronomy says follow the laws so that you may live. They are given for our benefit they are not given as some impossible obstacle course that is beyond human capacity to complete. The pious ones from the time of Jesus --- also known as the Pharisees --- regarded the Sabbath laws with special devotion. They actually believed if they could keep this law to perfection, the Messiah would come. They actually thought that their actions could force God to deliver on His promise on their schedule. What did Jesus Say about the Sabbath. It was made for man. He knew we needed the rest. The Legalists of the day changed it from a blessing to a burden. They lurked around every corner looking for a “Law breaker.”
A little past today’s reading in Deuteronomy 6: 4-9 are some of Judaism’s most important words: Called the “ Shema Yisroel”
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.