Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pentecost 17 - Proper 21

O God, the Strength of all who put their trust in You, mercifully accept our prayer, and because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing without Your help. Grant us the help of Your grace that, keeping Your commandments, we may please You in both will and deed; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.

In our lessons for this morning – there is woven a common theme of our failure to live the Christian life to its fullest and our tendency to think that it simply does not matter. In the Old Testament lesson the Israelites complain about the monotony of daily manna. James condemns the sins of arrogance and the persecution of the poor while in the Gospel lesson the Savior urges us to get rid of anything that causes us to sin. His point? Any sacrifice is worth eternal life rather than going to hell forever which is described as eternal torment. The Lord calls for a radical obedience rather than an accommodation to the world. This Christian life that we live is a journey of faith. We have not yet arrived – we are always becoming. Therefore we need the Lord’s strength in living the Christian life.

I. We are called to live according to the will of God.
A. God has the right to demand this, and He does demand it. He commanded Moses, “Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying, ‘Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord, your God am holy.’ (Leviticus 19:1-2)

B. He has not left us in doubt about His will. (There are many examples) Luther would explain to us in His explanation concerning the 3rd Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, ‘The good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.

C. His will for the way we live is not to make us miserable but to show us what a good and happy human life is. And how is this done? God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. This is His good and gracious will.

Transition: The good and perfect will of God is clear. Our problem – our will stands in opposition to the will of God.

II. Left to ourselves, we fail to meet God’s holy and perfect will.
A. Even in the face of His great goodness, we fail. (Consider the Israelites in our Old Testament lesson.) The Israelites are in the wilderness and complain to Moses that they have only manna and no meat.

B. Even the apostles failed (example in our text for today) Jesus approves a non-follower’s use of His name to cast our demons. He urges the extermination of those sins that result in hell.

C. There are so many traps (Vs. 42 the “skandalon”) The point is that any sacrifice is worth eternal life rather than going to hell forever which is described as eternal torment.

D. We are clever at rationalizing our failure (see “if” clauses). The Lord wants His followers to enjoy the fullness of life. All that God created is good. However, if any part of us or any habit or behavior causes us to sin, we are to get rid of it.

E. We are still in the clutch of our passions. (James 4:3) When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

F. The results can be disastrous (hell is described in our text as an unquenchable fire.). It would be better to abstain and deny ourselves certain pleasures and privileges than to allow one pleasure to ruin the whole.

Transition: By our own reason or strength not only can we come to God on our own terms we have not the strength or will to do what He would require of us. What shall we do? Where shall we go? What shall become of us?

III. Therefore, seek God’s strength, for He offers it freely, as a gift, according to His gracious will.
A. In the “name” of Jesus. God’s great plan of salvation through the vicarious suffering and death and the resurrection of His Son. He breaks the power of sin. He chains Satan.

B. He has made it so accessible in the Word and Sacraments – the means by which God’s grace comes to us. Delivered to us freely as His gift to us.

C. Hence, we can be more than conquerors. He offers the “help of His grace.”

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