Saturday, February 15, 2014

Epiphany 6

16 February
Epiphany 6
Matthew 5:27-37
Jesus places a new interpretation of the laws of Moses

O God, the strength of all who put their trust in You. Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without You, give us the help of your grace that in keeping Your commandments we may please You both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Someone once caught WC Fields reading the Bible.
"What are you doing?" the person asked. 
"Looking for loopholes." growled Fields.

You may go to a choice restaurant.  The menu will say, “a la carte.”  Under the a la carte section, you only chose those parts of the menu that seem the best for you. And so, you chose this or that. That is how some people view the Commandments. They select those parts of the Commandments that they want to obey. For example, I may choose to follow certain commandments but other commandments are not so attractive. The draw is to choose only those commandments, which are important to you. We live in a time that could be called, “a la carte” Christianity. I choose only those parts of Christian morality, which are important to me.

We live in an age when everybody has now become his or her own priest and pope. People become their own priest as they develop their own closeness to God.  They do not need an intermediary. They seek God on their own terms. He arrives at my every call when I need Him. He is conveniently absent when I don’t.

Moreover, they become their own pope. That is, they think to themselves, “I will determine what is right and wrong for me. Don’t judge me. Don’t impose your values on me. I am the final authority. I decide those things which are right or wrong for me.” We live in an age where many Christians say I will do what I think is right and I do not really listen to the counsel of others.

Today’s gospel is one of the most intense accounts of the way Jesus changed things. “You have heard it said…” He begins each part of His teaching. Then He goes on to say, “And I say to you.”  Jesus does what He said He would do. He does not abolish the laws of God – He fulfills them. Jesus never said, “You have heard you shall not kill, and I say, in some cases…well, it’s okay.” To the contrary, Jesus’ teaching always requires more – Don’t be angry. Or name call. In fact, Jesus says, “If you are going to offer your gift at the altar and remember that you brother has something against you, leave the gift. First, be reconciled.” There are no loopholes found in Jesus' words. No compromises. No deals. No escape hatches.

We are called to keep the commandments. Of course! However, we are called to much more. Jesus said, “You have heard it was said you shall not murder - and I say to you that if you are angry with your brother or sister - you will be liable to judgment." "You have heard that it was said, you shall not commit adultery, and I tell you that everyone who looks with lust at another has already committed adultery..." "You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbor, and I say to you, love your enemies. And pray for those who persecute you..."

What is left for us to do? Nothing! What is left for God to do? Everything!  Christ alone is righteous. He alone kept the Law perfectly. He never hated his brother. He never lusted in his heart. He was righteous before the Father. Christ’s righteousness is for you! Jesus kept the Law perfectly, for you. At the cross, God the Father laid on Jesus your sin, guilt and shame. Sacrificed on the cross, He put to death your sin, your guilt. He bore the punishment you deserve. In exchange, you receive the perfect righteousness of Christ. “Come to me.” He says. “…all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Your burden is light, because Jesus has taken the weight of your sin. His righteousness, which is freely given, is received as a gift. The Law always kills. Always convicts. Always destroys.  But Christ brings you back to life. Restored, redeemed forgiven. You are His.

How then shall we live? Do we go on sinning as we did before? As St. Paul has written, “Let it not be!” “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” “Consider yourselves as dead to sin and alive only to God.”  Return to your Baptism. Through repenting of your sins daily. Then, show love to your neighbor which flows out of the righteousness you have with Christ.  Continually you shall be tempted. Daily we struggle with sin in this world. We are barred from Eden.  Yet the Father’s promises given in baptism will never leave you. Return to the promise in Baptism.  Christ has put to death all your sins in the washing of water and the Word. So we repent. Before God and our neighbor. And receive the forgiveness we have though Jesus Christ’s perfect righteousness.

This righteousness from Christ finds its expression in the love we show to our neighbor. The life of a Christian is cross-shaped. There is a vertical dimension. Between God and man. The horizontal dimension is between a man and his neighbor. The Father takes the initiative. And grants us righteousness through Christ’s death and resurrection. You receive in faith through the hearing of the Gospel. That righteousness manifests itself in works of love toward your neighbor. Doing good works has nothing to do with earning points with God. Rather it is a natural expression of faith with showers our neighbor with works of mercy and love.

The Christian life does make demands. Those demands are met only in Christ. Because He is perfect righteous, and just, you are now perfect, righteous, just. Trust what Jesus has done for you. And in love serve your neighbor.

Words – 1,087
Flesch Reading Ease – 85%
Flesch – Kincaid Grade Level – 3.8

No comments: