Saturday, November 4, 2017

Proper 26

Proper 26 –5 November, 2017 – Matthew 23:1-12

Lord, when the day of wrath comes, we have no hope except in your grace. Make us so to watch for the last days that the consummation of our hope may be the joy of marriage feast of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Our Gospel lesson is for both clergy and laity. Jesus spoke about the scribes and the Pharisees. The scribes were the professional, ordained clergy who were scholars, teachers, and rabbis. The Pharisees were not theologically educated; they were lay people who were leaders dedicated and zealous in keeping the Law.

The people assembled for worship can be classified today as Pharisees. They are the thirty to forty percent of the congregation present for worship Sunday after Sunday. They are the cream of the crop, the most active, and leaders of the congregation. This message is for both pastor and people today.

Jesus urges His disciples to follow what the Pharisees taught but not what they practiced. Jesus exhorts both people and disciples not to follow the Pharisees who do not practice what they preach, but to attain greatness through humility and service.

In contrast to self and title-seeking, Jesus urged His followers to renounce pride and titles in favor of service to God.

Outline: Lord, use me.

1. Our strength: teaching and preaching the Word — vv. 2-3. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat .So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

The Words…Preach ... practice (v. 3). These two belong together, but often they are not. The preaching may be all right, but the practice has not the same quality.

Jesus urges His listeners to practice what the scribes and Pharisees preach, but not to follow their practice. Can we do this? Can we separate preaching from practice? Most of us repudiate the preaching that is not practiced. Yet, what preacher can perfectly practice his own preaching? Can you?

2. Our weaknesses: do not do as the Pharisees — vv. 3-7. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries.[1]  wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.

Religious leaders are prone to be proud of themselves, their positions, and their piety.
They want to be “seen.” “Look at me” — they say - see how good I am! They want their gifts publicized and want due credit. They like to wear large crosses and put religious slogans on bumpers. They want to be seated up front and they love their titles. All these add up to pride. They want to be “seen.”

But this morality, my friends will not and cannot save you. A Law that demands anything less than perfection - demands less than Jesus’ perfect obedience. A Law that sinners can keep doesn’t require Jesus’ dead on the Cross…soft peddling the Law just won’t do – not if we want sinners to trust Jesus alone to be saved. Excuses, generalities, house rules, principle for living and all of the moralist of today ultimately rob sinners of their only comfort and hope.

God gave His Law to hunt us down, find us out, corner us and kill us. The Law is powerful, but it is a deadly power because of our sin. In the end, the Law exposes us as the enemies of God we really are…In the end, the Law leaves the sinner utterly sinful, utterly condemned, utterly dead. The Law leaves the sinner without hope in himself or the Law. There is no hope – except one. His name is Jesus Christ. [2] It is only through His merits on the cross of Calvary that you and I find salvation and life.

3. Our goal: humbler service — vv. 11-12. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

The world does not agree with Jesus on this question, “Who is the greatest?” In the world the greatest is a star like Julia Roberts or Brad Pitt. The greatest is a champion like Tiger Woods. The greatest is a billionaire like Bill Gates. The greatest is a monarch of a nation like the Queen of England.

This kind of greatness is for a few people. For Jesus’ greatness, every person can be the greatest. It takes only humble service. The greatest can be poor, uneducated, unknown — just a humble person living for others as the Savior shapes their lives. As Dr. King as said, Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” - M L King “Anyone can be Great”

We must take the attitude of John the Baptist who said of our Savior – He must increase I must decrease. In humility we pray – Lord I am an instrument use me as You see fit. I am Your servant. You are the potter I am the clay. Shape and use me as You deem the best, for Your kingdom – Your glory and my good.

Words-1,006 -
Passive Sentences – 9%
Readability – 76.6%
Reading Level –5.6
Luther’s Seal © Ed Riojas Higher Things

[1] Matthew 23:5 That is, boxes containing Scripture verses, worn on forehead and arm
[2] Issues, Etc. Journal Vol. 6, No. 1 “The Law’s Accusations: God’s Perfect, Specific and Unavoidable Demands” by Todd Wilken pp. 9-10

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