Saturday, April 01, 2006

Fifth Sunday in Lent, April 2, 2006

Lent 5, April 2, 2006
St. John's Lutheran Church, Howard, South Dakota
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.
Grace and peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Well, that's an interesting reading isn't it. It talks about Jesus the source of salvation for all who obey him. So I guess all we have to do to be saved is obey him. Well that shouldn't be too hard for us. After all we are here today aren't we. It's those out there who aren't keeping the commandments that have the problem. We do pretty well, I think. We park here on Sunday, we pay our dues to keep the church up and running. When something needs to be done here in this building we do it. That sounds exactly like that reading, doesn't it. We obey Jesus so we can be saved right? That's pretty good news, isn't it.
Let's look at the ten commandments. I'll bet we can find that we keep each one pretty well. Well mostly anyway. You shall have no other Gods before me. You haven't got a shrine to Vishna set up in your garden do you ____? You haven't sacrificed any of your children to Molech lately have you ____? Right? Good. I think we got that one in the bag. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. Right. Well, that's pretty easy to keep. Just gotta bite my tongue when the hammer hits my finger. I can do that... I think. Remember the Sabbath day... Check. church, as I said, commandment kept. Not too bad off in the obey category are we. Out of these first three I think we can say we keep them most of the time. We obey. Right. And this passage says that Jesus is the source of salvation for those who obey. Let's go on. Honor your father and mother. Ok, that one can be tricky sometimes but you gotta admit we usually do the right thing by them when we get older. You shall not kill. Well, it's a good thing pheasants and deer don't count but only people. I haven't shot my spouse in the back. No problem with this one. You shall not commit adultery. The older you get the easier this one is. After all older folks never think about sex. God's gotta be pretty happy with us on this one, isn't he? How many of you out there have been married more than 10 years? 20? 30? 40? Yeah! Good job. We've really got that commandment handled. You shall not steal. The police haven't been at my door for theft. None of you've knocked off the corner pantry, yet right? ...Bearing false witness. That means we don't lie. You haven't told any big ones lately have you? The little white ones are called “white” for a reason. Lies have to hurt someone before they count don't they? And finally those last two. You shall not covet.... I'm not exactly sure what coveting means, but I do know my neighbor doesn't deserve half the stuff that he's got. He never worked a hard day's work in his life. I'd be so much happier if some of his junk was mine. Nothing wrong with that. Since I deserve it. So that's the ten. And on the whole I'd have to say that when the scales of justice are set out with the good stuff we do on the one hand and the few little problems we have the “the Ten” we do pretty well. And even if there's a few things on the down side we're sure a far sight better than lots of folks are. Especially those who never darken the door of a church. So we're in like flint. Jesus gives us salvation because we obey. Right? Well isn't that what the passage says?
Maybe we'd better take a closer look at what Jesus says. Look here in Matthew 5:19-20
Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
I don't like the sound of that.... and listen to this!
You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire.
That can't be good. I may not have killed anyone, but I think I was mad this morning trying to get my family out the door to church.
I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Ouch! That's pretty strict isn't it? Who can keep that commandment. You'd have to be dead! And look , Jesus goes on here pretty extensively. And none of it sounds good at all. Divorce... breaking promises... payback... Jesus hits them all, or should I say hit me and you with them right between the eyes. And then he caps it all of with this zinger.
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Did you hear that? Perfect! If we expect Jesus give us salvation because we've obeyed him, we have to be perfect. Well, that's not going to happen. I'll never be perfect. You'll never be perfect. No one is perfect... not your grandparents, not your parents, not your children. So where does that leave us when we hear a passage like this one. [Jesus] became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. That's not good news at all, in fact, it's terrible news, there's no way we can be saved that way.
But that's what it says, isn't it? Well... maybe not. Let's look again.
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications... he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.
...he became the source of eternal salvation. It's not that he gives eternal salvation only to those who obey him. That's just what we think. That's what we want it to be. We'd rather paddle our own canoe. We'd rather have something to do with our salvation. We want to get some of the credit for saving ourselves. We'd rather be our own source of power. Instead it says that Jesus is the source. That means that salvation comes from him. He is the source. He obeyed the Father perfectly. All those little ways we talked about how we break the commandments? Not Him! Ever. He earned salvation perfectly. When Jesus says You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. He's talking about something that only he can do, something only he did! That's why He is the source! You get everything you need for salvation from him.
Just think about the parable of the sheep and the goats. Remember, Jesus separates the sheep from the goats. And then he tells the sheep of all the great stuff God counts to their credit.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
And how do they react? “When? We didn't know we did that stuff for you?” St. Paul answers the question.
for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Gal 3:26-27, ESV)
Perfect Jesus is the source of all your good works. When you were baptized he was put on you. You were given his perfect life. He fed the hungry. He clothed the naked. He visited strangers. He is the source of all of your good works. It's a gift from him through the work of the Holy Spirit given to you when the name of God was spoken over you in Baptism. And the Holy Spirit through that Word of God gave you faith.
And what's more, now the stuff you do every day God actually sees as good works. That's because the sin that tags along with everything we do is taken away by Jesus. You know what I'm talking about. We haven't killed anyone but we certainly have been angry with them. We haven't had an affair with our neighbor's wife but... yea you know. So he gives you his good and perfect life, so that in God's eyes you can be perfect, and then he takes the sin that dirties up everything you do and he kills it. He kills it on the cross.
Here we are right back to the cross again. It just seems like we can't have a single day in church with out ending up here. And that's good. Because here is where Jesus finished all that he needed to do to be the source of your salvation. Here is where he perfectly completed what God asked him to do. Here is were we see that he not only fed and clothed and watered people who needed it but gave his very life for them. He went above and beyond the call of duty... for you. He is the source of your eternal salvation.
And... he's the source of your good works. Since your sin is nailed to that cross the normal stuff you do every day, taking care of your kids, paying the bills, cheering up a friend who is down in the dumps, making an extra straight furrow in the field, etc... all of it is good stuff, counted by God as obeying Him.
Hey, the bible passage is right! We do obey, and Jesus is the source of our salvation. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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