Saturday, February 22, 2014

Matthew 5:38-48; The Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany; February 23, 2014;

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr, Iowa;

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:38–48, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus says "perfect". He means perfect. It's not some halfhearted love he says you should have, but a love even for those who hate you. It's not some easy thing he asks here. He says to turn your other cheek to people who do evil to you. He says you are to love perfectly your ugly neighbor who takes you to court and wins. He says when people take advantage of you make it well worth their while. In the Roman Empire a soldier could conscript anyone to carry their equipment for a mile. So the application for the people hearing Jesus speak was very direct. No one was hated more by the Jews than the Roman soldiers, for good reason. Jesus tells the crowd that their love for the Roman soldiers should be perfect. He's asking a lot from sinful people. In fact, it is more than we can do. Why in the world doesn't he just say, "Do the best you can"?

Sometime after this, Jesus asks perfection of a specific person. A young man came up to him and asked him "what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" (Matthew 19:16ff) Jesus says, "If you would enter life, keep the Commandments." The young man wants to be clear. "Which Commandments?" Jesus lists them all to him. The young man thinks he has it made. "I've done that, I've kept them all. Isn't there more?" And then Jesus says it. He uses the "P" word again. "If you would be perfect..." In other words, "you only think you done them all, you can't just do them all on the outside, you have to do them all perfectly from the heart." He does it by telling the young man to sell everything he has and give it all away, to the poor. He tells him that in order to be saved by what he does, his love for the poor is to be perfect. And being perfect, his love would show itself by caring more for the poor than all the possessions he has. It's more than the young man can do. He's rich. He walks away from Jesus dejected. And notice, Jesus doesn't let him off the hook with, "Do the best you can."

When you look into the face of God, the only way that you can stand is to be perfect. When you have a relationship with God, that relationship can only be sustained in the absence of sin. A perfect and holy God can only be in the presence of that which is perfect and holy. In other words "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." In the beginning, Adam, the very 1st person created by God, was perfect. He walked and talked with God in the Garden of Eden. When he violated his relationship with God by taking what God told him was not his to take, his perfection was lost, he became a sinful person. His perfect relationship with God was broken. And when God came into the garden he hid in fear from God's righteous anger. It is the appropriate place for imperfect, sinful, people. This is where Jesus demand for perfection puts us. On our knees, dejected, hiding in fear from God's righteous anger. "I a poor miserable sinner…"

The wording of the confession is very specific, very intentional. We confess the depth of our sin. We confess our broken relationship with God. We have sinned against him and thought, word, and deed. We violated the commandments defining our relationship with God, and the ones defining our relationships with other people. This is not what our sinful nature wants to do. "What good deed must I do to save myself? Can't I make this fear go away on my own?" Jesus still doesn't say, "It's okay, you did the best that you could." He answers the question. "All you have to be is perfect."

Well, that's not all that Jesus preaches, is it? Along with Jesus call for perfection is his call for repentance (Matthew 4:17). The beginning of repentance is confession of our sin. And the cry of repentance is "Lord, have mercy!" We turn to Jesus for mercy because there is nowhere else to turn. We cannot turn to ourselves because all that we find there is our failure to live up to God's perfect demand. But

Almighty God in his mercy has given his son to die for you and for his sake forgives you all your sins.

There is no "do the best you can" in God's pronouncement of forgiveness. There is no good deed done to gain eternal life. There is only God's mercy given to repentant sinners. Given for the sake of Jesus.

Jesus' demand for perfection is a demand he takes up himself. He lives his life loving his neighbors and his enemies. He gives himself completely for the sake of those who need what he has to give. He prays for those who are killing him. He turns his cheek to them and allows his beard to be pulled out and the crown of thorns to be smashed into his scalp. The depth of his love is unmistakable. It carries him to live a life for the sake of the people of the world. It carries him to die the death that all sinners deserve, but he does not. He goes to the cross in love. And in love he bears the sins of the whole world.

This is your Savior on the cross. He has mercy upon you for your sake, not because of anything you have done. He is perfect for you, even to death on the cross. And when your sin is before you, Jesus is there with mercy all the more. He says to you

I forgive you in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit.

And so, in forgiveness you live every day, counted perfect in God's eyes. Your sin is washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ. And so, you live toward the perfection that Jesus demands. Not as a way to fix your relationship with him, by doing a good deed that you must do to have eternal life. But instead as a reflection of the love shown to you. You strive to do what Jesus asks, go above and beyond the call of duty, in love, of your neighbor. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Matthew 5:21-37; The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany; February 16, 2014;

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr;

“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. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:21–37, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is preaching. He has a lot to say. And what we hear him say is not always easy to hear. We'd rather Jesus be "Jesus meek and mild" rather than Jesus confronting our sin. Here we have it, Jesus speaking clearly and straightforward about what we are to do and not do. It comes as a part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Last week we heard how it opened. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are you. Jesus is describing the life of faith. Those who have a relationship to God through faith in Jesus Christ are indeed blessed. That compels us to live in a certain way. And that's what he's talking about here. He's pointing to the part of the commandments that describe our relationship to each other. He saying "since you have a relationship with God through the forgiveness of sins, the First Commandment is set in place, so live out your life keeping the others." Sometimes we Lutherans get the idea that God doesn't care if we keep the Commandments are not. Jesus is very clear. Because of all that he has done for us, his life, death, and resurrection, we are to keep the Commandments. And more than that, it's not a matter of keeping them on the outside, for the sake of those who see us, but we are to keep the commandments in the heart.

According to Jesus, murder is more than just causing the death of another person. It is murder to insult someone. The commandment is broken in the heart, long before blood is actually shed. You are to have a relationship with other people that does not cause them pain. If you live your life respecting other people, as the commandment calls for, your relationships will be so much better. The idea of not letting the sun go down on your anger is not only good advice, but it's living according to the commandment. Your sins have been forgiven. That forgiveness should flow out to the people around you. Do not hurt or harm your neighbor in his body but help and support him in every physical need. That's Luther's description of what Jesus is saying here. You are a blood bought child of God. You have a responsibility to live according to God's commandments. That responsibility means to live in a way that is respectful to your neighbor and doesn't cause him harm. So important are your relationships with other people, that when they are broken, when you are in conflict with other people, your relationship with God is affected. Don't pretend that your relationship with God is not affected, if your relationship with your brother isn't set straight. Make every attempt to reconcile yourself to your brothers and sisters.

It is also important, according to Jesus, that we keep our relationships between men and women in proper perspective. Breaking the commandment on adultery is also done long before physical contact. Jesus said that the sin that begins in the heart is acted out in the eye and hand. The danger is there long before. In fact, it is not your eye or your hand that causes you to sin, but your heart. Plucking out your eye or removing your hand won't prevent sin. If you could remove sin that easily it would be best to walk around without a hand or an eye and avoid sin. But you are to be that serious about sexual sin. You are a blood bought child of God. You have a responsibility to live according to God's commandments. That responsibility means to live in a way that doesn't turn other people into objects of lustful desire.

Marriage between a man and a woman is entirely sacred, according to God. It is a holy estate. From the very beginning God made man and woman to be joined together for a lifetime. The purpose is companionship and the extending of God's kingdom through children. Husband and wife are to bring their children up in the way of the Lord. They are to teach their children the Commandments. And encourage them to follow. Divorce is nothing other than the breaking apart what God intended to be permanent. A man and woman locked together for a lifetime. A man locked together with a woman watching out for her best interest with everything he has. A woman locked together with a man watching out for his best interest with everything she has. A man and a woman raising children, watching out for their children's best interest with everything they have. There is nothing in divorce that promotes a man's best interest or woman's or a child's. Divorce is always against God's will for people. You are a blood bought child of God. You have a responsibility to live according to God's commandments. That means supporting families in such a way that divorce is unthinkable. So says Jesus.

These are things we would rather not hear Jesus say. We like our sin. We like our flexible morality. Maybe you have heard your hearts say things like this: God forgives me so I can diss my neighbor. My neighbor is such a jerk God doesn't mean I have to reconcile myself to him, surely. That guy doesn't care about anyone but himself, he doesn't deserve forgiveness. God forgives me so my roving eye is just an appreciation of the female form. Besides if men wouldn't dress that way, women wouldn't look at them that way. No one is really hurt by those pictures in the magazine. The models are willing. They make a good living. God wants me to be happy. And I can't be happy unless I get my divorce. These are all lies from the chief liar. Sin begins in the heart. It's in my heart. It's in your heart. It makes it impossible to live the way that God requires. And Jesus makes no bones about it. It is sin in the heart that is deserving of hell.

And so just as Jesus instructs us on what to do, the law accuses us. Whenever we hear the law we see how woefully short we fall. Whenever we hear the law we see God's demand for perfection. When we seek God's demand for perfection we see only the punishment that we deserve. You and I deserve eternal punishment in hell for our sin. It is a breaking of the Commandments. Not just any one particular commandment, but all of them. Commandments 2 through 10 are seated in the 1st. We do not treat our neighbors as Jesus would have us do because we do not love the Lord our God with all our heart or soul or mind.

But, believe it or not, there is good news in Jesus demands. When the law is set before our hearts and we see our sin, when we have nowhere else to turn, there's only Jesus left. When the burden of sin comes down on us we crawl to the cross holdout our hands and ask Jesus to take it from us. This is faith. This is repentance. Seeing sin and knowing where to take our sin. Seeing sin and clinging to Jesus on the cross for our forgiveness. Jesus describes the things that we should do. We see that he is the one who did them perfectly. On the cross Jesus gladly takes our sin. And from the cross we receive his perfect life. It is an exchange that is given to us by God's declaration of forgiveness. Our punishment is satisfied. And our good works come from the life of Jesus. So the things we should not have done are forgotten in the cross. And the things we should do are remembered in the life of Jesus.

And so the demands that Jesus makes in the law are our joy to accomplish. When we are angry with our neighbor, we remember God's anger over our sin was hung on Jesus on the cross. When we are reluctant to reconcile with our neighbor we remember God's reconciliation of us through Jesus on the cross. When our eyes see the things which turn our hearts away from God, we remember Jesus was forsaken by God for us on the cross. We turn our hearts back toward God because of Jesus. When the world tells us divorce is a good solution, we remember our relationship to God has been restored by Jesus on the cross. And we can faithfully and strongly proclaim God's plan for sexuality and marriage. The power to do these things does not come from our hearts. The power to do these things does not come from the proclamation of the law. Instead, it is the gospel, the free gift of forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus Christ, that drives us to do all that Jesus commands. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Matthew 9:9-13; Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany; February 9, 2014;

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr, Iowa;

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

It occurs to me that Jesus loves banquets. Over and over again in the bible you see him eating banquets with people. We know what it’s all about, we love our pot lucks, too. I never heard of anyone turning down a pot luck. Jesus likes them because he loves people… all kinds of people… even the people other people don’t like. Just look at the Pharisees, they ask Jesus disciples, “Why does you teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” To get what they are really asking we might rephrase it as, “Why do you want to eat with Bikers?” “Why do you hang out with drug dealers?” “Why do you want to eat with ‘those people?’” Well the Pharisees didn’t understand. But we’re not Pharisees, they were unbelievers, they rejected Jesus. We won’t compare ourselves with them. We have a relationship with God, through faith in Jesus.

Jesus likes banquets, I think, because he likes to give. That’s what God is all about, giving. He takes care of us by giving. The whole creation is God’s gift to us. When he created the world, he created it for us. Just look at the everyday ordinary things that God gives you every day. A place to live, a family, a wonderful church, and, of course, food… a banquet every day. More than you’ll ever need. God is a giving God, he loves nothing more than to give. One of the best that we can do is delight in his gifts and give thanks!

Of course there is nothing more important that he has given than eternal life. He gives that to us through the gift of his one and only son, Jesus. Look at the disciple Matthew. Jesus called him. Who was he? He was one of those “tax collectors and sinners.” People in Jesus day wouldn’t be caught dead with a guy like that. But Jesus calls him. “Follow me.” He says. And Matthew responds to the gift. Jesus chose him. Jesus gave him the gift of life.

God does that for you too. He doesn’t do it by saying the words, “follow me.” He uses different words. He actually puts his name on you with water. He pours it on your head and says “You are mine. You belong to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. You have eternal life through faith in Jesus.” What God does is apply the life death and resurrection of Jesus to you. He says that everything that Jesus did is yours. What did you do to deserve such a gift? What did Matthew do? Nothing at all. For most of us we couldn’t even form words let alone choose to follow God. Faith in Jesus is God’s gift to you and me. It is the act of a God who loves to give, the act of a God willing to suffer and die for you. All you have to do, actually it would be better to say, what you do is delight in God’s gift.

Think just for a minute about the 10 commandments. You shall have no other God’s before me. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord Your God. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Those first three commandments talk about our relationship with God. They talk about the gifts that God has given us. They are talking about faith. Why would you want to have any kind of a relationship outside of the one true God? The rest of the commandments talk about gifts of God, too. Honor your father and mother – the gift of family and government. You shall not kill – the gift of life. You shall not commit adultery – the gift of marriage. Etc. When we think about the God who gives such gifts, especially the gift of having a relationship with himself we see the commandments in a whole new light. Not as rules but as realities. It’s the way we live because of who we are… or who we belong to.

That’s what the Pharisees were missing. That’s why Jesus tells them they need to do more research. He said to them “Go and learn what this means.” It’d be like a teacher writing on a paper, “do over.” They didn’t get it. They thought they had a relationship with God because of what they did. They were the “in” group. They kept all the laws as best they could. God must be pleased with them. But they missed what Jesus was all about. “I desire mercy not sacrifice” isn’t talking about us doing good stuff for God. Our problem is that we don’t understand the word mercy right. In our ears mercy means feeling sorry for someone who is worse off than we are. You get a better idea what mercy means from the ESV translation of the OT lesson for last week.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8, ESV)

Or the Prophet Hosea,

For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6, ESV)

The word “mercy” or here "love kindness" and “steadfast love” isn’t about feelings its about actions. It’s about relationships… relationships with one another and most especially a relationship with God. When we say, “Lord, have mercy!” we are not asking God to feel sorry for us, we are asking him to do what he has promised to do. We are asking him to give us what he has promised to give. (Thanks Dr. Dale Meyer: June 3rd The Meyer Minute)

Would you like an example? You don’t have to go outside the bible for a good example. Abraham is a great one. He’s an example of having steadfast love of God… even to a fault. St. Paul wrote those words about him.

No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, (Romans 4:20, ESV)

God promised to give him a son, and even though he was very old he believed it would happen. He even believed it so much he tried to make it happen without waiting… he tried to force God’s hand so to speak. Not because he believed that God wouldn’t do it but simply because he trusted God would do it so why should he have to wait. He was

fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:21-22, ESV)

That’s the steadfast love that we mean when we talk about mercy.

God loves a banquet. He loves to give. He calls you to a banquet. Do you know about it? Do you know where you can go to receive what God promises to give you? Well, you must know something about it after all you are here at the banquet he provides you’ve already receive the gifts that he promises to give. Why do you think we start our worship service with a reminder that God has given us the gift of faith? “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” is the name of God that was place on you when God promised you eternal life through faith in Jesus. If you want to know who God’s gifts are here for all you have to do is remember that he has claimed you through water and word. God has already today spoken to you about the gift forgiveness, too. Did you ever wonder why a pastor says, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit?” A pastor has no power to forgive, except the forgiveness that God gives. Your pastor only speaks God’s word of promise to you. He speaks “in the stead and by the command of Jesus.” “In the stead” means “standing in for.” And right before that we call upon God to do for us what he promises to do. We say in more fully than this but the dialog could be said like this:

God’s People: God we need forgiveness. Forgive us as you promise you will do.

God’s response: You are forgiven because of Jesus!

God’s people: Yeah! Glory to God! Thanks be to God!

God loves to give especially to give what we need. And forgiveness is it. But there’s more. God’s banquet really does have food too! We’ll gather at God’s altar and eat bread and wine. It’s a very special meal. It’s a meal we need more than any other meal. That’s because it’s not just ordinary bread and wine, it’s the body and blood of Jesus. God just keeps on giving… forgiveness upon forgiveness. And you don’t have to doubt that the forgiveness he gives is being given to you. “Take and eat. Take and drink. This is my body and blood given to you for the forgiveness of sins.” It’s for you right there. You see, when God gives a gift you can be sure of who it’s for and exactly what it does. “Lord have mercy! Give me what you promise to give.”

Now, does that have an impact on how you live in relationship to other people? I should think so. God gives you what you need, you don’t have to do anything to earn his forgiveness. You don’t have to do anything to earn your relationship to him. He gifts it to you. Your response is more than just thanksgiving to God. Your response is to give a gift. Not a gift to God, but a gift to everyone else. After all Jesus says you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-14). What does he mean other than that God gives you want you need, so you can give other people what they need. That’s what the Pharisees were missing. They lived their lives doing stuff for God to help themselves. They tried to keep God’s laws to earn his favor. That’s useless. That’s unnecessary. That’s something a person can’t even do. In fact, if we try, we are rejecting the gift. It’s saying to God, “I don’t want the gift of salvation you sent your son to die for. I’d rather earn my own way. Jesus life and death isn’t good enough for me. His perfect life and death aren’t what I want. I expect you to look at my good works instead.” We worship God best when we take what he gives with a thankful heart. Think of the pot luck again: God fills our plate with wonderful gifts. It’s ok to have a very full plate, that’s what God wants to give to you all that you need and more. You’ve got all that you need, go ahead and live for others. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Deuteronomy 5:12-15; The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany; February 2, 2014;

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr, Iowa;

“ ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” (Deuteronomy 5:12–15, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“What do you do for a living?”

“Well, I’m a Pastor. I’m a farmer. I’m a teacher… I’m retired… a homemaker… a student…” How many times have you heard and answered that question. It’s probably the most asked question whenever you meet new people. Think about it and what it means. Think about what we are saying to each other as we ask and answer that question…

There is some value in what we do; teachers teach… farmers produce food… homemakers raise children. They are important tasks, that need to be done and important people take them up and do them. And lots of us take not only our identity from our work but many of you are what you eat, in a sense. You can always tell the farmers they’re gathered around the back of church after the rain discussing the rainfall (or lack of it). If you’re a farmer people expect you to act a certain way, and most often you oblige. The cap, the work boots, and piece of straw in you mouth.

Teachers too, have identity in what they do. Whenever we think about doing something for children we look to teachers first. After all they know what they’re doing… Mechanics have long standing oil under there fingernails and homemakers wear aprons. People are expected to act certain ways because of who they are… There is an identity in what we do. You might even say who we are, is determined by what we do.

If you really want to see this principal at work in a big way spend a day in High School. Practically nowhere is it more pronounced. Walk through the hallways and you’ll soon identify the jocks, geeks, brains and nerds. The kids divide pretty much by what they are good at. There’s a structure to who’s who. Kids who are good at sports are always at the top of the stack. They’re the ones that everyone is sure will be successful in life. They’re the one everyone wants to be like. They are the ones who are valued, by the High School culture.

What you see in our children there is exactly what we’ve taught them. Every day we tell them, if not in words, then in actions, that people have worth because of what they do. Sports figures are highly valued in our culture, just look at the salaries! These people are valued highly; weather or not they are good role models. The estimation of firefighters and policemen has risen since 9-11 but, I’ve noticed that when the state budget gets tight they’re the first positions to go. How many of you have said the teacher’s salaries are, too low? It is clear to see that they are not nearly as valued as others. That’s the society we live in… people have value for what they do.

Many of you may know who Red Green is. It’s a show out of Canada shown on Public Television. One of the characters is Winston Rothschild III. He emphasizes this very point. He’s a sewer man. He owns Rothschild Sewage and Septic Sucking Services. It’s funny to see him speak as if he runs a fortune 500 company, while he wears hip waders. Everyone else knows he’s a loser because he’s just a sewer man. It’s funny, but it’s what we really think.

If you think you’re not really guilty, think about how you react to people you meet, when you find out their occupation. Everybody wants to be a friend of the new doctor. And it even carries over in church. Certain people can’t be counted on to do things for church because it won’t be done to everyone else’s specifications. As a result, the same does few competent people do everything. And those who are not allowed aren’t valued the same as the busy members. And whenever one of the less active people is given a job, everyone does their best to support failure and then point out that it’s happened again. That doesn’t mean everyone is well suited to do every job in the church. Or even that everyone can even do every job…. Our problem is that we place value on people for what they do here.

It is a very selfish way to live. We value people because they bring value to our own lives. We value people because they do valuable things for us. We value people not for who they are but for what they do.

And by now you are wondering what this has to do with the third commandment: “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” Pastor, shouldn’t you be telling us that we need to come to church? And complaining about those who don’t bother to show up? Shouldn’t you be giving us good reasons to study the bible or ways to stay awake during your sermons? What does this commandment have to do with how we value people?

Well I want to read the text to you again. And there are a few phrases I want you to listen for: Listen first, to who is included in this required day of rest. Second, listen to why God insists that it be observed.

“ ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” (Deuteronomy 5:12–15, ESV)

Ok, did you hear it? Who’s included? I think it pretty well hits all the bases. It’s everyone; even the ox and the donkey are to rest from their work. Work hard 6 days and rest on this one! Everyone is equal. Everyone needs the rest. It doesn’t say everyone except those important people whose work we can’t live without. The Sabbath observation puts all work aside; from farming to banking, from scooping manure to serving coffee. It’s all the same in the eyes of God.

Well that’s not really quite right. It’s not really the work that God sees as equal. It’s just that He doesn’t value people because of what they do. He doesn’t value hard workers over lazy ones. He doesn’t value farmers over migrant workers. He doesn’t value business men over business women. In God’s eyes people are the same. He values them all equally.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28 No levels, no value based on occupation, all are one St. Paul tells us, “one in Christ Jesus.” And that gives us the clue as to why God thinks this way.

Remember I told you to watch for something else in the Third Commandment? I said to watch for why God requires keeping the Sabbath. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. God rescued the People of Israel from slavery in Egypt. They were slaves, the lowest class of people in Egypt. Their work was considered to be to low for Egyptians to do. They were valueless in a very wealthy society. And God brought them out of that condition with a mighty hand. They had value not because of who they were or what they did, but because of what God did for them. They were slaves, lost in their condition of no value. But God did something about it, He gives them value by what He does for them with a mighty hand.

Now it’s hard to miss the connection here, to us. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34) We were slaves to sin. You see it everywhere in your life, not to mention how we classify people according to worth. Friends, neighbors, enemies, and children. We put them all on a scale and measure them by value. We can’t help it, that’s the sin living in us. We are slaves to it. It makes us valueless, as we try to boost our own self-esteem by standing on the heads of others. And the thing about being a slave is that there is nothing you can do about it. You’re a slave and a slave you’ll always be, unless someone else, gives you value and does something about it for you.

That is exactly why we do have value, even though we really should have been worthless in God’s eyes. But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:17-18 We were in the same predicament as the Israelite slaves in Egypt. Bound to slavery, worthless, children of slaves.

But, God gave us value by setting us free. Just as God’s redemption gave the Children of Israel worth, God’s redemption also gives us worth. You’ve seen the Antiques Road Show on PBS, they pretend it’s not important, the real reason people bring stuff in is to find out if it has any value, and they really want to know how much value? Lot’s of times they’re disappointed. They don’t say so but you can see it in their eyes. So how much value do we have in God’s eyes. We talked about this a little bit last week:

What does this mean?

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.

How much are we worth to God? Look at what He did to give you value! He shed His innocent blood, and He suffered death, even death on the cross! How much value is that? How much are you worth to God?

Now look at the person sitting next to you. This time instead of seeing a farmer, a wife, a homemaker, a teacher, or a businessman, see in them the same value that God sees in you. Even if you see someone you don’t like, even if you’re not related… look at that person with the eyes of God, according to the price He paid to save them. Imagine that little value meter shooting up to the “priceless” category. And think about how different your relationship can be because of what God had done for that person in Jesus Christ. Remember Jesus loved you so much that he gave his very life for you, you are priceless in His eyes, too!

Now go outside these walls. Think about the people you see out there, sitting at coffee, dragging a sprayer through the field, answering the telephone and pumping gas. Look at them the way God does. See the value God has given them in Jesus Christ.

And finally think about this. Most of the people in the world, and even those living around us, don’t know about how much God values them. Still in their minds they think they have to do something to have value to God. “If I’m a good person, if I do the best I can, God will save me.” People think that God values people like we do, but He doesn’t. God valued the world in this way: …that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

What are you worth? I guess it depends on whom you ask. That’s why we gather here every Sunday. “Remember the Sabbath day, by keeping it holy.” It’s here where God continually speaks to us and tells us how much He loves us, how valuable we are to Him. It’s here that He gives us His precious blood, and His body as a reminder. It’s here that he carefully washes us clean. There’s no upper class here, according to God. There’s no one more valuable to God than you. What you do has nothing to do with it. It doesn’t matter if you’re unemployed, a doctor, a farmer, or even a postal worker. God loves you and values you so much that He sent His only Son to die for you. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.