Sunday, October 08, 2023

Isaiah 5:1-7; The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost; October 8, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!” (Isaiah 5:1–7, ESV)
Grace and peace to you, from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

It’s harsh. The law is harsh. It is meant to be. There is no way around it. There seems to be very little Gospel in this text. God means to destroy the vineyard. It is like the text in Revelation 3.
So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:16–19, ESV)
God is angry about sin. He has always been so. He will always be so until the end when it is finally completely gone. He sets his law before people, and they break it. The Old Testament uses the image of God’s nose burning in anger against sin. It is important to note here in both these passages God is talking about the church. Of all people who should keep God’s law, it is God’s people. With love and care, God set up the vineyard, that is the church, with a hedge to keep trouble out. But when the church acts no different than the world, he tears down the hedge. The church is trampled by foreign invaders. The crops are destroyed. They were only sour grapes anyway, but none-the-less, they are trampled to nothing.

It is easy to see this in other churches that have forsaken God’s law. He tears down the hedge and they are further driven from it. Lawlessness begets lawlessness. The churches teachings are sour grapes, with the hedge gone, they are no longer even grapes. But we should not so quickly discount our own church, especially how we reflect on the law. Our particular sin, as Lutherans, is to sometimes see the law too lightly. To live in our own sin as if it didn’t matter. Divorce, living together before marriage, greed, selfishness is rampant in the church. Care for God’s servants is lacking. The poor go hungry. The homeless are ignored.

We are a gospel church, an evangelical church. Evangelical means “good news preaching”, and we do indeed preach the good news of Jesus our Savior. Jesus canceled our sin on the cross. Jesus fulfilled the law for us, so we don’t have to. Jesus rose again from death to save us from eternal punishment. It is a sweet message. But so often the way we say it comes across as making light of sin. Your sin and mine, cost our God a great deal. He suffered hell for you and me. Our Roman brothers and sisters get this sort of right, with the stations of the cross. They emphasize the worldly suffering of Jesus. They contemplate what it cost Jesus in pain to take our sin to the cross. But it is only half of the story. Jesus suffered, not only pain and death on the cross, but also your eternal punishment and mine. The eternal punishment due to all people for all time. The abandonment by God the Father. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” We can’t comprehend the cost. The Father grieved over the death of his Son. The angels wept. And the sins the Jesus suffered and died for are not only those in our past, but also the ones we haven’t even done yet. Mel Gibson, in the movie the Passion of the Christ, is said to have used his own hands to film the scene as the one who pinned Jesus to the cross with nails. It was a reminder that he caused Jesus’ suffering. Every sin we commit is painful to Jesus on the cross.
Ye who think of sin but lightly Nor suppose the evil great Here may view its nature rightly, Here its guilt may estimate. Mark the sacrifice appointed, See who bears the awful load; ’Tis the Word, the Lord’s anointed, Son of Man and Son of God. (LSB 451 )
It is only natural to want to pass over our sins very quickly and turn the Gospel. They are ugly and terrible. They leave our life in shambles. But our sins deserve more than a cursory examination. The Gospel, the Good News of Jesus, should make us hate our sin and make us dread committing them. The prophet Micah makes it personal; he speaks directly to individuals.
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)
Oh man of God, oh woman of God, God has these requirements for you. It’s that walking with humility that is key here. To walk humbly with your God means to understand all that he has done for you in forgiving your sin.

We say it with our confession,
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8, ESV)
If you believe you have conquered sin, if you believe that your sins are of no account to God, you are deceived (by yourself). The truth is not in you. That is not to walk humbly with your God. You don’t understand the depth of your sin, and you have a misunderstanding of the price Jesus paid. You can quit sinning on the surface. Sin is a darkness in your heart that makes you want to defy God. You can’t and never will destroy that until the old Adam in you is put to death permanently. The passage, our confession continues,
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, ESV)
This is not a one-time thing, (the “if” is better translated “when”) it is continuous. Luther said that the Christian life is one of repentance. That means struggle against our human nature. A struggle against sin. An ongoing trip to the cross of Christ. An ongoing receiving of forgiveness offered there. Apply, rinse, repeat. If we could get rid of our sinful nature, we would only do the confession one time and be done with it. But that would make God and his Word a liar.

The bible is full of God’s faithful people struggling with sin and loosing. Adam, Eve, Moses, David, the Prophets, The Disciples (both before and after the death and resurrection of Jesus), Paul, and more. If you think you are spared this ongoing struggle…

Paul finally calls this what it is, a “body of death”, after talking about his own ongoing struggle with sin. You should expect, as a Christian, to continue your struggle with sin.

The church is a grace place, a mouth house where God continually tells you of Jesus and his life on your behalf, his death for yours, his resurrection promised also to you. God’s sure promise that your sin has been dealt with and it doesn’t mean eternal death for you. The condemnation of the law, that which says you should go to hell, is erased. There is no condemnation for you. You will not go to hell. Further in the church, God himself is present with you in your struggle against sin. The fight against it isn’t yours alone but through his word and promise he gives himself again in the Holy Spirit. He directs you against your sin. He gives you the power to resist thru the Gospel. And when you fail, he gives the comfort of the Gospel. It is the Trinity at work in your life. The Trinity at work in your struggle against your Old Adam, your sinful human nature.

We, as Lutherans, get very nervous when we hear about what God requires. We default to say, “Nothing, Jesus has done it all!” It is very true. Jesus has lived a perfect life in your place. He has satisfied God’s justice for your sin. You are destined for heaven and in the resurrection, you will rise to new life. But scripture is replete with calls for Christians to obey God and keep his commandments. Would these admonitions be there if there was no struggle, if we could in this life overcome our sinful nature? This admonition has nothing to do with your salvation but everything to do with you living as who you are. Because Jesus has done everything for you, you are now required to live a different life. Because we are one with Jesus, sin has no control over us, only when we (our sinful nature) allow it.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.” (Romans 6:1–12, ESV)
Notice how Paul pushes everything back to Jesus, your baptism, the death of your sinful nature, and your resurrection to a new life. You are his, you should live differently. And when you fail, and you will, you drag yourself back to the cross and receive forgiveness there. That forgiveness is the power to live your life differently. That forgiveness is life changing. Amen.

So, next week we will be having our Strategic Planning Seminar after Church. Is it a fair question to ask what God requires of us? Of course, it is. Especially considering all that he has given us. God has defied all odds here. We are not the church that should survive on the North Shore. Instead of liberal theology we believe, teach, and confess, the truth of Holy Scripture. He has graced us with this property. We are in the most ideal place for a church. He has even placed for our view a symbolic hedge of trees around it. This is all God’s work, a gracious gift from his hand alone.

• Will this be a place where God still defies the odds, and brings the Good News of Jesus to the community?
• Will this be a place where God’s word is continually and always taught in its truth and purity?
• Will this this vineyard be a place where people hear God’s law and Gospel, to convict stubborn hearts and gladden troubled hearts?
• Will this hedged in vineyard be a place where Christians can go with the trouble of their sin and find relief?
• Will this be a place where the Gospel compels us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God?

If the answer to these questions is “Yes” (and I believe it is), we have a lot of work to do. Amen.

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

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