Tag Archives: righteouness in Jesus

Simul Justus et Peccatore 2 Samuel 11:26 Luke 7:36 First St Johns June 12, 2016

[for the audio of this sermon click on the above icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know the grace and joy of forgiveness and forgiving said … AMEN!

Don’t misunderstand what David did was completely repugnant. There is no acceptable reason for what he did. Bathsheba wasn’t totally innocent either. There are those who like to point out the failings of the Old Testament, the vengeful, angry God stuff. By 21st century American standards there are things that we just would not countenance in this day and age. But there is certainly a good deal of hypocrisy with those who make such judgments, a lot of what the critics do are just not acceptable and certainly not by the standards of Israel in 1,000 BC. Those critics certainly never seem to be concerned with what the peoples around Israel did which were just abhorrent. One big difference was the accountability of their leaders, especially their kings. For the rest of the world at that time, the king was the highest authority and could pretty much do whatever he pleased. Take any woman, put anyone to death, take whatever they wanted and could do it with impunity. As the king of Israel David was responsible, as any other person in Israel was to Yahweh, his position didn’t make any difference, if anything he was held more accountable. When he was confronted by Nathan the prophet, any other king of that period could have just ignored Nathan, put him in prison, executed him and no one would have said boo about it. David was always responsible to Yahweh, he did have multiple wives, wasn’t supposed to and especially not a Gentile wife, Uriah was a Hittite and so presumably was Bathsheba. But David did and was forgiven, along with his adultery with Bathsheba and his treachery toward Uriah. But Yahweh was still faithful to David in his sins and is faithful to us in ours. We, by comparison, are graceless to those who offend us, quick to take anything and everything personally and like the Pharisee in our Gospel reading, quick to reject and condemn those who don’t follow our every whim, right down the line.

In our readings we certainly have a stark contrast. We have David who has committed truly abhorrent sin, he has committed adultery and against a man who was probably a friend, or at least a close associate. Uriah is listed among the renowned mighty men of David’s bodyguards, 37 men in all, a sort of elite military Secret Service, these men were all in close contact with David, so David certainly knew Uriah and had to know Bathsheba. David is certainly taken to task for the absolutely repugnant things that he did. The big surprise? He was still forgiven. Doesn’t mean God was justifying or somehow rationalizing David’s sin and as always, when we commit sin, there are usually consequences. David was made to suffer, although you could certainly wonder why his baby son was the consequence. Nevertheless, David was penalized and he knew it deep in his heart. We even have his repentance look up Psalm 51:  A PSALM OF DAVID, WHEN NATHAN THE PROPHET WENT TO HIM, AFTER HE HAD GONE IN TO BATHSHEBA. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” David knew the deal, he also knew he was forgiven. Yahweh had been so gracious to David and David knew that he failed, he knew that he had seriously failed God, who had faithfully stood by him. We have all done this to one degree or another. Served faithfully and also let down someone who had treated us with graciousness and generosity. There are people who I remember through my life who treated me kindly, were selfless in helping me and being there for me, and I was not considerate in return. Certainly I have let God down on many occasions and He has faithfully forgiven me. There were penalties and consequences. Often people have told me that they knew they sinned, that as David put it “have done what is evil in your sight”, but on the flipside, turn around and complain that God treated them badly, they resent the fact that their sin caused them unpleasant consequences. We’re really quick to sin, really quick to accept forgiveness, but equally quick to forget that there are consequences. “I asked forgiveness, God said He forgives, so why did these bad things happen to me after I asked forgiveness.” We are forgiven and should be grateful for God’s forgiveness, but instead of copping an attitude because of the inevitable consequences, we need to remember Psalm 51, be grownups go back to God and acknowledge where we’ve sinned, that we’ve failed God and accept, without bitterness, the consequences of what we’ve done, move on in our life, trust that God is going to provide and get over the attitude. It truly astounds me in ministry, there is no room for disagreement, forgiveness, grace, it’s all or nothing. Yes, that’s the way it’s become in our society, but for a people who are forgiven, we Christians seem to have little idea of how to forgive, of how to be gracious, of how to put the best face on things. We just do not seem to understand that we will not always agree, and instead of taking our ball and bat and going home, understand that the ball game is going to proceed and God expects you to play out the game and not just desert because you didn’t get your way. There is no way you could function in business or the military with that kind of mindset, but that is certainly how people in the church seem to feel.

God graciously forgave David and didn’t break off His relationship with David. Imagine if God had the same attitude we often do, “well Jim, you didn’t do what I wanted you to do, so I’m out of here, see you later, you’re on your own.” We couldn’t function with such a fickle God, we would all be lost and condemned. God doesn’t do that. Just because He gives us consequences doesn’t mean He deserts us and leaves us to go it alone, He sticks with us. That is grace! For those who profess to be Christians, they expect grace, from everyone, but they’re quick to pull the trigger on others and ignore the whole grace thing.  As I said, our readings today are a stark contrast. We have David who just messed up royally, pun intended, was forgiven, suffered the consequences, moved on and remembered that God had been faithful to him and he needed to trust God that David would continue to be faithful in return to God. In our Gospel reading we see a woman who is unquestionably guilty, Jesus never tried to deny her guilt, He admitted she had sinned much, but He treated her with grace when the legalistic Pharisee characterized her faults and by extension Jesus’ faults for allowing her to be so loving toward Him. That’s the love of grace, being so thankful that Jesus would be gracious to her, even in her sin, and essentially offering her worship for Jesus’ grace. The Pharisee sitting in judgment of both of them, devoid of grace and forgiveness and as Anthony Cook describes: “…illustrates the woman’s expression of love was in direct proportion to her cancelled sin. She is forgiven much, loves much and he who is forgiven little, the Pharisee, loves little. She is being hospitable to an extreme, while Simon failed to show Jesus the simplest of common hospitality.”[1] Jesus didn’t cut the woman off because of her lifetime of prostitution, the woman is convicted of her sins, shows her gratitude to Jesus, while Simon the Pharisee, sits in bitterness and judgment on both Jesus and the woman. After Jesus forgives her, her sin, Simon and the rest of the men become more angry and judgmental: “who is this guy who presumes to forgive?” Seems like something we all do, Jesus had more than proven who He is and should have been acknowledged as the Messiah. Instead these men immediately jump to condemn Him, God the Son, again.

It’s so easy to take something personally and decide to just walk away and condemn the one you disagree with. Certainly God didn’t even when He had good reason to with David and the prostitute. Jesus certainly didn’t deserve His treatment, being beaten, tortured, humiliated and crucified, but He did it in love for us, when He could have simply decided that those who are without sin, that’s none of us, they are saved, the rest of us, well too bad, eternal condemnation. By the same token, we need to start acting with more grace and forgiveness, remember what is important, forgive the slights, real and perceived, remember the relationships and vows and move on to the Kingdom of God. Help us Father to put the best face on the things that we find offensive, realize that things are not always going to go our way, that in Your gracious will there are times when we have to deal with the things we don’t like and join together with those who we disagree with and keep Your will and purpose in our lives and move together towards the realization of the Kingdom and the eternal resurrection in Jesus.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] Dr Anthony Cook Concordia Journal Spring 2016, volume 42, no 2, p 144

The Lord God is my strength and shield 2 Corinthians

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know that God is their strength and their song, said  … AMEN!

How many times have you just thrown it in God’s face, just like the Prodigal Son? That was exactly what he was doing to the “Father”. Even now in the Middle East to do what he did, tell his father to hand over his share of the inheritance, is still a gross insult. Basically saying drop dead old man and hand me over all your stuff. Way over the top. We really miss that in western culture, this kid was totally out of line. We are certainly all sinners, but what this kid did was just so over the top, just a creep. Yet we are all like him. We’ve basically told God go away, we don’t need You, hand over what is “ours”, as if we have anything that is “ours”. Neither did the prodigal son, right? His father was still alive, the son wasn’t entitled to a thing, and yet …

And yet God is our strength, when we do something weak and nasty like the prodigal, we don’t get punished, we get grace. Bear in mind, there are consequences, it may not be God punishing us, but our sinful behavior always incurs consequences. If I go to someone right here, haul off and slug you right in the head, what’s going to happen? You’re going to call the police. God may not be punishing me for battery, but the police will because a complaint was filed after I belted the person. But in repentance I am still forgiven by the Father.

As Christians, though, we can be as obnoxious as this prodigal is, but it is in God’s strength that we are saved, we are forgiven, we are not only forgiven, but we are still, in Jesus, inheritors of eternal life, there will probably be consequences, but ultimately He still saves us. In God’s strength, He makes us His children in Jesus, He gives us forgiveness in Jesus, He gives us eternal life in Jesus. Some see that as weakness. “I saw what he did and he should be taken away and punished! There can’t be any reward for him! Don’t you know what he did? He deserves to be punished, the sooner the better!”

Is that what happened to the prodigal? After he put his father through all that he did? Insulted him, took his money, went off to a foreign land and spent every last dime? He must have caused his father unimaginable anxiety and pain, how many sleepless nights do you think that father had worrying about what happened to his son? How many fathers do you think might have said: ‘Eh, whatever, can’t believe what that kid did, maybe if he gets whacked around a little he might learn something and if something else happens, oh well.” But our Father in heaven doesn’t do that. In what is an enormous, unimaginable amount of strength, God endures so much because of our gross insults, our shameless flouting of His grace, His kindness, His many/countless gifts. What did the father do when the son came home? He could have taken him out back, beaten the tar out of him and no one would have said boo about it. Many would have expected it.

But no! The father shamelessly runs out to the son, kisses him, calls for a fine new robe, a new ring, and!!! The fatted calf, the most delectable meal they knew! Based on the description Jesus gives us, the Father was a very important and wealthy man in the community. Men in general do not run out to greet anyone. They would have to gather their robes up into their belt, which would leave their legs exposed, unless there was an emergency, men of such importance did not run. Reminds me of a Simpson’s line: “You were running? Unless there were lions chasing you down the road, you don’t run.” It would have been the same for the father in this story. Yet there he was, in a most undignified manner, running out to this contemptable, unfaithful young man, who himself admits he is not worthy to be called his son.

This had to be embarrassing for the father, I have no doubt the next day at the city gate some of his peers, at least, gave him a little ribbing, even downright derision, “what was that little demonstration yesterday? We are the leaders of this city, let’s conduct ourselves with a little dignity”.

That’s something we get way too caught up in ourselves, isn’t it? Our etiquette, proper demeanor. That’s something God doesn’t get too caught up in, our dignity. A lot of times, as in this story, He doesn’t get too caught up in His own, especially if it means the difference between saving us or letting us condemn ourselves. Isaiah was called to some undignified acts, David Peters paraphrases Isaiah 20: 1-3; “In the year that Assyria captured the Philistine stronghold of Ashdad, the Lord told Isaiah, ‘I want you to take off your clothes and walk around naked and barefoot.’ Isaiah did as the Lord commanded and walked around naked and barefoot for three years.”[1] Peters points out that God asks His people to suffer hardship and embarrassment because God in His dignity lowers Himself to us in order to pull us out of the hopelessness and despair we are lost in, in our sin. He doesn’t have to tuck up His robes under His belt and run out to take us in and clothe us and give us wealth and food as He did with the prodigal son, but He does it not just to save us, but to fulfill His promise that we would have new life. Paul tells us; “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Through Jesus and only through Jesus do we become that new creation and then makes us “ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.” Through Jesus, because of the indignity that He suffered on the Cross, we are put in relationship with God. We are no longer that old man, that lost, sin filled, pathetic hopeless being wandering around, obsessed with the things we think are important, our dignity, our opinion, our self-importance, our obsessive love of self. No! Instead we are a new creation. God the Father has put aside His dignity to run out to us to save us, to reach down from His infinitely high throne in order to save His lost, rebellious defiant creation. Not only does He save us, but He makes us His new creation and He adorns us with new clothes. Remember, a new robe was an extravagant thing in that time. Clothing was very expensive, the material was expensive and each robe was made by hand, a new gold ring was extravagantly expensive, the fatted calf was a costly, precious delicacy in a world where getting enough to eat everyday was a challenge. The Father takes His new creation, what He makes us in Jesus, gives us hope and promise, takes away the indignity of our sin and adorns us to the epitome of what we could expect. How then could we not know in our heart that God is our strength and our shield, even when he could be very righteously angry with us? And because of that, how can we not sing, give thanks and exalt His name because of what He has done for us by giving us His ultimate sacrifice, giving us His perfect, completely holy and sinless Son to die as the only sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the entire world. If that doesn’t make you want to sing and shout, then you have no appreciation for that Father who runs out to meet His lost child and is so elated, that His child was lost and now His precious child, you and I are with Him again in the eternal world of the resurrection that His Son Jesus gave us by overcoming death in His resurrection.

Jurgen Moltman writes: “In him the despair that oppresses us becomes free to hope. The arrogance with which we hinder ourselves and other people melts away, and we become as open and as vulnerable as he was.

What initially seemed so meaningless and so irreconcilable – our hope and Christ’s cross – belong together as a single whole, just as do the passionate hope for life and the readiness for disappointment, pain and death.

Beneath the cross of Christ hope is born again out of the depths. The person who has once sensed this is never afraid of any depths again. His hope has become firm and unconquerable: “Lord, I am a prisoner – a prisoner of hope!””[2]

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] David Peters  “The Many Faces of Biblical Humor:“ page 200 Location 4873  Kindle version

[2] Jürgen Moltmann, “Prisoner of Hope,” from The Power of the Powerless, English transl. Copyright © 1983 by SCM Press Ltd., reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

You want legalism? Rely on your works?

ImageJesus’ Sermon on the Mount, also known as the Beatitudes have been the lectionary lessons for the last few weeks and has raised some interesting discussions. Among them is that guy who lets everyone know that he “lives by the sermon on the mount…” Yea, not so sure that was what Jesus was really intending. That same guy never got angry with anyone and called them a fool, never looked anyone with lust, never stole? Yea, really? Kinda doubtin’ it.

To drive home the point though, because what we are talking about is somehow being saved by grace, vs by your works and “living by the sermon on the mount”, would be your works, if you never do anything bad, you have nothing to be forgiven for kind of thinking.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ time had added on something like an additional 200 commandments and 300 laws, over and above what God told Moses in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) and they continued to do so, well after Jesus was gone. To the Jew the Law is the ultimate, everything according to the most minute detail. We know we cannot live perfectly under the Law, as Christians we know we need grace. The Law does not save, it only means you didn’t break it. By not breaking the Law does not put God under obligation to save you, only through the grace, sacrifice and redemption of Jesus have we been saved. To illustrate how abstruse the whole procedure became, I have quoted, at length, a passage out of James Michener’s book The Source (which is a really great book, fictionalized account of generations starting at the beginning and going up to the present in Israel).

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In the middle years of the fourth century there was in the Roman city of Tiberias, called Tverya by the Jews, a lively community of thirteen synagogues, a large library and an assembly of elderly rabbis who met in continuous session to discuss the Torah and its later commentaries, seeking thus to uncover the laws which would govern all subsequent Judaism. For hours and even months they debated each phrase until its meaning was made clear, and it was to this body of men that Rabbi Asher directed himself in the spring of 329. He had no need to hurry, for the assembly had been in session, off and on, for a hundred years and would continue for another century and a half, if not in Tverya then in Babylonia across the desert.

…an extensive courtyard in which stood two pomegranate trees and a large grape arbor, beneath which huddled a circle of old men who did not bother to look up at his approach. At their feet, literally, crouched groups of students, following their words affectionately, while at a table under one of the pomegranate trees sat two scribes making notes of how the argument progressed. When decisions were reached, these scribes would compress into a few pithy lines the debate of months, and that would be the law. This day they wrote little as four rabbis engaged in energetic debate on a minor point. FIRST RABBI: We are concerned with one question alone. Protecting Shabbat. I say that the man may not wear it. SECOND RABBI: Speak out. On what authority do you make this claim? THIRD RABBI: Then listen. Rabbi Meir had it from Rabbi Akiba that if a woman goes out of her house on Shabbat with a bottle of perfume so that she may smell nice, she is guilty of vanity and has broken Shabbat. This case is the same. FOURTH RABBI: More to the point. The law of the sages prevents a man on Shabbat from carrying in his pocket a nail from a gallows. Why? He carries it only for good luck and it is forbidden. SECOND RABBI: What nonsense. The man we are talking about does not seek good luck. FIRST RABBI: Listen to t…

FOURTH RABBI: Nor shall she go into the street wearing a hair net. The same case, surely. SECOND RABBI: But remember this. A woman may go abroad on Shabbat sucking a peppercorn to keep her breath sweet. FIRST RABBI: Only if she placed it in her mouth before Shabbat began. THIRD RABBI: Also, the sages always held that if she happened to drop the peppercorn from her mouth during Shabbat, she could not put it back until Shabbat had ended. SECOND RABBI: TO all of that I agree. But our man is not going to drop it from his mouth. And he placed it there before nightfall on Friday. FIRST RABBI: On those requirements we agree. It must be in his mouth before Shabbat begins. THIRD RABBI: The real question. Has he any right to have it there at all on Shabbat? No, because it is an act of vanity. Lik…

SECOND RABBI: Agreed. If it is merely an ornamentation, the man must not have it [a gold tooth] in his mouth on Shabbat. FOURTH RABBI: And I insist that it is merely an ornament. SECOND RABBI: Hold now! He wears his false tooth in order to eat better. FOURTH RABBI: But he could eat just as easily if he didn’t have it. A false tooth for a man is no more, no less, than a gold headdress for a woman. SECOND RABBI: That cannot be the case. The headdress is ornamentation. The tooth is a necessity. THIRD RABBI: False. A gold tooth is just as attractive to a man as a gold … SECOND RABBI: Who said a gold tooth? I said a tooth. A false tooth added to the mouth for the purpose of chewing better. THIRD RABBI: Is there a difference between a false tooth and a gold false tooth? FIRST RABBI: Indeed! The gold tooth i…

FOURTH RABBI: Error! Error! THIRD RABBI: Is not a false tooth placed in the mouth the same as a woman’s curls added to her forehead? And do not the sages say that she may not wear such curls unless they are sewed on permanently? FOURTH RABBI: Why permanently? THIRD RABBI: Lest she inadvertently add them to her head on Shabbat. FIRST RABBI: Sewing she can be trusted not to do because three acts are involved. Needle, thread and sewing. She knows that each is forbidden. But pinning a curl to the head is not a usual act and this she may forget, so it is forbidden. THIRD RABBI: And a false tooth is not added to the mouth permanently, but must be put in each day, and is therefore exactly like the false curl of the woman, which may not be worn.”

Still want to be a legalist, still want to live according to a bunch of laws? And if that doesn’t convince you check out the Code of Federal Regulations and imagine that as part of your personal life.

I don’t know about you, but I just wanted to go crawl into a corner after reading this. How can you really live your life this way and when Jesus told His listeners that in order to be righteous, you had to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees, he knew that couldn’t be done, He knew that even the Pharisees couldn’t do it. That is why God gave us grace, that is why He gave His Son Jesus to be the propitiation of our sin. Otherwise we would all be doomed to condemnation. Hey, not my rules, the reality is the Bible, I’ve seen a lot of other “realities”, but they never seem to have the authority to back up what their “reality” is.

So you can get caught up in your works, that just aren’t going to save you. Or you can trust the leading of the Holy Spirit, feel the salvation of Christ. As always you, your family, are welcome to worship at First St Johns, be a part of the family of Christ here at First St Johns, 140 W King St, downtown York, Pa. 10:30 am, plenty of parking in rear. God bless you all. Image

And please check out our Lent/Easter worship schedule at http://www.lutheransonline.com/firststjohns