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Trinity 6 – Matthew 5:20-26

by pastorjuhl ~ July 7th, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

The Law of God is so good and so wise that you cannot keep it as God wants you to keep it. You can try to keep the Law, but you will stumble. Keeping the Law means to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, as well as loving your neighbor as yourself. The love God expects in His commandments is a love of thought, word, and deed, not merely in word or in deed. Going through the motions of keeping His Law won’t save you. The inclination of your heart is what counts.

The inclination of your heart is wretched due to sin. Your righteousness does not exceed God’s righteousness. You’re in good company. The righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees also did not exceed God’s righteousness. You’re ahead of the game when you believe that your righteousness does not pass God’s muster. The scribes and Pharisees did not believe it. They believed the performance of the Law passed as righteousness before God and men. God didn’t want their performance. God wanted their hearts in it. God wants your heart in it too. However, your heart is blackened with sin and death. Your Father in heaven wants no part of you giving your filthy heart to Him.

You prayed in the Collect for Trinity 6: Graft in us the love of Your Name. Jesus Christ is the only Name that brings the love of the heavenly Father. If you were to preach the Fifth Commandment as Jesus does in Matthew chapter five, You shall not murder, yet be arrested and tried for a crime you did not commit, you would want vengeance. You would be ready to slaughter those who spat upon you, blasphemed you, and mocked you as the so-called Son of God. You do this when you are angry with your brother without a cause. Recall Blessed Martin Luther’s explanation of the Fifth Commandment: We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need. You do this when you despise God’s Name by not hearing preaching and His Word, by using His Name loosely, and by participating in witchcraft and soothsaying.

You also prayed: Increase in us true religion. The dog days of summer are here. True religion is decreased in the summer so other activities may be increased. God bless you when you attend Divine Service while out of town. However, when you let a busy schedule push aside both public and private prayer, true religion is decreased. Preaching and His Word are not a sometime thing, especially in warm weather months.

You prayed: Nourish in us all goodness. What sort of goodness is it when you say, Raca! or You fool! God expects His children to live in peace. There is no peace for rebellious words and actions, especially when those rebellious words go against God. Don’t believe for a moment that you’re off the hook when you say foolish words to your neighbor. When you speak coarsely to your neighbor, you also speak coarsely to God.

The final petition in the Collect is of Your great mercy keep us in the same. “The same” is the true religion prayed for earlier in the Collect. You are not in the true religion of the Triune God when your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes, Pharisees, your neighbor, or Almighty God. Your righteousness before God is as filthy rags. Your heart before God is a rusty tin can that is good for nothing.

God’s Son is in the trash collection business. Jesus Christ comes along the piles of trash and sees your rusty tin can of a heart, uses his collection stick to pick you up, and puts you in His bag. A rusty tin can cannot climb into a bag. Someone must pick it up. Jesus Christ is that someone.

Saint Paul writes to the Roman Christians: Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certain we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should not longer be slaves of sin.

Jesus Christ takes your rusty tin can of a heart, washes it clean in baptismal water, and grafts it into the love of His Name. Being grafted into the vine of righteousness, He increase in you true religion through the Means of Grace. Many so-called “Christians” are Christians in name only. They believe with God’s Word that faith in Christ alone saves. They take those words in a minimalistic meaning. “All I have to do is believe in Jesus.” That’s true. But can a grafted vine live when it wants to be away from the root? A grafted vine remains connected when it receives nourishment. So it is with you. The Holy Spirit increases true religion in you when He calls you by the Gospel, enlightens you with His gifts, sanctifies and keeps you in the one true faith. An increase in true religion is also tied with nourishment in all goodness. Holy Preaching, Holy Absolution, and Holy Communion build on the strong foundation laid in your Holy Baptism. These Holy Things for holy ones deliver forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. They are your lifelines to the resurrected Christ.

God’s great mercy keeps you steadfast in the true faith to life everlasting. Paul writes in the Epistle: reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. You are alive in Christ Jesus when you show forth the mercy of Jesus Christ where God has put you. Do you change diapers? You show Christ’s mercy. Do you work diligently? You show Christ’s mercy. Do you care for one another? You show Christ’s mercy. Where the mercy of Jesus is, there is the love of God’s Name, the increase of true religion, and the nourishment in all goodness.

All these good things flow from the Son of God, Who gave His life for you that you might trust in His blood and righteousness. They are your beauty and your glorious dress. Wrapped in Him, all things are now possible, even eternal life. When you fall short of God’s mark of righteousness, there is forgiveness and life in Christ. Believe it for His sake.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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