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Trinity 18 – Matthew 22:34-46

by pastorjuhl ~ September 30th, 2010

I am indebted to Rev. Todd Peperkorn for many of the thoughts in this sermon. Soli Deo Gloria!

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

A young lawyer goes up to Jesus and asks Him a question: Which is the greatest commandment? You may think you know the answer to the question. The answer was not so obvious to the Pharisees. They were convinced keeping the Law saved them. The Pharisees had 613 laws found in Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. 248 laws were positive laws corresponding to parts of the body. 365 laws were negative laws, corresponding to each day of the year. The question about the greatest commandment was an important one.

Nevertheless, the Pharisees missed the point. Saint Paul writes to the Galatian Christians that the Law of God is summarized in one word: LOVE. Love is the fulfillment of the Law. The point is not keeping a set of rules or keeping pure. The point is a heart that doesn’t think of itself but of others. Love of God with heart, soul, and mind leads to love of neighbor. Love defines us. Love makes us who we are as human beings.

Perhaps you are familiar with the distinctive Lutheran teaching of the proper distinction of God’s Law and God’s Gospel. The Law is about understanding that being human means giving yourself to the other. In other words, being human means to love and to sacrifice for others not for the sake of gain, but because that is the nature of love.

Selfishness is dangerous and contrary to love. To be selfish, to hold onto possessions, time, and money because it’s what’s best for me or what’s best for anything is not human. Yes, it’s what everyone else does. However, that doesn’t make selfishness right. God did not create you to be selfish. God created you to be happy in Him. Being happy in Him means giving to others over self. Adam and Eve gave to each other. They loved each other. Their love grew into the family called the human race.

Love for neighbor is the second half of the great commandment. Loving, sacrificing, and giving to whomever God places in our path is a gift from God. The month of October is budget preparation month in our congregation. The Budget Committee will soon meet to determine how best to spend the tithes and offerings you give to sustain the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments in Momence. These decisions involve time, energy, money, and resources. When it comes to making difficult decisions, the Budget Committee keeps in mind some important questions you should keep in mind when it comes to determining your tithe: “How does God want me to use the gifts He gives me in my life? How does God want me to use my time, talents, and money?” The answer may be complicated or it may be simple. The simple answer is that God wants you to use everything you have and everything you are in service to God and to neighbor. These two things go together.

If you look at the life you lead and the way you use the things God gives you, you must answer an honest NO to whether or not you are selfish. You know when it comes to loving others over self you are cheap and chintzy. Sinful human nature turns in on self in order not to ask, “How may I serve my neighbor?” but instead ask, “How will they serve me?” It is our nature to love and give, but that nature is so tarnished that we barely recognize it. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 10: the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire; he blesses the greedy and renounces the LORD.

God doesn’t do fractions. Either He wants all of you or He wants none of you. There are no 50 percent down and 50 percent later deals with God. To be in the image of God means to give all of yourself to Him and to your neighbor. You can’t do it.

To understand true love and true self-giving, you have to look into the very heart of God. God’s nature is to give, create, and sacrifice for the sake of His love. This is Who God is. His nature and character is to love you, take care of you, and give you what you need. Part of what you need is the Law. You need to recognize your sin and weakness. You need to see that God alone helps you. However, that isn’t the end.

God’s final Word for you is not “you shall”. God’s final Word for you is a Word of love. He gives everything for you. He gives His only-begotten Son over to die as a common criminal so that you, His wayward child, would have life in His Name. That is love. That is giving. That is a glimpse into the heart of God.

Jesus has this little argument with the Pharisees to show them that He is Messiah, the son of David and the Son of God. Jesus became true man in order to reach down into our nature. Jesus was also true God in order to redeem the human race. Behold what wondrous love the heavenly Father has for you! David’s son is David’s Lord! The Pharisees wouldn’t understand God’s nature. They thought God’s nature was to be waited upon; to receive our honor and our worship. God’s true nature is to give, and give, and give, and give to the point of His own death. That is love.

King David writes in Psalm 122: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the LORD.” Here is where you are given His grace, His undeserved love for you. Here at the font, the pulpit, and the altar is where all of God’s love and mercy won for you on the cross flows into you. God’s love is here for you. From these holy places, God’s love flows through you and out into the world, as you love others by serving them as if they were Jesus Christ in the flesh.

The Psalmist writes in Psalm 116: What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits toward me? I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD now in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the LORD’s house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Another way to answer the Psalmist question is in the Epistle to the Hebrews: Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. God is well pleased with the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving from your lips, hands, and pocketbook not because you are good at what you do. God is well pleased because this sacrifice of thanksgiving flows from the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ for your sin.

God’s love is here for you. He gives His love freely because God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God.

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

1 Response to Trinity 18 – Matthew 22:34-46

  1. Charles James

    Thanks for "the glimpse into the heart of God". May God expand our hearts with his love so that we can love him and our neighbour.

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