Grace Lutheran Preschool
For the fall 2014
Registrations accepted through June 2014.
Children between the ages of 3 and 5 are eligible for the program.
For more information: please call (219) 865-1137 or email at [email protected]
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) is acknowledged as one of the most famous and gifted of all composers past and present in the entire western world. Orphaned at the age of ten, Bach was mostly self-taught in music. His professional life as conductor, performer, composer, teacher, and organ consultant began at the age of 19 in the town of Arnstadt and ended in Leipzig, where for the last twenty-seven years of his life he was responsible for all the music in the city’s four Lutheran churches. In addition to his being a superb keyboard artist, the genius and bulk of Bach’s vocal and instrumental compositions remain overwhelming. A devout and devoted Lutheran, he is especially honored in Christendom for his lifelong insistence that his music was written primarily for the liturgical life of the church to glorify God and edify His people.
27. July 2014
Exodus 20:1-17; Romans 6:3-11; Matthew 5:20-26
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Lord your God delivered your people from the land of Egypt. The Lord your God has torn you from Pharaoh’s house of slavery and has promised to you a land flowing with milk and honey. This is a holy work-in-progress. This life is a pilgrimage from despair to hope, slavery to freedom, death to resurrection. The roadmap is laid before you. The Way is clearly charted. No more Egypt. No more oppression. No more sin. No more suffering. No more death. The future is Canaan. The future is sanctified. The future is peace. The future is life.
So what about now? What do we do while we journey from Egypt to the Promised Land? This question, “What must I do?” is a regular refrain from all wilderness wayfarers. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’re free and we’re on our way, well and good. Now tell me more! Give me something to strive for and with. Let me help out, Lord God. God is happy to oblige. “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’” (Ex 19:5-6)
If you obey and keep, then you will be. If and then—A conditional statement—A two-way agreement. That’s what we want because that’s our nature—a divine “Let’s make a deal!” So, “Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the Lord commanded him. 8 Then all the people answered together and said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do.’” (Ex. 19:7-8) There you go. God has delivered you and is taking you home. And of course, you want to know what to do now. There’s no more deliverance needed and the promised land is already in the bag, so what now?
Moses and the people consecrated themselves. They abstained from marital relations. Moses warned the people to stay away from the mountain while the Lord descended in thick cloud, darkness, and thunder. Approaching the Holy One of Israel is not to be taken lightly. Only the consecrated priests could even come near and Moses only to hear the Words.
And then the Lord your God gave you exactly what you wanted. The Ten Commandments or better yet, the Ten Words. We heard these ten words recited in today’s Old Testament lesson. There are no more practical and relevant life lessons given in the Holy Scriptures than the Ten Words. These Ten Words are God’s articulation of what faith toward Him and love toward the neighbor look like. Do you want to love God rightly? Then get rid of all your idols—anything you fear, love, and trust in apart from the Lord your God. And call on God’s name only in prayer and praise. And go to church, listen to your pastor, and say your prayers every day.
Do you want to be a good Christian for your neighbor? Then love him as yourself. Remove from yourself all anger and hatred. Stop lusting after the opposite sex. Don’t act like your married—whether fornicating and/or living together, while covering it up as “friendship.” Don’t take what isn’t yours to take, whether stuff, money, or time. Stop talking about your neighbor, your family, or your pastor behind his back. And if you’re want to go all the way, don’t desire anything that isn’t yours, spouse, house, car, or life.
The saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for.” Maybe you shouldn’t be so quick to ask your pastor for practical lessons? Your parents asked their pastor Moses and look at what they received! They received Ten Words and also a whole book of laws for how to conduct church, how to govern their state, and how to live their lives.
Clearly, your parents camped out by Sinai regretted their promise, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” If you ask the Lord your God for a set of rules to abide by, a handbook of life lessons to strive for, you’re going to get far more than you bargained for. If you want to make a deal with God, He will demand of you perfect obedience. The Ten Words perfectly describe what the Christian must be. They tell you exactly what God expects of you. And if you take them seriously, you’ll be just like your Fathers in the wilderness.
Moses records, “18 Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. 19 Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” 20 And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” 21 So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:18-21).
If you honestly examine yourself according to the Ten Words, you’re going to be left with two options. You could despair under the weight of the Law and its exposure of your sinful nature. Or, on the other hand you could soft-pedal God’s Word. You could defang the bite of the Law, to make it easier, nicer, and more likable. Okay, no other Gods. Got it, good. Except I’d like to add a little faith, hope, and trust in my job, my government, or myself. Call upon you in every trouble. Sure, but only when it gets real bad. Remember the Sabbath day? Yeah, but only if I don’t have a family engagement, I got home early enough on Saturday, and if I feel up to it. Love my neighbor? Well, only the neighbors I like. Surely I can be angry with him. There can’t be any problem with an occasional peek at the scantily clad on the internet? What’s wrong with a little leisure on the company dime? I’ll the best construction on everything you say unless I don’t like it. And a little greed motivates me to work harder, right?
This is the perennial Pharisee rising up in each of us. We love to downplay God’s Ten Words. “All these things I have kept from my youth” (Matthew 19:20). Thus, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. And after rendering God’s Law harmless, we add our own laws of our own choosing. Nice, simple, and easy maxims that we can live up to. Be nice, be helpful, be friendly except when… and you fill in the blank. This is effectively taking the righteousness God demands and substituting a minimized and tame righteousness of our own choosing. This approach to God’s Law is so natural that it was the predominant thought in Jesus’ day. The terror of Sinai under Moses turned into the good little Pharisee of the Gospels.
Jesus said, “Whoever […] breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19-20).
In other words, if you want to live by the Law then you must keep it perfectly. If you want to receive eternal life based on your righteousness, then there’s no half-assing it. Either you keep the Law down to every jot and tittle, every detail and possible permutation, or die an eternal death in the hell of fire. The Pharisee’s external righteous behavior isn’t enough. This righteousness has to go down deep into the core of your very being. The perfect righteousness the Lord your God demands is not about building up a good looking façade. It runs to the division of flesh and marrow, to your very soul.
So, we’re back to the other option—despair. When faced with God’s Law, the mortal man can only say, “I, a poor, miserable sinner.” “In sin did my mother conceive me.” “No one is righteous, no not one.” “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” “Against you and You only have I sinned.” “I surely deserve nothing but death and punishment.” “The wages of sin is death.” That’s what all your demands for practical life lessons get you—a Law you never could obey and a death you deserve. At this point, if you’re honest, you probably are saying, “Let not God speak with us anymore, lest we die.”
“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” We keep hearing this message because we keep forgetting. We fall back into our old ways of trusting in our own obedience and righteousness. We want to fix ourselves, cure ourselves, make ourselves right with God. But it was and is always a false and misleading dream that we can contribute anything worthy of merit before God. There is no possibility for mankind to gain heaven of themselves. Come to terms quickly with the accusation of the Law before you end up in courtroom of the last day and you be condemned.
There is only one righteousness that satisfies God demands. It is not that of the scribes and Pharisees. It exceeds any righteousness of any one of you have accomplished. It exceeds the righteousness of even the most charitable, hospitable, and well-meaning people who have ever lived. It is a perfect righteousness that fully obeys the Father’s will even went it means death. It is a righteousness given to you as a gift in Jesus Christ. It is the forgiveness of your sins earned for you by Christ Jesus dying for you. It is a righteousness given to you as you were washed, sanctified, and adopted by Holy Baptism. It is the righteousness put into your mouth as Jesus bodies and bloodies you. The Lord Jesus Christ is your righteousness.
Christ Jesus is the Way, the truth, and the Life. He is the narrow gate that leads into heaven. He threads the eye of the needle for you. He is the only one with righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. By baptism you are united to Christ Jesus and to His righteousness. The old way of sin that leads to death. The way of earthly righteousness of life lessons and take away tips has been buried with Him by baptism into death. That old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin be brought to nothing. There is now no more “Let’s make a deal!” with God. There is no more bargaining with God, “If we do this then you’ll do that.”
We’ve reneged on every deal, broken every covenant, trespassed every Law. But your savior Jesus hasn’t. He kept the Law perfectly and took into himself our lawlessness as our substitute. He died the death we deserve for our deal-breaking and in a blessed exchange gives us the victory through death. By baptism, Christ Jesus crucified in us our passions and desires. We have been set free from the curse of the Law, freed from slavery to sin, freed to serve the Holy Trinity without fear in righteousness and purity forever.
Stop asking God to give you more rules or advice. Stop asking your church to be a place of tips for living. No more deal making and breaking with God. You are baptized, raised from such dead works, to live in the newness of Christ’s life. Live as free people, dead to sin and alive in Christ Jesus. Live each day in Christ’s Word, Christ’s baptism, and Christ’s body and blood. Live in the forgiveness of sins. Live in Christ’s righteousness. Live forever. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church