Monday, October 31, 2011

Sermon for 23 October 2011, Proper 25A

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
Matthew 22:34-36
LSB Proper [25] A, 23 October 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

When will the Pharisees tire of trying to trip up Jesus with their questions? Last week it was, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” Jesus answered, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marveled. And we also marvel at His wisdom. That divine wisdom is shown again in our text, another portion of Matthew Chapter 22.
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Wow. That makes these two commandments sound important!
We’re used to hearing about Ten Commandments, not two. The Synodical Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism makes the connection. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” the great and first commandment, summarizes the First Table of the Law, Commandments One through Three. Having no other gods, not taking His name in vain, and remembering the Sabbath day by keeping it holy are how God’s people love Him with heart, soul, and mind.
Do people show God love when they call the true God by the name of a false god or try to combine the two? Do some Christians show love of God when they call Him by names He has not given in the word such as, “Our Father-Mother who art in heaven”? Do we show love of God when we ignore the Lord’s Word and Gifts in His house on His day, or only go reluctantly? Do we show love of God if we refuse to “walk together” in unity with His Word as any Biblical Synod should? Do we show love of God if we are reluctant to give or serve as He has need of us? Do we love God if we doubt His promises?
No, of course not. And we have a problem. The Law of God as the full Ten Commandments or summarized into two great commandments is a mirror that shows us what we don’t want to see: how we have failed to keep the commandments by what we have done and by what we have left undone.
The same goes for the second Great Commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This summarizes the whole of the Second Tablet, commandments Four through Ten, covering everything from obedience to parents, murder, and sexual immorality, to theft, lying, and coveting. If we truly loved our neighbor, we would love and honor them, help them in any way possible, and put the best construction on anything. What happens instead? We are hammered by the law because of our sinful actions and our failure to do the good God desires. Disrespect. Disobedience. Name-calling. Failing to be generous to those less fortunate than ourselves. Allowing filth to enter our homes. Little white lies. Gossip. Lust for who or what we don’t have. All of us should be squirming by now. The law will not allow any of us to remain comfortable in sin.
Why do we feel this way? What goes so horribly wrong? One word. One word summarizes all of the Ten Commandments, both of Jesus’ Great Commandments: love.

And you thought love was a good thing! You’re not completely wrong. Even hearing the word “love” is a command to every listener. Commands are law. And the law is a mirror that shows how we fail daily by thought, word, deed, and by what we leave undone. Where have you failed in the past? “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
So, then, this beautiful text from 1 Corinthians 13 is only law? No. God is love, but only in Christ Jesus. Now listen again in the light of Christ’s love for you.
Jesus is patient and kind; Jesus does not envy or boast; He is not arrogant or rude. He does not insist on His own way, because He followed His Father’s way; Jesus is not irritable or resentful; Jesus does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. He is truth. Jesus bears all things, including your sin and that of the whole world, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, even the cross and grave. Jesus never ends. He is the eternal Son of God begotten of His Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, who died and was raised for you and for your salvation. All because of God’s love. God’s love for you in Jesus never ends.
If it were up to each of us to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and love our neighbor as ourselves, what would that mean for the Law and the Prophets? We fail. You remember what goes on inside of you when the Law beats you up. We need Someone who can fulfill the Ten Commandments summarized in Jesus’ Great Commandments. And that person is Jesus. His work, His love for God and neighbor is just what you need. Jesus as Savior, loving God first and loving each one of you as His neighbor fulfills the Law and the Prophets, the whole of Old Testament prophecy. The Hebrew Scriptures truly make sense only in Christ Jesus, the promised Messiah of old.

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’? “If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
CPR: The point Jesus is making with His question cannot be grasped without an understanding of His application of Psalm 110:1. The hearer is confronted, rapid fire, with five persons: Jesus (first), recounting the words of (second) David, inspired by (third) the Spirit, recounting the words of (fourth) “the Lord” to (fifth) his “Lord.” Think of a TV reporter standing before the camera, giving a report of statements made by people in the news. In Psalm 110:1, the reporter is David. He’s reporting what God the Father, (the Lord) said to the Messiah (my Lord). The Holy Spirit, by the way, is the news chief back at the office who dispatched the reporter, and Jesus, who is the Messiah the Father was talking about, we see in Matthew 22 discussing the report with viewers who watched it when it aired.
We have a great example of love in action in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Yet, we are different people and have different vocations. Jesus’ vocation was Messiah. Day to day, we are given to love God and show love for neighbor in our congregations, homes, workplaces, schools, and communities. This isn’t rocket science. Christianity is pretty simple. You are a sinner. Jesus died for sinners. You are also a saint in Christ. Love your neighbor as yourself according to your vocations. Confess your sins. Regularly receive God’s forgiveness. Invite someone to come with you.

We are right to be amazed at the wisdom in Jesus’ answers. In another way, we should not be surprised. Jesus simply shows His knowledge of the liturgy of the synagogue. The service began with the confession of faith from Deuteronomy 6 which said, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might…”
These words would be complemented by Jesus’ quotation of Leviticus 19: “…you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
The creed in the Synagogue liturgy was followed by a prayer of intercession, three readings, a sermon, and the blessing: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”
Does any of this sound familiar? It should. Lutherans pray on Sunday mornings the way we do because we follow the pattern of the historic western Divine Service. The Divine Service is patterned after the way of Jewish prayer in the synagogues at the time of Christ plus the Lord’s Supper, Jesus’ remodeling of the ancient Jewish Passover meal.
Ad Fontes: In the Christian Divine Service, the background of the worship of the synagogue ought not to be overlooked. We have the confession of faith; we have the intercessory prayer; we have the reading of the Scriptures, and we have the blessing. We have more, however, much more: we have the Sacrament of the altar, and bound together with it the ceremonial liturgy. We have Holy Baptism as well and the hymn of the Church, which lastly stands in the tradition of the Psalter. The Psalms were already the spiritual songs of the Old Testament congregation.
Nagel: Our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says. Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise. Music is drawn into this thankfulness and praise, enlarging and elevating the adoration of our gracious giver God.
Saying back to him what he has said to us, we repeat what is most true and sure. Most true and sure is his name, which he put upon us with the water of our Baptism. We are his. This we acknowledge at the beginning of the Divine Service. Where his name is, there is he. Before him we acknowledge that we are sinners, and we plead for forgiveness. His forgiveness is given us, and we, freed and forgiven, acclaim him as our great and gracious God as we apply to ourselves the words he has used to make himself known to us.
The rhythm of our worship is from him to us, and then from us back to him. He gives his gifts, and together we receive and extol them. We build on another up as we speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Our Lord gives us his body to eat and his blood to drink. Finally his blessing moves us out into our calling, where his gifts have their fruition.
How best to do this we may learn from his Word and from the way his Word has prompted his worship throughout the centuries. We are heirs of an astonishingly rich tradition. Each generation receives from those who went before and, in making that tradition of the Divine Service its own, adds what best may serve in its own day--the living heritage and something new. (Lutheran Worship, p. 6 Nagel)

The Greatest Commandment is Love. We love God with heart, soul and mind, when we receive His good gifts. You are a sinner. Jesus died for sinners. You are also a saint in Christ. Love your neighbor as yourself according to your vocations. Confess your sins. Regularly receive God’s forgiveness. The Lord’s blessing moves us out into our calling, where his gifts have their fruition. Jesus the Messiah’s love for God and for you fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.