Sunday, October 11, 2009
Sermon for 11 October 2009, Proper 23B
The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
We Are Saved Only By Jesus
Proper  B
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
11 October 2009
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
17As [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
The man went away sorrowful. He thought he had done everything needed to earn heaven. So, Jesus taught him that gaining heaven by our actions is impossible by giving something impossible for him to do. So, you think you can get there by being a good person, huh? Go, sell everything you own and give away the money. Then, come and follow Me. He couldn’t do it. His money was an idol to him—an idol that broke the first commandment about having no other gods. What is most sad is that the man missed the point of the Ten Commandments. They don’t show us how holy we are. They show us how sinful we are.
Lutherans remember the days of memorizing them and their meanings in Confirmation class. The Gospel Reading appointed for this Day is not intended for us to indulge in nostalgia, however. “The Holy Ten Commands” have a practical application for every Christian, every day: Self-Examination and Reflection. The Ten Commandments preach Repentance; that is, by them God shows us our sin and how much we need a Savior. The Catechism’s section on Confession urges a Christian to prepare for Confession & Absolution using the commandments.
“What sins do I have to confess?” you may be asking yourself. Just wait. Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments.
You may wish to turn to pages 264 or 321 in Lutheran Service Book.
You shall have no other gods. What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.
My God is that which I love, trust and fear most in my life. I [should] expect my comfort, good and delight from my God. Do I look to God my heavenly Father, for all love, good and joy? Is everything measured for me by what pleases me? In all things am I self-centered and selfish? Do I see my worry and fretting as sin against trusting God? Do I complain about the troubles, people, work and suffering God lays on me? Do I love the things God gives me more than I love Him? And do I cling to what God takes away, even though He gives me Himself?
You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not curse, swear, use witchcraft, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.
Do I curse? Do I use God’s name cheaply for oaths that are frivolous or false? Do I stand up and swear by God’s Name when it is for the truth of the Gospel or for the benefit of my neighbor in need? Am I bored and indifferent in prayer? Am I bored with God’s Word, neglect the study of the Catechism, doctrine and God’s Word? Is my heart and life in the praise of God in worship? Is my life, marked with the Name of God in Baptism, characterized by thanksgiving and praise?
You shall sanctify the holy day / Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it.
Do I strive to make the day of rest holy? Do I care about holy living? Do I use the Word of God and prayer to make my time, work, and study life holy day by day? Do I honor the Word of God highly by studying it gladly, learning it by heart, and living it? Do I despise the Word of God by neglect, paying no attention to it when it is read or preached? Do I love my fellow Christians by being present with them in worship to sustain them? Am I quick to make excuses for neglecting worship because of what someone else has said or done, or to do other things I like more? Do I spend time complaining about the worship, the pastor or other people? Do I learn the Word gladly so that I may teach others?
You shall honor your father and your mother, that it may be well with you and you may live long upon the earth. What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not despise nor anger our parents and masters, but give them honor, serve, obey, and hold them in love and esteem.
Has the fear and love of God shaped my honor and obedience to parents and others in authority? Have I trusted God to bless me and make my life good when I submit to the authority of parents and those over me, or have I been angry with them? Have I been insolent, sullen and disrespectful to my parents, teachers, employers or other authorities over me? Have I been on good behavior when they are present and mocking them when they are absent? Have I given honor and respect to the pastoral office? Have I helped those who carry responsibilities in governing? Do I pray for parents, leaders of the nations, schools and church? Do I grumble about work given me to do? Have I helped make it easier for those who carry responsibilities for governing?
You shall not [murder]. What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not hurt nor harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every bodily need.
Have I treated my neighbor’s body and life as gifts of God to him? Have I injured my neighbor with violent actions, or murdered him with thoughts of anger, contempt, and hatred? Have I injured my neighbor by ridicule, by neglecting to feed or clothe him, withholding compassion and comfort from him? Have I avoided giving help to my neighbor, avoiding involvement with him in his difficulty? Do I abuse my own body with neglect of health, care, excess use of food, drink, tobacco, or drugs?
You shall not commit adultery. What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may lead a chaste and decent life in words and deeds, and each love and honor his spouse.
Have I indulged my eyes with longing for my sexual satisfaction from a man or woman who is not my spouse? Have I had intercourse with a man or woman who is not my spouse? Have I dishonored my spouse by neglecting to care for the body, mind, feelings, and needs of the other, withdrawing faithfulness from the spouse? Have I failed to trust God to bless us in our marriage, even in times of trouble? Have I neglected to pray for my spouse, to worship together, and to live in the fear and love of God in times of sexual temptations? Have I given support of homosexual activity, living together outside of holy matrimony, or sexual activity outside of marriage?
You shall not steal. What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not take our neighbor’s money or property, nor get them by false ware or dealing, but help him to improve and protect his property and business.
Have I been lazy at work, doing poor work in school or at the job, or working hard only when the teacher or boss is around? Have I been stingy in paying my workers? Have I worked for myself rather than for Christ and for the benefit of my neighbor? Have I cared for the property in the neighborhood, school, or church, so that it was improved? Have I stolen from the office, school, or the church, or stood silently by while others took what was not theirs? Have I stolen information from another’s work? Have I wasted time? Have I been stingy when it comes to giving the Lord a generous portion as thank-offering for what he has given me? Have I stolen from my neighbor by not helping him in time of need?
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, or defame our neighbor, but defend him, [think and] speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.
Have I told the truth in court or in school before authorities or before my parents when I knew the truth? Have I been afraid to bear witness when I knew the truth? Have I gossiped, delighted to tell others about the faults or mistakes of another, excusing myself especially by saying that I spoke only the truth? Have I gone to others to make peace if I wronged them or they me, or to correct them if I knew of their wrong? Have I flattered others, or put on a front to make them think of me differently from what is true? Have I found ways gladly and willingly to explain, in the best possible way, those words or actions of others that hurt me? Have I defended my neighbor when things said about my neighbor have made others think badly about him or her? Have I learned to hear with the weaknesses and faults of others, covering their shame? Have I been faithful in keeping the secrets of another’s heart entrusted to me in confidence?
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not craftily seek to get our neighbor’s inheritance or house, and obtain it by a show of [justice and] right, etc., but help and be of service to him in keeping it.
Have I longed for the honor, wealth, happy life, or what seemed the ease of the lives of others? Has my life been full of craving for these things? Have I been stingy and self-indulgent with my money, trying to keep up with what others had? Have I tried, by claims of various rights, to make the property of others my own, saying they do not really deserve it and I do? Do I have to keep wishing for and dreaming about things I do not have before I can work with a diligent and glad heart? Have I lived in grudging discontent with whatever God has given me, restless about what I do not have and neglectful of thankful generosity with what I do have?
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is his. What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not estrange, force, or entice away our neighbor’s wife, servants, or cattle, but urge them to stay and [diligently] do their duty.
Have I wanted my neighbor’s spouse, his workers, or his property to be mine? Have I tried to win the affections and loyalties of my neighbor’s spouse or children or friends away from the neighbor to me? Have I urged friends and spouses and workers to go back to their calling, holding their marriages, friendships, families, and work together? Have I fostered discontent with the congregation, its pastor or leaders, and failed to urge members to stay and do their duty in worship, praying, giving and serving?
What does God say of all these Commandments? I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments.
What does this mean? God threatens to punish all that transgress these commandments. Therefore we should dread His wrath and not act contrary to these commandments. But He promises grace and every blessing to all that keep these commandments. Therefore we should also love and trust in Him, and gladly do according to His commandments.
God demands our hearts and minds, not merely our outward actions. Therefore, examine the heart as well as the life, connecting the fear and love of God with each commandment. Let the broken heart fear him. God loves, and does not despise, the sacrifices of the broken heart. Rather, he joins the broken heart to his mercy for forgiveness and healing, for peace and purity.
What purposes does the law serve? There are three. First, the Law helps to control violent outbursts of sins and keeps order in the world. The Law acts as a curb.
Second, the Law accuses us and shows us our sin. The Law is a mirror. Self-examination and reflection, as we have done here today, makes use of the Law as mirror. A mirror can show you that your hair is messed up, that your face is dirty, or that you have a zit. The mirror cannot, however, comb you hair, clean your face, or medicate your pimple. “What sins do I have to confess?” you may have been asking yourself. Now you know, especially after considering your place in life according to the Ten Commandments.
Now, the Gospel comes in and forgives your sins. Your slate is wiped clean. Your sins are washed away. Your relationship with God is restored by Christ. Confession is always for the sake of absolution.
And then, you ask yourself, “What is pleasing to God?” You ask by faith, not in the way of, “Lord, PLEASE forgive me because of what I’ll do for you,” but instead, “THANK YOU, Lord for forgiving me my sin.” The Third use of the Law teaches us Christians what we should and should not do to lead a God-pleasing life. The Law here is a guide. The power to live according to the Law comes only from the Gospel.
People today think you get to heaven by being good. Just ask them. We’re not saved by being good. We’re saved only by Jesus. “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered by bringing up the Ten Commandments. The man wrongly thought he had kept them all. Don’t make his mistake. Use the Commandments to prepare for confession, receive Jesus’ absolution, and put your faith in Christ, who kept the Commandments perfectly in your place. Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.