Saturday, October 11, 2014

LWML Sunday

Sermon on Luke 11:14-28
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
October 12, 2014 (LWML Sunday)

“Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.”  Most Christians, including many Lutherans, would paraphrase this passage from the end of today’s Gospel in this way: “If you hear God’s word and do what it says, God will bless you.”  But a more accurate paraphrase of what Jesus actually said here would go something like this: “Treasuring God’s Word in your heart and mind, will be a blessing to you.”  On the surface, those two paraphrases don’t sound all that different.  But really, there is a huge difference there.  The first version emphasizes doing what God says, and really doesn’t have much at all to do with what God did for us.  Not to mention the fact that in this old world, doing what God says doesn’t always have any connection to the sorts of blessings we may or may not have here.  There are plenty of people who live corrupt, dishonest, and downright sinful lives who have huge houses, fancy cars, and so on.  And there are many outwardly righteous people who barely manage to scrape by.  The world hasn’t ever been fair since Adam and Eve, and it never will be until Judgment Day.  And so the idea that if we follow His Law He will bless us, just doesn’t hold water.

God’s blessings come from treasuring the Word of God in our hearts, like Mary did.  The word keep here actually means to defend, to regard as important, to treasure something. The Word we are to treasure isn’t just God’s Law (in fact, God’s Law isn’t even the first and foremost thing we are to treasure).  The most important thing we are to treasure in our hearts is the Gospel, the good news that God sent His Son to be the only possible sacrifice for the sin of the world, the only sacrifice which is well-pleasing to God, a sweet aroma rising to Him.

And that brings us to the theme that the LWML has chosen for this day, based on the second verse of our epistle lesson.  It is Jesus who offers the perfect sacrifice for our sins.  His righteousness, given to us in the washing of regeneration and renewal, is what covers our sins.  To borrow the metaphor from today’s Epistle, the sweet aroma of His sacrifice is what covers over the stench of our sin.  It’s only because of His sacrifice that anything we do could possibly be pleasing to Him.  Outside of Christ’s sacrifice, we might do good things that help our neighbor, but God isn’t impressed.  All our righteousness is filthy rags.  It’s only when the white robe of Christ’s righteousness, given us in Holy Baptism, covers our sin that anything we do can possibly please Him.  After all, believers’ righteousness isn’t their own.  It’s only Jesus who is pleasing to His Father.  And that’s true not just of His earthly life, but of the life He lives in, with and under our lives here on earth.  It’s not we who do good works, it’s Jesus.

And that brings us to the LWML, for whose work for missions and human care we give thanks today.  We do thank God for the many ways in which this organization has helped any number of missionary and charitable projects conducted by various elements of our church body.  They’re very good at what they do.  But their work doesn’t please God either, unless those works are done in faith.  The LWML’s work isn’t pleasing to God by itself, no matter how much good they may do.  It’s only when Christ’s righteousness covers their sin, too, that anything they do is pleasing to Him.  While we do give thanks to God for their work, we dare never forget that nothing we or they do helps us before His throne.  Only Christ can do that.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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