Sunday, September 21, 2008

"Working For the Master, NOT Mammon"

S‑1074 09/21/2008 19SAP/3A Hymns: (O) #301; (S) #347; (C) #374

Texts: Isaiah 55:6-9; Philippians 1:12-14, 19-30; Matthew 20:1-16

Theme: “Working For the Master Not Mammon” (Matthew 20:13-15


Question: “How Safe are Your Finances?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the Gospel lesson: “But He [Jesus] replied to one of them, 'Friend, I Am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with Me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to Me? Or do you begrudge My generosity?’” (Mt. 20:13-15).

Saints in Christ, the movie “Meet the Parents” is a story about a Jewish male nurse, who is ready to propose to his girlfriend Pam. Greg Focker discovers that Pam’s father, Jack prefers to be asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage before the proposal. Greg and Pam take a visit to the Burns home, in order to ask Pam’s father for his daughters hand in marriage. While there, Pam’s ex-boyfriend Kevin Rawley (who is a still a good friend of Pam’s father) asked Greg “How is your portfolio?” This question was asked to make fun of the male nurse who is the love of Pam.

In this movie, Kevin made it sound that the most important thing to have is a good portfolio so that you can be secure in your financial needs. And many people in our society and even here think the same way. What is important in life is to have the most amount of money and toys. It appears that many of us spend their whole life trying to get rich. PAUSE. So “How is your portfolio? Are your finances secure? Are you certain of your future?”

No one can be certain of the future. We know all to well, that what we have can be gone in an instant. You have seen on television and heard on the radio the news of the economy. The stock market is like a roller coaster—very unstable to say the least. Many have lost there jobs and finances as these giants banks—Fannie Mae, Lehmann Brothers and Merrill Lynch went belly up. And when hurricane Ike came ashore in Texas, it wiped out many people’s homes and businesses. One person was heard saying, “All I have ever worked for is gone. The hurricane took it all. I have nothing left!

In the Gospel lesson today, Jesus shares a parable with His hearers and us to help us realize that the Kingdom of God is not an earthly kingdom but a heavenly one; that our lives here on earth are not forever, but temporary; that we should focus on that which is important and live our lives in the service of the Master rather than seeking out mammon.

Today’s reading serves as a corrective that many people have about the Kingdom of God and how we can get into it. Peter had asked in the previous chapter saying “See, we have left everything and followed You. What then will we have?” (19:27). Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ responded by assuring Peter that all would be well rewarded, and He offered the parable of the workers in the vineyard. He said that those who came to work in the last hour received the same payment as those who had endured the burden and heat of the whole day. Those who had worked longer complained about this and they lost the grace of the landowner who announced: “So the last will be first and the first last.”

Why did Jesus share this parable with Peter? What did He want Peter and us to learn? That man indeed by his own fault can become last rather than first and he can be lost. It is nothing except goodness, grace and mercy when a person becomes first from the last, a saint from a sinner, hell-bound to heaven-bound. A person can lose grace but he can never merit it. To be sure, then, the payment for the work in God’s vineyard is not earned. Instead, it is a payment of grace, a gift of God’s free goodness.

You know the Master in the story, could have avoided a lot of the trouble had he started giving the wages to those who began early. But no, the Master had to be different. He started with those who worked the least and gave them the same amount. And those who watched and saw what took place, began to get Jealous and envious of the blessings and the generosity of the Master.

People still today get jealous and envious of others, because they equate everything by worldly standards. They want all people to be treated equally, regardless of how they live their lives. They think of God as their boss who owes them something because they have lived their lives in obedience to Him. And if they don’t get it, they begin to grumble and complain about it. But our Lord and Savior, is not like that at all. Entering the Kingdom of heaven is not dependant on us being a life-time Christian, or a new convert; but rather on the mercy of God alone for the sake of Christ.

There is more to this parable than meets the eye. On the surface the issue at hand seems to be one of pay; however as we look closer we see that one of the underlying issues is that the workers misunderstand the nature of the work they are called to, and they misunderstand the One who has called them to do it. They see the tasks which have been given to them as a chore, obligation, burden and responsibility. They don’t see it as a privilege or something they “get to do”. Rather than complain, they should have given thanks for the privilege of working for the Master.

The text certainly points out the extravagant love of Jesus, the Householder, giving generously to all. In those days when DAILY bread was a big issue, Jesus wanted all the people to have their DAILY bread. In this sense Jesus was fulfilling the law providing for all, misphat {judgment}, the commonwealth, not thinking only of the strict law but fulfilling the law in an extravagant way and this evokes the green eye of envy on the part of those who want more than daily bread.

This parable cuts to the quick it speaks to us about our attitudes toward the work which has been given and prepared for us to do. It also points us back to the One who has given us every task to perform; it reminds us that we are to be about the work of the Master.

This parable challenges us to ask few important questions “Are we working for the Master or for Mammon? Are we serving the Lord, Jesus Christ or ourselves? Who is Lord and Master of our lives? Who directs us in all that we do?”

What do most people seek and love above everything else? Isn’t it mammon? Isn’t true that most human hearts rejoice more in a profit of temporal goods than in anything else? Isn’t true that most people find their greatest pleasure and comfort in gold and silver; in acquiring land and properties? Why do so many rise early in the morning and remain at their jobs till late at night? Isn’t to obtain more and more of this worlds good? People more often than not, are serving mammon rather than the Master.

Oh, that we would heed and hear the Master’s voice anew today and realize that He has given us all that we need. That our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ worked for our benefit in all that He did. Study Scripture and you will find that the whole life of Jesus was about serving His Master and Father. Hear Him say, “For I have come down from heaven not to do My will but to do the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38). In the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed saying: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Mt. 26:39). Again, “How is it that you are searching for Me? Didn’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Lk. 2:49).

What is the Father’s business? What was the Father’s will? What was the desire of the One who sent Jesus? It is to save mankind from the punishment of hell and death. And Jesus did. Jesus came about to work in God’s vineyard and told the people of Israel who He was and who sent Him. But they didn’t believe Him. Instead, they despised and rejected Him. He told them of the salvation that He offered them, but they didn’t believe Him. He told them, that He came to wash away their sins, to sacrifice His life for them, but they didn’t believe Him either. But they took Him, beat Him, and nailed His hands and feet to a cross outside the city wall of Jerusalem. They pierced His side with spear and blood came out. This precious blood was the payment for the sins of all people including those who serve mammon.

Oh, yes, Jesus went into the vineyard and worked to fulfill the Father’s will. He did so out of love for us, for you and for me. He did those things fulfilling the will of the Father so that we might have eternal life with Him. We have been purchased by His blood; He has forgiven us all of our sins; He has opened the gates of heaven for us.

The next time someone asks you, “How is your portfolio? Are your finances secure? Are you certain of your future?” Then, respond by saying, “Yes! Yes, indeed!” And when they ask you, “Why?” Then tell them, that Your Master and Lord, Jesus Christ has saved you from hell, sealed your future and secured heaven for you. Tell them, that Christ Your Lord has guaranteed you His constant love and peace and that He will guide you on the journey of life.

God grant us the grace to continue to work with Him in His vineyard as He gives us the privilege to do so all of our lives. Amen.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Living For the Lord "Romans 14:7-8

S‑1073 09/14/2008 18SAP/3A Hymns: (O) #342; (S) #398;L.S. #360; #40; #506, (C) #401

Texts: Genesis 50:14-21; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35

Theme: “Living for the Lord” (Romans 14:7-8).


Question: “What do you what you do?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the book of Romans. “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” (Rom. 14:7-8).

INTRODUCTION: Saints in Chris Why do you do what you do? “Mommy, why do you make the sign of the cross over you when pastor says that he forgives you in the name of Jesus and other people don’t?” “Daddy, why do you have the pastor put the bread directly into your mouth while other people let him put it in their hands? “Grandpa, why do you drink out of the big cup at communion and Grandma takes the little one?” “Pastor, why do you wear that big, baggy white dress when you are leading worship? “Pastor, why do you ask us to take some time to reflect on our sins, and sometimes it is so long?”

How would you answer these questions? Well, you could go into a long discussion of Article 10 of the Formula of Concord which talks about a thing called adiaphora, which means things neither commanded nor forbidden by God. But would that really answer the question? I don’t think so. Would it not be better to simply answer that this is the way that we as followers of the Savior, serve the Lord Jesus Christ as we live out our lives of faith? Of course it would. If you are one who makes the sign of the cross, it doesn’t make you any more special to our Lord than those who don’t. In the same way, if you receive the Lord’s blood from the chalice it does not make you a better Christian than the person that receives it from the individual cup. These are all issues of personal piety. We do what we do to serve the Lord. If that differs from the family sitting in the pew behind us, that’s ok! No one can claim any superiority over another in this.

But the important thing is to know why we do what we do! This is the best form of Catechesis—the teachings of the church. Yet, many people don’t know why we do the things we do. This reminds me of a story I read sometime ago. A young lady watched her mother cut a roast square and put it in the roaster. She looked at her mom inquisitively and asked, “Mom, why did you cut the roast Square?” The mom responded, “I really don’t know your grandma did it this way.” So they decided to ask grandma. They called grandma and asked the same question, and she responded, I don’t know, but my mom did. So they went to great-grandma and asked her the same question. She simply said, “Because I have a square roaster.”

You see, faithful friends, just because we do things differently doesn’t mean that we are better or worse than the person next to us. Nor can we say this is the only way that it can be done.

But honestly, are we always like that? Or are there times when we think that our way is the right way, the only way of doing things. Come on now! Be honest! Aren’t there times when we become so convinced that we are right and the other person is wrong that it even begins to affect our life with the Lord? You bet it does!

This was the problem that was starting to arise in Rome. The Christians in the congregation at Rome were starting to deal with a number of people new to the faith. Some of them were still insistent on keeping the old Jewish customs of ritual eating and holidays. Others heard what Paul and others were teaching about Christian freedom for those baptized into Christ. They had been freed from all those requirements and they longed to be free. This was obviously starting to become a point of contention. Those who wanted to be like the good old days were insistent on it. Those who wanted a new freedom were just as insistent. This became a battle ground in the church. They lost focus of what the Lord called them to do in spreading the Good News. PAUSE.

So what was the church to do? The human answer would be to form a committee, kick around some solutions and bring it to a vote. Then if the old timers got enough members to the meeting, then the old way it would be! But there would be the off chance that the youngsters would rally enough troops and then the new ways would be voted in. This would make great sense to us. When persuasion doesn’t work, just get more votes…Please keep in mind that what is always popular is not always right, and what is always right is not always popular!

But this is not the Way of the Lord. And today, the Apostle Paul by the Holy Spirit’s leadings commends to the Romans and us these blessed truth. Paul focuses everything in its proper place. He turns the discussion to the Author of Life and the Lord of the Church—Jesus. None of us live to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord. If we die we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or we die, we are the Lord’s!

Another way, Paul is saying is this: The entire life of Christian service should be viewed as Christ’s action being carried out in the life of the believer: ‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me’” (Galatians 2:20).

Having been called to faith in Christ, we begin to think differently. The Christian life is never about us and what we want or what we think is right. Instead the Christian faith is about the other. This is what the whole of Scriptures are all about. No greater “other-ness” thinking can be seen than at the cross. There, our sinless Lord and Savior had others in mind. He wasn’t thinking of self as the mob seized Him in the Garden. He was not thinking of Himself as He faced the sham trial, the mockery and the abuse. He could not have been thinking of Himself as the cat of nine tails welted His back and shredded His flesh. He wasn’t thinking of self at the very moment of the crucifixion. He couldn’t have been! How else could He have said what He said from that cross? “Father forgive them…Do you know who are the “them”? It wasn’t only those who were brutally beating Him. It wasn’t only those who spit on Him, mocked Him, humiliated Him and eventually put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. No, it is for us also who are seated here at Redeemer in Armour. When we would be cursing and fuming and demanding our way, Jesus was speaking only of forgiveness. Jesus at the cross only speaks and acts out only of providing the thing that the other person, YOU, needed most.

There at the cross Jesus had the weaker brother in mind. You were that weaker sibling in the faith. You were weak with sin and awash in death. But Jesus had you in mind. He could have taken the easy way out, but didn’t. He didn’t because there was no other way for you to be set free. And now you have been freed. Sin can no longer dog you. Death can no longer deny you entrance to eternity and satan can no longer destroy you. YOU ARE FREE.

But now, how will we use that freedom? Do we use this Christian freedom to serve what we want at the expense of another brother or sister in Christ? Will we use it to brow-beat fellow Christians into submission to what we think is right? Will you bring a weaker brother into the fellowship just to tear him or her apart because of a view they have? NO! This is not the way of a Christian. We are called to speak the truth in love. Ours is a ministry of reconciliation not retribution. Ours is a ministry of healing not hurting. Ours is a ministry of caring not condemning. We are free to live our lives for Christ for the sake of others and not for ourselves. If we are living for ourselves, we push Christ to the edge, if not out of our lives. Friends, this should not be! But we do everyday. In our homes, in our families and yes even here among the body of Christ this happens.

Since it does happen among us here, St. Paul calls us to repentance. For every one of those times you have only considered yourself and your own ideas at the expense of another, Paul says REPENT. For every time you as the weaker brother tried to put unfair and unbiblical limits on a fellow Christian, Paul says, REPENT.

Repent because you belong to Christ. Your life belongs to Christ. Your death belongs to Christ. Everything in between belongs to Christ. And yes, your brother or sister against whom you have sinned belongs to Christ. His grace is sufficient for you. He has paid the price for you. You are free. Free to bow your knee and your tongue confess the great and gracious Lord Jesus Christ.

God grant us the grace to consider that weaker brother or sister. God grant us the freedom from the sins of self. God grant us the grace to let nothing hinder our confession of Christ, to one another and to the world. AMEN.

Now the peace…

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Loving By Submission

S‑1072 09/07/2008 17SAP/3A Hymns: (O) #577; (S) #400; (C) #457

Texts: Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 13:1-10; Matthew 20:1-20

Theme: “Loving By Submission” (Romans 13:1, 8).


Question: “Is being Submissive easy for you?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the book of Romans. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God… Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:1, 8).

INTRODUCTION: Saints in Christ listen to this dialogue: The captain of the ship looked into the dark night and saw faint lights in the distance. Immediately he told his signalman to send a message. “Alter your course 10 degrees south.” Promptly a return message was received: “Alter your course 10 degrees north.”

The captain was angered; his command had been ignored. So he sent a second message: “Alter your course 10 degrees south--I am the captain!” Soon another message was received: “Alter your course 10 degrees north--I am seaman third class Jones.” Immediately the captain sent a third message, knowing the fear it would evoke: “Alter your course 10 degrees south--I am a battleship.” Then the reply came “Alter your course 10 degrees north--I am a lighthouse.” (Paul Aiello, Jr. / submission).

On the surface we may laugh at this discourse. However, this is not a laughing matter, because it shows the heart of man that it doesn’t willfully like to submit to authority. Neither the captain nor seaman Jones was willing to submit. However, since the lighthouse was stationary, the captain had no choice but to submit.

How about us? Are we willing to submit to the authority? Truthfully we must acknowledge that we just like the captain and seaman Jones have a hard time to submit—whether it is a husband submitting to his wife, or a wife submitting to her husband. Whether it is a child submitting to his father, or a daughter to her mother; whether a student to a teacher, or a teacher to a student; pastor to people or people to pastor. We struggle and strain to obey the authority over us.

In another book by the Apostle Paul he writes these helpful words. “… in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submit {tting} to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:20b-21). Our submission then ought to be for the sake of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. It is out of reverence for Him that we are exhorted by Paul to do so.

But here is a problem. We don’t like to submit. It is against our nature to submit to anyone. If neither husband or wife; son or daughter; teacher or student; Pastor and people are not willing to submit to one another, how on earth can these words of our text from Romans 13 be easy for us to swallow? St. Paul says, Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. We must keep in mind at what time Paul penned these words. It was at a time when the maniac madman Nero was emperor. It was during the bloodthirsty Nero that the Holy Spirit moved Paul to write these words to the saints at Rome. Paul did not advise Christians to be subject to the governing authority only if it was agreeable to them. Indeed, he says, “For there is no authority except from God”. Thus, we who know the truth of God’s Word must obey and submit to the governing authority, unless they tell us to go against our Lord and His Word.

In our nation, where the governing authorities are really “we the people,” we have difficulty deciphering what we should do. In the midst of this election cycle we are more likely to be cynical rather than submissive. When it comes to politics we are more likely to be combative rather than cooperative as we have witnessed lately at the National Democratic and Republican Conventions.

Why is this? We are like this because we don’t like to submit. In our own eyes and the world’s we see submission as weakness. A Submissive candidate can’t get elected. A submissive athlete is easily defeated. A submissive child is bullied in the classroom. A submissive business goes out of business. NONE of these submissions are positive.

They are not positive because this is submission in the way of the Law. St. Paul’s Holy Spirit driven call to be submissive to the government is one of the Law. If you don’t submit you pay the price. If you don’t submit to speed limit on the highway, you will pay the price. The State trooper does not bear the sword, or the ticket pad, in vain. If you don’t submit to the governing authority and you don’t pay your taxes, the IRS doesn’t bear the sword, or the prison term in vain. You see, you really don’t have to submit. But if you choose not to, you will pay the price.

However, saints in Christ, there is another way of submission that Paul speaks of to the saints in Rome and the Saints in Armour. This other way of submission is one that is born out of freedom to the Gospel. Paul says it this way. Love is the fulfilling of the law. This fulfilling of the Law is actually the message of the Gospel.

You see, it is in the Gospel that true submission is revealed. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the One who submitted on your behalf. It was submission to our heavenly Father’s will that brought our Lord Jesus off of His heavenly throne into the womb of a virgin named Mary. It was Jesus’ submission to the Father’s will that moved Him from the Jordan into the wilderness to face down satan the accuser. It was Jesus’ submission to the will of the Father that moved Him from the Upper Room, to Gethsemane, and on to Golgotha. It was Jesus’ submission under the burden of the Law that we could not keep that led Him to endure the scorn and shame of the cross. There on that cross Jesus showed the ultimate submission as an act of love. Jesus Himself captured this when He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

It is out of love for the Savior that we submit to one another. Not to demonstrate that we are weak, but rather that we are witnesses to the love of Jesus that fills our hearts and moves us to obey those whom God placed over us. PAUSE.

Stephen Beck writes: “Driving down a country road, I came to a very narrow bridge. In front of the bridge, a sign was posted: ‘YIELD.’ Seeing no oncoming cars, I continued across the bridge and to my destination. On my way back, I came to the same one-lane bridge, now from the other direction. To my surprise, I saw another YIELD sign posted. Curious, I thought, ‘I’m sure there was one posted on the other side.’ When I reached the other side of the bridge I looked back. Sure enough, yield signs had been placed at both ends of the bridge. Drivers from both directions were requested to give right of way. It was a reasonable and gracious way of preventing a head-on collision. When the Bible commands Christians to ‘to submit to one another’ (Ephesians 5:21) it is simply a reasonable and gracious command to let the other have the right of way and avoid interpersonal head-on collisions. ( /submission).

What a great advice that is. If only we can keep doing it. Never on our own power, but by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, we will be able to carry this task. As Paul tells us, “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).

The way of submission is the way of love. Our Lord puts things like our government in place for our own good. Speed limits are in place to keep us safe. Building codes are in place to make sure our homes are safe to live in. Laws against treason are in place to keep the nation safe against enemies within and without. This is our God caring for us. This is GOSPEL. This is the Lord loving us and us loving the Lord in return.

Perhaps, you have heard of our presidential candidates saying they want to help us and work for us in Washington. It is great to hear the candidate’s promises. But will have to wait and see if they will keep their word. But there is another who came to work for us, not because He had too, but because He wanted to. Jesus did not ask to go to Washington but willfully He went to the Wood of the cross in love to carry your burdens, your sins, your death and your punishment. He did it not because He is getting paid, but rather to pay for our inability to fulfill the Law of God. This He did as He submitted in love to His heavenly Father. What a joy to know that we have One who fights for us now and always. Why is that a joy? Because the whole life of Christ was a life lived in submission. For without submission there is no absolution. Indeed, it is a joy to know that submitted to the will of the Father to the point of death on the cross for us. Amen.

Now the peace…

Friday, September 5, 2008

You Want Me to do WHAT?

S‑1071 08/31/2008 16SAP/3A Hymns: (O) #410; (S) #518 vv 1-4; L.S. #523; #526; #339; (C) #46

Texts: Jeremiah 15:15-21; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28

Theme: “You Want Me to do What?” (Romans 12:17-21).


Question: “Have You really be Challenged?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the book of Romans. The text will be read in the message (Rom. 12:17-21).

INTRODUCTION: Saints in Christ in the Gospel of John we read these words: “When many of His [Jesus’] disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’” (John 6:60). Certainly there are many sayings of Jesus that are hard to understand. There is even a book on the market by F.F. Bruce called The Hard Sayings of Jesus. Here is a sample of what Dr. Bruce discusses in his book: “You must be perfect. Eating and drinking the blood of the Son of Man. I didn’t come to bring peace but sword. The Sabbath is for man. Turning the other cheek.”

It is hard for us 21st century disciples of Jesus to think that we can’t meet the challenges of today. We at times act and think like we know it all. Perhaps you have been in this situation. A group of believers are meeting at a restaurant. The pastor asks one of the youth to pray. The girl responds, “You want me to do WHAT, and in public? The nominating committee asks God’s people to serve as chairman of the congregation, elder, usher, Board of Evangelism, and many respond: “You want me to do WHAT?” The Sunday school Board asks for SS and Midweek teachers and they respond, “You want me to do WHAT?”

Like His master and teacher, Paul in our text gives us something that is really hard to understand and follow. With these words, Paul removes any doubt that for us Christians to be true disciples we have to be different from the world. And no text challenges us more than this one from Paul. As you read it you will say, “You want me to do what?” Are you kidding Paul? Have you gone mad? You don’t know what you are saying!”

Hear now what Paul is challenging us to do. “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:17-21).

These words are not written for others, but for us here today. They challenge us to hold high the teachings of Jesus Christ who Himself said, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High” (Lk. 6:35). They also challenge us to forgive others. And we still cry out, “You want me to do WHAT?”

It is easier said than done. A wife struggles to forgive her husband who has been having an affair. A father struggles to forgive his son, because he keeps lying to him. Church leaders choose to carry grudges in congregational matters rather than seek reconciliation. A saint has difficulty forgiving his pastor for a word he said. PAUSE

Who of us can do what Paul asks? None! Why? Because we are all sinners, selfish and self-centered people. If someone hurts us we want to get even. We want to give them a fast and furious knuckle sandwich. When someone does wrong against us we find it hard to forgive and forget. When someone lies to us, we have a hard time trusting them. But because we know the mercy of God and His grace we attempt to carry out this command of Paul.

In the book of Romans which we have been privileged to study and proclaim the messages from this summer, reveals to us the bounty of God’s mercies. Formerly we were enemies of God, but now, because of Jesus Christ, we are the people of God. God’s mercy not only forgives our sins, but it also transforms our lives. God’s mercy is the vehicle by which we are moved to do the impossible which God asks us to do.

For us Christians we walk the narrow path, the one less traveled. Not surprisingly, we face many oppositions and challenges from those on the wide path, those who live outside the council of God’s Word. And yet, because we know the grace and mercy of God we strive to live for God in a different way than the world and people around us.

My colleague and prayer Partner, Dr. Peter Kurowski in His book The Lifelines of Love writes these valuable words: [Forgiveness of sins ranks as both our greatest gift and greatest resource. With this gift God makes enemies friends and good friends stronger friends. Through this gift God brought about a change between Himself and the world through what is known as “the happy exchange”.

“The happy exchange” involved God sending His Son to suffer hell that we might have heaven, being forsaken that we might be forgiven, and suffering an eternal death that we might have eternal life] (The Lifelines of Love, Peter M. Kurowski p. 24)

I am not going to minimize what Paul is asking us to do. He is asking us to do the impossible. The impossible challenges us to be like minded people of God, letting go of the past and striving towards the future with love and hope rooted and grounded in our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Don’t forget saints in Christ that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is indeed counter-cultural. At times it may even seem downright stupid. But the call of a Christian is to love their neighbor, even their enemy, not only in word, but also in deed. In doing so, we proclaim by our lives the very life-giving Gospel that frees us for eternity.

When we are challenged by Paul, and Jesus, we cry out loud and sometimes not so loud saying, “YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT? We may not forgive. We may hold a grudge. We may curse even underneath our breath. But the challenge remains before us as the followers of Jesus to be like Him.

Remember please that when Jesus was told by His Father to come as an infant child in Mary’s womb, to take upon Him the sins of the world, the wrath of God, the fires of hell. He didn’t say, “You want me to do WHAT?” On the contrary whenever He was asked to do something He did it with joy for all of us.

The author to the Hebrews put it this way: “looking to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

Isaiah declared it this way: “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Is. 53:7).

Peter proclaimed it this way: When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:23-24).

You and I may squirm, scream and squeal, ‘YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT?” But thanks be to God that Jesus said, I have done it for you. Hear Him from the cross say it best, “Father Forgive them….” Amen.

Now the peace of God…