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).
Armour, SD. SOLIE DEO GLORIA.
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…