The Sixth Sunday after Trinity
July 27, 2014 A+D
St. Matthew 5:17-26
Adapted from a Ralph Tausz Sermon
In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
William Penn had a vision for a city and called it “Philadelphia.” The city of brotherly love. It was to be a place where everyone, whether they were black or white, Indian or European, rich or poor, would live together in equality and brotherly love. But looking at news headlines from this city, might prompt you to ask the question: “Where’s the love?” There are headlines of gang wars, sexual assaults, and murders. That’s not to mention the abortion clinics, battered women’s shelters, the anger in the homes, and insults on the streets. “Where’s the love?” What if we turned our gaze on the centers of American Lutheranism–St. Louis or Ft. Wayne? I don’t think we’d see much difference. Even, here, in the city of steeples, we don’t see much love.
In our Gospel text today, we read that Jesus gathers his disciples on a mountain and gives them His vision for the Church—for people to live together in love. He made clear that this meant not just that they would refrain from stabbing each other, but that they were to actively love each other. His Church was to be an assembly of those who would not even be angry with each other. Who would never insult each other, nor even think a fellow Christian to be stupid or a fool. It would be a place of reconciliation, where no one would hold grudges, be passive aggressive, or give the silent treatment. No. Christian brothers and sisters were to come to the altar together and offer prayers in a good conscience.
But looking at any group of Jesus’ disciples, you might well ask, “Where’s the love?” There’s plenty of anger to go around, but where’s the love? Just look at the anger of the disciples at James and John when they ask for the two highest places in Jesus’ Kingdom. Just look at those same disciples full of insults for that woman who poured the expensive oil on Jesus’ head. They thought she was a fool being wasteful. And just look at Peter, who considered Jesus such a fool that he felt he had to take Him aside and teach him a few things about being the Messiah, especially addressing his foolish talk about being crucified.
But then look at us. Aren’t you glad that your thoughts are not broadcast to those around you? What goes through your mind on a daily basis? How petty and judgmental are you? If your family and friends knew your thoughts, it would alienate you from everyone you loved. What if everyone could hear the conversations you had behind closed doors? There’s grudge-bearing, slander, and lots of anger. But where’s the love? Where’s the reconciliation? Where’s all the forgiving? Jesus makes clear that the Law doesn’t distinguish between your grudge-bearing and murder. The Fifth Commandment and the rest of God’s holy Law simply lumps you in with all murderers, and judges that you deserve time in the prison house of hell.
William Penn’s “Holy Experiment” didn’t work. But if we look closely at our love, it seems that Christ’s vision didn’t come true either.
However, the church is God’s true city of brotherly love, but it’s not because of us. It is because of its founder, our Brother in the Flesh, who was sent into our world not with blistering anger, nor with insulting speech for foolish sinners, but to rescue back-stabers, grudge-bearers, and even murderers.
If the church is God’s true city of brotherly love, it has to start with Jesus and His love for you, and His vision for getting that love to you. He not only had a vision from before the foundation of the world, but he carried it out. He would go down the mountain where he was teaching His disciples and go to another mountain, where He would die on a cross for your sins. He would go forth with His sole mission of being murdered for murderers, of looking foolish for fools. That’s why when that murderer Barabbas was unjustly released while Jesus was judged and condemned, he said nothing. For your Lord came to be murdered for you.
In this God shows his brotherly love for us that while we were still sinners—angry, insulting, unforgiving sinners—Christ died for us. And that means His aim was to forgive your sins and remove your guilt. He doesn’t even bring up the terrible things you’ve said, thought or done, because those sins were destroyed at the cross, never to be recalled, never to be used to hold over your head.
Oh, what brotherly love has been shown to you in God’s city: the Church. Will there be judgment for you? How could there be? Your brother Jesus already bore the judgment against your sins at the cross. Is there hellfire for you? How could there be? Your Brother took your place in hell at the cross until its power was wiped out. Are you under a life sentence to the prison house of hell for loveless behavior? How could you be? Your Brother paid your debt to the Law, every last penny, and did it with His own precious blood, and His innocent suffering and death.
You were made citizens of the heavenly city of brotherly love through the waters of Holy Baptism, where the sacrifice of your Brother Jesus was applied to you. You now walk in newness of life, full of the spirit of Jesus, which has been freely given to you. Your old self was crucified in Baptism, so that a new man might come forth and arise and you might begin to fulfill Jesus’ vision for His church, living like sons and daughters of God, walking in brotherly love. That happens through repentance and forgiveness in this world, and perfectly in the world to come.
Confess your sins and come receive forgiveness that you did not earn. Repent to one another and be reconciled. Come by the good graces of your Lord. Come to the altar. Leave behind all grudges, for you see here that Christ has no grudge against you. Come to the altar. Leave behind the silent treatment to others, for Christ hasn’t gone mute on you, but continues to speak His peace to you in the Absolution. Come to the altar where the blood of your Brother who saved you, is pressed against your lips, and His exceedingly sufficient righteousness is again reckoned to you. Leave today, walking in the newness of life.
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.
The Rev’d Michael N. Frese
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana