Epiphany 6a, (February 16, 2014)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
TITLE: “Life and How to Live It”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Matthew chapter five. Our theme for the morning is “life and how to live it.”
In Deuteronomy chapter 30, we hear some of Moses’ last words before dying just shy of the promised land. HE was giving them, if you will, his last will and testament. Moses had been with them for many years by this time. He was 120 years old, and so had been around the block a few times. HE was God’s promiser, His judge and deliverer. HE knew life and death, Life in His name and death when they sought to trust in themselves.
So Moses sets up his words simply. Choose life, that you and your offspring may live. You see, following God’s Word and commands leads to life. Disobeying, refusing to hear and receive God’s Word and promise, that only leads to death.
But why? Why does hearing God’s Word lead to life and refusing to hear lead to death? Is this random or arbitrary? Is God capricious or fickle, simply making up a bunch of rules so that He can watch us mess up time and time again?
Every time you sin, whether you know it or now, this is the question you ask yourself. Why do I have to follow these dumb rules anyway? Sure I know what is better. Surely this Word and command of God doesn’t really apply to me this time. And so you rationalize, you justify yourself and your own actions. At least enough to assuage your conscience for a time.
Really, though, it always comes down to trust. Do you trust that when God says something, that it is with your best interests at heart? Do you trust God when He says that anger leads to murder, that lust leads to adultery, that false promises lead to betrayal, and that trusting in anyone or anything other than Him will cast you into hell? Do you trust God so that you long to keep His Word, that you hate evil and always do good, every time?
Law and Gospel, you see, is all about trust, or faith if you prefer to call it that. Because of sin, your trust in God is broken apart from Him. Because of sin, when Christ says, “follow me,” you by nature say “NO”! And so it is that your broken faith leads to broken and empty promises, unfaithfulness of thought, word and deed. This is why your works are never enough. This is why you cannot think or feel your way to God. You are broken. Repent!
It is because of this powerlessness that Christ has come. God through Moses called upon the people to choose life in His name. When they failed, God sent His Son. He chose your life over His own life. HE trusted that God would raise Him from the dead, and so committed His Spirit into the hand of God, even in death itself. So Christ our Lord takes all of this unfaithfulness into Himself. HE takes your sin and mine. He draws in all this poison, all this filth that we wallow in so very much.
And what does He put in its place? In its place He puts none other than Himself.
This changes everything for poor, broken sinners like you and me. God feeds you the pure milk of His Word, so that you may be filled up with His Spirit.
You see, beloved, you are God’s field, God’s building, as St. Paul says (1 Cor. 3:9). God knows the strife and heartache that infects your soul and spirit. He knows that the temptation to follow your own heart is alluring. He knows how broken your understanding is of His desires for you. And so He feeds you.
But God does not feed you with steak when you are an infant in the faith. He feeds you with the pure milk of His Word, so that you might grow up into Him who is our head.
This is why, when we gather here Sunday after Sunday, we are always about the milk, the first principles, the essence and core of the Christian faith. Law and Gospel. Sin and faith. Word and Sacrament. These things are the bread and butter of what it means to be a Christian. They are your food, your very life.
This day Christ says to you choose life, but you cannot choose it on your own. Because you cannot choose life, He chose death so that you might live in His name. Trust that when God speaks to you, it is for your eternal good. Have faith in the mighty promises of God, because He who died and rose again for your salvation always wants what is best for you. And so He gives you Himself.
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.