Biblical Text: Matthew 5:21-37
Full Sermon Draft
We continue reading the sermon on the mount today. The Sermon starts with a very quick recap of the past two weeks before turning to the text. At a very basic level Jesus re-ups the 10 Commandments as part of the law that not a jot of tittle will disappear from. While this section of the Sermon on the Mount could be used as case law, Jesus’ purpose is really beyond just looking references. Instead what he is doing is demonstrating what we tend to do with the law, and telling us what we should be doing with it. We tend to look for an easy way to externally keep the law. We want the recognition for keeping it without the actual work (virtue signaling). What Jesus says back is that the external matters little, what he desires is that we attempt to keep the spirit, the internalized law. The real definition of privilege as that term is used today is the extent to which we can claim to keep the law while relaxing its claims on us individually. Part of keeping the law inwardly, is being willing to be scandalized over our own behavior. Hearts of flesh contrary to hearts of stone are able to feel the effects of sin, know where it leads, and be willing to make personal changes and sacrifices to avoid scandalizing our hearts, and not just to avoid scandalizing the neighbors.
Worship Notes: I have left in one of my favorite hymns, LSB 716, I Walk in Danger All the Way. This is the opening hymn of my funeral right now. The text and the tune mesh together perfectly. It is the rare example of the slow burn hymn. The open verse states a true problem, and things get worse from there, but there is no immediate delivery or magic as so often happens. It doesn’t deny the reality of this world, but it develops over the last three verses our solid hope both here and for eternity. Powerful text if you let yourself hear. The second item is that you might hear a missing note. Our organ decided to drop a note this morning. Providentially, we have a new organ on the way.
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It is easy thinking of things that the culture wants the church to change. Just think of anything dealing with pelvic practice and the 6th commandment. But let’s think about the inverse. Is there anything that the church is doing now that if you thought about changing it or stopping it you would hear the howls and shrieks of culture?
I’d put forward some very specific things. Now these might depend on your current pastor or congregation. Some have always been more rigorous. But I want to turn our gaze toward funerals, baptisms, and the sacrament. I don’t think I’m far off in saying that if the person requesting is now or ever has had someone related to them who was a member funerals and baptisms happen almost without thought. The culture wants us to do this. It wants the church to pronounce rites of burial over the man who last darkened the door a score of years ago. Because if he’s ok, than I can go on living the way I want to without giving my life a moments thought. Likewise with baptisms. “Let’s get the baby done”. “Let’s make sure grandma is okay so she stops hassling us.” The culture again wants these easily available. And operating from a position of weakness the church has gone along with that. No pastor wants to tell Grandma that sorry I can’t baptize grandson/daughter because the kids are evidently not going to raise the child in the faith. Especially since the only time we see them in church is every other Christmas Eve. No pastor really wants to tell the widow I’m sorry but we are not able to perform christian burial because there is scant evidence of a Christian life. The cry would go out far and wide that the church was being heartlessly judgmental. Within the church some of the same thoughts would be heard along side the wringing of hands about losing a chance to share the gospel.
But it would be exactly those things where the church could push back. Yes, some members would probably leave in a huff. But the purpose of the church is witness to the truth. The church could make these changes not under persecution because they are against the wind so to speak. And what is true love? Is true love telling Grandma and all those at the funeral just by doing the baptism or the burial that everything is alright? Or would true love be issuing the warning that things are not ok, that souls are in eternal peril?
The culture thinks it has a right to the sacraments. Saying back to it that proper reception of the sacraments requires preparation and a well formed conscience would be a scandal. But it might be the right scandal. And Jesus said he would be a stumbling block, a scandal. What is the right way to be a scandal in this culture?