The 6th and the 1st (Sexual Immorality, Impurity and Greed)

Biblical Text: Ephesians 5:3-20 NLT

Full Sermon Draft

The 6th and the 1st is a reference to the 6th commandment (adultery) and the 1st commandment (no other gods). In the Hebrew scriptures sins in one are directly tied or related to sins in the other. This sermon is a continuation of our reading of Ephesians this summer. In our presentation Paul had three main points. The third of them is that the Christian life is a witness to the Wisdom of God to the powers in the heavenly realms, Satan and the World. In the back half of Paul’s letter he makes concrete examples which are elaborations of the 10 commandments. This week we’ve got the 6th and the 1st. The apostle’s presentation runs smack into the wisdom of our age, which is the lies of Satan and world. Paul doesn’t back away, but says choose. Are we witnesses to the powers that be, or do we prefer their lies? Test me. Listen to it and search the scriptures. Whose story conforms better to our flourishing? What I preach after the Apostle Paul, or the world?

Both Get Asked the Same Question


Text: Luke 15:1-3,11-32
Full Sermon Draft

The text is the prodigal son. Actually the entire 15th Chapter of Luke should be taken together, but the assigned text was just the last of three parables. I struggled this week to find the clarity. Part of that I think was that pastors, especially those who are trying to be orthodox, feel something different from this parable.

The orthodox preacher teaches law and gospel. Both of them have their place. The church since the reformation has been about a specific viewpoint on the gospel. And that viewpoint is neatly captured by the prodigal or by the hymn amazing grace. I once was lost by now am found. The focal point is all on the individual and the God they are being reconciled to. Now what gets taken for granted in that reformation mentality is the whole. The prodigal is reconciled to the family of God. The prodigal is restored to the church. But let’s call it the reformation on steroids, TROS eventually loses the church. What we have is a whole lot of people in churches of one. They have achieved a state they think of as wholeness between them and their god. And then the church attempting to shepherd that person in holiness points out that the law is how God intended things to be. But in TROS the reply is “that’s not my God” or “God didn’t mean that” or some such answer. And the communicant in this church of one, if the true church persists, starts shouting things like Pharisee, or unloving older brother. You just need to accept me, because god has.

That is a completely different order than what the prodigal did. The prodigal may have thought he was returning but keeping his “freedom” – “make me a hired man”. That prodigal at the state wanted to enjoy the benefits of the family while still keeping his little shack just outside and rejecting those parts of the family he didn’t like. But by the time he has arose (a loaded term) and walked the path back and felt the compassion of the father in his embrace that demand or caveat on the repentance is gone. The prodigal submits himself completely to the household.

The question that both sons get asked is this: do you trust the Father’s judgment and ways? Older sons must accept the repentance of prodigals because God has. God works on repentance and absolution. Neither of those does away with the law. What they do is demonstrate that we have all fallen short. But prodigals, those being restored to the whole have to submit to that household. It is not Pharisaical for the church to point out that partial repentance is no repentance at all. In fact that is called Shepherding. (Ezek 33:8-11)

God is about restoring his people, restoring a whole. But we do not define that whole. All we can do is exclude ourselves from it. Do we accept the grace of the Father to be part of his family, or do we stand outside. We can stand outside in a far country. We can stand outside within the walls demanding our way. Both are forms of slavery to our sin. Only in submission and repentance do we find freedom. Do you truth the Father’s ways best revealed in Christ and the cross? The decision is life or death.

Where God Acts

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Text: Luke 17:10-19

We are on the three year lectionary. What that means is that the scripture texts we read each week are on a three year cycle. What the three year cycle does really well is allow you as a congregation to read through entire books. There are other lectionary schemes. A not small number in the LCMS uses a 1 year lectionary. And this is a gross simplification, but the 1 year lends itself to a dogmatic approach. You’ve got these teachings of the church. You want to remind/teach people every year on them. You build your readings around those teachings. The 3 year lends itself to an exegetical approach. That is a 10 dollar would for deep reading. Deep in that word exegetical is a root word meaning turning the soil. The 3 year continuous reading turns the soil of the gospel because each year has a primary gospel text. Since Advent 2009 we’ve been in the Gospel according to Luke. If it takes me say 15 hours to prepare a sermon (roughly 1 hour for each minute talking), in a year you will spend around 600 hours (the gospel of John gets read occasionally) with one gospel. You get to know it well.

The text for this sermon pulled me up short. In 9 perfectly artful verses, Luke asks the eternal questions. It puts the question to its readers – where is God acting? And if you know that, are you ready to go there? Even if it means putting yourself between Samaria and Galilee, being the peacemaker and healer? Even if it means walking toward Jerusalem, toward the cross? That is the path of being made whole.

Our Economy vs. God’s Economy – Seeking and Finding

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Text: Luke 15:1-10

Parables tell us about how God and his Kingdom work. Jesus’ parables has this tendency to get us nodding our heads in agreement as our minds slip off into warm fuzzy images of precious moments sheep and shepherds. But we should be struck by the fact that this is not how we work. We lose 1 of 100, we give a cursory look and say oh well. We lose 1 of 10 and we look a little harder, get a little frazzled, but still no real change. We lose 1 of 2 (the prodigal comes after the text parables), and we are changed, but our goal is acceptance of the change. Our economy is about dealing with the losses.

God’s economy says no. I will fix this. I will search. I will search until I find. I will restore the wholeness. That is a far reaching understanding of God’s ways compared to ours.

On the meta side there are two things. The first was my joy in being able to use wholeness and restoration as the gospel/justification metaphor. The bible uses many ways to talk about what God has done for us in Christ. Wholeness or restoration strikes me as one of the more powerful ways to a modern audience. We are so used to being separated and fractured that talk of a God who seeks, finds and restores at all costs is powerful stuff. The danger is in the equating of theological wholeness with therapeutic wholeness. The contrast of our economy’s goal of acceptance vs. God’s goal of rejoicing is the difference.

The second meta thought that I couldn’t get into the sermon is the wonderful female image for God used in the parable. Jesus equates his work to a housewife with a broom. Even pointing that out might be sexist, but by putting it in parallel with the lost sheep, Jesus has placed that woman and the broom on the same level as the shepherd with his crook. That is typical of Luke’s gospel. He has an ear for equality.