Friday, June 26, 2015

Draft For Trinity IV, with special attention to Marriage

Here's my first draft of a sermon for Sunday in the context of my flock's life in an America that continues to shed the last vestiges of being a society of Christians based on Biblical norms. Does anyone have a better collect for the conclusion? Other thoughts on what to say this Sunday and how to say it?

+HRC

Trinity IV, 2015
Luke 6
Rev. H. R. Curtis
Trinity – Worden, IL & Zion – Carpenter, IL

The events of the day suggest that we look at our Gospel lesson with an eye toward marriage and the church’s place in society and our place in both the church and society.

First of all, what does Jesus mean, and what does He not mean, with His statements about “judge not….”

Does this mean that we are not to attempt to judge between what is right and what is wrong?
Well, let us take a clear cut example. Does Jesus mean to say that when we see things as a man walking into a church and shooting up the place we should say, “Well, who am I to judge?”  Or that when we see someone breaking into our neighbor’s house that we should not call the police because, after all, who are we to judge about what’s right and what’s wrong? That is ludicrous. For the Bible says in I Thessalonians 5:22: Stay away from every form of evil. How are we to stay away from evil if we can’t judge between evil and good? So clearly Jesus is not saying that we should be ignorant of the difference between what is right and what is wrong.

Well, do the words of Jesus, judge not lest ye be judged, mean that while we can tell evil from good, we should refrain from saying that what a specific person is doing is right or wrong. That is, maybe we should be able to say what is right and wrong in the abstract (murder is wrong, stealing is wrong, lying is wrong) but that we should not judge the individual actions of individual people as right or wrong. But that can hardly be what Jesus means because the same Jesus says in Matthew 18: If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

So Jesus says that we should indeed notice when other people sin, and that we should even confront our brother with his sin in order that we might “gain our brother” – that is, gain him back to the life God wants him to live, helping to turn him from his sin and find forgiveness in Christ. This is exactly what St. Paul says in the book of Galatians: Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

And there it is: that is what Jesus means by our Gospel lesson today, “you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” We are not to be high and mighty. We are not to approach those who have fallen into sin in a spirit of arrogance, with a beam in our own eye to remove the speck in his. No, but as Jesus says, we first remove the beam in our own eye in humility so that we can approach those who are mired in sin with the warning that sin leads to death and the good news that Jesus has come to give us life.

So, armed with this knowledge, what do we in Christ’s Church make of the news that now in America marriage is officially defined contrary to God’s definition in Genesis:

Genesis 1:27-28  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Genesis 2:24  Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
As Jesus Himself said: Therefore what God hath joined together let no man put asunder.

So what is the Church’s job, and our job as individual members of the Church, in the face of a world that has tossed God’s gift of marriage to the curb?
Just as Jesus said, our job is to remove the beam from our eye in humility and then to “confess Him before men” and to “speak the truth in love” to lead others to repentance.

So first, especially now, we in the Church should examine our own lives and in humility admit that marriage has not always been honored in our midst, either. Adultery, frivolous divorce for unbliblical reasons, the wandering eyes of lust, living together without benefit of marriage, husband and wife trying to lord it over each other and delighting in causing pain to one another, encouraging strife in the marriages of family or friends with meddling and gossip, etc., etc. There is no one in this room who can’t confess to at least one of those sins which diminish marriage.

Well, in the church we are not afraid of confessing our sins, for we worship Jesus who said that it is not the healthy who need a physician but the sick and that he has come to save sinners, of whom I am chief. And it is from the power of Jesus’ forgiveness that we receive power to go forth into our lives and seek to do better – to grow into our Lord’s image of kindness and godliness and faithfulness to the Father’s plan.

So we are not afraid to look at ourselves in the mirror and remove the beam. We must also not shrink from our duty to remove the speck in our neighbor’s eye and to speak the truth in love. This is what the New Testament says about the issue in the news:

Romans 1:18-28  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.  21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,  23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.  24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,  25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.  26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;  27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.  28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11  Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,  10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

There is nothing new under the sun. The New Testament talks about these issues, which we think of as very modern, progressive issues, because they were very big issues in the world that Jesus and St. Paul preached in. Rome, in fact, had views of matrimony that line up very nicely with the Supreme Court’s recent decision. Yes, the world surrounding the early church was just crazy, just as morally bankrupt as our world; in pagan Rome they believed in what we think of as the 1960’s version free love; they also had celebrities (emperors even!) who decided they would like to change their gender, and they celebrated and approved of relations “contrary to nature” as St. Paul puts it.

That’s the “old-fashioned” way, the way of Rome. It’s neither modern nor progressive; it’s ancient and it’s pagan. The modern, progressive morality was from Christianity. And that ancient, pagan world discovered that Christianity was telling the truth because Christians stood by what the Bible says and were not embarrassed of it, nor were they afraid of those who persecuted them for standing by the truth. The Church of the first centuries lived in a moral cesspool exactly like our own day time TV shows and the disastrously salacious lives of our celebrities. But by living godly lives and holding fast to the teaching of God’s Word, the Christians of those days demonstrated to the ancient world that God’s Word was truth and pointed to a better way of life.

And the ancient world was converted. And the old pagan morality, which was not morality at all but an indulgence in every wicked lust, was cast aside. And so you were blessed to grow up in a world that did uphold basic, godly morality because of the inheritance of Biblical morality passed down through the ages due to the faithfulness of those first Christians whose lives of godliness inspired the conversion of the ancient Roman world.

But now the world has largely grown tired of our Lord and His Word and we are once again in the minority in what was once our own land. Within the span of one short generation we are once again become a Church that is condemned by the intelligentsia, by the rich and famous, by those in power in the culture and the government.

And so what shall we do? How shall we live? Will we have the courage of the saints of old who would stand up on the Word of God in the face of all sorts of pressure? Will we love the world enough to distinguish between right and wrong and to stand by the right? We will love our children enough to raise them in the fear and instruction of the Lord and teach them what the Bible says without fear? Will we love our family members enough to warn them away from dishonoring marriage in ways small and large?

By the grace of God. Only by the grace of God.

Let us pray: Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who repent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding…

8 comments:

  1. Little, or nothing, has changed since the days of Noah. Thank you.

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  2. I'll link over to some other interesting thoughts here:

    https://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/after-scotus-welcoming-apocalypse/

    Today's Supreme Court ruling will not draw down Divine judgment. Today's Supreme Court ruling is God's judgment.

    “God gave them over,” says Saint Paul, in describing the cycle of sin that follows rank idolatry. People begin to ignore the natural law because God stops restraining them, through His mysterious power and mercy, from doing so, as a consequence of their refusal to acknowledge Him and their insistence on worshiping and serving themselves instead. Next comes perversity, and finally, reprobate minds. Apart from Divine mercy and restraint, we will eat each other.

    In other words, the answer to “How could this happen so quickly?” is “Why didn’t it happen sooner, and what’s next?”

    ReplyDelete
  3. For a prayer, try the prayer for the Day of Humiliation and Prayer, BPB p. 564, TLH p. 85. Compare with LSB Altar Book p. 992. I like the older prayer better.

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  4. Don't forget to include a special imprecatory prayer about the SCOTUS decision.

    And if you forget, don't worry; it's covered in the Lord's Prayer.

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  5. Thank you for posting this. It was exactly what I needed to structure my own sermon. Very much appreciated.

    ReplyDelete

  6. I suspect that one can explain our Lord’s injunction not to judge with the words, “Do not ascribe motives!” This leaves us free to “judge” the nature of the action in accord with Scripture.
    When I was still in high school one of the students, the son of a minister, seemed clearly to be a homosexual. Shortly after graduation he killed himself. Although I do not know for certain, I suspect this was brought on by the conflict between what he knew about himself and his beliefs. After all, if he was condemned already, there was no hope for him. Why not end it all? Statistics do show that the rate of suicide among homosexuals is significantly higher than that of the total population.
    That is one reason why I have been concerned for many years with how the Church deals with homosexuals. If they are indeed born that way, as most scientists now believe (disregarding the red herring of the absence of a “homosexual gene” so favored by the fundamentalists), then we have to find a way to make them know that they too can have a place in the Kingdom. If we saddle them with impossible to meet conditions, conditions that we heterosexuals ourselves are unable to meet, then we have simply condemned them under the guise of love. Ultimately, our condemnation is meaningless, because it is God Who judges, but what happens when we drive them to suicide?
    No, I do not believe we should change the Gospel to accommodate homosexuals, but I wonder if the pure Gospel can be proclaimed to them without impossible to meet conditions? I do not pretend to know the answer to this question. But it should be of concern to the Church, simply because among every 100 male worshippers it is likely that there are as many as 10 homosexuals.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart



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    Replies
    1. Dear George:

      The 10% figure is really a myth.

      But more importantly, being gay is now considered cool among young people, not just accepted and tolerated, but is now something to be celebrated.

      The world is a lot different from the medieval days of yore when you and I were in high school. ;-)

      Delete
  7. Dear Rev. Beane: Thank you for your response.
    Whether it is 5% or 10% is actually irrelevant. The fact remains that, whatever the number, these are individual sinners whom God loves, just as he loves us. Their sin is no greater and no lesser than when we “look at a woman to lust after her.” The punishment, according to the Law of Moses is the same.
    Indeed the values of society have changed drastically over the past sixty years. But, we, the people of God, should take it for granted that homosexuality is not a thing to be celebrated because Scripture does not celebrate it. It should not surprise us that the world does. We are in the world, but not of it.
    I have to assume that the life of the Christian homosexual is vastly more difficult than that of those Christians not so afflicted. To us, unimaginably so. That is why my concern is to make it easier for these unfortunates rather than driving them to despair. I simply cannot believe that a homosexual is condemned to hell simply because he is born that way. After all, we are also born sinners. I know that various church bodies have clearly overstepped Scriptural boundaries in this matter. How can we help these people and still remain within these boundaries?
    Does it help to tell homosexuals that they have to change their thoughts and actions, or they will be condemned by God? Is that, in fact true? Is it the Sin against the Holy Spirit?
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

    ReplyDelete

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