Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Service [Trinity 12; St. Mark 7:31-37]


God is speaking to you today, saying:

Dr. Luther says that if we could perfectly obey the first commandment, we would not need the rest. If you could love God above all things, you would be able to love your neighbor as yourself. Some people even say that if you love God best, you will love the rest.

But this idea only goes so far. What does it mean to love God? Does it mean to focus on Him alone? If that’s the case, then you are focusing on God, not your neighbor. Does it mean to put god first? If that’s the case, then you are always going to choose Bible study over helping your needy neighbor.

Too often we see “loving God” or “focus on God” as something that we do and so it necessarily takes up our time, energy, and work. In fact, nothing could be WORSE for our neighbor than us loving God best, because then our eyes are turned up, but our neighbor and God are at our feet.

At this point then, our hands go up. If I serve my neighbor, I’m not serving God. If I serve God, I’m not serving my neighbor. An impossible task to be sure, because we are not ubiquitous beings. We can not be in two places at once and neither can we give all of our heart to one thing or another.

Finally, we get angry at God and either despair or give up altogether. It is impossible to love a God Who is this strict and this impossible to please.

The truth is we don’t love God most, less, or otherwise, much less our neighbor.

The absolute truth is: We love God and others best, when God loves us.

The man in the Gospel reading today was not exempt from God’s demands to love Him and love his neighbor and yet he was prevented, quite physically and literally from doing so. This begs the question: is God just crazy to demand these things, even from the handicapped and infant?

The answer is no, because the Lord does not demand them of you nor did He demand them of the man He healed today. He demands them of His Christ. The Commands of God are there not just to show us what we are to do and not to do, but to reveal just how pure and holy Jesus must be.

God demands the Christian life be a life led in love and because we have seen Jesus do it, that means its possible for us. And that’s the rub. Jesus did it. We are to be Christ-like. Or else. End of story.

Unless Christ loves you first, you have no life to love in you. Unless Jesus tears open you heart, head, and lips you are lost.

And that is what today’s Gospel is all about. We see a man impeded unjustly and wrongfully imprisoned, behind his handicaps. His sin and his death have locked him behind iron curtains and iron bars. Do not be fooled. This is not unique to deaf and stammering men. It is not even unique to nonbelievers. It is unique to the human race, though, for we all sin and fall short and are all in prison.

Our good works are as nothing before God because He must first perform good works for there to be good works. Jesus first goes to Tyre through Sidon. Jesus first goes to the Sea of Galilee to the Decapolis. Jesus first performs other miracles so people begin to bring Him other people. Jesus first take this man aside, first sticks His fingers up in His ears, and first utters the word to him.

This Word is then taken up by this now formerly blind and stammering man, for now he speaks plainly. More true to the language, he speaks orthodoxy, meaning he is now going to say only what Jesus says.

“Be opened”, that is “Be forgiven”. Let all of your corruption because of sin, death, and the devil fall away and cling to you no more. The Word of Christ demands obedience. This does not produce an obedient follower when spoken. The Word also demands a regeneration, for the man must not only be able to hear and speak, but he must have a clean heart and right spirit to do so.

We know the love of God because He first loved us. Not just a one-time deposit, but an ongoing declaration and giving of love. We don’t just need one vaccine of “love” to boost us on our way. We need a constant IV drip for life, for we don’t stop sinning and we don’t stop trying to do good works for godly gain.

So now that God has loved us, through His Son, our love for Him looks like believing Christ’s person, Word, and works: Jesus’ works, not ours. So now that Jesus works and has loved us on the cross, our love for our neighbor is to speak to them orthodoxy; Jesus words.

By grace our ears are opened to hear Jesus and by faith our mouth is opened to speak about Jesus. By grace we have been brought from death to life in order to live the life of faith and love. Not our faith and love, but the life of Jesus’ faith and love.

For this life we have been given has been predetermined. We do not decide what love looks like or what good works look like. We simply hear and receive as the blind man did today. We speak, but we only speak what Jesus has already said.

Now Jesus says Do unto others as He has done to you. No. Even easier than that. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

For what Jesus does is love God perfectly, in your place. fulfilling the demands of God and giving you credit, by being obedient unto death on a cross. Jesus has also loved His neighbor perfectly, not only dying for every single one of them, but being a perfect sacrifice for all their sin and being the Door to heaven.

You can not be that neighbor that God demands, no matter how hard you followed Jesus’ example.

But now that the cross of Christ and the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed by Christ’s Church, you don’t have to. Freed from your guilt, you are now free to live in faith according to the Law. Redeemed from death, you now love God’s Law and, although you are not the one to fulfill it, you are the one who receives it perfectly in faith.

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