Monday, July 8, 2013

Christian Nation

Sixth Sunday after Trinity - July 7th, Year of Our + Lord 2013
Trinity and St. John Lutheran Churches, Sidney and Fairview, MT
Christian Nation - Exodus 20:1-17; Matthew 5:17-26
Vicar Jason Toombs

There are people who claim that “America is a Christian Nation.”  They insist on having the Ten Commandments near the courthouse door.  They are upset when the country does anything patriotic or comforting without a “Civic Service.”  They think, if only we win this battle on gay marriage, on abortion, on whatever, then God will welcome us once again with open arms.  They think, if America get’s right with God, then we will once again thrive as a nation.  Is this really the case?

No!  America is not a “Christian Nation.”  America is a sovereign nation, her young men and women have fought, bleed, and died for this independence.  We celebrate Independence Day every year.  This is not a Christian celebration, this is a day where the nation, and every one of her citizens, celebrates.

But maybe those clamoring for the Ten Commandments are onto something.  Maybe they should be written down somewhere.  They have been written down; they are written on our hearts.  The Ten Commandments have been handed over by God to Moses and the Israelites, but they are also written on the hearts of all people.  Nobody has an excuse when they break these rules handed down by God.

Let us recite the Ten Commandments so we can hear them once again from God’s Word.  Please turn in your bulletin to the Old Testament reading where we find:
The First Commandment in Exodus 20:3, together “You shall have no other gods.”
The Second Commandment in verse 7a, “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God.”
The Third Commandment in verse 8, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”
The Fourth Commandment in verse 12a, “Honor your father and your mother.”
The Fifth Commandment through the Tenth Commandment in verses 13 through 17:
“You shall not murder.”
“You shall not commit adultery.”
“You shall not steal.”
“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.”
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

You can point to your heart and say, “Beheading a Catholic Priest in Syria is wrong because doing so breaks a very fundamental human right: the right to life.”  You can point to your heart and say, “Abortion is murder.”  You can point to your heart and say, “People who have sex outside of a marriage between a man and a woman are committing adultery.”  You can point to your heart, but why should you point there?  The heart is deceitfully wicked.  The heart is an idol factory where we put ourselves, our desires, what our heart seeks after, above God.  Instead, you should point to God’s sure and certain word in the Old Testament.  Better yet, you can point to where God in the flesh pointed out the true heart of the matter: the heart.

Jesus says to His hearers, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.”  Jesus points out that it is not the outward keeping of the Ten Commandments that will bring judgment, it is the heart that will be judged.  You must approach God with a clean heart if you wish to be judged righteous.

But our hearts are not clean, they are tainted, they are covered in sin.  Every time we sin, the death sentence is leveled against us.  Every time we ignore God’s Word about living righteously before Him, we are adding to our guilt.  There is no way you can atone for your lives before God.  It takes someone who is without sin to atone for your sin.

It takes Jesus Christ, true God, true man.  Taking our humanity into the Divine Godhead, Jesus became man.  Jesus walked the path of righteousness, living righteous before His Father.  Jesus loved God and loved His neighbor with His whole heart.  Jesus perfectly obeyed the Ten Commandments, never once speaking against them.  Jesus pointed to His coming death and resurrection as the sure and certain promise that His Word endures forever.  Jesus went to the cross for you.

Upon the cross, Jesus took all of your sin, all of your guilt, all of your damnation upon Himself.  And Jesus gave you His righteousness, His innocence, His blessedness and salvation.  This is the blessed exchange: your sin, His righteousness; your guilt, His innocence; your damnation, His blessedness and salvation.  Here your salvation was won, but first He must rise again to be vindicated as the spotless Lamb of God.  Three days later, the tomb is empty, Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.  The risen Lord speaks His peace to the apostles and speaks His Word and Sacraments upon the Church.

Jesus handed over baptism as a way to proclaim His victory on the cross to His bride, the Church.  St. Paul says not only has Christ been crucified, we have been baptized into Christ’s death.  The baptized have died with Christ, only to be raised in Him.  We have been crucified, dying to our sin, and raised to live with Him.  But we don’t see this new life yet.  We have to wait until our sinful bodies stop clinging to this sinful world.  But the death our bodies will eventually go through is not the final death, we will be raised just as Jesus was raised from the dead.  We will live with Him and Our Father, who art in heaven.

Jesus also handed over His Supper as a way of proclaiming His death upon the cross.  The body which would soon be broken, the blood which would soon be shed for the forgiveness of sins is given first to the apostles and to the Church.  Jesus’ last will and testament, the blood of the new testament, has been handed over to strengthen and sustain His Church.  He feeds Her with what she needs: forgiveness, life, and salvation.  He nurtures Her through His Word.  He sustains Her through His promise to always be with Her, wherever two or three are gathered in His name.  He shows His deep love for Her by dying for Her.

Jesus is how our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees.  Jesus is how we will enter the kingdom of heaven.  The scribes and the Pharisees thought they could keep the law.  This is the reason why they created laws of their own, 613 of them in fact.  They thought they would not break the Sabbath law of God by not doing any work.  This was their way of keeping the Sabbath holy.  Is watching yourself to make sure you don’t do any work on the Sabbath a work?  It would have to be, as it is most definitely not a gift.  Jesus alone is the only way we can keep the Sabbath, or any other day, holy.  Jesus said “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” 

The Sabbath was a day of rest, a day to return thanks to the Lord for leading His people Israel out of bondage in Egypt.  Christ rested in the tomb on the Sabbath and rose on Sunday, the Lord’s Day.  Therefore, our day of worship is Sunday, a day to celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection.  A day to hear God speak to His people.

God speaks His Word of the cross, the crucified Jesus, to you.  God speaks how He has lead you out of bondage to sin in the death and resurrection of His Son.  The Lord’s Day is a weekly Independence Day where you celebrate Christ winning your release from sin, death, and the devil.  Jesus is your righteousness.  You worship God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, offering up your thanks and prayers to Him.  You thank Him for taking your sin-filled heart away and putting a heart which loves, fears, and trusts in Him above all things in its place.  The Christian Nation is the Church, the saints of God who are called together with Jesus Christ as their head.

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