August 28, 2018 -The Curse…and the Blessing, by Faith -Galatians 3:10-14, Romans 4:13,2 Corinthians 5:21

sola fide

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. Galatians 3:10-14 (ESV).

“Through Christ death has lost her sting. Christ is the death of death.”– Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, 1535

One of the primary teachings of the Protestant Reformation is sola fide, or Faith Alone. This is important to remember because even today we as Christians are tempted to think we can earn brownie points and follow the rules to justify ourselves.  Paul wrote this letter to the Galatians because there were teachers called Judaizers who were trying to convince the Galatian church that they could only truly follow Jesus if they also kept the Jewish Law.  They were leading people away from the sound doctrine of salvation by Faith Alone into setting extra conditions for salvation- the unsound doctrine of Jesus…AND.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

Paul is underscoring the reality that we as fallen creatures do not have the power to break the curse of sin and death based on what we do or don’t do. We are powerless to save ourselves, or to will ourselves to life, no matter what we do.  We are lifeless like the dry bones that God told Ezekiel to prophesy to. (Ezekiel 37) The dry bones could do nothing to come alive of their own accord.  The Word of God- Jesus- is the only power that can break the curse of sin and death and bring us to life out of the deadness of our trespasses and sins.

Jesus took our place as the curse, hanged on a tree. He was made to be the curse so that through faith in Him we can become children of God- the spiritual descendents and inheritors of the blessing of salvation that was promised in God’s covenant to Abraham.

“By faith Christ changes places with us. He gets our sins, we get His holiness.”– Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, 1535

Abraham was never justified by keeping the Law. The Law didn’t even show up until centuries after Abraham. God’s promise to Abraham was a one way deal.

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. Romans 4:13 (ESV)

Jesus has become both the curse- hanged on the tree carrying all of humanity’s sins- and the blessing of Abraham. Jesus is the promised offspring of Abraham, from the covenant God made before the covenant with Moses and the handing down of the Jewish Law.  God’s covenant with Abraham is fulfilled in Jesus. We become children of God’s promise through faith- through trusting Jesus.  Not Jesus…AND, but through faith in Him alone.

“Let us become expert in the art of transferring our sins, our death, and every evil from ourselves to Christ; and Christ’s righteousness and blessing from Christ to ourselves.”– Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, 1535

October 6, 2017 – Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, According to God’s Plan- Isaiah 26:4, Psalm 139:1-18

Cross

Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26:4 (NRSV)

O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.

You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.

For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  

Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed. How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!  I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end__I am still with you.  Psalm 139:1-18 (NRSV)

This week we have been discussing the Sacrament of Baptism. God makes a covenant with us in our Baptism that is rather one sided.  It is all about what God does for us and how He comes to us. He chooses us and makes us His own.

While human beings have freedom to make choices- and probably because human beings have been given that freedom- God makes provision for us to restore us, to draw us to Him, to fulfill the purpose He created us for, even though He knows we will not always make the best choices.

In Baptism God affirms His role as our Creator, our Life-Giver, our Savior, and the Lover of our souls.

Have we ever taken time to meditate and pray upon the reality that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by the Hand of God, and that He always is in us, with us and surrounding us?

 

August 18, 2017 Blessings and Peace on All Nations Psalm 67, Numbers 6:24-26

JesusRest

May God be gracious to us and bless us, and make his face to shine upon us that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us.  May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him. – Psalm 67 (NRSV)

Bad news seems to travel a lot further and wider than good news does. Human beings seem to be drawn to news of humiliation and scandal, betrayal and death much more so than to news of peace, reconciliation and God’s provision.  Some of that hankering for bad news may be self-preservation, as in wanting to steer clear of calamity ourselves. It is good to know where the weather is bad so we don’t travel there, and it is good to know where there are construction or traffic delays so we can plan alternate routes. We want to know where things are going wrong, presumably so we can avoid them.

But certain kinds of bad news- especially when only part of the story is reported, or the story is told from a biased viewpoint- serve only to increase tensions and make relationships with others more difficult. What are our motives for following that kind of reporting?  Does bad news travel faster because bad news sells?  Who profits by fanning the flames of conflict?

We have all heard the expression, “One bad apple ruins the whole barrel.” When we simply listen to the doom and gloom that the media feeds on, we start to paint others with a broad brush. We profile others, and we stereotype. We can be tempted to implement a logical fallacy that states, “If so and so, who was of ______demographic, commits crimes or is otherwise of questionable character, then everyone else of his or her demographic does the same.” In other words, it is neat and tidy and easy to think that people who aren’t like us are somehow evil or inferior, just because some people who are not like us have made tragic choices.  It’s not that simple, and it’s also not true.   Sin and unwise choices are inherent to all of humanity. Sin is no more or less prevalent in any particular ethnicity or nationality or culture.  The difference for Jesus followers is in how God calls us to treat others.

The Good News in Scripture that comes from God- and the Good News is not confined to just the Gospels- is just the opposite of doom and gloom of the media and its obsession with Bad News. In God’s economy one good apple cleans up the rest of the barrel- God’s blessings, poured out over humanity, bring salvation and unity instead of division and rancor.

As Jesus followers we are called to be the good apples, the bringers of blessings. The first verse of Psalm 67 closely echoes Numbers 6:24-26: (the Aaronic blessing)

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

May we be those bringers of blessings and peace.

Welcome! The Aaronic Benediction- Numbers 6:24-26

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. – Numbers 6:24-26 (NRSV)

Usually in a Lutheran worship service, Pastor gives the Aaronic benediction at the very end of worship, right after the sermon.  The words of the benediction come directly from the prayer God gave Moses for his son Aaron, the high priest, to pray over the people of Israel.

This is a wonderful way for us to begin our week of being sent out into the world to live out our calling as God-followers.

What could be better than beginning everything under a covering of blessings, grace and peace?

This benediction is my prayer for everyone who comes to this site for Bible study- that we would live as God’s people: blessed to be a blessing, given grace to extend grace, and peaceful to live in peace with ourselves and with all of God’s children.