Matthew 5:(17–19), 20–26 – Sixth Sunday after Trinity


ten-commandments-5

Exceeding Righteousness

Matthew 5:(17-19) 20-26

Let us pray:

Lord God, heavenly Father, we confess that we are poor, wretched sinners, and that there is no good in us; our hearts, flesh and blood being so corrupted by sin that we are never in this life without sinful lusts and desires. Therefore we beseech You, dear Father, forgive us these sins, and let Your Holy Spirit so cleanse our hearts that we may desire and love Your Word, abide by it, and thus by Your grace be forever saved; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen. (Veit Dietrich: Trinity 6)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

If you go out on the street and ask someone to name one of the Ten Commandments, almost always the first one named is “You shall not murder.” It is the most basic rule and law for mankind. Don’t kill each other.

It seems pretty simple. Don’t shoot anyone, stab any one, starve anyone, don’t do anything that would end another person’s life. If we were to take our man on the street who knew the commandment “You shall not murder” and ask him, “Have you kept this commandment?” they would almost certainly say “Of course.” Most people have never taken another’s life, and if they have I’m sure they wouldn’t mention it.

This was the Pharisees’ idea of righteousness. It had to do only with the outward works. If you held your hands back from ringing someone’s neck, then you had kept this commandment. It didn’t matter if you hated the person in your heart, or were bitter about some sin committed against you, or if you spoke poorly about the person. All this you could do, and still be righteous, as long as you didn’t run your neighbor through with a sword.

This is why Jesus calls the Pharisees “white-washed tombs.” On the outside they looked clean, righteous, holy, but on the inside they were full of rot. The Pharisees loved a law that you could keep, that way they could have a checklist of their own goodness and everyone else’s sin. And we should know that at the time our Lord Jesus walked the earth, the Pharisees had a pretty good thing going. They had everyone convinced that they were righteous, holy, the ones with whom God was pleased. They might have even been convinced of that themselves. If you were to go to Jerusalem and ask, “Is there anyone holy around here?” the person would have pointed you to the closest Pharisee.

The Pharisees were convinced that they kept the law, and that because of that they would reach heaven.

This is why the words of Jesus would have dropped like a bomb,

“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

What? The Pharisees were the height of righteousness, and now Jesus is saying that it has to exceed that!?

Jesus goes on to explain the issue.

“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; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

 

There it is: Jesus unfolds the preaching of Moses; He lets the Law loose to do it’s killing work. All illusions of man’s righteousness are crushed. It is not enough that we hold back  from taking someone’s life. This commandment requires us to care for every physical need of our neighbor, and more, it requires us to love our neighbor and be kindly disposed toward him, to think and speak kindly of our neighbor, even our enemies. Every thought or word or anger against your neighbor, says Jesus, is deserving of the wrath of God. Every time you have, in anger, called a person a fool, or even thought of them as a fool, you have committed a sin that deserves the judgment of the fires of hell – it is just as if you had murdered him.

 

Sin is not just committed with our hands, but also with our mouths, our minds, our eyes, and our hearts. And Jesus shows that the law of Moses requires absolutely everything. It is not enough to be righteous on the outside, we have to be pure and holy in our hearts. If our hearts do not overflow with love for our neighbor, we are murderers.

 

Now you might say, “Pastor, don’t get carried away here. Surely killing someone is worse than calling them a fool.” True enough from an earthly perspective. I would much rather you have angry thoughts toward me than to come up and punch me in the face; I would much rather you call me a fool and not hit me on the head with a baseball bat. Among men there are differences and degrees of sin. Some sins are more destructive on earth than others. But before God all sins are equally detestable, equally unholy, equally damning.

 

To curse is to kill, to look with lust is to commit adultery, to covet is to steal, and all of it, each and every sin is to commit idolatry, to worship a false god. What happens now is that Jesus, in teaching us what exceeding righteousness is, ends up showing us our exceeding sinfulness. When we try to measure up to the standard of the law that He teaches in the sermon on the mount, we fall short, desperately short, of the mark. This preaching condemns us. We don’t keep God’s law and we can’t keep God’s law.

 

And now we come to a dangerous crossroads. If we believe this word of Jesus (and we are Christians, that means that we do believe this word) that we cannot keep God’s law, we are presented with a number of temptations.

 

If we don’t like the Law, we may—like a child who has been told “no,” ask again.  And again.  And again.  The hope is that somehow the answer will be different the next time. If we don’t like the Law we look for a different interpretation, the acceptable exception for the rule.  We hunt and peck and search and whine and dig and do anything we can to try and find a loophole. Certainly the Law will bend to our ingenuity, and we will be able to get what we want.  It is the American way. If you don’t like the rules, change the rules or throw out the rule-book.  It is the human way since Adam and Eve, asking with the serpent if God really said what He said.  It is your way, every time you try to wiggle out of what you know is right and true and good, and seek the easy way, the less painful way, the way that gets you what you want.

 

There are some who don’t like the Law who claim God is unfair—there really in no way to keep the Law, so they resign themselves to their own judgment. We think, “If I’m a sinner and there’s nothing else for me but to sin, then I’ll try to go out in a blaze of glory.” This is the way of our flesh: to live without the law, to do whatever we want because it doesn’t matter anyway. “If all I can do is sin, then I won’t even try to stop, to quit, to keep the law. If we cannot keep God’s law, then we don’t have to keep it; we don’t even have to try. This is also our sinful flesh squeezing out from under God’s law. But, in the end, there is no escaping it. We truly ought to love our neighbor, but we don’t.

 

Our righteousness, even if it exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, still falls short of the mark. God’s law always accuses us; it condemns us; it kills us. If we want a righteousness that will prevail before the throne of God, and grant us passage through the judgment to the kingdom of heaven, then we need a righteousness outside of ourselves, a righteousness apart from the law.

 

Righteousness is precisely what Jesus came to give. That’s what forgiveness of sins is all about. God mercy is known chiefly not in healing, prosperity, clothing, or family. God’s mercy is placing the entire penalty for our unrighteousness upon the righteous One, Jesus Christ. His shoulders carried the whole burden of the sin of Adam He bore it in the beatings, the spitting, the whipping, the mocking, the thorns. He dragged it through Jerusalem and suffered it at about the third hour. Finally, Jesus drew His last breath, declared, declared “It is finished!” and suffered our death in our place.

 

By Christ’s death and shed blood, our unrighteousness, our iniquity, our sin, was pardoned, forgiven, and removed. This pardon was washed over us in Holy Baptism, pronounced in Holy Absolution, and is given us to eat and drink in Holy Communion. Our righteousness is nothing but “filthy rags.” Christ’s righteousness given to us exceeds the demands of the Law—the Law is fulfilled in Christ. Only by Christ’s righteousness can we enter into the kingdom of heaven. Only by Christ, is there forgiveness unto righteousness and thus eternal life.

 

Listen to these beautiful words of St. Paul, who spent his life preaching this righteousness, the righteousness that comes by faith.

 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law . . . the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (Romans 3:19-25)

 

Jesus instructs us “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

 

There is a righteousness that truly exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, the very righteousness of God Himself, the perfection of Jesus applied to you in the declaration of all your sins. You are forgiven, that is, you are completely righteous, perfect in the sight of God, holy to stand in the presence of God. The law that we could not keep has been kept on our behalf, and this perfect keeping of the Law has been given to you.

 

And now, you know the will of God for you. In faith you delight that He has revealed to you how you are to love your neighbor. The Holy Spirit strengthens you continually in that faith so that you can begin to keep these words of Jesus. And as you make a beginning of loving your neighbors and caring for their bodily needs, you have the confidence that you are forgiven, that you are loved by God, that He smiles upon you, and gives you His peace.

 

 

And the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Based on a sermon by Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller 

 

 

What is the Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism?


Luther's Small Catechism with Explanation, CPH

Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, CPH

Luther’s Small Catechism consists of the Six Chief Parts of Christian Doctrine (Section 1): the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, Confession, and the Sacrament of the Altar. It also includes daily prayers (Section 2), a table of duties for Christians (Section 3), and a guide for Christians to use as they prepare to receive Holy Communion (Section 4).

This is sometimes referred to as the Enchiridion. When we confess “the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from the Scriptures, as you have learned to know if from the Small Catechism to be faithful and true” (Rite of Confirmation, LSB Agenda, p. 29), it is only to this that we are subscribing.

An explanation section has regularly accompanied editions of Luther’s Small Catechism since the early days of Lutheranism. Luther was not the author of this explanation, instead, others wrote it while commenting on Luther’s catechism. Ultimately, the root of most current forms of the “Explanation” can be traced back to the work of  Johann Konrad Dietrich in his Institutiones catecheticae, published in the 17th century. That foundational work has been updated over the generations to meet the needs of Christian educators who use the “Explanation” as the basis for catechetical training. Due to the number of contributors and to the constant editing of the text over the centuries, the work cannot be attributed to one or even a few contributors. However, on page 45 of the current edition offered by Concordia Publishing House, you will find,

This explanation has been based upon and largely includes the work of Johann Konrad Dietrich (1575–1639), Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther (1811–1887), Heinrich Christian Schwann (1819–1905), and the committee that prepared the synodical catechism of 1943.

Concordia Publishing House has updated the catechism in cooperation with the LCMS since at least 1943.

Unexpected


A neighborhood cat adopted our yard last week. We have a small garden fountain and he joined the squirrels and birds who drink from it on a regular basis throughout the season. He didn’t look too healthy, he was skinny and . . .reliant. I had my thoughts, which I did not share with the grandchildren, that he had picked our yard for his hospice—a comfortable place to be during his last days. He’s an orange tabby. Green eyes. Terribly thin.

It almost hurt to look at him.

After sitting by the fountain for most of the afternoon, I suffered my spouse’s scorn, and put out a small plate of cat kibble. To the children’s surprise he wasn’t much interested. They brought the dish back in and I added some milk to the dry kibble and popped it in the microwave for a few seconds. Warm milk and softened food, and our little visitor was eating. Some, but not all. And then he didn’t leave.

He’s not the only stray cat in our neighborhood. So over the next few days we have had opportunity to talk with the children about pet ownership and the responsibility we take on when we take a companion pet into the family. We talked about how it is really unfair to a cat or dog or whatever—an animal that has been meant and trained to be our companion—to take away our care and turn it out to live on it’s own, or care so little about it, that the pet has to try and live in a way it was never intended. These abandoned pets, these former companions, often don’t have the skills they need to find food, stay warm, or be safe. They may ‘survive’ for a while, but they seldom thrive.

Our visitor didn’t ever get too far from the fountain. Only one evening over the past few says did the kids not find him somewhere in the garden. Most days he took over the black Welcome mat at the back door, sunning himself most of the morning. We had fewer squirrels and birds in the yard last week. They evidently found a different place to get a drink instead of take a chance on the cat. I don’t think he had the interest the give chase, but they didn’t need to know that.

I threw an old towel down under the bush that became his favorite napping spot. He took a lot of naps, the kids tell me.

This morning the kids had been up, and after feeding our indoor cats, a bowel of milk and kibble was prepared for the visitor. When I came down after my shower, there they stood; the granddaughter even had her toddler-brother in her arms—I think more for the comfort than anything else. “Grandpa, Sandy didn’t move this morning.”

Yeah, we named him.

I knew this day was coming. I went outside and donned my leather garden gloves. There were three small faces at the back window. Their Mom and Grandma were there too. Living in the City we’re pretty ruthless when it comes to disposal of dead squirrels and birds in the yard (a couple of dumb birds tend to drown in the fountain each season). But the cat, Sandy, I knew would be different for them.

I pulled a few branches aside, “See,” I hear over my shoulder. “I tried to see if he was breathing (hands going up and down to make his point), but he’s not.” I hadn’t heard the grandson come out but I shooed him back in the house. Our visitor clearly died in his sleep. I am sure not too many strays get to do that, under a favored bush, in the yard of a family who showed him some kindness. I gently removed the stiff form from our garden and put him in the bin for the City to take care of.

After I returned from the grim task of such an undignified disposal, I put away the gloves and went into the house. The granddaughter needed a hug; tears glistened in her eyes. As I held her tight for a moment, we consoled each other that while death comes to all our pets eventually, we thank God that he provides us with such wonderful companions. And tonight in our devotions we’ll say a prayer of thanks to God for Mona our Great Pyrenees, for Klondike and Merci the cats in our home, and for Bailey and Denali, Pepper and Raven, and the other several pets who have occupied our home and our hearts over the years.

There are all kinds of lessons we teach our children along the way. Some of most important lessons are unplanned. This one walked in on four paws and gave us opportunity to show kindness and care. And taught us a lesson on how to say good-bye.

Summer Reading: Book of Concord


Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (CPH)

Pastor Johann Caauwe over at A Shepherd’s Story is starting a summer-read of the Book of Concord and invites us to read with him. For many, the more relaxed schedules of summer allow for adding some extra reading to a daily devotion, or for others, replacing the regular devotion with a project like reading of the Book of Concord over the Summer.

Pastor Caauwe offers some useful links:

The summer schedule using Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions here.

The summer schedule using other popular editions of the book of Concord: Triglot, Tappert, or KolbWengert or Die Bekenntnis-Schriften here.

You can read the Book of Concord on line right here.

And you can participate in a discussion of the daily readings here.

Defining Who Is A Person


In Brief

our culture war over who is a  “person” effects not only how we approach and understand our human relationships  but most importantly how we understand our salvation in the person Jesus Christ.

Pastor Mark Sell shared with me a summary of his presentation on the January 21, 2010 Supreme Court (SC) ruling in the case CITIZENS UNITED v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION. This is getting a lot of play because of corporations funding campaign speech. That is not the big news, and if it were the news, probably wouldn’t appear here. Rather, the big news centers around the word “person” and how it is defined and used. This has monumental ramifications on all of U.S. society and in the historic Christian Church. So, with his permission, Pr. Sell:

.

Law & The Courts

The real issue is the word person, meaning, “That which subsists of itself.” Stay with me. I know it seems quite “egghead,” but it influences every legal transaction in our country. The recent ruling begins to return to the historical definition of person, That definition was in place for most of Western civilization until the 1973 Roe v. Wade SC decision. (The thrust was a states’ rights issue along with privacy, but it is also seen to impact the legal definition   of a “person.”)

According to the law, a person is that which subsists of itself. It is a definition that assumes and substantiates the unique individual “thing” or entity. This is why a whale is a person, a plant is a person, a corporation is a person, and a human is a person—that which subsists of itself. It defines an individual who/which has legal (philosophical and medical) standing.

When the psychological definition of person became the foundation of law, it confused many of our legal decisions and therefore confused the moral ramifications of persons. Of course, the most detrimental ramification of the Roe v. Wade definition of person to our society and subsequent legal decisions was the effect on the person in the womb and the culture war that has ensued.

If you change the individualistic definition of person, that which subsists of itself, then you can do the same outside of the womb if the psychological criteria are not met. The implications of this extends from birth to death.

Humans are also persons in the law—in and outside of the womb. If a young or old human person doesn’t meet our psychological definitions,  the law can change their legal standing and, thus, their importance to the society medically, philosophically, and educationally.

This is why we now face not only decisions about the person in the womb after 1973, but now also persons outside of the womb. Euthanasia, assisted suicide, marriage, family, individual rights, and so on, are all controversial issues today, when in the past, they weren’t. It’s because we are asked, “What do you mean by person?”

The One, Holy, Christian and Apostolic Church

The Holy Trinity

The Holy Trinity is understood as one God in three persons. What is the meaning of person in the Trinity? Again, “That which subsists of itself.” The three persons of the Trinity are unique individual persons, not based upon a psychological definition, but upon the historic use of the word person. This is foundational to the Scriptures, creeds, and what we confess as Christians about the Holy Trinity. Of course, the very foundation of our Christian faith is the person of Jesus Christ, the God/Man, who subsists of Himself.

The personhood of Christ is why we confess that Jesus died on the cross, not the Father, nor the Holy Ghost. The latter are different persons—they subsist of themselves.

The consequence of the Roe v. Wade definition of person has terribly influenced all of Christianity because, especially in American churches. It has allowed the psychological definition of “person” to influence who Jesus is and how we practice the teachings He fulfilled from the Old Testament and was in the New Testament and how He continues to be present in the Word and Sacraments.

This is why the Holy Christian Church is part of our culture war of “persons.” Not only is every human on the line, along with marriage, abortion, children, but most importantly our salvation in the person Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

The fury is really over the definition of person, even though it is starting with “corporations” who are persons in the law and who thus have free speech. However, this return to the historic and common use of the term person is an earth-shattering shift for the good of our society and the Church. The historic use of person is the definition the Christian Church uses when she speaks of the three persons of the Trinity. Roe v. Wade was based upon a psychological definition of person, not the historical “uniqueness” of personhood. Roe v. Wade destroyed the Trinity, along with millions of babies.

The Particulars

CITIZENS UNITED v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION
APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
No. 08–205. Argued March 24, 2009—Reargued September 9, 2009––Decided January 21, 2010

19 1/21/10 08-205 Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm’n K 558/2

ROE v. WADE, 410 U.S. 113 (1973)
410 U.S. 113
ROE ET AL. v. WADE, DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF DALLAS COUNTY
APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF
TEXAS
No. 70-18.

Roe v Wade: Entire decision

Pastor Sell has promised to attend to the comments. So, if you are so enclined, feel free to engage him.

Evening & Morning: The Music of Lutheran Daily Prayer


This beautifully sung and recorded CD by the Kantorei of Concordia Theological Seminary includes:

Evening & Morning: CPH

* Matins (Tracks 01–08)
* Vespers (Tracks 09–14)
* Morning Prayer (Tracks 15–21)
* Evening Prayer (Tracks 22–29)
* Compline (Tracks 30–38)
* Litany (Track 39)

Evening and Morning: Music of Lutheran Daily Prayer is a wonderful complementary product for user of Treasury of Daily Prayer.

List of tracks:

01 Matins Sentences
02 Matins Venite
03 Matins Responsory
04 Matins Te Deum
05 Matins Benedictus
06 Matins Kyrie/Our Father
07 Matins Collect
08 Matins Benedictus & Benediction
09 Vespers Sentences
10 Vespers Responsory
11 Vespers Magnificat
12 Vespers Kyrie/Our Father
13 Vespers Collect
14 Vespers Benedictus & Benediction
15 Morning Prayer Sentences
16 Morning Prayer Venite
17 Morning Prayer In Many Ways
18 Morning Prayer Benedictus
19 Morning Prayer Collect
20 Morning Prayer Our Father
21 Morning Prayer Benedictus & Benediction
22 Evening Prayer Service of Light
23 Evening Prayer Psalm 141
24 Evening Prayer In Many Ways
25 Evening Prayer Magnificat
26 Evening Prayer Litany
27 Evening Prayer Collect
28 Evening Prayer Our Father
29 Evening Prayer Benedictus & Benediction
30 Compline Opening Sentences
31 Compline Confession
32 Compline Lessons
33 Compline Responsory
34 Compline Prayer
35 Compline Prayers
36 Compline Our Father
37 Compline Nunc Dimittis
38 Compline Benediction
39 Litany

Want to know more about the Kantorei? Check out this post at CyberBretheren.

Stats and observations at 1 year


Examining site statistics

This weekend is the 1st anniversary of Blog My Soul’s move to WordPress. So I thought I would share with you some of the stats for this past year.

Top Posts and Pages in the Last 12 Months

Prostate Cancer Journal (page)
Revealed! Music planned for Treasury of Daily Prayer
Traditional Churches Preferred by the Unchurched
Sermons & Devos (page)
Ukrainian Bishop uses Treasury of Daily Prayer
Lutheranism 101 (page)
Prostate Cancer Journal: Positive for Cancer
Prostate Cancer Journal: The Choices We Make
Prostate Cancer Journal: You’re Going to Do What?
Prostate Cancer Journal: Today I take the test
About (page)
Prostate Cancer Journal: The Waiting is the Hardest Part
Prostate Cancer Journal: Surgery & Recovery Update
What are Ember Days?
Who are the guardian angels?
How Lutherans Worship – 2 Making the Sign of the Cross
Ecclesiastical Terms (page)
Prostate Cancer Journal: My Friend Peter
How Lutherans Worship (page)

Ukrainian Bishop uses Treasury of Daily Prayer

Who are the guardian angels?

Prostate Cancer Journal: You’re Going to Do What?

Prostate Cancer Journal: Today I take the test

How Lutherans Worship – 2 Making the Sign of the Cross

What are Ember Days

Happy Anniversary

Prostate Cancer Journal: Positive for Cancer

Sermons & Devos

How Lutherans Worship

Google Analytics was installed in May. Since then there have been 2,771 visitors to the blog with 68% being new visitors and 31% of you being return visitors.

Thanks for a great year! I hope to see you again in 2010.

Music for Treasury of Daily Prayer now available


We’ve been looking forward to it for awhile, and now it is available on CD: Evening and Morning: The Music of Lutheran Daily Prayer.

This beautifully sung and recorded CD by the Kantorei of Concordia Theological Seminary includes:

Evening & Morning from CPH

* Matins (Tracks 01–08)
* Vespers (Tracks 09–14)
* Morning Prayer (Tracks 15–21)
* Evening Prayer (Tracks 22–29)
* Compline (Tracks 30–38)
* Litany (Track 39)

Evening and Morning: Music of Lutheran Daily Prayer is a wonderful complementary product for user of Treasury of Daily Prayer.

Matins te Deum (sample audio)

Pope announces plans for Anglicans to convert en masse


The Vatican has announced that Pope Benedict is setting up special provision for Anglicans, including married clergy, who want to convert to Rome together, preserving aspects of Anglican liturgy. They will be given their own pastoral supervision, according to this press release from the Vatican.

Pope announces plans for Anglicans to convert en masse – Telegraph Blogs.

First Things comments:

This is very big. If this reconnection is well-facilitated, we may see the entire African arm of the Church of England (which is currently its most vibrantly-growing branch) cross the Tiber, and that will be a very interesting development, especially as Catholics are exposed to the Anglican-use liturgy, which will remind many of everything they loved about the Latin mass, but in the glorious language of the Anglican liturgy.