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?
Trinity IV, 2015
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…