Sermon 6/14/2020

‘While we were…Christ died for us sinners’

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our risen Lord Jesus. Amen.

Verse seven of our Romans chapter five text reads “Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.” This is to emphasize God’s love for us expressed in verse eight “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”


While statistically it may be said to be rare that someone dies for another, I think with modern mass media we see it happens more than we thought. Even dying for strangers.


Last week was a story of a child being swept away in a river current. Several people jumped in. While the child was saved one of the men who had jumped in did not make it out. He was not in a uniform but was a “Good Samaritan” fearing for a child’s life and love compassion compelled him to jump in and try.


Every Sunday we here at Christ by the Lake include military and Law Enforcement in our prayers. For the many who have given their lives and all who have put themselves in harms way risking their own lives. While we know there are some racist and other haters and sexually violent or bad people in uniform, we know the vast majority are good people in uniform who have chosen to serve and sacrifice, including sacrifice not just for perhaps for a good person but for anyone and all.


From the Romans five reading, verse 6 includes “For while we were still weak;” verse 8 says “while we were still sinners;” and continuing I add from verse ten “while we were enemies…”


Christ Jesus gave his life and died for us while we were too weak, like a child helpless in a raging river current, too weak to save ourselves, while we were still sinning our lives away, while we were enemies of God. God jumped into our lives with a cross on his back to save us all.

In our Gospel lesson we hear ‘Jesus went about cities and villages, teaching, proclaiming good news, and curing every disease and sickness. He had compassion for them, for they were harassed and helpless. Jesus co-missions the disciples to have authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and we hear again the phrase “to cure every disease and every sickness.”’


It would be nice if it could be in that direct way to ‘cure every disease and every sickness’ but instead of itinerant disciples we co-mission our medical scientist and the modern medical miracle practitioners to work for cures or at least some control.


So, while we are weak, we are sinners, we are enemies of God. We also have learned of the miracle of God’s love in Christ Jesus crucified and risen. Until our earthly life is ended how does God’s love invite us to live?


At home you may enjoy looking for the lyrics of the song with the line

I believe Jesus died for me so I believe I will live for Him.”

Consider that though it is unlikely that any of us will be in a situation where we are compelled in love to actually die by sacrificing in order to save someone, even a loved one or perhaps a stranger. If not with our last breath then how do we sacrifice for the sake of another?

Though it is an uncomfortable inconvenience it can be considered a ‘sacrifice’ to wear a mask and be conscious of distancing.

Even more seriously, consider our human sinfulness in looking at others and though it may be subconsciously rooted, view and treat another differently because of some difference. It may be due to any number of ‘isms.’ Racism, sexism, agism, or ethnic or religious differences. Even in good people we confess “we are by nature sinful and unclean.”

Although I remember when as a student pastor I took our youth group in Redding, California to Disneyland. On the long drive back it was a Sunday so we stopped to attend a Lutheran church several hours south of Redding.

While I suspected it would be similar to what they were use to at home this would give the youth a chance to experience a possibly little different service. Maybe they would have band or something else that younger people might like or maybe it would be even more old fashion and so either appreciate the deep spiritual nature or they might appreciate more my way of doing the service.

I was somewhat shocked when I opened the same worship hymnbook we used except someone had taken a black marker and crossed out the words in the Confession “by nature sinful and unclean.” Today we say that “we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves.” I checked some other hymnbooks near by and they all had been censored of the phrase ‘by nature sinful and unclean.’ We were traveling several more hours so we did not stay for fellowship or meet with the pastor to find out more about their viewpoint. I know we are forgiven, made ‘whiter than snow,’ but I also believe until we take our last breath and our own resurrection, ‘we are by nature sinful and unclean’ or as said today, “captive to sin and cannot free ourselves.”

This week I read a devotional story I share now.

In August of 1961, in hot and humid Miami Beach, Florida, the first triennial Luther League convention of the American Lutheran Church took place. Youth gatherings occur in summer in hot and humid cities for one simple reason: hotel prices are a bargain! As I was the youngest permitted to attend, my mother feared for my safety as I boarded the train in Minneapolis for the long journey south. I could never have guessed the historical significance of those few days.


One of the keynote speakers was a young black preacher. When word got out about his invitation, 600 letters of protest arrived in the office of David Brown, the director of youth ministry for the ALC. Hearing of the protest, this young preacher kindly disinvited himself. Not to be overpowered by bigots, David Brown flew to the preacher’s home to convince him to reconsider. He did speak. In fact, some suggest it was one of the finest speeches Martin Luther King Jr. ever gave.


At the closing of every session during that youth gathering we stood and sang this hymn, “Lead On, O King Eternal.” We sang with gusto: “With deeds of love and mercy the heavenly kingdom comes.”


I know this devotional refers to an event that happened a long time ago, 1961. We have progressed a long way in our society and world when it comes to ending racism and other ‘isms.’ But if a similar youth event were to happen today, I suspect still a lot of protest letters would be sent to our Bishops and the Chicago headquarters.


We have done much to lift up God’s love and mercy and our love for others. But our lives realize that our old Adam and Eve nature must put on our new faith nature to love as he has loved us. Compassionately and sacrificially.


In Romans 5:5 it reads “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”


We are seeing a lot of violence and hearing a lot of rhetoric of hate but more powerfully we can see and hear deeds of love and mercy. Careful in searching the news as much of it is filtered with bias but there is also real good news. Individuals and groups that act and reach out in love and compassion to ‘cure every sickness,’ physical or spiritual. Perhaps, you saw when a white officer was separated and surrounded by an angry crowd how a group of Afro-Americans formed a protective circle? I suspect at least some of them had angry feelings too but love guided their actions.


We too let God’s sacrificial love through Christ Jesus guide our actions for deeds of love and compassion. It can feel like a bigger problem than we can handle but remember while we were weak, we were sinners, while we were enemies of God, God loved us and God offers his Holy Spirit to work deeds of love and mercy in the name of Jesus. Little deeds and mercy by each of us can add up against the powers and principalities of this world. I believe, we believe therefore let us love as he has loved us. Amen.


  August 2021  
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