Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, July 24, 2016
Walking the Walk - July 24, 2016 - Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 12) - Text: Colossians 2:6-15 (16-19)
New and improved, that is what everyone wants. Do not give me the old stuff, give me the new and improved stuff. The latest Ipad, Iphone, the newest Galaxy S, the fast Tablet, the latest micro processor. We want a faster car, a bigger house, a detergent that gets the whites even whiter, a microwave oven that cooks so fast it is almost like going back in time. Even when it comes to our Christian faith too many in our world, and even some in our own church want the new and improved. We want a faster service, one that will not take up as much of our precious time as the old service. We want a “with-it” service and a sermon that makes us feel good. We do not want that old sin and death stuff, we want alive, new and innovative. Do not tell me about my sins, that I am doing anything wrong or how to change my life. Do not tell me how much more important my spiritual well being is compared to my life in this world. Tell me that what I am doing is okay, because everyone else is doing the same thing. Tell me how good I am compared to others who are less good. Tell me I do not need too much forgiveness, or Word of God. Of course, my father would always ask me, “just because everyone else is jumping off into the lake, does that mean you need to too?” This morning our text is another chapter in Paul’s continuing battle with the new and improved Judaizers. But, if we take a step back and look at what the Judaizers are teaching as new and improved, we will notice that it is the old and stale. Similarly, in our world today, what is being touted as new and improved in many churches is also the old and stale. As the preacher says in Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the sun.”
I do not hear it said as much today as I did a few years ago, but I believe there was the saying that went something like this, “If you are going to talk the talk, then you need to walk the walk.” Even longer ago I believe the saying was “Practice what you preach.” I believe that is how Paul might have began his letter if he were writing today. In our text Paul reminds us of the talk and the walk. He also reminds us of the trials and temptations that work to keep us from talking and walking in the ways of the Lord and instead want us to talk and walk in some other “new and improved” way, which is not new and improved at all. What is the talk and the walk to which we are called? Paul begins by reminding us our talk and walk is our speaking and our acting out our faith. And as we read Paul’s letter we will notice that our talk and walk of faith takes on two dimensions. The first dimension of faith is the root of our faith which is Holy Baptism. At our Baptism the Lord’s name was put on us; faith was put in our hearts; we were given forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Unfortunately, the devil does not like this talk and walk and he is doing everything that he can to shut us up and sit us down, that is stop our walk.
The enemy is the devil and he wants you. He wants you simply for the sake of a victory. The devil does not want you because he loves you and wants you to be on “his side.” The devil hates you and because you belong to the Lord he hates you even more. The devil only knows hate and so he does everything that he can to destroy anything the comes from God and is good. Thus we know, as Jesus tells us that he is a liar and the father of lies reminding us never to trust what he says.
One of the tools of the devil, that Paul points to in our text, is human wisdom. Human wisdom trips us up, especially when we take the bait as Eve and Adam did in the Garden of Eden, thinking that we can be “as gods, knowing good ‘and evil.’” But, of course, we are too wise for that old ploy. But are we? Look around at the churches and denominations today who have become wiser than God, so much so that they do not even need God’s Word anymore. So what if God’s Word speaks against idolatry; disobedience; abortion and euthanasia and all other forms of killing; adultery, fornication, homosexuality and all other forms of sexual impurity; stealing; defamation of one’s name and character; and coveting, those things are old things, we want a new and improved god. We want the god we have created in our own image. We want a god who is tolerant of us. We want a god who is tolerant of sin. We want a god who will see it our way and even let us have our own way. Remember from a few years back, the Jesus Seminary? They were a group of wise Bible scholars, or so they believed themselves to be. They were so wise they weeded through the New Testament and “discovered” which words Jesus actually spoke and which ones He did not speak. Their last effort was to show their wisdom in “discovering” the actual miracles of Jesus and which ones were just “exaggerations.” I wonder how secure they feel in themselves because, in their own minds, they are wiser than God.
Even our own church body is struggling with these temptations of wisdom. Remember, God’s usual way of coming to us is through means, the means of grace in particular, the Word and the Sacraments as well as confession and absolution. Where these means do not exist, we limited God in coming to us to give us His good gifts and blessings. Today too many Lutheran Churches and way too many so called “Christian” churches have thrown out the Word of God in worship in order to show their wisdom in putting in their own human words. Thus, instead of getting the choice “cut” of the Word of God, people are getting the hot dog and bologna word of human wisdom. With that in mind I will tell you as I have told many before, the most important part of our divine service is not the sermon. My sermon is important and is of value only in so far as I proclaim to you the Word of God. The closest I can come is probably ninety-nine and forty-four one hundredths percent pure. God’s Word is God’s Word. God’s Word is one hundred percent pure. I cannot add to it and I dare not take away from it. My preaching is an attempt at proclaiming God’s Word to you in all its truth and purity. And my preaching is important in so much as I proclaim God’s Word to you. Thus in our Divine Service we have a reminder of our Baptism, Confession and Absolution, the reading of Holy Scripture in the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel, and the Lord’s Supper.
This brings us back to our text. Paul reminds us of our talk and walk so that we might remain in the truth. Paul reminds us that we are one with Christ (v. 9-15) and we are not to give that up. He reminds us that Christ is true God and true man. Christ is true God who took on human flesh and blood making Him true man. Christ is God, that is, he is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Paul makes a connection with Baptism and circumcision. He says that circumcision is being rid of only a part of our sinful flesh, whereas, Holy Baptism is ridding ourselves of our complete sinful nature. He also gives a strong argument for infant baptism in that as circumcision was a part of the Law, it took place on the eight day after the child was born, thus baptism, as a command of God, should take place as soon as possible after the child is born. As for circumcision, this and all the Law Christ fulfilled, perfectly, and dying on the cross He removed the demands of the Law. The Judaizers were trying to demand circumcision as a way of work righteousness which would make the demands on the law legally binding. In other words, if you are going to try to get to heaven by obedience to the Law, it is an all or nothing proposition. Either obey all the Law completely and be saved or miss on one count and be condemned. But remember one other thing, Baptism cancels the demands of the Law. Christ is victorious over the powers of this world. Baptism makes Christ’s victory our victory.
Also included, parenthetically in our text for this morning, are other examples of giving up the Gospel that Paul places before us, such things as elevating traditions over the Word of God (v. 16-19). Paul’s example is that of elevating food laws and even festival or Sabbath laws. Paul is not suggesting that traditions, festivals and rites are not important and cannot be helpful, but he does warn that they must always be evaluated in the light of God’s Word and that God’s Word must prevail. Paul warns us of what we have seen happen and what is continuing to happen in our world today, that is of elevating one’s own reason and self judgement over the Word of God. Perhaps you have noticed how, in our world today, God’s Word is given short shrift, is regulated to being simply a book among other books with no power or authority over any other. And Paul’s greatest warning is the thinking that one is a Christian or can be saved apart from Christ who is the Head.
Paul is writing to us today. If Paul were to use the words and situations of today he might say it something like this, “do not be taken in by the religions and philosophies of this world.” Anytime you hear someone proclaiming a “new truth” or a “new way” or a “new revelation” or anything so new that “all you have to do is . . .,” and you fill in the blank, then you know that this is not new, but rather this is one of the devils old lies. The Gospel, the Good News of God’s Word is not what we do, but what God has done, what God is doing and what God continues to do.
Paul tells us to remember our Baptism. What truly wise and profound words. Remember your Baptism. At your Baptism God’s name was put on you. His life became your life. His suffering became you suffering. His death became your death. His risen, eternal life became you risen, eternal life. And remember Jesus’ victory on the cross. His victory is your victory. The talk is grace. The walk is faith. Let me say that again. The talk is grace, the walk is faith. Which is the other part of the talk and walk, to live our faith. There are people in this world who are being put into prison and killed for their faith in Jesus. The tough choices we have are whether to attend divine service or to volunteer to serve at church or to let the other things of this world get in the way of our walking in the ways of the Lord? Should I give my tithe to the Lord in response and in recognition of all that He has given me, or should I give only a little so I can pay for all the things I think I need and want? We talk that talk, but do we walk the walk?
Yes, the devil is alive and well in our world today. He is seen everywhere there is talk of what you must do to be saved. He is there everywhere there is talk of the wisdom of humanity. He is seen everywhere there is talk of a new and improved religion or god. So, how do you know what is of God and what is not? How do you talk the talk and walk the walk? You become as the Bereans. You get into the Word and compare it to what you see and hear. You test the spirits to see if they are from God or from another. You become as the Colossians, remembering your Baptism, that you belong to the Lord because He has given you your life. He has given you faith. He has given you forgiveness. He has given you eternal life. As a response, you put your faith and God’s Word into practice, walking in His ways and according to His will, doing the things that He would have you to do as He moves you to do them. My prayer is that the Lord will be with you as you struggle to talk the talk and even more to walk the walk, so that we might together be able to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.