Trinity 6 (2014)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
July 27, 2014
Central Passage
Matthew 5:20-26

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

It’s really quite simple, what our Lord says here to His disciples. Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. What He’s saying is that unless your righteousness comes from your inner being, comes from you like the color of your eyes or the color of your hair, unless it comes to you naturally, not as a talent or learned skill, which is the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, but as an inborn quality that is as much a part of you as the color of your skin or the DNA that makes you human. Unless your righteousness is part of you, not an added part or a developed part, but a part of you as natural to you as your beating heart, unless that’s your righteousness, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. It’s like saying that unless your white or black or of some genetic decent you will never have this or that job, you will never attend this or that school. Unless your righteousness exceeds that of those who work really hard at and are really good at, unless your righteousness is inborn, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

In other words, you must be born righteous. You must be born again.

Those who believe and are baptized are born again. They receive a new Spirit and a new Father, and are united to both by the New Man we call our Brother, who is Christ the Lord. In Him heaven and earth become one even as God and man became one in the person of Christ Jesus. In Him, the divine assumed our flesh. Not that flesh becomes divine but that the divine became flesh. Not to belittle or denigrate divinity but to elevate and glorify humanity. In Christ who is ascended to the Father humanity is glorified.

By giving us His Spirit He gives us His life. He gives us His Father. He makes us children of God. And children bear the likeness of their fathers even as the children of God bear the likeness of our heavenly Father. For Jesus is the very image of the invisible God and we are being made into the likeness of the Son.

And just as earthly children not only bear physical likeness to their parents, but also inherit their traits and patterns of thoughts, their character, so the Son of God has in Him the traits and patterns of thoughts, the character of His heavenly Father. Far more so than you or I have these of our earthly parents. We have them to one degree or another, but Jesus is the image of the invisible God in whom there is no change. His will is perfect with His Father’s will. He speaks only what His Father speaks. He does only what He sees His Father doing. So we as children of God who share the same Spirit of Christ and have the same Father as Christ, so we too bear the image of our Father who art in heaven.

And our Father is righteous. He is good. His mercy endures for ever. He is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

This is both a description of Him and of us, who share the Spirit of God and the faith of Jesus. So just as the Son of God seeks only to bring glory and honor to His Father; seeks only to do His Father’s will. So we are to bring glory and honor to our Father; seeking only to do our Father’s will.

Therefore our Lord says be angry and do not sin. That is, don’t be angry because you have been taken advantage of or hated or because your reputation has suffered wrongful slander. For who among us has really suffered wrongful slander? Or are there those among us who do no wrong? Do not be angry at others because of their behavior toward you whether warranted or not. Instead, go to the one who has something against you and be reconciled.

Now, don’t mishear. That doesn’t necessarily mean do as they say or acquiesce to their demands. But consider again our Lord Jesus. Humanity had something against God. Wrongfully, to be sure, but still humanity accused God of wrongdoing. God was unjust, visiting sickness and disease on the children of men. The world thinks this way. Yet God does not come in wrath and fury, belittling those who malign Him or misjudge His character. But neither does He admit that He is wrong and the world is right. Instead He comes in Christ preaching reconciliation and peace. He comes preaching mercy and forgiveness. He comes preaching eternal life and salvation from disease and sickness, even salvation from death. He comes preaching the resurrection.

So His children. So you. If someone has something against you go and be reconciled. That doesn’t mean admit that they’re right and you’re wrong, though if you are in the wrong, tell the truth and so also do as your Father does for there is no lie in Him. But right or wrong, be reconciled to those that hate you and have something against you. For if you are not wrong and still seek to be reconciled, to call them friend and even brother, then you do as our Lord has done, who became a friend to all men and seeks to call all men brother. If that person rejects you or your attempts at reconciliation, rejecting your peace as it were, then let that be between them and God who will glorify His own name. But as for you, cause no one to stumble by your anger. That is, cause no one to curse your heavenly Father because of your anger.

Then, having sought reconciliation with your brother – be he a believer or not, but especially if he is a believer – then you may offer your gift in a clean conscience and without guile. For how can we offer our thanksgiving for having been so wholly forgiven, so wholly cleansed while refusing to forgive and be reconciled to others, cleansing them of their sins against us? You will have earned nothing; not salvation, not righteousness. You will not have earned a place in the kingdom of heaven nor will you have earned the love of God. For these things are not earned but are given freely. But you will have confessed that you are a child of God and so do the will of God, which is to reconcile and bring peace by the blood of Jesus. Your gift, then, is your thanksgiving for having been reconciled to God by the blood of Jesus.

The Lord has opened to you the gates of righteousness that you may enter in and give thanks the Lord (Psalm 118). Your gift to God is your thanksgiving and you offer it to God by receiving from Him life and salvation by His word. You offer thanksgiving by taking the cup of thanksgiving and calling upon the name of the Lord. You offer your thanksgiving by gathering with Him and to Him to glorify His name and make known His salvation to all people. And in giving thanksgiving, in receiving His blessings and benediction, in making known His salvation and peace, you show yourself a child of God.

+ In Nomine Iesu +