Friday, January 4, 2013

Someone to hold your hand...

Sermon for the Eve of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus, preached on December 31, 2012.

    The Epistle gives us heavy words on what some might see as a light evening.  But in Galatians three we find ourselves against the voice of warning for a people too close to the Law. It may seem hard to warm up to the Law.  Rules.  Regulations. Obligations.  Duties.  We generally have little affection for these things.  But like a guardian into whose care a child is entrusted, the Law held our hand until Christ came.  The Law was never our loving companion who walks beside us but the stern soldier who drags us along and makes us to do what is right when we don't want to.  Now that Christ is come, the guardianship of the Law is complete.  We have become full fledged sons and daughters of God by baptism and we live this out in lives of faith.  Yet this freedom finds us with an unhealthy longing to be children under the Law’s guardianship again.
    The Law offers us some of what we desire – order, justice, and a conscience to tell you exactly where you stand.  But this blessing of the Law is also our great temptation.  To believe that fear is good enough.  To believe that forced obedience satisfies the Lord.  The Law was never the end that the some thought it was.  It ruled our hearts with fear until our hearts could be made new to trust in faith.  It demanded the right whether we desired the right or not.  Still, we are tempted to find our comfort in the Law, in an order forced if not voluntary, and in a righteousness demanded if not freely sought.
    But we have the Gospel.  We have the promise of God in the flesh and blood of Christ.  Here the fear is tempered with desire and love to become the holy fear of faith. Here the heart is made new as sin is forgiven and death is overcome.  The power and promise of the Gospel lies not in its justice but in its mercy.  Our hearts are made new with the power of love to live by faith, seeking and desiring the things of God and His kingdom.
    The Law can control our behavior but it cannot create desire in our hearts.  Only the Gospel can teach us to love the good, to walk in its ways, and to desire its blessed fruits.  This is the power of Christ and the power of the Gospel.  We are made new to walk in freedom in Christ.  But this freedom is not license to do as we please.  It is the accountable and responsible freedom in which we willingly live in service to Christ, submitting to Him in all things.
    As we end one year, we find ourselves caught up in anger over the terrors it has brought, in sorrow over its tragedies, in frustration over the promises left unkept, and in regret over all the lost opportunities.  The great temptation is to seek comfort in the Law, in righteousness enforced, in the good demanded under threat, and in swift punishment.  But the Law can give no comfort to wounded and weary hearts.  Only the Gospel.  Only Christ.
    We do not need another guardian to hold our hand.  We need the Savior who can keep the Law for us.  We need the Redeemer able to choose to love us even though it comes at the cost of His own blood.  We need the Lord who can make new the tired old hearts of fear.  There is risk in this Savior.  Mercy is neither efficient nor effective.  It woos instead of orders and it invites instead of compels.  But our hope is misplaced if we hope for better rules and better rulers.  Only hope in Christ is worthwhile.
    So what do you seek for 2013?  Better rules and better rulers?  Or the Savior whose blood is shed to set us free from the Law's guardianship that we might walk in His ways, trusting in His mercy for all things?  For freedom Christ has set us free but this freedom is messy business.  It is born of blood shed.  The circumcision of Jesus is the first blood shed of a whole life lived in sacrificial service to us and for us. 
    To the Christians who look longingly upon the Law to supply the order and justice we desire, don't forget that the rules we demand of others will inevitably come back to bite us in the rear.  Such is the nature of the Law and of any righteousness compelled by fear.  The Gospel seems weak but it is the strongest power of all.  Do not exchange its hope for fear...   Or its demand for freedom... Or its new creation for yesterday's same old disappointment.  He was made for us and like us, to keep the Law's demand and create the promise of a Gospel future... for you and for me.
    So, leave 2012 at the foot of the cross.  Leave here our wounds and sorrows, our disappointments and sins, our fears and anxieties.  And lift up your head to Christ and to the future we live out in His grace.  For Christ has not come to hold our hand like a guardian but as the Savior who make us new... Anything less is hardly worth our time.  And this Gospel has far more promise than our hopes and dreams can ever conceive... Happy New Year!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters, that is such a weird picture. There is that big baby over that square hole in a giant tomb looking thing. Are they gonna stick the kid down in that hole? I ask because the baby is wearing so little clothing that it makes me think they are gonna dunk him rather than just sprinkle his forehead. Where do yo find these pictures?