Thursday, August 29, 2013

Preaching the Paradox to Paradoxical People

Simil justus et peccator is one of those Reformation cliches that we trot out all the time but often leave misunderstood by the hearers.  This does not mean that we are a people at war with an uncertain outcome but rather we are a people who are saints from above through our baptism living out this new life in bodies and in a world still dead in trespasses and sin.  Our new self created in Christ Jesus lives in, with, and under a flesh and blood that must die and be replaced with a glorious flesh like the one Christ Jesus has won and wears for us.  The outer man resists and contends against this new life and it is through daily repentance and this outer man is daily put down that the new man may rise.

One person put it this way.  New software running on old hardware that is dying, waiting for physical death or Christ’s glorious return until the hardware matches the new software and allows it to run unhindered by mortal limits.  So it is the this hardware that must daily be re-booted to prevent the whole operation from coming to a close.

We preach the Law to bring the outer man to repentance and we remind the people of what Christ has done in Baptism so that the new man may be recognized and despair be transformed with the joy and promise of Christ in us.  We also preach the third use of the Law (ala the Table of Duties in the Catechism) so that the outer man may be addressed as the recalcitrant ass (unthinking donkey, folks) that it is, beaten down, and the new creation raised up, yoked with Christ and with all who share this baptismal identity, to do the good works of Him who has called us out of the darkness and into His marvelous light.

Lutherans love paradoxes.  Law & Gospel...  Sin & Forgiveness... Death & Life...   But we have forgotten that we ARE paradoxes.  We are not who we were but not yet who we shall be.  We are sinners condemned and saints born from above.  Repentance is nothing more and nothing less than the acknowledgment of this paradox.  When we abandon this paradox and choose one or the other, we always follow the path of error.  If we are only sinners hearing only the Law and feeling the full weight of our guilt because of sin, we are dead – not the dying but the already dead.  If we are only the saints free and living as antinomians bounded by nothing except possibility (like the liberal Christianity we so often find), we end up so full of ourselves that we are equally dead (not dying but already dead).

Sunday morning means preaching the paradox to a paradoxical people and in this way simil justus et peccator is lived out not as a theory or image but the practical and daily living out of our new lives in Christ lived within the framework of a mortal flesh and world at odds with this new identity.

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