THE 6TH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY AD 2020
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Matthew 5:21-37 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment. ’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool! ’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. ’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce. ’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn. ’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
Traffic circles are sending me to hell. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about that this morning. Whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire. “You fool!” isn’t the half of what runs through my head and, sadly, at times even comes out of my mouth, on those days when I’m pressed for time and the poor person in front of me mistakes the red triangle for a red octagonal one, and without another car in sight, stops rather than just slowing down. Such frustrated outbursts are normally followed be a muttered prayer for patience, but by that point it is too late.
The cat is out of the bag, so to say, and yes, as Jesus makes perfectly clear this morning, I’m in for it. The hell of fire is what I have earned, simply because I couldn’t take a breath and have some patience and mercy on the poor soul, who is more cautious than I want them to be and costs me but a few seconds of time. Traffic circles are sending me to hell? No, not exactly. When they work well and everyone knows what they are doing, believe it or not, traffic circles are a good gift from God, as is every other poor soul who is ahead of me on them, whether they know how to use one or not.
No, no, it’s not the traffic circles fault, nor the other poor souls who are making use of them ahead of harried hurried me. No, the fault lies completely and fully with me. Traffic circles are sending me to hell? No, my sinful flesh is managing that well enough all on its own. That’s plain to see in all the other times and places, when I for various reasons lose my patience, and at times, my temper, with those that God has given to me to know and to love on my earthly journey. This of course would include the dear folks from across the lake at the cottage, who party until 4 am or insist on circling their speedboat for hours right in front of my dock. If “You fool” gets you the hell of fire, “Bloomin idiots!” can’t be good.
As Jesus unpacks the 5th commandment for us this morning, mining its depths and getting to the heart of the matter, He leaves no place for the sinner in each of us to hide. No stone is left unturned, including the rock that the sinner in each of us wants to hide under, claiming that at least I haven’t killed anyone. Before the raw reality of the law, as Jesus directs it toward us, there can be no question that there is in fact blood on all our hands. Murderers, that’s what we have been from the beginning, like the one that we chose as our father in Eden, as we turned our backs on the God of love who had given us life to embrace the serpent and his lying, murderous ways.
Murderers, yes, and adulterers too, according to what the Lord Jesus lays out for us this morning. And no, you don’t have to have an affair or two under your belt to earn that label, fooling around on your husband or wife certainly gets you there, as does being with a divorced man or woman, but even one lustful glance or thought about another, who is not your God given husband or wife, puts you squarely in the category. In a world where such lustful thoughts and intents are born and fed with but a tap on any touch screen, Jesus words are particularly piercing and damning.
And no, you don’t have to be a chronic porn user or addict, or even for that matter a chronic flirt or philanderer to earn the so-called scarlet “A” for Adultery. But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. One tap, one thought, one look, one act, is all it takes to send you to hell. And no, there’s no where to hide with this one either. Trying to stand behind all those who struggle and fall into temptation with the unnatural desires of the flesh, who are so out and proud in our world these days, will not give you any cover from the damning judgment of the sixth commandment as Jesus, as its original Author, unpacks the full spirit of this law. No, trying to hide your own lustful heart by taking cover behind those who openly live in a distortion of God’s gift of sexual love, only makes it clear that you’re part of the crowd.
Heavy and hard hitting? Heavy and hard hitting indeed! Yes, for all those who think that these commandments are too heavy and hard, when it comes to surface things like abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide and LGBTQ issues don’t know the half of it. No, they do not. Neither do all those who just want to stop with those things and not hear any more or go any deeper. But the Lord Jesus, simply loves us too much, beloved, to leave things there, which is why He sits down with us on the mountainside today, and opens His Divine mouth to reveal and uncover for us just what love and beauty He truly created us for, and just how terribly sin has messed us all up.
Even as Jesus holds up the polished mirror of the law before our eyes, so that we might see just what we are as poor miserable sinners and how far we fall short of the perfection He made us for, He also reveals just what He came to be for us, and what He is at work to make us to be. As the Lord Jesus told us so wonderfully last week, He came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it for us. We can have sure confidence today that Jesus was all that we are called to be when it comes to these commandments. Yes, He was filled with all love and purity as man in our place. He stood in, where each and every one of us fall and fail. We can see that throughout His life, as it shines out most beautifully as He climbs up Calvary and spreads out His arms to suffer and die.
On the cross we see Jesus, not cursing or damning those who crucify Him but praying and pleading for their forgiveness. We see Him groaning and sighing to save all who have tested and tried His love and patience beyond all human bearing. We see Him bleeding and dying in the most giving of love to rescue, save and redeem His faithless bride, who is ever failing and falling away from Him, whoring herself out to every other false god to play the harlot with them. We see Him taking on all her shame and guilt on Himself to cloth her in honour and holiness. Yes, in those most trying and testing of hours, beyond what any of us could have endured, the Son of God was the best of all that we could be, but in our sin are not.
And what does He get for it? The hell of fire. “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani - My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” Why does the despairing darkness of hell descend on the only begotten Son? Why does the Father turn and hide His glorious loving face from His beloved well pleasing Son? Because Jesus is standing in for you, as He is standing in for me, in that moment being made sin and a curse for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. Yes, He who knew no sin, became your sin and my sin in that hour, that He might pay for it all with His shed blood and bitter sufferings and death, that the condemnation that stood against us might be brought to nothing through the forgiveness that He earned for us.
Christ has truly suffered for it all, paid for it all, beloved. No, there is not one charge that can stand against you, when you are in, with and under Christ. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Those like you, who have been baptized into His death and receive His life into you with His flesh and blood at the altar. And so do not fear what that mirror reveals about you this day, beloved. No, it was not a pretty picture but thanks be to God the Son of God has truly put Himself in front of us so that all that is now reflected back at us is his gracious face and beautiful life.
Traffic circles are sending me to hell. Or at least I’m doing my best to get myself there, but thanks be to God the Lord Jesus has done, and is still doing, His best to get me to heaven, and the good news of this day is, that His best will always outweigh your best and mine. Amen.