Cornerstone Community Church of Lansingburgh

“You matter to God and you matter to us”

A Sermon from the Cornerstone Community for August 6, 2017

Cornerstone Community Church of Lansingburgh, NYA Sermon from the Cornerstone Community
Scripture: Romans 6:12-23
This week’s worship bulletin can be found here.

The humorist Dave Berry said: “A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.”
This is what Paul is talking about.

“An expert on the Law stood up to put Jesus to the test and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit everlasting life?” Jesus answered, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” The expert on the Law replied: “You must love the Most High God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you’ll live.” [Luke 10:25-28] This is what Paul is talking about.

A teen aged boy, whenever his friends asked him to go somewhere or do something he knew was wrong, would go to his father. He would tell his father what he’s been asked to do and then say “I need you to say no to me…” He could then tell his friends “my father says no, so I can’t.” and everyone could blame his father, and this boy would still look good in front of his friends. His mother found out and told him… “… no more games. If you know you shouldn’t, then don’t. You know our family rules… you have to decide what to do with them. You are old enough to choose right from wrong.”
This is what Paul is talking about.

Almost all of us are certainly old enough to know right from wrong… but are we mature enough to choose right from wrong? God gave us the law to try and teach us how to live a good life. The law was to give guidance, counsel, a direction for our lives to strive for. When we failed to live up to the law, the prophets called us back to what was right, and away from the wrong. The prophets began to take a step beyond the law though. They understood that just ritually following the law wasn’t enough to obey God.

Micah, for instance, asked “What shall I bring when I come before [the Holy One], and bow down before God on high?” you ask. “Am I to come before God with burnt offerings? With year-old calves? Will [the Holy One] be placated by thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of oil? Should I offer my firstborn for my wrongdoings— the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Listen here, mortal: God has already made abundantly clear what “good” is, and what [the Holy One] needs from you: simply do justice, love kindness, and humbly walk with your God.” [Micah 6:6-8] It doesn’t matter how well you follow the ritual, or how many sacrifices you make, it doesn’t matter how much money you put into the plate, it doesn’t matter how religious you are… if you don’t do, if you don’t act, if you don’t live what you believe, if you are not good or nice to others, then it is not enough.
This is what Paul is talking about.

Paul writes: “…offer yourselves to God as people alive from the dead, and your bodies to God as weapons for justice. Sin no longer has power over you, for you are now under grace, not under the Law.
Where does all this lead? Just because we are not under the Law but under grace, are we free to sin? By no means!…” [Romans 6:13b-15]

It would be easy for us to continue living under the law. The law acts as sort of a checklist of proper behavior. We can’t do this; we shouldn’t do that– check, check and double check.

We look to scriptures for a list of things we aren’t allowed to do. From the very beginning it tells us that we can’t do any work on the Sabbath, for it is to be a day of rest…. so all stores must remain closed! We mustn’t dance or go to the movies or play cards, or I guess do anything remotely enjoyable. Many of you grew up in that tradition. If we did any number of things on the Sabbath, we were sinning, we were doing wrong, we were offending God. Some still feel that the Sabbath day must be held as sacrosanct. By the way… the Sabbath is really Saturday- the seventh day, not Sunday, the first day of the week, the day of Resurrection– so we had it all wrong anyway. There is no Christian Sabbath. Of course, convenience stores had to remain open, you know, for convenience. And movies and dancing and playing cards? Well, why would God object to some entertainment? It is harmless. In that way, the ‘law’ began to be eroded… a little nibble here, a slice out of it there… we couldn’t keep it. So how can we make God happy with us again? This was the point Micah was trying to make: “Will God be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” In other words… would becoming more religious help us? No, it isn’t about being religious– “Listen here, mortal: God has already made abundantly clear what “good” is, and what [the Holy One] needs from you: simply do justice, love kindness, and humbly walk with your God.

No, It isn’t about being religious, it is all about how we live, how we act, how we treat each other– it is about living in the Spirit. Since Jesus, since the resurrection, Paul is arguing that we are no longer under the law, but under grace; we are no longer subject to the law since we have received the Spirit of grace and truth. As Christians, the way we embrace life is not by law and statute, but by embracing the way of Jesus– by living under the guidance of the Spirit.

This is a lot harder way to live. Under the law, knowing right from wrong was defined by scripture; our relation to God was defined by 613 Biblical laws. Transgress against any of those laws and you were a sinner, you had broken with God. Behind those laws was concern for the poor and needy among our society, but they got overlooked as we focused on the law and its observance. But since God came to us in Jesus the Christ; since God chose to raise Jesus from the grave in spite of our attempts to murder Him; and especially since God has come to us as Spirit, we live beyond the law– we live in the Realm of grace and mercy, in the Realm of justice and truth. The focus for us is no longer what the law tells us, but now, in the Christ, how is the Spirit being lived out through us; what is the good we can do for the community, for our neighbors, for the world? How are we caring for the least, the lost, the vulnerable of our society. The stricture on us is not what are we required to do, but what can we do, what is possible for us to do. It is about changing our attitude toward God and neighbor.

As Paul asked: “Where does all this lead?” What difference does it make in our lives that we are no longer subject to law, but now we live under the steadfast mercy, grace and love of God? Even more important… what difference does it make to our neighbors?
This is what Paul is talking about.

Amen.

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Pastor Allen

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