Heaven on Earth: Offering
October 27 and 28, 2018
Romans 12:1-8 / Mark 10: 17-27
Micah 6:6-8 – With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord 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? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Dear Christian Friends,
We are four sermons into a series of six on our liturgy. We’re asking why we do what we do, what it means to worship the way that we do, how the liturgy is supposed to form not just this hour but every hour, every day, every year of our lives. And to that end, we study the portion of our liturgy known as the Offertory, that time of the service where we receive the offering and say our prayers. I direct your eyes to the sanctuary screen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgX9UAaYB80&feature=youtu.be
(Story of a friend of mine, I’ll call him Karl.) He finds himself in all kinds of trouble these days – financial trouble, relationship trouble, legal trouble. Much of his trouble is self- inflicted, he’s made all kinds of mistakes, fallen into all kinds of foolish habits, he would not deny it. In a recent conversation, I learned that his mother died holding him at age 7 in her arms, his dad really hasn’t been a part of his life, one of his grandmas stepped up as best she could, he was pretty much on his own at age 16. I came away from this conversation with my heart breaking for the road Micah has had to travel and my mind racing through all of the blessings and advantages I have enjoyed in days gone by and in these days.
One of the most important differences between Karl and me is that my parents took me to church every Sunday morning and his parents didn’t. Divine Services page 5 and 15 out of the Lutheran Hymnal, 1941 edition formed me, not so with Karl. My parents made sure I learned how to confess my sins instead of explaining, they insisted that I sit still and listen to the appointed readings and the sermon every Sunday, I watched as they put in a church envelope week after week, I endured the long prayers of my faithful Pastor Dierks again and again, not so with Karl.
You may remember that in last weekend’s study of the Service of the Word, the question was “how does the Service of the Word form us?” Answer #1 was that Christ is our down arrow. In other words, it is Christ who is pursuing us in the Service of the Word, it is His Word that is making us clean again and again, it is His Spirit who is grabbing ahold of us in a regular way and correcting and instructing us.
Answer number two was that our response ought to be “thanks be to God.” Usually when preachers start talking about the Christian response to all of the grace and the mercy and the peace that God has poured into our hearts and souls, we imagine that here it comes, hold on to my checkbook, he’s going to be asking for my hard earned money. In our video, we made the point that our response to Christ suffering, dying, and rising again on our behalf is about so much more than giving money.
In Divine Service, it’s first of all about confessing the nature of God in the Creeds. Second it’s about thanking Him with songs of praise and words of adoration. Third, it’s about praying for all kinds of people with all kinds of petitions. Fourth it’s about serving Him with our gifts of treasure, time, and talents. Confessing, thanking, praying, and serving.
These are today’s answer’s to last week’s question – what does it look like when we spend our days saying “Thanks be to God!”
Paul answers that question in our Epistle lesson for today by inviting us to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God. In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus answered by telling the rich young man to keep the commandments. When the rich young knucklehead said he had already done that, Jesus said, then go sell all that you have and give to the poor.
The prophet Micah first tells us what it doesn’t mean. He says it doesn’t mean that you try to earn God’s favor by coming before him with burnt offerings, it doesn’t mean you try to deserve God’s mercy by sacrificing thousands of rams or giving ten thousand rivers of oil, it doesn’t mean, as some pagans thought, that you sacrifice your firstborn child to the gods. No, spending our days saying thanks be to God, according to Micah, means that we do justice, it means that we love kindness, it means that we walk humbly.
First, it means to do (justice) To do justice means to act according to God’s standards of justice. Which is another way of saying to live according to God’s commands. If you love me, Jesus, says, keep my commands. If you love me, make sure the widows and the orphans in your midst are provided for and protected. If you love me, don’t be using my name in vain. If you love me, bring an offering and come into my sanctuary and worship my name with a sincere heart. We would keep God’s commandments not as a way of earning the love of Jesus, but because He loved us first. Christianity 101, right?
The kingdom of God is like a woman who keeps on confessing her belief that Jesus loves her, even though her world is crumbling all around her. It’s like an elderly woman who is grateful for her family even though they have disappointed her in so many ways. It’s like a citizen who prays for his president even though he strongly dislikes him. It’s like a volunteer who keeps on giving and serving at the church even though he wonders if anybody appreciates him.
Again we ask, well how do we spend our days saying “thanks be to God? First it means to do justice, and
Second, it means to love (kindness). In this school year, our faculty is studying a book with the title “You Are What You Love.” The author’s premise is that the most important question of life is this one, “What do you love?” Keep that in mind as we think about what Micah meant when he urges us to love kindness.
Another translation would be to love mercy. From beginning to end of Scripture, this is God’s great desire – to have mercy on sinners. Beginning with the first promise of the Savior to Adam and Eve to the mysterious visions of Revelation, it’s all about Jesus, every single prescribed sacrifice in the Old Testament pointed forward to Jesus, and every properly written and delivered sermon in the New Testament Church directs the hearer back to Jesus.
Listen carefully dear people of God, when Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem, he was fixing his eyes on us. His mission in life was to suffer all that we should have suffered, his dream was to grow up and to be crucified until he was dead and buried on our behalf. His joy was, is, and ever shall be that our sins would be washed away, that the wrath of His Father would be satisfied once and for all, that our debt would be cancelled, that we would in face inherit eternal life.
To love kindness is to spend our days being patient with each other as our Father in heaven has been patient with us, it is to go looking for people to forgive, as we have been first forgiven, it is to find good reason every day to be cheerful instead of walking around with a chip on our shoulders. Christianity 101, right?
The kingdom of God is like a man who keeps on confessing God’s goodness, even though bad people in his workplace seem to be prospering. It’s like a teenager who is grateful for her home life even though school these days is a disaster, it’s like parents who keep on praying for their adult children to come back to church, it’s like a young mother who keeps on serving and cleaning up after her family, even though their attitudes leave much to be desired.
What does it mean to spend our days being formed by Divine Service on Sunday morning and saying thanks be to God all week long? First, it means to do justice, second it means to love mercy, and
Third, it means to walk (humbly). God pleasing humility is found only in the presence of a holy and just God. When we see ourselves as God sees us, we notice that we are sinners deserving temporal death and eternal punishment, we know that we came from dust and will return to dust, we know that apart from Christ, we are as a mist here today and gone tomorrow, we daily sin much and are delighted that God isn’t giving us what we have coming.
On this Reformation Sunday, churches all over the world are focused on the simple truth that we are saved by the grace of God alone, through faith in Jesus Christ alone. The older he got, the more Luther was certain that we can do absolutely nothing to merit God’s favor. At one point he summarized the Christian life as “mere beggars telling other beggars where to find bread.” In his last moments, Luther was asked by his friend Justus Jonas, “Do you want to die standing firm on Christ and the doctrine you have taught?” He answered emphatically, “Yes!” Luther’s last words were: “We are beggars. This is true.” Christianity 101, right?
The kingdom of God is like a man who wakes up in the morning, he slowly makes his way to the mirror, he makes the sign of the cross, he confesses the simple truth that he has been baptized into the Name of the Triune God, he is ever so grateful to remember that he is a precious, redeemed, forgiven son of his father in heaven, he prays that God would show him that very day how to do justice, he prays that God’s Spirit would work him in the kind of faith that loves mercy, he prays that God would help him, as his father used to say, not to get too big for his britches.
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