Sunday, September 21, 2008

September 21, 2008 Proper 20A

"If Yahweh was not on our side...may Israel now say: If Yahweh was not on our side; in the rising against us of men. Then alive they would have swallowed us; in heat their anger against us. Then the waters would have washed us away; the stream would have swept over upon our soul. Then would have swept over our soul, the boiling waters. Blessed Yahweh; He has not given us to be torn in pieces in their teeth. Our souls as birds have flown to safety; from the mouth of the fowler's snare. Our help–in the Name of Yahweh; He made heavens and earth."
Psalm 124

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you really needed help? Perhaps you were failing history, or unable to finish a task at work. Maybe you were so behind on your bills that your debt was mounting. Or you may have bungled a relationship so badly that there was nothing you could do to smooth things over. At such seemingly hopeless times, all we can do is swallow our human pride, and sometimes begrudgingly, ask an outside source for the help that we so desperately need.

So it is with your salvation. There you are in a predicament in which you truly need outside help. God has given you His commandments to keep, but you've failed to love Him with your whole heart, nor have you loved your neighbors as yourself. You know that you've sinned against God & man, and that the wages of your sinful works is nothing but death–eternal death. God's Law convicts you so that you turn away from yourself, outwardly seeking help the only place it can be found–in Jesus!

But exactly how much help do you need? Some foolishly think that all you really need is a good jump-start from God. If Jesus does enough for you to get the ball rolling, you can take it and do all the rest. Some mistakenly think that this is what grace is. Just a shot-in-the-arm from Jesus to infuse in you just enough get-up-and-go to do the right things. Then, if you haven't done enough good to cancel out your sin, perhaps God will give you a second chance, some absurdly hope. But that's not grace.

God's Grace in Jesus is a complete rescue, like a bird facing certain death is freed from the fowler's snare to fly away completely free. No cooperation there. The help God offers is hardly just a booster shot. It is the complete cure! For Jesus cleanses you from all of your unrighteousness, from all of your sin in Holy Baptism. There you are rescued completely, delivered from death and the devil. Why? Because God is just that generous to do it all for you, completing your salvation in Christ Jesus.

Others are foolish enough to consider that they must strive & struggle to do enough on their own first, before God will intervene. Such people believe that you must try your best to be good enough first in order to merit God's favor. If you strive hard enough toward perfection, then, and only then do these folks believe God will have mercy on your soul, and make up the difference in the end. Once you've earned God's help by your own efforts, only then, they believe, will God come to your aid.

This foolish Method does not merit God's grace. Jesus' parable today makes that clear. Whether one worked hard, or hardly at all, God's gift was the same. For sometimes, in God's kingdom, the last are first, and the first–last. God does not show partiality. He is on someone's side only because He wants to be, not because they have earned it. This is the gospel message, that God wants all to be saved & come to the knowledge of the Truth, Who is Jesus, Who died for you on the cross so that you may live!

Still more believe that it's too good to be true that God does all the helping. Surely He would want us to meet Him half way, they foolishly think. These folks are willing to let Jesus do all of the work so far as grace is concerned, but seek to rob God's job when it comes to faith. They would turn God's gift of faith into a work of man, a decision of human will, a conscious choice, or a sincere commitment to Jesus. Their confidence is in their invitation to Jesus to come into their heart and be their Lord.

Puffed up with pride that they have found Jesus, these people are surprised to find out that it is He that found them! Jesus chooses to give his gifts of faith & grace according to His will, not man's. He finds the lost often before they even realize that they are lost! He seeks them out for work in His kingdom, work He gives not as drudgery, but as joy!. For He has already done the harshest work, giving His body to death on the cross & shedding His blood there, for us to eat & drink for forgiveness.

So what do you do when you are in great need for help with your salvation? Nothing! For you are saved by grace through faith, not of works, it is the gift of your most generous God! For your salvation is not about what you do, but it is all about the help of your God, Who is on your side, to give you life!

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