Saturday, September 6, 2008

September 7, 2008 Pentecost 17A Psalm119s

The double-minded I hate; yet your instruction I love. My hiding-place & my shield,You are; in Your word I wait. Evildoers from me depart; and I treasure the commandments of my God. Uphold me according to Your spoken word & I will live; and do not let me be shamed from my hope. Sustain me & I will be safe; and I will look upon Your statutes continually. You make light of all those who wander from Your statues; for lies are falsehood. As dross You make stop all the wicked of the earth; therefore I love Your testimonies. My flesh bristles from fear of You; and from Your judgments I am afraid.

What does it mean to be *great*? One man claimed back in the 60s to be the *Greatest*, but now he has been humbled by Parkinsons. Two cousins of Jesus once had their mom ask for the two greatest seats in heaven next to Jesus, but were quickly shot down and put in their place. Last week we heard Peter, self-appointed leader of the disciples speaking as though he was greater than Jesus, yet was summarily humbled, called *Satan* by his Lord, and told to take a back seat behind his Savior.

Jesus reveals another way to be great, one that comes as a big surprise to most. He reminds his disciples, and us, that you cannot do anything to make yourself great in His kingdom. So if you want to be great there, you must seek a different Actor, a different Do-er, a different Achiever for your greatness. Much like a child, who knows his own lack-of-greatness looks up to others, so too do you look to God, and to Him alone, to bestow upon you the greatness of His kingdom.

So those who are proud of their own greatness on earth will find that it gets them nowhere in the kingdom of heaven. The psalmist tells us that God will make light of those who wander from His word. He will treat such folks as dross, the impurity that is removed from purified gold and discarded. He causes them to stop, to cease to be great at all, in His kingdom. So those on judgment day who cry out to Jesus, "Lord, Lord, look what we did for You" will be turned away, as those Jesus never knew.

"What?! I thought we were supposed to do things for Jesus, Pastor!" Indeed, in our holy living, God accomplishes much of His good will through our actions. But our acts of kindness aren't really for God's benefit, since He doesn't need anything. Nor can they benefit us, for we are already saved by the righteousness of Jesus bestowed in Holy Baptism. God may well bless our neighbors, who need these good works God does through us, that even they may be blessed & even perhaps saved! But these sanctified works do nothing to merit heaven for you.

Does this cause a bit of fear as you wonder how Judgment Day will go for you? Good! It's good to have a few goosebumps as you consider God's judgment against sin, the wages of which is death. Judgment Day is serious business, and we all should have some fear of God's final judgment as the Psalmist does. Not that we are so scared that we have no hope. But scared enough that we pray the Lord's Prayer, trusting that He will lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one at last.

But if we try to approach Jesus with a proud attitude of all the stuff we did for Him on the last day, tooting our own horns, we will be in for a sad surprise. If we act as though we are *great enough* for Jesus to want the likes of us in His heaven, we will find nothing but disappointment in the end. Instead our attitude is to be humble children, recognizing that we are imperfect, poor sinners who deserve nothing good. Then, knowing that we have not earned God's favor, we have only humble trust.

"Ok, Pastor, what do I have to do to get such humble trust?" Actively–nothing. You must simply be still and know that He is God. For such humble faith comes by hearing God's Word. His word upholds you, sustains you, makes you safe, and gives you life. His word gave you faith back when you were baptized as a child. That same Gospel message strengthens your faith, keeping it firm and Christ-focused each time you hear it preached, or receive forgiveness in the sacrament of Absolution.

So, do you want to be great in God's kingdom as the disciples wanted? Know that you cannot do it for yourselves. Be made like a child, humbled by God's Law which reminds you that dead in your trespasses, you could do nothing to get there on your own. Then trust Jesus through your God-given child-like faith, for He has accomplished all for you, loving God's commandments and keeping them in your place, and then giving up His life unto death on the cross for you, giving His body & blood as your food.

In God's Word you keep on waiting, child-of-God, with expectant hope in Jesus for your life forever in heaven!

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