Christ is your brother you are safe - 11th Sunday after Trinity
August 7, 2016
"Christ is your brother you are safe." (TLH 103, v.4)
Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" And the LORD said, "What have you done! The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. Gen. 4:9-11
Today's Old Testament reading teaches us many lessons. It teaches us about the first commandment which requires true worship. Which obliges all people, great and small, to fear, love and trust in God above all things and not in themselves; not in human institutions, in money, good times, or in the many vague and vain hopes people flee to in time of need.
It teaches us about the fifth commandment as well. That human life is Sacred. That all lives matter. And that to use 'qualifiers' such as black lives, or blue lives means that "no lives matter." That human life is trivial, meaningless and expendable the moment it becomes inconvenient to another person, as in the case of Cain; or to society as in the case of Planned Parenthood.
But life is not cheap, but priceless, glorious and eternal: the crown of all that God created and redeemed by the blood of Jesus.
Yes, we should study the moral lessons we learn from Cain and Abel, take them to heart, and conform our lives to them. But from there we must go on to learn about the One who is Greater than Abel! About Jesus who also was killed by his brothers, whose blood purifies us from every sin, every lie, every murder and every act of idolatry that leads humanity to its well-deserved condemnation.
Yes, all Scripture is finally about Jesus. The historical events of his birth, life, death and resurrection are all true, all important, and everyone who professes the Christian religion must learn them. He must be familiar, too, with the Lord's miracles by which Jesus began the process of repairing what sin destroyed. And with his moral teachings which come to us from the mouth of God himself. We should study them, ponder them, believe them, and conform our lives to them; so that the sanctification that will be ours in heaven should begin in us even here, even now.
Today's reading from Genesis is one such lesson. It teaches us to avoid the sins of Cain who was jealous of his brother Abel. It’s not that Cain's offering was inferior to Abel's, but rather that Abel had faith, and Cain did not. Abel humbled himself before God like the Tax Collector in today's gospel. But Cain came to do business with God like the Pharisee did. Of the two, Abel went home justified, but Cain did not.
But jealousy is a strange kind of sin. It is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Under its deadly influence Cain's love waxed cold, his ability to reason was silenced, his mental ray was covered with thick films of vice (TLH #66).
And so he enticed his own brother with sweet words out to the open field, far away from prying eyes, and there he killed him in cold blood. Because Abel is a type of Christ we might imagine that Cain killed him with a spear, so that his blood would be soaked into the ground, as Scripture notes.
But that is not the end of the story, because when the LORD said, "The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground," it was nothing less than a full-blown prophecy of the blood of Jesus that purifies the world from its sin. Purifies you from your treacherous mis-steps, and is your only hope for life and salvation.
It is a Biblical axiom that: without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. Much blood was spilled by our Lord in his passion. But when we talk about the shed blood of Christ that "for our pardon cries," (TLH #158) the first verse that should come to mind is John 19:34 where evangelist reports, "But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water."
As Abel was killed by his brother, so Christ was killed by his brothers. You are those brothers. As Abel's blood soaked into the ground and cried out for vengeance; the blood from our Lord's side also found its way into the dry, thirsty ground encrusted with a mantel of sin; to quench earth's desperate thirst for righteousness and provide redemption for every sin, and every sinner.
Redemption that is attained by faith in the blood of God's own Son poured out on Calvary's cross, and fed to us from "the cup of blessing which we bless" on the Lord's Day. Thus the church sings, "Abel's blood for vengeance pleadeth to the skies. But the blood of Jesus for our pardon cries."
But lest we become spiritually proud St. Paul reminds us that we are not saved by our good works, but by the faith that is graciously bestowed upon us in baptism. Further, that faith is not an idol past time, but filled to the full, and bubbling over with good works. In particular today that we should learn to get rid of jealousy and bitterness, and to replace them with brotherly love; because we are, in fact, our brother's keeper.
Not in a smothering way. Not by running people's lives, or by living their lives for them, which seems to be the national sport these days; and which is cruel, not kind … but we should keep this saying in the wholesome way we learn from the Lord's golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
To do these things is to put your faith into practice, and to love the Brother who loves you, redeems you, and who will never harm you. Christ is your Brother you are safe. Amen.