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On Rewards

June 27, 2020 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
June 29, 2020
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Pentecost 4
Reward

“For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, sold under sin like a slave.” (Romans 7:14 - DKV)

If we know what to expect when we come to God’s House we will avoid a great deal of frustration; but in our day many false expectations are afloat.

The church has transformed herself from a House of Prayer to a college campus. Clerics commonly refer to the Holy Ground of the church today as their “campus.” They think it is the church’s business to teach people how to achieve success in this world. How to be better money managers, better parents, better spouses and so on.

But that is not why the baptized assemble!

If you want to learn how to manage money, take a class. If you want to be a better parent, ask your grandmother or if possible, your great grandmother, she can teach you a lot in a few words.

If you want to be a better spouse the church does have this counsel:

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Mt. 7:12 It is called “The Golden Rule” and it solves all problems.

No, there is no shortage of knowledge to be had among Christians, but only of willingness, and of power, to take up our crosses and follow Jesus.

And so if you need counseling for your marriage, your family or yourself, seek it. It is a blessing from God. But apart from loving one another as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, the church has little to say.

Our beat is not the temporary anyway, but the permanent. Not this life, but next. Not forgiveness of debts to humanity; but remission of sins before God by faith in Jesus Christ.

And what we do have to say about this present existence is not always what we want to hear; and so listen to St. Paul so that you might not be jolted:

“For we know that the Law is spiritual,
but I am fleshly, sold under sin like a slave.”

And so you see, the problem does not lie with divine instruction but with us, because we are unwilling to receive it, and even less able to do it. Because even after baptism Sin still flourishes in our flesh, which often means that Christian teaching like talking to a wall!

And to compound the problem St. Paul states what we all know to be true: that when something is forbidden us, we pine for it for it all the more!

What tastes sweeter; what makes our neuro-transmitters tingle; what makes us feel more alive than forbidden fruit?

But what delights our lust Oh Christian, O humanity, also addicts us and kills us, body, soul, spirit, heart and mind and eliminates every fair hope we have ever hoped.

In this respect we are our parents’ children.

As father Adam and his itching help-meet could not resist the one thing they were disallowed – even though what God did allow them was purer, truer and sweeter – so we their children cannot resist what God’s law forbids.

It is a dilemma that we will hear more about in next Sunday’s epistle when St. Paul cries out in frustration: I do not understand myself. The good that I want to do, I don’t do, and the evil I don’t want to do, that I do. Oh wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?

But, thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ, that all is not lost!

Not lost because something stronger than sin; and mightier than the Commandments, has appeared, to give us Life!

“The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us,” and from that time forward in the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch: “Every sorcery and every spell was dissolved. The ignorance of wickedness vanished away. And the devil’s ancient kingdom was pulled down.” (Ignatius of Antioch Ephes. 19)

When Christ appeared the blessed commandments that human flesh cannot handle, and that brought us death, were fulfilled in him and by him, and we obtained new life, new heart and the mind Christ in Holy Baptism. What a deal!

And that is what you should expect when you come here. Not to hear sweet nothings whispered into your ear, or “practical messages,” but the Law of God liberally preached: And though it is painful to hear, thank God for it:

Because the only thing that can keep the beast within us tamed, is the thundering voice of the divine “Thou shalt not!” And, thank God too, because when that beast is un-checked there is no peace, no rest, no calm, but let everyone around us beware instead!

Civil laws help bring order to the world, at least as often as the authorities do their job, and allow those laws to be enforced. Whenever that is the case there is ease. There is peace. There is rest. We need not lock our doors, or arm ourselves against rioters and looters as is presently the case.

But only Christ and his Word can tame the beast of sin that lives in our flesh. Only he can make us New Creations so that we can live godly lives “here in time, and there in eternity.” And gain a heavenly reward besides just as Jesus promises in today’s gospel.

Yes. A reward. And so take the words of the hymn to heart: Strive, man, to win that glory; Toil, man, to gain that light. (LSB #513)

Because even though we are saved “by grace, through faith,” God still gives a prophet’s reward, and a just man’s reward, to those who receive him through his disciples, as you are doing today. Amen.