Sundays:  Pastor's Class 9:00 AM (studying Isaiah)
               Divine Service 10:30 AM

Wednesday: Pastor's Class 10:00 AM (studying Hebrews)
                   Lenten Eucharistic Service 7:00 PM 

Private Confession by appointment.


February 10, 2023 Pastor: Rev. Peter Mills

choose lifeEPIPHANY 6/A (02/12/23), Ps. 119:1-8; Deut. 30:15-20; 1 Cor. 3:1-9; Mt. 5:21-37


“[C]hoose life so that you and your seed may live, by loving Yahweh your God, by listening to his voice, and by clinging to him because that is your life and the length of your days …” (vv. 19b, 20a).

What is our “choice for life” all about; it sounds like a modern neo-evangelical mantra, “to make a decision for Jesus”. Moses was speaking to God’s baptized people through the Red Sea. The problem with modern “decision theology” is that godly decisions are the prerogative of those whom God has already chosen in Baptism, empowered by faith and bestowed beatitudes (Mt. 5:3-12) for choosing a “righteousness superior” than scribes and Pharisees (v. 20).

The Church’s confesses: “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him; but the HS has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith” (SC II 6). Luther explains: “[W]ithout … the HS [natural] man is not capable of making himself acceptable to God … This is accomplished by the HS who is given through the Word …” (Freedom of The Will, 2—3).

Today, Jesus confronts scribe and Pharisaical teaching on issues of murder, adultery, divorce, and oaths (vv. 21—37), “You have heard it said … But I say to you …” (Mt. 5: 21a, 22a). Jesus begins by a deep dive into man’s sexuality, premised in God’s command to honor our procreating fathers and mothers.

Cain’s murder of his brother Abel, not only violated God’s creation, but shamed his parents. Following on from the killing of procreative life; Jesus next speaks to adultery, illicitly satiating one’s flesh, tantamount to willing the termination of another’s spouse. Man is created male and female (Gen. 1:27), each different, yet complement; both sexually impelled and compelled to the other.

From life brought from passionate parents, association with siblings and spouses, Jesus would have Christians “choose” about divorce. Apart from infidelity, which no one but God withstands; don’t do it.

Finally, Jesus would have us consider oath making, not so much as courtroom testimony; rather what was spoken by inviolate marriage vows to reflect the promises of Christ with his church (Eph. 5:22 ff.).

Jesus’ teaching is inapposite of scribal and Pharisee casuistry. The Sermon on The Mount does not intensify OT prohibitions; rather, Jesus opens hearts to God’s intent. From Cain’s fratricide to Jesus’ killing on the cross, we are sealed in Christ, as Cain was marked (Gen. 4:14, 15), who became sin for us.

Sin and devil seek man’s soul, initiating and animating murderous hearts (Jn. 8:44). Adam named his woman “Eve, mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20). Once again, she got out ahead of God and her spouse. Eve thought firstborn Cain, was God’s redeemer, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD” (Gen. 4:1; cf. 3:15 & 20; Ex. 13:1).

Cain, the apple of his mother’s eye, occupied a of a place of family prominence; no doubt a chief priest after Adam. On Cain’s excommunication (4:16) for murder, Church tragedy is suggested. Abel in “poverty of spirit” offered acceptable worship; but Cain’s from a superior status refused.

St. Paul, observed festering anger in the Corinthian congregation; he urged the brothers recognize each as such, not competitors for God’s favor, but in merciful communion for grace in Christ. Paul puts his finger on the “superior righteousness” Jesus requires, not through a new regulation, but in the power of God’s word. What is important is the integrity of the preached word, not style.

We cannot call brothers “numbskull” or “fools” (Mt. 5:22). “Murder” is not simply the unlawful killing of body or reputation with malice aforethought; it originates in anger toward our Creator. Jesus would have us recognize this when our words pursue an adverse agenda at the expense of brother or sister.

Knowledge of God’s heart comes through “spiritual poverty” (Mt. 5:3) from which “purity of worship” (5:8) follows. Today’s Gospel is bracketed by the quest, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your Word” (Ps. 119:9).

What then is the Christian take-away about human sexuality? Ultimately, anger follow-on of the sins of murder, lust, fornication, adultery, and divorce all crouch at the tent flap of man’s heart (Gen. 4:7), ready to fracture the Church.

Faith creates repentance for “spiritual poverty”; “meekness” casts-off an offending sexual eye (Mt. 5:29). Factions in the Church is much as Jesus’ teaching about oaths. The catholic congregation confesses to be “one, holy, apostolic”. As in marriage, she does not swear anything other than “yes” or “I do”; more than this, “The lady doth protest too much” (Hamlet).

For those gathered Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day with mournful hearts over anger, lust, divorce, and faux oaths, with Cain we plead, for mercy, “My punishment is too great to bear” (Gen. 4:14a). By the Baptism’s mark, we can do no other than forgive brothers and sisters as freely as we have received from the Lord.

All like Cain, have been reared in the milieu of sin’s unremitting desire for souls. When we allow anger and lust to enter, it incites division and murder in the congregation.

Christ absorbed the entirety of God’s wrath against Cain and Adam’s progeny, all born to the flesh. Resident anger usurps God’s judgment and vengeance (Dt. 32:35; Rom. 12:17-19); still believing Christ’s word, we choose life for beholding God’s face by grace. To this end St. Paul urges a “holy kiss” (1 Cor. 16:20) in Eucharistic. Amen.