Sermon for 7th Sunday after Epiphany
Grace, Mercy and Peace are yours from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ.
Mathew 5:38 Jesus said, Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
There are two ways of hearing these words of Jesus…
You could hear them in a negative way. They can be disconcerting or confusing. They could seem like nonsense.
You could hear them in a positive way. They can be comforting and reassuring.
How you take this depends on what kind of a person you are.
Those of you who are going to heaven should have no problems or hesitation hearing Jesus say “be perfect.”
This is simply your call to get ready for heaven. Your God in heaven is perfect. Be perfect like him. Your God is holy. Be holy like him.
That is to say, Be who you are. Live up to your calling.
Someone told me recently, “act your age.” That’s kind of what this is like. God has created you to be His child. Jesus has redeemed you by His blood, washing away all imperfections. The Holy Spirit has been at work in you since your baptism, sanctifying you, making you holy. Now act like it. Be who you are.
But it’s a struggle, isn’t it?
It is a struggle to perfect at anything we try to do.
In heaven that struggle will be over. It will be easy and natural to be perfect and holy. In heaven we will be perfect in loving God and loving our neighbor as our own self. In heaven, you won’t have a problem dealing with annoying people. You’ll have no trouble getting along with difficult people.
Now don’t get ahead of me here. You might hear me say that you won’t have trouble with annoying people in heaven and think to yourself, “does that mean that so-and-so won’t be there.” No that’s not what I’m saying. I’m not talking about them, but about you.
In heaven you will be patient and loving to all. You will without hesitation go the extra mile. You’ll say, “so you want my shirt? Sure! Take my cloak as well.”
Heaven is described as being full of joys. You will enjoy being holy and perfect. You will enjoy loving God and your neighbor and serving them day and night.
You’ve got some time until heaven, maybe. So now you can use this time to practice being who you are. Practice finding joy in being patient. Practice finding joy in loving your neighbor, going the extra mile, giving what they ask, (which by the way, means, listening, listening carefully enough to hear what they are asking for and what they need.)
Those of you who are going to heaven, that’s how you should take it when Jesus says to you, Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
But for those of you who are not so certain. Those of you who are very much aware of how imperfect you are, these words of Jesus may be distressing to hear.
When you find yourself annoyed and bothered by your neighbor, reluctant to give them what they ask, reluctant to do them even a small favor for fear of what they may ask next, reluctant to trust them, for fear that they will turn on you in a moment; and even when you do a favor or give some service you do so grudgingly and not lovingly, then when you hear Jesus say, Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Your only response is discomfort and guilt. It makes you rather not hear such things.
In reality, we Christians have some of both of these reactions. We Christians are Saints and sinners at the same time. We are, for now, heavenly and earthly at the same time. We are Saints, holy people of God, made perfect by Him when He forgave us all our sins for Jesus sake. And at the same time we are sinners, still bearing our sinful nature with all its flaws and imperfections and its rebellion against God and God’s good ways. We as Saints want to love God perfectly and love our neighbor as ourselves. We as saints, can’t be perfect and don’t even want to try.
So this is the struggle of our lives.
Sometimes you might wish that there weren’t such a struggle, that it could just somehow be easier.
But I say to you that the struggle is good. It serves us well. The struggle is a symptom of the illness you and I have. If your body has an disease the disease manifests itself in symptoms: fever, weakness, light-headedness. These symptoms drive you to the physician, to the medicine and to the cure . It is when you have a disease that shows no symptoms that is most dangerous, because then you don’t seek treatment.
The struggle you have in life of the saint and the sinner within you drives you to the cross of Jesus where He died to save you and all the world. It drives you the sacrament where Jesus gives His body and blood and the promises attached to it that this is for your forgiveness, life and salvation. The struggle drives you to Christ, your Lord, your Savior, your perfect way to heaven.
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)
Pastor Ronnie Koch
St. Paul Lutheran Church
222 S. Washington
PO Box 336
Fredericksburg, IA 50630