Proper 17B Sermon Notes (2018)

SERMON NOTES — September 2, 2018

Summary of the first five weeks of calling attention to a New Reformation:

  • (July 22) For human beings that means the healing of tribalism — creating one new human family out of our splintered tribes.
  • (July 29) This includes challenging Scarcity thinking — that there’s only enough for our tribe — in favor of Abundance thinking — that there is enough for the whole human family.
  • (August 5) Salvation is much bigger than ‘going to heaven when we die.’ On Easter God launched a massive project of New Creation — the Jewish hope of God’s coming age of renewing everything.
  • (August 19) The power behind tribalism is sacrificial thinking and practices. Sacrificial thinking goes something like this: the goodness of our tribe must be maintained by regularly casting out what is identified as evil — casting out “the sinners.” Sacrificial practices began in human history as ritual blood sacrifice. But this gradually transitioned into societies based on the rule of law, backed up by armed forces. We also named sacrificial thinking and practices as sacred violence, the good, sanctioned violence we use to ward off bad, unwanted violence.
  • (August 26) We looked more closely at the “powers” of sacred violence behind tribalism and how we might battle them — nonviolently! — for these “powers” are not flesh and blood.

This week we focus more closely on the sacrificial thinking and practice, the sacred violence, that expresses itself in a society like ours based on the rule of law. Ancient cultures began centered on ritual blood sacrifice, but as communities and nations got bigger they began the long transformation into the rule of law. You can see this in the biblical journey away from sacrificial thinking. Jewish culture was transforming from sacrifice-based to law-based, Torah. Most of their early laws revolved around ritual sacrifice. But the Hebrew prophets began to push them further so that even their laws were moving into self-sacrifice, into caring for those who are more vulnerable.

Jesus and the New Testament brings this movement to its fulfillment. What does it mean to honor God with our hearts and not just our lips (Mark 7:6, quoting Isa. 29)? The entire New Testament testifies to the law being fulfilled in just . . . love.

Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

John 13:34 Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

Romans 13:8-9 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

And what form does the love of God most often take: caring for the least and the lost:

  • The lost parables of Luke 15, culminating in the Parable of the Prodigal Son
  • Good news to the poor in Luke 4 and Matthew 5
  • The Judgement of the Sheep and Goats — “nations” in Matthew 25
  • Our Second Reading today from James 1, where all perfect law and religion boil down to “care for orphans and widows in their distress”

Matthew 25:31-32, 40 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them [i.e., the nations] one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, . . . ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”

Reflection on current rule of law, especially relating to economics: Do we properly treat market capitalism as a human tradition and not some semi-divine law? Do we sometimes treat the “free market” as a god-given law? Do our market rules favor the poor, the most vulnerable, or the wealthy? How will our nation be judged in the judgment of the nations?

Paul Nuechterlein
Lutheran Church of the Savior
Kalamazoo, MI

Print Friendly, PDF & Email