I'm Still Toast - Reflections 2-12-20

Texts for Sunday February 16, 2020
Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Psalm 119:1-8
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
 Matthew 5:21-37

Note: I wrote most of this devotion for this 6th Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A in 2017. After reading the lessons again, I decided that I'm still toast. So, if you remember it, enjoy it again. If you don't enjoy it for the first time.

I was sitting at a worship service yesterday where these lessons were read. Landing hard in my consciousness were these words from Deuteronomy: 
If your heart turns away …to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish.

I am toast.

My daily life is filled with gods to whom I bow… Security; Approval; Comfort; Convenience; Enough stuff. I regularly serve them, anxiously striving to obtain them.

I am toast.

Moses’ sermon here in Deuteronomy challenges us to “Choose life”. I want life. I want to choose it…. BUT, I also really want security, approval, comfort, convenience, and enough stuff.

Jesus continues in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew to list the demands of the law including some explanations that make them even more unachievable. I want to be righteous … BUT, I also want to continue to be angry about a certain someone’s passive aggressive comment about me …or that one who challenged my qualifications… or, that dirty rotten rat who turned me in to Mrs. Benson in 5th grade. You get it, I love to hold grudges. 

I’m toast.

The Small Catechism is a teaching tool Martin Luther developed for use by families to teach children about faith. 

Luther divides the 10 commandments, Apostles’ Creed, Lord’s Prayer, Sacraments (Baptism and Holy Communion) into parts, and then asks the question of each part: Was bedeutet das? What does this mean? In German that means “what does this mean?”. Luther goes on to answer with an explanation that enlarges and develops what those few words say about life as a disciple.

So, for the third article of the Apostle’s Creed: I believe in the Holy Spirit…etc, Luther’s explanation says that I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him. But the Holy Spirit makes that possible for me by calling, enlightening, sanctifying, and keeping me in faith. 

Like Jesus, Luther, in his explanations of commandments, expands the meaning beyond the simple words of the commandment. His explanations are written in a formula that makes it easier to remember them. We are to fear and love God so that we don’t do “x” but we do “y”. 

Take commandment number 8: 
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

What does this mean?
We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.

I am pretty good about not telling lies or slandering others…but that “instead” part? I definitely do not interpret everything everyone does in the best possible light. Cynicism runs strong in my blood. 

Moses, Jesus, or Luther…I’m still toast.

And that, my dear readers, is the point. There is no way for me to fulfill those demands on my own. Those very demands reveal to me that fact: I am toast. Instead, I must fall back into the grace of God through the cross of Christ. 

Then, as the explanation of the Third Article COULD say, if paraphrased:

I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or strength avoid being being toast….but Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit makes it possible for me to act in love.

If you would like to explore the Small Catechism yourself, there's an app for that! 
It is available on the App Store and Google Play.

How to Find Us

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245