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Life and Gifts January 22, 2012

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1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Epiphany 3/Life Sunday

January 22,2012

Focus: God created us for relationship with Him.

Function: That the hearers continue to fight for their faith in an unbelieving nation.

Structure: This is the promise of the gospel…this is how we live out that promise.

 

Life and Gifts

            This weekend is Sanctity of Life Sunday.  It’s a day where we come together and focus on the issues that undermine human life.  It’s a day where we spend a little more time than usual emphasizing the issues.  Topics like abortion and euthanasia; suicide and stem cell research.  The world around us is filled with life issues for us to talk about today and everyday.

The time is short.  It’s Paul’s theme in our epistle lesson this morning.  The time is short and this world in its present form is passing away.  It’s judgment day.  Believe it or not, that’s law and gospel.  Those words are law because they remind us that we fail to always live urgently; we don’t always live like Christ is coming soon.  But they’re also precious gospel because they remind us of our Savior.

Jesus Christ told His disciples before He left them that He would return to them soon.  We see throughout the New Testament that the day is indeed coming soon when Jesus Christ will return.  Our epistle is part of that theme.  The time is short, it’s coming soon.  That day will bring about God’s kingdom in its fullness.  On that day, as God’s people, we will no longer be plagued by the sin of the world.  Aches and pains of the body, sickness and disease will all be wiped away.  All suffering will come to an end.  Death will no longer be staring us down as that inevitable end of the road.

On that day, God will raise up all those who have died; our bodies will be resurrected to new life.  For us, this is all rooted and established through our relationship with God, a relationship that begins at the font where we are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  In our baptisms, not only are our sins forgiven, but the Holy Spirit comes upon us and creates faith in us.  It is through the work of the Spirit that we become children of God.  That relationship with the Father is then strengthened and nourished as we attend church, spend time in God’s Word and in prayer, and partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  Through our relationship with God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Spirit, we receive the wonderful blessing of forgiveness in the life and death of Jesus, and we will most certainly be together with God in paradise forever.

Sweet, sweet gospel in our epistle lesson today with the coming of God’s kingdom in all of its glory on the last day.  Unfortunately, we also need to be reminded of the thrust of law that Paul included for the Corinthian church.  In order to truly put Paul’s words in perspective though, we need to look at the context in which he said them.

Back in chapter five, Paul grappled with his brothers and sisters in Corinth for their sexual immorality.  After a brief moment on how Christians are not to sue each other, Paul returned to the topic of sexual immorality, connecting it to marriage.  He who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body.  The two will become one flesh.  That’s marriage language.

This unholy union serves as a transition then into true marriage between a man and a woman.  But in doing so, Paul urges us all not to get married.

“I wish that all were as I myself am…to the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.  But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry.  For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

 

For Paul, marriage is a way to avoid sexual immorality.  But he also encourages them to stay in their current calling.  If you’re already married, be faithful to your spouse.  And now we get the explanation of why Paul said what he did in our epistle lesson.

“Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that…I want you to be free from anxieties.  The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord.  But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided.  And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit.  But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, ho to please her husband.”

 

Whether or not to marry is the context for our lesson.  But our lesson itself is the explanation, or the reason behind Paul’s marriage discussion.  The time is short.  If you’re married, that adds one more vocation, one more good and noble responsibility to your life.  Part of your time is consumed with taking care of your spouse and for many also your children.

It’s not that marriage is bad.  Rather, Paul’s urging to not get married is so that you have more time to devote to serving the Lord.  There’s so much to do and so little time.  We know the beloved gospel, the good news of our salvation in Christ.  But there are countless people in the world around us who don’t know.  We know what the Bible says will happen to them on the last day.  God has given us the message of love and salvation to share with them and He has called us to do it.

All of this is intertwined, because in order to share the gospel with people, you typically need to have some kind of a foundation, some relationship with them so that they have a reason to listen to what you have to say.  And that gets into Christ’s instruction that we are to be in the world, but not of the world.  That happens to be where Paul is in the text as well.

Don’t live for money, food, power, and possessions.  Everything you have is a gift, a blessing, a trust, from God.  And certainly don’t let the society and culture that you live in try to tell you who God is.  That never works.  Think about most of the Old Testament, like the golden calf of Israel.  When the people try to make God, it always goes wrong.

Part of our calling to be in the world but not of the world, to share the gospel with others, is to defend the faith.  We need to stand up for what the Bible teaches.  We shouldn’t sit by and watch our culture destroy itself.  It may do so anyway because of sin regardless of how hard we try, but we are called to try.  We shouldn’t let sexual immorality run rampant.  And we certainly shouldn’t suffer the attack on the value of life.

In our culture today, life has lost much of its importance.  We see this clearly with one such issue in abortion.

Why are children aborted? The Alan Guttmacher Institute (the research arm of Planned Parenthood) states:
• 1% are victims of incest or rape
• 1% had fetal abnormalities
• 4% had a doctor who said their health would worsen if they continued the pregnancy
• 50% said they didn’t want to be a single parent or they had problems in current relationships
• 66% stated they could not afford a child
• 75% said the child would interfere with their lives.

 

While that study is from the 90’s, it’s probably even truer today.  75% of the people polled about their abortion said the child would have messed up their lives.  How is that grounds for killing them?

And just this past Friday, our government crossed these boundaries.  The Department of Health and Human Services is now requiring all religiously affiliated institutions to cover all forms of birth control for their employees.  This does not include churches yet, but does affect Catholic hospitals and even our own Concordia University system.  As though it’s not bad enough that Catholics view all forms of contraception as sinful, the move on Friday also covers the morning after pill, which most Christians all believe is abortion, as the child has already been conceived by that point.

The same can really be said of all life issues, euthanasia, assisted suicide, etc.  We think we know better than God.  In fact, you might even say we’re trying to be God.  Imagine for just a moment a baseball game.  There’s a close play at the plate, the catcher is screaming that that the runner is out, while the runner is insisting he was safe.  The fans at the game and at home all think they know; but, how does it work?  Regardless of what they think, whatever the umpire says is true.  His word is final, it’s the law.  OUT! means out.

In that same mindset, we are not the creator of the universe.  We don’t rule over earth.  God does.  What God says is the truth, it’s the final word.  God said let there be light, and there was.  There will be no debating sins on judgment day.  Thankfully for us, God will declare us safe.  Those of us who are in a relationship with God, who believe in His Son Jesus Christ truly are forgiven and cleansed of our sin.  We will be declared righteous.  While we may not think we are, God’s declaration makes it true.  Everlasting life is ours because God has chosen to give it to us through His love, mercy, and grace.

But it’s the matter of what we’re to do as we await that day.  Perhaps Christ returns this afternoon.  Maybe some of us will die before Jesus comes back.  Perhaps, all of us will die before His return.  But we can’t be sure.  He has called us to live as His children, and as witnesses of the gospel.  So we don’t live like regular people without a purpose.  We have a purpose.  We live as God has called us to live.  We stand up for the gospel; we share its truth with those who need.  We stand up for things that are godly and pure.  We support others who share our faith.  We support our brothers and sisters and the church at large.  And through the Holy Spirit we work toward the goal of seeing God’s kingdom grow.  We have been declared “safe” and are saved indeed.  Let’s not be afraid to let the world know it!

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Bought at a Price January 15, 2012

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1 Corinthians 6:12-20

 Epiphany 2

January 14-15, 2012

Focus: God has bought us at a price.

Function: That the hearers glorify God with their bodies.

Structure: Textual: do you not know?

 

Bought at a Price

            Superbowl Sunday is just a few weeks away.  I’m one of those who prefers to watch it for the game itself, because I love football.  But certainly you know people, perhaps you are one of these types, who watches the game for the commercials.  Let’s face it, it’s one of the few times Americans won’t change the channel during the commercial break.  Well, do you remember the Doritos’ commercial from a few years ago that won commercial of the year?  The one where there’s a couple of coworkers in the break room, and one of them is holding a snowglobe?  He calls it his crystal ball, and asks it whether or not there’ll be free Doritos in the office that day.  Then he chucks the snowglobe through the glass of the vending machine.  His coworker later tries out this “crystal ball” by asking if he’ll get a promotion in the near future.  But when he goes to throw the snowglobe, he ends up drilling his boss in the hallway.  Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial.

In reality, both of those employees probably lost their jobs, one for vandalism, and the other for sheer stupidity.  They had the right to throw the snowglobe, they were capable of it, but it wasn’t in their best interest.  Apparently by this point in the Corinthian church, “everything is permissible for me” had become a slogan.  We are free from the law because of Christ; we can do whatever we want!

This sounds familiar with Paul.  Remember Romans 6?  Shall we go on sinning so that grace may abound?  By no means!  May it not be!  So here we are again.  Never!  Paul rattles off the reasons for us.  In fact, he’s quite ashamed and disappointed in the Corinthians.  He begins a series of six “do you not know” questions.

Prior to our text, talking about lawsuits, “do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” “Do you not know that we are to judge angels?”  “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?”  We’ll take a closer look at the three from our text.  But Paul is disappointed in having to ask these questions.  These are things that he must have shared with them already.  It’s like raising a child.  You lay down the rule, and it’s broken.  Do you not know that you have a curfew?  Do you not know that you’re not supposed to hit your sister?

He starts with the problem.  It’s the sayings in their community.  Everything is permissible for me.  Sure, you can do whatever you want, but that doesn’t make it beneficial for you.  As Pastor told the Bible class, you can beat your head against the wall.  You can skydive without a parachute.  Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

But their second phrase takes it a little farther.  “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food.”  I can eat whatever I want.  If I want to have a few Big Macs every day, what’s the problem?  Do you not know about the documentary “Supersize Me?”  You can eat 5000 calories in a day, but it will ruin your stomach.  As Paul reminds them here though, God will destroy them both.  Food and stomachs aren’t eternal things.

We could go on here with a list about healthy living, steps to taking good care of your body, but Paul pushes these things aside and moves on to the bigger problem among them: sexual immorality.  He’s already talked about some of these problems in this letter.  Some of them were taking their father’s wives.  And he reminded them in a “do you not know” that the sexually immoral, the adulterers, and the homosexuals, among others, will not inherit the kingdom of God.  In other words, pay attention those of you who are stuck in sexual immorality, because your everlasting life is in jeopardy!

“The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”  God created us in His image and we see numerous times that as His children we are His servants, created in Him to do good works.  “By His power God raised the Lord from the dead, and He will raise us also.  Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ Himself?”  Being members of one body is something Paul felt they should already know.  He talks about being one in Christ all the time.  He even does it in this text; we just lose it in English.  Everywhere that we read the word body in the text, it was singular; but everywhere we saw the pronoun “you,” it was plural.  You all are one body.  We are all together members of one body, that is, of Christ.  Paul brings that out more fully in some of his other letters.

“Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body?  For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.’”  Do you recognize where that quote is from?  It’s Genesis 2; it’s marriage.  Two will become one flesh is marriage language to the very core.  God created Eve in the very beginning to be a helper for Adam; God created marriage in the very beginning to be the basic unit of a family.  A man and woman, two becoming one, together until death do them part.  Sex is a part of that marital bond.  It is a blessing given to a husband and a wife to share together, to strengthen their relationship and to draw them closer to each other.

So Paul lays it out clearly: to engage in prostitution is to bind yourself with the prostitute.  Two become one flesh. It is an unholy union, defiling the person, and leaving them confused.  Studies have been done through the years that try to figure out just how sex affects the body and the relationship.  They’ve discovered that it releases certain hormones and triggers events in the brain.  It has proven to create emotional connections between the two people involved.

The Christian movie Fireproof provided a great example of this.  Trying to help his coworker avoid divorce, one of the firefighters superglued the salt and pepper shakers together in the firehouse lunchroom.  When his friend went to separate them, he stopped him and warned him that if he pulled them apart, they’d both break, spilling salt and pepper everywhere.  They’d be ruined.  So when sex is abused apart from marriage, people are damaged.  Relationships are torn apart.  And the people involved become lost emotionally, carrying excess baggage with them everywhere they go.

Prostitution, though it still exists, is almost an afterthought in our culture.  It’s been replaced with more prominent issues.  So before you start to think that we’re above this issue today, let’s rephrase it.  To unite yourself with someone who isn’t your spouse is to become one with them in body.  Thankfully, our culture still views cheating on your spouse, having an extramarital affair, as a bad thing, but I’m concerned about how much longer that will last.  How long will it be until a person’s “right” to happiness becomes more important than the wedding vow, than Scripture itself saying that the “two become one flesh,” or more than God saying that what God has joined together, let no man put asunder?

Our culture has detached sex and marriage.  Schools, when they teach sex ed, hand out condoms.  Most kids in our country our sexually active by high school.  Less than 20% of people in America are still virgins when they get married.  Sex outside of marriage is normal.  People sleep around as though there’s nothing wrong with it.  Teen pregnancies and abortions are through the roof.  Divorce is at a higher rate than ever before.

Some think they can avoid the trouble of divorce by cohabiting, by living together before marriage.  But studies have proven them wrong.  Cohabiters are 46% more likely to see their marriage end in divorce than those who didn’t live together first.  You can’t test-drive marriage.  That mindset is no different than divorce.  You simply can’t leave a marriage whenever you feel like it.  You can’t just leave because things aren’t working out.

Our culture may not be abundant with prostitutes, but we’ve still decimated the importance and value of marriage.  The family unit is gone.  A 50% divorce rate leaves a lot of children to grow up with just one parent.  And it’s an endless cycle.  Because most of these kids grow up with a different view of marriage than if they’d seen a healthy relationship between mom and dad.  Further destroying the family is the idea that marriage doesn’t have to be between one man and one woman.

We aren’t outside of Paul’s “do you not know” questions.  We’re not above his anger.  He calls sexual sins different than others.  The rest are all “outside” of our body.  But sexual sins we commit against our bodies.  To explain this, he says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.”

What makes our body a temple?  If you think of the Old Testament, the Tent of Meeting, the Tabernacle, and eventually the Temple, they drew their relevance, their significance from the idea that, in that place, God dwelled among His people.  That’s the place where they could be sure He would be.  In light of that, it makes perfect sense that our body is a temple, because God dwells in us.  We teach our children that Jesus lives in their heart.  More precisely, in our baptisms the Holy Spirit comes upon us and makes us His dwelling place.  We live in Christ, Christ lives in us.  We live in the Spirit, the Spirit in us.  Our bodies are the very temple of God.

This is part of what makes Paul so irate.  These aren’t just regular sins.  You’re uniting the body of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit, with a prostitute, or an adulterer, or whatever the case may be.  You are defiling God’s temple.

So Paul tells us to refrain from sexual immorality.  “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.”  That price is the body and blood of Christ on the cross.  It’s the sacrifice for the broken covenant.  It’s the payment for our sins.  We have been “purchased”/redeemed from slavery to sin.  We are now under new “ownership.”  We belong to God.  We are His children, His family and His servants.  Christ paid the price for us, not so that we can do whatever we want, but so that we could be a family, so that we could live the way God created us to live, as His precious, righteous children, who do good works simply because they’re there to do.  Being “slaves of Christ,” as Paul later says, isn’t a bad thing.  Remember in Matthew’s gospel where he said that Christ’s yoke is easy and His burden is light.

As God’s temple, as His children who will be resurrected from the dead, Paul wants us to live our lives differently.  Because God lives in us, because our bodies are so important to God that He will resurrect them again on the last day, because we were bought at a price, we don’t live as the world around us.  As Paul says, we honor God with our body.  We treat our body with respect in all walks of life.  This includes the way we look at sex; it includes how we behave around food; it includes the way we think about most everything.  If you truly believe that Christ and the Spirit of God dwell in you, it changes the way you live your life and treat your body.  Take care of your bodies, the temples of God, because they were bought at a price.

Christ was Baptized? January 8, 2012

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Mark 1:4-11

 Epiphany 1

January 7-8, 2012

Focus: God fulfilled the covenant of the Old Testament in His Son into a new covenant.

Function: That the hearers may rest assured of their forgiveness and salvation in the New Covenant.

Structure: Here is a prevailing view…but here is the claim of the gospel.

 

Christ was Baptized?

            We all know that babies are breastfed.  They’re nurtured by their mother’s milk, and the nutrients in it.  That’s just part of the way that God created human life.  But at some point, every little child is weaned off their mother’s milk and starts eating solid food.  This is the point that the author of Hebrews thought the Christians of his day needed to hear.  Now he was speaking of it metaphorically.  “You’re mature enough that you shouldn’t be on milk any more, but should be       on solid food. You know Jesus loves you.  You know your sins are forgiven.  You should be exploring the spiritual and theological depths of Scripture, continuing to grow in knowledge and wisdom.”

Our gospel reading today is solid food.  In our text, Jesus is baptized.  The thing here that makes us confused is our own theology of baptism.  What is baptism?  We view it as a sacrament that both forgives sins and grants the gift of the Holy Spirit.  John the Baptist is even baptizing in our text for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

So why does Jesus Christ, the holy, perfect Son of God, need to be baptized?  That’s the puzzler.  And Mark didn’t see fit to provide a clear answer to that question.  While all four gospel writers tell of Jesus’ baptism, only Matthew gives a reason.  In his account, Jesus tells John the Baptist that it was to “fulfill all righteousness.”  Maybe that made sense to John, but it seems vague to us.  It really doesn’t do much to help us understand.

The most common answer among Christians doesn’t do us much good either.  The simplest answer has typically been: “Christ was baptized to set an example for us.  Because He was baptized, we should be baptized.”  And while I’m not going to tell you not to follow Christ’s examples, to live as Christ did, this answer falls short.  Christ wasn’t a sinner.  Therefore, He didn’t need baptism for forgiveness, because there was nothing to forgive.  Christ didn’t need the gift of faith either.  We aren’t simply following His example then, because in our baptisms we are forgiven of our sin and given faith.

For those of you who have heard a number of my sermons by now, you’ve probably realized that I really like the language of the covenant.  And honestly, why shouldn’t we all?  It’s God’s relationship with man.  In the Old Testament covenant with Abraham, God bound Himself to create a people, a nation, and then to always be there with them.  That’s powerful stuff.  I like God’s covenants.  So by now, it really shouldn’t surprise you that my answer to the question of why was Jesus baptized is for the covenant.  Let me explain, because this is truly solid food.

Over the past couple of months, we talked a lot about God’s covenant with Abraham.  If you didn’t already know, you’ve learned that covenants were pacts that were made in blood.  Sacrifices of animals were offered, blood was shed, to establish a covenant.  That’s probably why the Hebrew phrase is to cut a covenant, rather than just make.  And we also learned that the result, the penalty, of breaking a covenant is death.

There are a number of covenants in the Old Testament, but in some ways, they are all related.  It’s not that the other aren’t important, but we’ve focused so much on the covenant with Abraham, because that’s more of the focal point, the backbone of the Old Testament.  In that covenant, God created and established a people for Himself, the nation of Israel.  And through that covenant, there were many foreshadowings and prophecies of the Savior who was to come.

But as you know, and as we’ve discussed, Israel failed.  They were riddled with sin, and struggled mightily to be God’s people.  You could even argue that they didn’t want to be God’s people.  The punishment for their sin, for breaking the covenant, was to be death.  And so, Jesus Christ, the Savior, came into the world to redeem Israel, to fix the broken relationship they had with God.

Sometimes when we talk about Jesus, we lose sight of the idea that He was the fulfillment.  He fulfilled the covenant.  In Him, God’s kingdom came into the world.  The forgiveness He gives us is important without a doubt, but it’s because He fulfilled the covenant and brought about the kingdom of God that He was able to offer us forgiveness.

Throughout my studies at Concordia University in Nebraska and Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, both of the theology staffs liked this idea of a title for Jesus that is still fairly unknown.  We know He’s Christ and Savior, Messiah, Redeemer, Prince of Peace, Immanuel and many more.  But they sought to add this one: “Israel Reduced to One.”

In God’s covenant with man, those are the two sides.  God, and man.  Jesus was on God’s side of cutting the covenant.  So in order to fulfill the covenant, to be the sacrifice that mankind needed, Christ had to take man’s place.  Man’s punishment was death.  To save us from it, Christ had to take our place.  He had to become Israel of the covenant.

So there’s the idea behind “Israel Reduced to One.”  But in the life of Christ, we see a lot of things that fit this depiction.  Christ took on flesh and was born of Mary.  He became man.  On the eighth day, like all other little Hebrew boys, Jesus was circumcised.  In Matthew’s account of Jesus, we hear, “Out of Egypt I will call My Son.”  Matthew refers to this as Christ, because Joseph and Mary took an infant Jesus to Egypt to hide from Herod.  But the origin of the text is the nation of Israel being called out of slavery to enter the Promised Land.

Growing up, He did what they did, He went to temple; He grew in knowledge and wisdom.  And He also did many of the normal things.  He formed relationships, He learned a trade, and He kept to the Word of God.

So it’s no surprise that the events that we say mark the beginning of His ministry are really events that securely bind Him to the covenant.  We say His ministry began at His baptism.  There a few ties here.  The simplest is that the Jews by this time were performing a ritual washing, a cleansing.  So He did as the Israelites.  Then some say that Jesus was baptized by John so that all of Israel would begin to acknowledge Him.  But it’s deeper than that.

What are the primary events that make Israel into a nation?  What are the things that truly bring about God’s part of the covenant?  A nation has land.  God promised Israel land.  And as we know from the Book of Exodus, the Israelites were led out of slavery in Egypt.  And when they’re backs were up against wall, the Red Sea, pinned by Pharaoh’s army, God parted the Sea.  The water opened and allowed God’s people to cross.  And when Pharaoh’s men tried to follow, the waters closed and they were drowned.  Saved by God through water.  Sound like baptism?

And at the end of their wandering in the wilderness, the people, led by Joshua, crossed the Jordan River.  Similar to the crossing of the Red Sea, God stopped the water from flowing in the Jordan and allowed the people to cross.  As they came up the other side, they were entering the Promised Land, the land that God had promised to Abraham hundreds of years earlier.  He gave it to them.  Through water, they became a nation.

The Jordan River became a prominent natural feature for the Israelites.  And it’s no coincidence then that is where John the Baptist was baptizing people.  So when Jesus goes down into the waters of the Jordan to be baptized, He is drawing Israel back to their past, to the covenant faithfulness of God.  We say He’s beginning His ministry, but it’s bigger.  He’s becoming Israel for us.

We see it further when He comes up out of the water and God calls down to Him from heaven “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.”  God said this to David when he became king of Israel.  “You are My son.”  It’s yet another connection.  And in the verses after our gospel, Mark describes Jesus’ time being tested in the wilderness by Satan.  The forty days of testing hopefully remind you of Israel’s forty years of wandering, being tested along the way.

When we talk about Jesus fulfilling prophecies, these are some of the things we’re talking about.  Jesus came into the world to be Israel Reduced to One.  You can think of it as a funnel if it helps.  All of the Old Testament, all of God’s people, go through the funnel and there’s Christ.  Jesus was the final Israelite.  Right down to the cross, He was the last faithful Jew.

In His life, He fulfilled the Old Testament; He became Israel in our place.  And in His death, He did something even bigger.  He restored our relationship with God.  He forgave our sins.  But then there’s the how.  How did He do it?  Yes, Christ’s death was the death required for the broken covenant.  But it’s also more than that.

Jesus informed His disciples that His death was something incredible.  Again fulfilling things, Jesus’ death would bring about the words of the prophet Jeremiah:

31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares Yahweh, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares Yahweh.

33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares Yahweh, “I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 “And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know Yahweh,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares Yahweh, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

 

Think of the words Pastor says before the Lord’s Supper.  The Words of the Institution that we use: “Drink of it, all of you; this is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  The Greek there, and most English translations get this right, in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and 1 Corinthians, they all call the blood of Christ the blood of the New Covenant.  Christ’s death on the cross not only takes the place of our punishment for the broken covenant of old, but it is also the required bloodshed to form, to cut, a new covenant.

When Christ bled on the cross, the new covenant that Jeremiah spoke about began.  The forgiveness of sins is given.  When you come to the altar and partake of the body and blood of Christ, you partake of the new covenant, you receive the forgiveness that Christ died to give you.

Earlier I said you could think of this as a funnel.  But now, it’s really more like an hourglass.  Israel and the Old Testament are the sand at the top.  And as they funnel down, they all are reduced to Christ.  And through Christ and the new covenant, the sand that comes out the of the bottom of the hourglass, the funnel, widens.  Another way to see it would be the old covenant at the top with the new covenant coming out the bottom.  Either way, before Christ, everyone who was God’s child was considered a Jew.  After Christ, they are called Christians.  We are called Christians.

This is why Paul says what he says throughout Romans.  In our text today, we are buried with Christ in our baptisms.  By being baptized, by receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, and coming to faith, we become a part of the new covenant.  We become children of God.  That’s what covenants do: they form the basis for our relationship with God.  That’s why we should all love covenants.  The new covenant is the means by which God chose to save us in Jesus Christ.  Amen.