1 And God spoke all these words, saying,
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Wednesday, the United States of America, turned 242 years old, and she doesn’t look a day over 220. In the midst of the heat, barbeques, mosquitoes, and fireworks, I hope you took time to thank God your Father for His good gift of the nation that you live in. God has blessed us with a country that allows her citizens the freedom to use their God-given talents and abilities to better their own lives and the lives of others. Our nation, in many ways, is the envy of people throughout the history of the world.
Yet, our nation is not without major flaws. A former US Senate Chaplain, Peter Marshall, said, “May we think of freedom, not as the right to do what we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” Sadly, too many people and politicians in our country believe freedom means we can do whatever we want, and then, use those freedoms as a cover for evil.
In this country, we have the freedom of speech. But a current US senator has advocated and promoted violence against those who disagree with her politics. In our country, parents have the freedom to educate their children in the way they think is best. But slowly and steadily, parents are losing freedom to even know how their children are being educated in school. Marriage has been eroding in our nation for decades, and it is now being proactively attacked. Our Declaration of Independence says that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But some states allow ‘physician-assisted suicide.’ In other words, it is now legal to be an accomplice to murder if you are a doctor, and when that happens, euthanasia is never far behind. And our country has made it legal to murder over 60 million babies through abortion.
The first verse of our national anthem closes with a question, “O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” Yes, the flag still flies over this land, and for that, we can thank God. But can we still be considered the land of the free when the lives of the most vulnerable are not protected?
Abraham Lincoln supposedly said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” Lincoln might be wrong. We may still be destroyed by another nation. But at the rate the culture in our nation is disintegrating, Lincoln’s words appear to be accurate.
If a nation wants to destroy itself, all it has to do is ignore, undermine, or explain away the Ten Commandments. And that is precisely what is happening in our country, and it has been happening for a long time.
America needs to repent. Nations that have gone down the path our country is marching on don’t last long. God destroys them. America needs to repent.
But nations don’t repent. Individuals do. Americans need repentance, and it needs to start with you.
You are not what you should be. Do you hear these Ten Commandments and think, “Well, I’m way better than the society, culture, and people around me”? Then, you are the problem. The Law does not and cannot save you.
That is what Jesus was getting at in our Gospel lesson (Mt. 5:17-26). The Pharisees took the 5thCommandment, “You shall not murder,” and figured they must be pretty good. They were busy patting themselves on the back thinking they had impressed God. The Commandment was enough by itself. Jesus isn’t adding to the Commandment when He says that your anger makes you a murderer; instead, He is reminding you and I that we haven’t begun to be the people God created and wants us to be.
You need a righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the best person you know or have heard of or you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. It is a righteousness you cannot attain or achieve by your works and efforts. Repent.
Repent and know that there is righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus came and kept the Law. Jesus did everything the Commandments demanded and did not do anything the Law forbade. Jesus does not get angry with someone without cause. Jesus does not look upon a woman with lust. Jesus does not chase after or desire things that are not given to Him. Instead, Jesus gladly accepts what the Father gives and then waits with perfect trust that the Father is good and will provide.
Jesus kept that faith even when He was forsaken by His Father as He hung on the cross shedding His holy, perfect, sinless blood for you. He endured an eternity of Hell for all of humanity. And as He breathed His last, He cried, “It is finished.”
There, the Law was fulfilled, and all the holy Commandments were perfectly kept. The last penny was paid, and there is nothing left for you to do to make God happy with you.
Because now, Jesus gives His righteousness away for free to all who believe in Him. He joins you to Himself through His word of promise, through your Baptism, and through His holy Supper. God looks at you and sees Jesus, and He delights in you.
Christian, you have died to sin. Live in it no longer. Rejoice in God’s will for you revealed in the Commandments.
Because Jesus will come back. When He does, sin and death and hell will die as well. And you will rise, free from your bondage to sin and free to bask in the grace of your Savior who loves you now and forever. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.