Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Biographies of great men or women always fascinate me. If they come from lowly beginnings, it makes the rise to greatness all the more exciting. The invention of modern machinery and technology constantly astonishes me. The construction of large buildings or complex factories fills my mind with wonder.
It is one thing to hear or read about these modern marvels, but to see them up close and maybe even touch them, makes them all the more awesome. To stand on the Great Wall of China or to touch the Giza Pyramid is a wonderful experience mostly because it is unique and one of a kind; but the marvels of our everyday life are just as wonderful.
For instance, when I was in high school, one could open the hood of a car or truck and be able to work on the engine without any special tools and with basic automotive knowledge. Today, I open the hood of my car and the engine isn’t even visible as it is covered in shrouds and electronics.
Or, how about that hand held computer you carry around with you all day? Fifty years ago, that computer would be housed in a building as big as an acre. Yet, no matter how clever or ingenious human kind’s creations are, they are never perfect and do not last forever.
We all know that even the brightest of minds in humanity can never create or engineer the ‘perfect’ machine, building or system. Somewhere along the way, a process will be incomplete or a structural support will fail. People fall short and so also does their work. After all, the chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
We can all see the importance of having strong links that do not fail. If someone in the process of making that chain decides that it would be easier to use less heat in the forge or cheaper to use less pure steel, we would get a weak link. No matter how few or how many the parts, the failure of one piece is made known throughout the entire system, sometimes to a catastrophic and deadly end.
Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, knew all about the weak link in humanity. This weakness was not by design. The Creator of all things made no engineering error. We were not made outside the tolerances of our specifications. For us, the impurity of our flesh was introduced after our formation.
The great Adversary, Satan, came into God’s creation to purposefully sabotage the entirety of humankind. He introduced evil into the perfect good using a tool called sin. Since that time, we have been constantly striving to adjust and overcome this defect in our souls.
Our Master Craftsman knew how to repair our broken lives and implemented a new set of standards for this living system to follow. He gave these commands to Moses who in turn gave them to us. In their entirety, we call these commandments the Law of God.
As a people, we struggled to uphold the Law and we often failed. God saw this and sent technicians into our midst to help us apply these simple commands into our lives. We called these men Prophets of God. They spoke with the mouth of God and were the tools used by the very hand of our Father in heaven to strengthen our weak hearts and minds.
Now this is where my simple analogy breaks down because we are not mechanical automatons bouncing around this world like pinballs in a cosmic pinball machine. No, we are actual living, loving, breathing human beings. We really cannot imagine the ability to create living beings from nothing. We cannot design life link by link, atom by atom and so we cannot see into the mind of our Creator much less fix our own lives.
What we can know is what has been revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. His will has been made known to us through the witnesses of the Son of God as he lived in the flesh in the middle of this broken world. In the past God spoke to us at various time and in various ways through the prophets. [Hebrews 1:1] Today He speaks to us through the Word and the Holy Spirit.
Hear now the words of our Savior through the witness of St. Matthew:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. [Matthew 5:17-18]
Jesus Christ came down to earth, rolled up his sleeves, and put his hands deep into the moving parts of our lives. He did not come to tell us we are ‘okay’ and ‘just try to do the best that you can and that will be good enough.’ He came into our lives to tell us, ‘You are weak. My Father in heaven will not abolish the Law He commanded you. He knows you will fail so He sent me to fulfill it.’
For God, failure is not an option. He will not change one dot, one iota of His commandments. His Law will be a part of our lives until that Last Day when His kingdom comes. He knows we are the weakest link in His creation yet He still loves us.
He loves the world so much that He sent His Only Son to fulfill the Law perfectly. Jesus Christ was sent to death upon the cross as the final and perfect sacrifice for our weakness in sin. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” [2 Corinthians 5:21]
In death, he conquered death and in his resurrection from the grave, he forged a new life for all people. Through his almighty power, he broke the chains of sin. Through the Holy Spirit, he melts the metal of our hearts, burning away the impurities that make us weak and creates in us a new and everlasting life in the strength that is Christ Jesus.
He redeems our souls. Atom by atom we are aligned to his will so that we do not break but remain steadfast in him. This is the promise of His grace and mercy we receive through waters of our baptism in the Holy Spirit. Our salvation has been fulfilled and it is complete.
Now you may be thinking that I am blind or living in a fantasy world because the world you see is certainly not a well-oiled machine. You may not see your life as a smooth operation. All about you are loose cogs, leaking seals and failing pistons. You see pieces of broken machinery in the oil and the fuel to run your life is so impure you sputter and choke. ‘I am not strong.’ you say, ‘I’m struggling just to get by.’
This is where the second part of our Gospel speaks to us, St. Matthew 5:
“Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5:19]
We may certainly look like a Christian. We may certainly like to believe we are truly followers of Christ. Yet if we cannot work, if we are broken down on the inside, we are not doing the commands given to us by our Lord. If we have no fuel, we cannot spread the love of Christ, the forgiveness of sin, or the proclamation of our salvation through the grace of God.
Like a lamp without fuel, we do not shine. Like salt that has lost its saltiness, we do not bring joy. Like a broken link in a chain, we cannot lift others up from their despair. What we put into our hearts and minds determines what comes out of our mouths and actions.
Therefore, when we relax any of these commandments and teach others to do the same, we do not bring joy to the kingdom of heaven. We not only hurt ourselves when we let our Lord’s commands fall to the wayside, but we also lead others into the same temptation.
Can we repent and be forgiven? Yes, of course we can. Can we clean out the impurities of our minds through the Word of God and renew our faulty and broken hearts through the body and blood or our Savior? Yes we can and we need to do so as often as possible.
It is through the Word and Sacraments that the Holy Spirit reveals to us the work of God. The Apostle Paul explains it this way:
“For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.” [1 Corinthians 2:10-12]
The Holy Spirit is the fire that purifies and makes righteous. It is by the Holy Spirit that we are able to keep and teach the revealed will of God. Christ our Lord has torn out our failing and sinful hearts and replaced them with his perfect heart. There are no missing or frivolous parts. We are complete in Christ Jesus.