Box of Chocolates
Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen
Some of you may have received a box of chocolates this Valentine’s Day. Tom Hanks, in the 1986 movie Forrest Gump spoke this gem of wisdom, “Mama always said: Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” For the most part, I agree… at least on the box of chocolates part.
Unless there is a chocolate ‘key’ printed in the box, you don’t may not be able to tell what is inside the little squares of confectionary until you bite into them. To some people, this makes the experience fun; to others, maybe not so pleasant. Some people don’t like being surprised, or they don’t like thinking they’ll get one type of chocolate and receive something different.
People are like chocolates in a box. They come in different shapes and sizes. On the outside, people may look pleasant and friendly, yet on the inside they may be someone totally different in nature. Unfortunately, all people are full of an unwanted ingredient… Sin.
This ingredient makes everyone distasteful to God and to each other. And, just like the sugar or cocoa that makes the chocolate, one cannot separate the good ingredients from the bad after the confection is formed.
When humans were created, we were perfect in every way. We did not have any tainted ingredients in our form. What God had made was good in every aspect. Since the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden, where human beings first sinned against the command of God by putting their own selfish desires before their obedience to our creator, every generation to this present age has been permeated with sin to the point of being hopelessly condemned to eternal separation from God.
Yet that same loving God of our creation gave us a chance to return to him. Through His faithful servant, Moses, God outlined the path to redemption through the Law of God. Moses, put it succinctly in his farewell address to the Israelites before they entered into the Promised Land across the Jordan:
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish. [Deut 30:15-18]
Our situation right here and right now has not changed. As we heard Jesus say in the Gospel reading last week of Matthew 5:17 and 18:
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. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. [Matt 5:17-18]
The Law of God has not passed away. We are still held accountable for our sin. We are still subject to the temptations of the Evil One and we are still mired in the morass of our sinful nature. Before you are set life and death, to do good or to do evil, to be blessed or to be cursed.
But wait, it gets worse! Not only are we to follow the Law of God and keep his commands, but we are to follow them completely, perfectly and without fail. Here is yet another chance for us to sin. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of us all, God’s own Son, explains our weakness in today’s Gospel.
Murder, Adultery, Divorce and swearing oaths by God’s name have deeper connotations than the printed word. The true meaning of murder begins not with the commitment of the act but with anger and hate. The realization of adultery starts with the lustful heart, and the abuse of God’s name used in oaths are conceived in deceitful minds.
When we lie to our neighbor or speak disparagingly about them, we are murdering him. You may as well take out a knife and stab them in the heart. Do not think that using surreptitious means will keep your hands clean from the blood of your brother or sister. King David did this with Uriah because he lusted after Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. In 2 Samuel 11:14-16 it is written:
“In the morning it happened that David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, ‘Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die.’” [2 Sam 11:14-16]
David murdered this man, not by his own hand but with his thought, his pen, and his abuse of his authority.
We have all heard about or witnessed adulterous relationships; they seem to be all too common. The murder committed by King David begins with adultery. He sees the beautiful Bathsheba and his lust leads to an adulterous relationship ending in murder. I guarantee every single one of us has lusted in our hearts for some man or woman. This type of thinking is promoted throughout our media. The more we see it the more it is accepted as normal or good. Would that the suggestion by Jesus to gouge out the eye that has offended us be the answer to our evil desires; but it is not. For no matter how you slice it, we still come up sinners.
Jesus tells his disciples to be reconciled to your brother. Our relationship amongst ourselves is very important to God. We are to live in this world with our brothers and sisters, our friends and neighbors with the assurance of His love for all who call upon His name.
He tells us to come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest you are handed over to the judge and be put in prison. Our accuser is sin and the Devil, our prison is hell and God is our judge. But God does not wish to see us perish in our sin. God does not want his children to die. This is why He sent His Son Jesus Christ as our Redeemer. It is by His blood, shed for us on the cross, that we are set free from our sin.
Jesus Christ did not come into the world to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Fulfilling the Law is a task we cannot accomplish; just as we cannot keep our word or prevent ourselves from lusting and murdering with our hearts and minds. We cannot cut off our hands or gouge out our eyes to get rid of our sin. All we can do is trust in the One True God, to have faith in His promises and to believe in His Son.
Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law, every letter, every stroke of the pen has been completely satisfied. The judgment for sin is death. Jesus paid the price and served the sentence for each and every one of us when he was crucified to death on the cross. When He raised himself from the tomb, three days later, he gave us our freedom and we are no longer condemned to die but inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Through Christ, we are no longer seen as full of sin but as a precious treasure. He has chosen life, goodness and blessing for His children. We are no longer under the curse of evil and death. It is because of His mercy and grace that we are able to obey the commandments of the Lord our God. Because of Christ’s saving work, we are able to walk in his ways, to live and not perish.
Therefore, hold fast to him, for he is your life and length of days. Love the Lord your God so that you may dwell with him forever. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every human being.” Christ himself gave us his word that whoever “believes and is baptized will be saved.” [Mark 16:15-16]
Through Christ, all who believe are transformed. By Holy Baptism our sins are washed away. As a child of Jesus, we are made holy in the eyes of our Father in heaven. We become something different. The works of our hands are no longer for our personal gain but for the glory of God. Our forgiveness of those who have sinned against us is as Christ’s forgiveness of our own sin. Our love for one another is as Christ’s love for us. Both are complete and perfect because it is not by our righteousness, but by the righteousness of God.
Jesus Christ is our salvation. In Him there is no sin. His word is true and right. Through Him is the only path. As he told his disciple Thomas in John 14:16, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
This means we have no fear when our trust is in the Lord. This means our salvation is secure when we believe in the truth, when we believe in Christ.
The promise of Christ to us is more than an oath made by heaven or earth, by the city of God or by any earthly king. His word does not come from evil but from good. Jesus Christ made an oath upon his own name. The oath was that no child of God will be lost to the kingdom of heaven. He has lived up to that oath. Before we even ask, Jesus says, ‘Yes’. He says ‘yes’ to our salvation. He says ‘yes’ to our release from sin and death. His word is simple and his oath cannot be broken. With Christ, you know exactly what you are going to get.
I cannot think of anything sweeter to hear than this.