May 17 Worship Service

Our May 17 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook.

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The Sunday 8 am service on May 24 is scheduled to be streamed live on the DeSoto Redeemer Facebook page. We will post a direct link to the recording here as soon as it is possible after the service.

May 17 Sermon, Sixth Sunday of Easter
Acts 17:22-31, Psalm 66:8-20
1 Peter 3:13-22, John 14:15-21

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Whoa! What was that? Did I hear keep commandments? You mean that there is something that I’m supposed to do? I thought that this was a Lutheran Church? Aren’t we “saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ?” Doesn’t that mean that we don’t have to do anything? In fact, aren’t we even taught that we can’t do anything because to try to work our way to heaven on our own merits is “works righteousness?”

Behold the Lutheran misconception. And I do mean Lutheran. Martin Luther himself had trouble with church members with this line of thinking. Especially with the one’s who carried it to the nth degree, “If I’m saved by grace, then I don’t have to do anything, and indeed, I won’t.” That one especially shows the misconception. It got so bad in Luther’s time, that he would even say that, “The Reformation was wasted on the Germans” because of this line of thought.

So, what is wrong this line of thought? It’s confusing two issues. It is combining justification with sanctification. Justification is, “being saved.” Sanctification is “living a holy life.” Justification always comes first. We are saved, receive that promise of salvation, before we can ever hope to do anything pleasing to God. However, it has been argued that they can happen very close together, but salvation always comes first. Having then been “saved by God’s grace through our faith in Jesus Christ,” to again quote the Lutheran “motto;” now we are to endeavor to live a holy life, a life pleasing to God. This, is not works righteousness. This is what is called in the Augsburg Confession, “The New Obedience,” having been saved from sin and death, we are now freed to serve God and do things which are pleasing in his sight. We don’t just rest on our laurels, or rather on our faith. Now, we are to live our faith. Living our lives in faith, endeavoring to follow Christ’s example, doing good works for the glory of God, those are means by which we may thank God for the very gift of salvation.

How do we accomplish this? “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” What are the commandments of Christ? Well, actually they are summarized in two, as Jesus himself summarizes the Law. You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your strength and with all of your mind. Here, Jesus quotes from the Shema: Deuteronomy 6:4. And another one is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two, rests all of the Commandments. There it is. Two things to keep. You will never be able to keep them to earn your salvation. But, with the grace of God, you will be able to strive to keep them to demonstrate your love of Christ.

How do we love “the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all your strength and with all of your mind?” We let God be God in our lives. That, for us, is much harder than it sounds. The greatest danger to we poor human beings is precisely that we all too easily fall into idolatry. We chase after other gods. We may not recognize them as gods, but, for our hearts and minds especially, things, creatures may become our gods. Anything can become a false god for us. If it is something which we are Ultimately Concerned about, to quote the great 20th century Lutheran theologian Paul Tillich, if it is something we care about more than anything else, $, work, entertainment, possessions, that object has now become our idol. God is to be the very center of our lives, our Ultimate Concern. Everything else must fall in behind that. That is how we keep the first commandment of Christ.

The second one can be a bit trickier: To love our neighbors as ourselves. Many people may think, “Love my neighbor? I don’t even like them!” Some neighborhoods around here reflect those sentiments. But to make it even more difficult, “Who is your neighbor?” It isn’t just the person who lives next to you. It is much broader than that. Your neighbor is anyone whom you may come in contact with, from closest friend to complete stranger. Anyone. How are we to love them as ourselves? Treat them, as we wish to be treated (the Golden Rule). Put the concern of their welfare ahead of your own. How? Practice hospitality. Display compassion. Empathize with others in their sorrows. Assist the needs of the poor, to name a few. And, in our present situation, we have a new one: wear a mask when you are out and about. The wearing of a mask isn’t really to protect ourselves. It is to help protect those around us, our neighbors. It is also, in a very real sense a sign of respect for them. We care enough about the people about us that we will wear these things so that if we catch this virus, we reduce the odds of them catching it. Call it a new way of loving our neighbors and loving our God.

God gives each of us opportunities to keep those commandments. All of the time. It is almost like the people around us can become a reservoir from which we find opportunities to express God’s love for us and for them. It is how we demonstrate to the world our love of Christ, we keep his commandments in love for him, and so also proclaim our faith to all people. In this world, the Christian community is the City of God, and we are the ambassadors of God’s love to all. In the world’s present circumstance, we should find more than abundant opportunities to share God’s love in Christ everywhere.
Pastor Rose

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