Sinners in a Broken World


March 5, 2017

Matthew 4:1-11

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

When was the last time that you encountered the devil? When was the last time that you encountered evil? While Jesus is tempted in the wilderness by the devil, putting God to the test, we too could probably reveal times in our lives that we were tested to turn away from God. The temptations that surround us on a daily basis vary. What may be tempting to one of us, is easily avoided by another. Regardless of the temptation, it can lead us astray and separate us from God.

This morning we begin our journey through the Sundays of Lent. For the next five weeks we will be getting to know Martin Luther a little better through the small catechism. For some of you, these questions are familiar:

What is this? or What does this mean?

For those that don’t, these are the questions that Luther asks as he walks through the chief parts of the catechism. Perhaps, he was motivated by his children walking around the house and asking what everything was. He was probably one of the first theologians to have children and help him shape the catechism as we know it today. The catechism, or the idea of it, can go back to the apostle Paul. In Galatians 6:6, he writes, “Those who are taught the word share in all good things with their teacher.” The catechism is simply a Christian instruction on how to live a life of faith. The catechism as we know it has three chief parts: The Ten Commandments, The Apostles Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. Within these parts, Luther moves from the law to the gospel, which I will explain shortly. It is in the catechism that sponsors and parents are asked to guide the newly baptized as they grow and Luther meant for this to be a helpful resource to use. If you were not aware, the Small Catechism is printed in the Red ELW in front of you, beginning on page 1160.

As we remember the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation this year, studying the small catechism is one way to do so. And as we study it, we can think about how we can reclaim the catechism for today.

We begin this morning with the Ten Commandments. The first chief part of the small catechism. The commandments are not anything new, as we first hear of them as they are given to the people of Israel in Exodus. It is in the giving of the commandments that Moses brings the law to the people. As I said earlier, Luther starts with the Law and works his way toward the gospel in the structure of the catechism. The law is simply what it sounds like. The chief function of the law is not to show us how to get into heaven, but to show us our sin. The Ten Commandments represents the law at work in the Old Testament. Rules for the people of Israel. It points towards the sin of humanity and calls it like it is.

Martin Luther viewed all of God’s commandments in light of the First Commandment, You shall have no other gods. His explanation, “We are to fear, love, and trust God above all things,” points towards a call to faith. It is in this faith that is the heart of the matter for all of the commandments. When we lose our faith, we are more easily tempted into committing sins against God and our fellow humanity.

We easily put other things before God. We put wealth, power, material possessions, and many other things before God at times.

How often do we make wrongful use of the name of the Lord?

Do we truly take time to rest on a Sabbath? A time to be with God, away from all other worries and truly experience the deep caring relationship that God wants with us.

I am sure that we all grew up perfect angels and never despised nor angered our parents. Have we truly honored them and respected them to the best of our ability?

I am going to assume that it is most likely that no one here has committed murder. However, have you wished harm upon someone else? Have you refused help to someone in need?

Have you ever lusted for someone that was not your spouse? Jesus tells us that we can commit sin even just by looking at someone with a deep desire.

Have you ever helped yourself to something that was not yours? Even as simple as an apple on a neighbor’s tree.

Have you ever spoken badly about someone? Have you ever gossiped?

Have you longed for a car as nice as the one your neighbor just got? How about anything else that the neighbor owns?

As you see, The Ten Commandments are the law that shows us our sins. Now that we have been overcome with the law, where are we to find God’s grace? That will not come until next week as we venture into the Creed.

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus is confronted with temptations that we would at many times have a hard time turning away from. Who doesn’t long to have their deep hunger fulfilled? The thought of being invincible is tempting in more ways than one. The thirst for power is what has driven many of the world’s empires.

While the Ten Commandments certainly show us our sins, the love of God is made abundantly clear in God’s son, Jesus Christ.

When faced with temptation, Jesus is an example for us to follow. It is in his example that we witness the grace of God. God is present in the Word to feed us when we are hungry and to quench our thirst. God is present in our worship and in our service.

As Jesus stood with the Devil in the wilderness and proved that he was stronger than him, we witness the power of God to resist temptation. This is the same Jesus that will be crucified for the sins of the world. The strength that he shows in the wilderness will be reflected upon the cross as he fulfills his purpose. In this we experience the saving grace of God and salvation that comes to us, sinners in a broken world. Amen.

By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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