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Faith Life Weekly 02/11/2011

posted Feb 11, 2011, 12:18 PM by Nate Balcom   [ updated Feb 11, 2011, 12:24 PM by St Pauls Lutheran Church ]

Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven

This weekend’s reading from the Gospel according to Matthew is Jesus’ interpretation on some of the Law and commandments. And in that interpretation, he sets the standard of the Law pretty high. In fact, Jesus establishes a standard that is by all accounts impossible to meet. Based on his teaching, how can anyone merit salvation?

And therein lies much of the point – we cannot. It sounds impossible because it is. So why bother with the Law if it can’t save us? Because it brings structure to our lives, and it also drives us into the arms not of despair, but of an exceedingly gracious and merciful Lord who is waiting for us to cry "uncle," so that He can bring us pardon, relief, new life. The Law, as with God’s Word as a whole, is a vehicle to bring us to our intended destination. And all roads lead to Jesus. Jesus undercuts the loopholes that some would like to find, that give them a sense of comfort in the Law, because the Law isn’t there to make us feel comfort, or justification, or glee at the misfortune and errors of others, or superiority over those not quite as "good" as us. The Law is given to make us aware that we need to surrender, that we need to trust and turn things over to our God. I don’t remember in this moment whether this is the 1st or 2nd or 3rd "use of the Law," in theological terms, but it is how Law is also a part of the Good News of Christ.

Something else, though, in all of this, is a misconception that I think some have about the Christian faith, which is that living in God’s Grace means that we can somehow be "laissez faire" with our decisions and actions. There are some who believe that grace not only is greater than Law, but that it somehow makes it irrelevant. But the truth that we hear in this weekend’s Gospel passage is that living in God’s Grace in fact challenges us to go further than the Law would have us go. It calls for more out of us, and not less. Just because it does so out of love and victory instead of fear, judgment, and conflict does not mean that it is "lowering the bar." "Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of people that LIVE for making and following the letter of the Law, you just aren’t getting it at all." Tough words. Words that might be too much to bear, were it not for the abundant grace and guidance of our Lord and Savior.

Prayer – God of all generations, with all of the changes and shifts that we see, your light and truth remains as a constant that helps us find our balance again, and travel this journey with hope and confidence. Keep us mindful of our need for you not only in the times when our lives are "taking on water," but also when all is warmth and joy and under control. Amen.

Here’s an old Rebecca St. James song that relates this need for God to renew us and take our lives and set us right. 

God Loves You and So Do I !!