Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost [a] August 9, 2020
5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
In the Name of Jesus.
Grace be with you! That’s how Paul closes many of his letters.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.
[1 Corinthians 16:24]
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
[2 Corinthians 13:14]
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ.
There’s more, just read through the rest of Paul’s letters.
Grace to you, he says—the Apostle doesn’t want us to miss the gift of Christ’s grace with us.
Then turn your eyes from Paul’s letters to outside your front window. Near and far.
The neighbor child, being told he can’t hug his friends at school, he has to wear a mask in the store. We don’t know the depths of uncertainty this child may feel. But it doesn’t seem like grace.
The I.C.U. nurses in some of our cities working weeks on end without a day off. Do we know how the joy of their jobs seems so distant now, the fatigue?
The neighbor arguing with neighbor over whether the government is too strict or not strict enough—maybe this pandemic is not as serious as the governor thinks, or maybe it has the potential to overpower our I.C.U.s even more than the governor knows. Do we know the severity of how this is tearing at the fabric of our society? Wouldn’t it be better if neighbors were arguing about fun things, like whether the Broncos are better than the Cowboys, or Country music is better than Rock?
It doesn’t seem like grace is dwelling with us.
We hope there’s a quick answer given by researchers, by doctors and scientists. Perhaps a vaccine will make it so the neighbor child can again play flag football and the girl can have a sleepover with friends.
But even if we come up with a quick answer to protect from the virus, how will that help protect families from the rioters and looters? How will that reconcile society and rescue from those playing skin color against skin color?
Grace. It doesn’t seem like grace is dwelling among us.
And the families in Beirut, the thousands of homes and businesses lost, not to mention lives, to an explosion. And the explosion was caused by human error, they tell us? Not by a plan of malice, not by crime, but a simple human error of wrongly storing chemicals?
It’s not just the threat of a virus which we attack with medical technology, nor just the threat of those who set one skin color against another, it’s also the threat of simple, common human error? What rescues from that?
It seems far different than grace dwelling among us.
How do we get Jesus into this picture? The sickness and fears in this fallen world—how to bring Jesus into this along with us, so that we have what Paul calls, The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit with you all.
[2 Corinthians 13:14]
If we want to find Jesus, don’t try to somehow spiritually be in Heaven, Paul says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down).” [Romans 10:6]
Christ is, indeed, in Heaven. But that is not where he gives himself to be found by us.
Or, “Do not say in your heart, … ‘Who will descend into the abyss?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead),” says Paul. [Romans 10:7]
In this fallen world of sickness and fear, how do we get Jesus into the picture? We don’t. He comes to us. Romans 10:17:
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Christ Jesus comes to us in his Word. Not in our own spiritual strivings, not in us trying to reach him up into Heaven, not in pious emotions. He comes to us in his Word.
His Word of Gospel proclaimed in the Church, His Word of the promise bestowed in Baptism, his Word of mercy spoken to a child living in uncertainty, to a nurse exhausted by what she has seen, his Word spoken in the family at Evening Prayer; his Word—Christ Jesus comes to us not up in Heaven, not down in the grave, but now, in our world, where we are with each other, Christ Jesus is here, with us in his Word.
In our world, our world around us where everyone is at least a little off-balance and struggling to cope with the effects of a pandemic, there is not one person, not among us who have been gathered into the Church by the Gospel, nor with our neighbor who does not yet know the consolation of the Gospel—there is not one person our Lord does not desire to hear his Word of grace.
As Paul gives it,
For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?
Of those suffering with family in the hospital; of those uncertain of arrangements at school; of those shaken by the job market; of those in Beirut wondering how they will ever rebuild; of those with any brokenness in family, of any pain in marriage—of all of us and our neighbors, East and West, old man and infant in the arms, is there anyone to whom the Lord does not want to give his Name in Baptism, to whom Jesus does not want to come in his Word, any one living in fear to whom our Lord Jesus, in his grace, does not want to give the gift of faith through the preaching of his Word?
There is no distinction between any person, no one left out, no one to be left living without the promise and hope of the Gospel of all sins-forgiven and the resurrection of the body:
“Everyone who has faith in Christ will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.
In the Name of Jesus.