2nd Sunday after Pentecost
June 18, 2017
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior Jesus. The basis for the sermon today is the First Lesson read earlier from Exodus 19, but I will also reference the other lessons as well.
My dear friends,
WARNING! This sermon contains a spoiler alert for the new “Wonder Woman” movie. Well, sort of. It’s not like you have to get up and leave or anything, as if you didn’t know that Wonder Woman is going to emerge victorious in the end. If she got beaten up or killed, they wouldn’t call it “Wonder Woman.” They would call it, in this case, “Ares” – the Greek God of War that Wonder Woman battles to the death.
Anywho, acting on a tip from my daughter that this movie was, quote, “Seriously the best movie I’ve seen in a long time,” I decided to go see the film. The Super Hero genre is not really my thing…and it still isn’t. and just why are there so MANY movies about superheroes? Is it because our young people today lack real heroes? Anyway, I didn’t want to waste my $10, so I sat through the whole thing and I’ll admit I was glad when it was finally over since I had run out of Diet Coke.
In the climatic final fight between Wonder Woman and Ares, she has to make a decision: to help Ares restore the world to its perfection before humanity came along, or battle Ares to the death and defend the weak-willed, pitiful, humans. As I mentioned before, Wonder Woman stands up for mankind, hurtling steel tanks like they were balloons. I bring it up because there is a word, a single powerful word, that makes all the difference for Wonder Woman and for us. And I want to talk about that word and the three powerful words found in our lessons: “Covenant” in the First Lesson, “Reconciled” from the Second Lesson, and “Compassion” from the Gospel lesson.
In today’s First Lesson, Moses has led the Israelites safely out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and now they are in the Sinai Peninsula. In the next chapter – Exodus 20 – God will give Moses the 10 Commandments. And so, prior to that, Moses is up on Mount Sinai and God spoke to Moses clarifying the relationship. God said, “If you will…obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples” (19:5, ESV). The word covenant is a BIG DEAL!
If you look it up in the dictionary, it reads that a “covenant” is a contract or guarantee. Maybe in the dictionary…but not the Bible! In the Scriptures, a Covenant was a mutually-binding agreement between two parties that was sealed in blood…ALWAYS…sealed in blood. God says He makes a covenant with His people. Okay…what’s the agreement? It is an extension of the previous covenant made with Abraham 600 years before. The Covenant pledge is that the Triune God will be the God of Israel on the condition of Israel’s total consecration to the Lord as His people who live by His rule and serve His purposes in history. Those rules would come next…the 10 Commandments. The blood ratification of the covenant happens in Exodus 24. The people in Exodus 24 answered then as they did in today’s lesson: “All that the LORD has spoken we will do” (19:8). Why? Because they were in a blood-ratified agreement with God to obey His commandments and do His will. Did they follow through? No…they did not, and neither do we. Then why doesn’t God ditch the covenant and destroy mankind? Because of the one more powerful word yet to come.
In today’s Second Lesson, there is another powerful word – Reconciled. Again, a sanitary definition means “to restore friendly relations between.” But wait a second! Aren’t we in a covenant relationship with God? Why would we need reconciliation? Paul captured what the problem is. We are enemies of God because of sin. We have broken the covenant relationship with God because we have spoken powerful words that are contrary to God’s Word. We have behaved in powerfully rebellious ways. We have thought in mighty ways contrary to the ways of our mighty God. And for that sinful rebellion we deserve death – as Paul pointed out in today’s lesson. So why doesn’t God destroy us? Because of the one more powerful word yet to come.
And then there is a wonderfully powerful word in today’s Gospel lesson. Matthew tells us that as Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, He felt something special toward the people. The word in Greek is from σπλαγχνa, and that’s a cool word in addition to being fun to say! That is a word commonly translated as “compassion,” but it means so much more than that. It specifically refers to the lower abdominal area…your “guts,” in other words. The idea is that when Jesus saw the needs of the people, He felt something way down deep in His guts that He needed to do something. And boy did He ever. Jesus lived, He kept the covenant (huge!), He was crucified, and rose again because of compassion and the one other powerful word that we need to talk about, and that’s the word LOVE.
In “Wonder Woman,” she decides to fight for humanity because they have something that the Greek gods didn’t understand…love. But, the Triune God, not some phony bologna Greek god, knows all about love. It’s what motivated God’s covenant relationship with us. Love motivated Jesus to give His body and blood for the new covenant. Love is what perpetually reconciles and forgives us in the eyes of God and the expectation is that we will share that love with our neighbor.
Ultimately, the point is that words are powerful things, my friends. Covenant, Reconciled, and Compassion are all important, sure, but never forget how powerful your every-day words are. The words that you speak and don’t speak mean something. Jesus told the disciples to tell people that “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” You are a modern day disciple; you are much closer to the disciples than you are to Wonder Woman. Your words show forth how close the Kingdom is to you. Speak words of reconciliation and compassion and love. Speak words of forgiveness and grace. Let your powerful words show the power of God’s reconciling, compassionate, covenant love in your life.
Happy Father’s Day everyone.