Trinity 23 Sermon, 2017
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
Jesus says, “Render to God the things that are God’s” (cf. Matthew 22:21). It’s as simple as it is impossible.
Everything belongs to God, so return to Him everything.
Everything is His. Give Him everything.
Compare yourself to this command: Have you given everything to God? Observe your reflection. Balance your accounts, if you can.
It’s not pretty.
You’ve looked after yourself. You’ve taken for your own pleasure what belongs to God.
Don’t try to trick Him.
Don’t try to trap God with clever words.
Don’t think that you can distract Him with what CNN or FoxNews tells you are complicated ethical questions about taxes or birth-control, divorce or war.
Don’t think that God meant someone else when He commanded us to align our priorities with the true worship of the living God, rather than entertainment and even family.
God sees into your heart.
He knows your shameful pride, your reluctant, strings-attached gifts, your self-justifying lies, your vain posturing, half-truths, and deliberate deceptions!
He’s heard your excuses before.
Or, to ask it this way, who do you think you are?
God knows what you are, Sinner.
Measured against the Law of God—which is good and wise and perfect—measured against, “Render to God the things that are God’s,” who could stand?
And the answer is: apart from Christ—no one.
The ways of men are lawyers and loopholes, doublespeak and political strokes, pharisees sent to outsmart God and trap Him with His own Word.
But the Way of God is the double-edged sword of Law and Gospel. It cuts clean, slicing open the hearts of men, exposing them for the weak and dying vessels that they are.
This crushing Law, this impossible standard, this “Render to God the things that are God’s” is laid up against your throat to kill you.
That’s one way we can talk about the Law—it kills.
But we need to think of the Law this way:
It’s a mercy killing.
St. Peter writes this: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
So, the Law of God kills so the other edge of the sword of God’s Word can be touched to your heart.
The other edge is the free gift of Grace, God’s undeserved, unearned, impossible love, His perfect mercy, the Gospel, that makes you alive.
God kills and destroys by means of the Law, He empties you, so that He can fill you with what’s good, with Himself.
What you could not and would not render, God has rendered unto Himself on your behalf!
The Son of Man, born of woman without a human father, without inherited sin or corruption, with a perfect record, with a selfless and humble history, has rendered it all, even His life, unto our Heavenly Father—not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
The Innocent has died for the guilty.
He’s rendered His life as the ransom for your iniquity! Your debt is paid. You are free and forgiven.
You owe no one, not even God, anything.
The Way of God, the Way of Truth, is the Way of forgiveness, the Way of reconciliation to the Father through the death and resurrection of the Son by the gift of the Holy Spirit.
This Way is God’s Way for sinful and selfish Man who could not pay his own way.
The Way of God is no respecter of persons.
It cares not for honors or titles, or man-made glory real or imagined.
The Way of God plays no favorites.
Jesus died for all—for the good and the bad, for Illinoisans and people from Chicago, for bankers and farmers, terrorists and racists, postal workers and the unemployed, for men, women, children and adults, and, as impossible as it all seems, He even died for Lutherans.
His love is so great, so embracing, so blind that it even encompasses you.
Not generically, the way some people love a particular lamp or a piece of chocolate.
God’s love for you is deliberate, personal, and individual, as if it were all only for you.
He laid down His life for you, having first numbered every hair on your head.
He laid down His life knowing that the great majority of those for whom He died would reject Him out of hand, afraid of what it might cost them.
He died, despite them, for you.
He accomplished the Father’s will to save you by dying and rising in your place. Because you, O unlikely man, you are His beloved.
You are His chosen Bride, the Church.
By the Blood of Christ you drink, by the Words that enter into your ear, by the watery death you died, by the power of a Promise from the One who cannot lie—by all of that—you are perfect, innocent, blessed, pure, chaste, undefiled, unblemished, and debt-free.
You are sanctified.
You are His.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
There is no one to condemn you.
The Law has been satisfied for you.
You owe no one, not even God, anything!
“Render to God the things that are God’s,” for the Christian, now has a new meaning.
In Christ, who has rendered all for you, that Law, that simple and impossible directive, is now perfect freedom.
Meaning, you—the Christian—can and do cooperate with the Holy Spirit to accomplish good works that God prepared for you beforehand, that you might walk in them.
Or, to say it this way, in Christ, the Christian renders all his life to God.
Sins forgiven, he forgives.
Daily bread received, he goes forth as the daily bread from God to all who are in need.
For the Christian, the reward of heaven is yours and yours to share.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!