Jesus: Code Enforcer, or Code Fulfiller?

June 2nd, 2008 · No Comments

Jesus: Code Enforcer, or Code Fulfiller?

Pentecost 3A 06/01/08

Matthew 7:21-29

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

This is a tale of two houses, one built on a rock, in this case the “Rockpile,” as the summit of Mt. Washington is known. The other, built on sand, in this case beachfront in North Carolina.

Built in 1853 at a cost of $7000, the Tip Top House was the second “permanent” structure to be built on Mt. Washington, and is the only remaining original structure on the summit. It was preceded by several other buildings rendered less than permanent by the tremendous winds that occur up there. They literally blew away. The Tip Top house was used as a station house for the carriage road and a hotel.

The building itself is made of rocks levered into place, and is topped with a flat roof, so as to present little surface area to the high winds. Chains anchored into the rock summit help hold the roof on in winds that have been measured at 231 mph. The Tip Top House not only is built on a rock-it clings to it for dear life! The design must have been good, for it has outlasted every structure of its time, and a good many thereafter!

The other house is much more modern. Built in the 1930’s as a beach cottage, it suffered damage in a hurricane several years later, and was rebuilt as a year-round dwelling. Over the next sixty years the house was pummeled by wind and rain, suffered from an eroding shoreline, was nearly destroyed three times, and each time was rebuilt. The final blow to the house came in another hurricane the storm surge of which totally and completely wiped the house and street and all the property from the face of the earth. That address now is located underwater off the new coastline.

The wise man built his house upon the rock. The foolish man built his house upon the sand. So, what am I saying? That, if you own a house at the beach, you’re a fool? Not hardly (cause then you wouldn’t invite me over for the weekend!). But the evidence is right there and it’s irrefutable-if you want your house to be strong enough to hold up to the worst of storms-you had better build it on something solid.

Of course, now-a-days, there are strict building codes that govern exactly how a home is built, and what materials go into it. Places with extreme environmental risks-say, that of hurricane, or earthquake-have extra codes that must be adhered to. In the case of beachfront property, the code in most towns now requires that the structure be built elevated upon telephone-pole-width pilings, which in turn are driven deep into the sand.

How do municipalities ensure that these regulations are being adhered to? There is a Code Enforcement Officer who inspects the construction at various stages to make sure the will of the town is done. My son, Erik, after moving to PA, got a part time job as the Assistant Code Enforcer of the town he lived in. He was told that he would be the “second most hated man in town,” the Code Enforcer being number one! That’s because, surprise, surprise! No one likes to be wrong, or to have others discover where they might have fudged things a little to save time, money, or aggravation.

And that includes us. Not in building a house. In building a Christian life. Sometimes we take a shortcut, cheap out, or just get lazy, and subsequently we violate the “codes.” And who is there to call us on it? Who’s there to shine a flashlight on our substandard workmanship? To ask about the cracks in walls? To point out our errors and our willfull disobedience? Well…it seems from today’s passage from Matthew, that the Code Enforcer is…Jesus.

Yeah, Jesus comes off looking a little harsh this morning. He tells his disciples, that not everyone who says to him, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoa! Futhermore, on that day of judgment, even many of those who prophesy, exorcise, or do other deeds of power in his name will be denied a certificate of occupancy by the Lord. Hey, come on now! Those activities sound fairly meritful-didn’t Jesus say elsewhere that whoever isn’t against us is for us? Why is Jesus being such a pain? Isn’t he supposed to be all merciful and kind and forgiving and such? What gives?

The thing is-Jesus is not the Code Enforcer. Jesus didn’t come to us to enforce the law-he’s not grading you on your worthiness to be worthy of the kingdom. You’re not worthy-Paul says so in living color in the passage from Romans. “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All.

But Jesus wasn’t sent to negate the law, either. He does not release us from obedience to God, but he does change how that obedience is experienced. No longer do we see the law as an impediment to our individual happiness. No more do we use the law as a means to win God’s favor and love. Instead, the law, and mainly our inability to keep it, drives us into the arms of a loving God. Where we are forgiven and rescued from the power of sin through Jesus Christ. Then, and only then-we are able to experience obedience to the law not as fearful compulsion, but instead as joyful honor. We gladly keep the law in thnksgiving for the grace given us. That is because we can now clearly see the scope of God’s plan and Jesus’ role in it-as Code Fulfiller, not code enforcer.

Now there’s a great amount of difference between the two. But suffice it to say that Jesus ushers in a new era in our relationship with God and Law. Whereas before the will of God could be equated with the Torah, the Law of Moses, now Jesus reveals that the will of the Father is for us to love God and love one another, as he does. Jesus, the Code Fulfiller, bridges the chasmic gap between Law and Salvation, not by destroying the Law, but by bringing it to perfection through his obedience on the cross. Jesus does what the law was intended always to do-bring us into right relationship with each other and with God.

That is the foundation of our faith. And the rock on which we build a Christian life is this new obedience, this hearing Jesus and acting upon what one has heard and experienced. Only these are able to bolster us in times of stress and questioning of that faith. Only these inspire us to do those things we’d rather not do, associate with people we’d normally not be caught dead with, give of ourselves when it is just as easy not to. Only grounded in the love of God and of one another can we genuinely reside in the kingdom of heaven.

For to be otherwise is to shortcut, cheap out, and willfully disregard God’s blueprint. What we end up with then is not a prison or hell per se, but instead we build for ourselves a facsimile kingdom, a movie set kingdom-one that looks right from one angle, but is really only a facade. So when we cry “Lord, Lord, we did such and such in your name,” Jesus doesn’t recognize it as real. So, Jesus’ words are a red flag on our building inspection sheet that says the way we are living can only end up disastrously.

Now, important to know. How do I go about building on the rock-how can I be sure I’m not on shifting sands? Some practical advice: when in doubt, let the Lord’s Prayer guide you. It says, “thy will be done.” Jesus said, “only the one that does the will of my Father in heaven” will enter the kingdom. So let the love of God and love of neighbor be your soil test. Is this my will be done, or thy will be done.

And if you’re still not sure, take Luther’s advice-do what you feel is right, and if it be a sin, the sin boldly-but trust ever more boldly in the grace of God. Amen

Tags: Past Sermons · Pastor's Pantry

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