The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
“Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we’ve been called, with all humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” One look at the world we live in today, and it’s clear that St. Paul’s words have fallen on deaf ears. Be honest: One look in the mirror, and it’s clear that these words have fallen on our own deaf ears. You may take offense at this, but dare to see things through God’s eyes. Do you walk in all humility, gentleness and patience? (This word—patience—is better translated as “long-suffering.”) Is that you? All the time? Even with the people you don’t like? Even with people who see things differently than you do?
Do you bear with one another in love… unconditional, long-suffering love like your merciful Lord shows to you? All the time… to everyone? Do you strive to maintain the unity of the Holy Spirit in the bond of peace, or is it more “my way or the highway”? (I’m not asking if the other person is doing their part and striving for unity. Do YOU strive to maintain the unity of the Holy Spirit?) And what exactly is the “unity of the Holy Spirit” anyway? What does this mean?
Well… look around. We are all baptized children of God, purely by His grace, right? We’re all gathered around Christ here in this place, just as He bids us to do. We all receive the same Absolution when we confess our sins. We all received the same Body and Blood of Jesus from the same altar. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. No… we may not be united in our individual opinions regarding vaccines, masks, or even far less important things such as bake sales or potlucks or bylaws and budgets (things which sadly do incite division and incur the wrath/condemnation of one Christian against another). And yet… the Word is still rightly taught and the Sacraments are still rightly administered, and we ALL unite and gather together around Christ to receive from His own hand. This is the unity St. Paul speaks of—the unity of the Holy Spirit in the bond of peace.
Yeah… but what if you don’t get your way? What if somebody does something different than the way you would do it? “This is what we’ve always done!” What if somebody—gasp!—dares to have a different opinion than you? Our Lord says that if we even insult our brother or call our brother “fool” we are liable to the fires of hell. But I guess that’s different in your particular case, right? That doesn’t apply to you, at least not in this particular instance. Hmm... what if your Lord treated you the same way you treat others (including your own brothers and sisters in the faith)?
You know… we don’t even have to dig that deep. Do you really walk in a manner worthy of the undeserved baptismal calling to which you’ve been called? Always? Careful before you answer. You know as well as I do that our Sunday morning walk tends to be very different from our walk the other 167 hours of the week. It is truly troubling how our “Christian walk” doesn’t seem to extend beyond the church doors and out into the rest of daily life; i.e., the workplace, the voting booth, or even around the kitchen table. God calls us to walk in His ways all the time, even during pandemics, civil unrest, and election years; even during those times that we walk amongst people with different opinions.
And yet it’s almost as if we’ve erected “no trespassing” signs into those areas of life that are at odds with the faith we dare to boast about. The Word of God is permitted to guide us here and here, but not here, here, or there. We’ll walk in a manner worthy of our baptismal calling; our call to eternal life; we’ll act like the Christians God has called us to be… so long as it doesn’t interfere with our opinions, our preferences and our desires. Folks: You can’t walk in the way of life and in the way of death at the same time. Either you are walking in a manner worthy of your calling, or you are not. Either you are walking towards the Lord of Life, or you are walking away from Him and into death, and if you’re walking away from Christ, the answer isn’t to keep on walking the other way. The answer is to repent and stop and turn around.
You know… instead of looking to the corpse in the mirror, where there is no comfort to be found (true comfort, that is), let us instead look to this cross and consider our standing before God in light of the words of our Epistle lesson. God is the One who called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light. He called you out of death into life, in spite of you. He still calls you, coming to you and calling to you by means of His Word. He came to you and put His name on you in the waters of His Holy Baptism, not because you earned it, but solely because He loves you and has an incomprehensible compassion for you. (And He’s done the same thing with everybody else here too. How’s that for unity?) To walk in a manner worthy of our calling is to walk in our Baptismal righteousness; to walk in a way that gives all the glory to the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It’s really not that difficult to understand. To walk in our Baptismal calling is nothing more than humble response to God’s free and undeserved gifts of mercy, grace, and unconditional righteousness. We do what we do simply out of joyous response to what God has already done for us. We love because He first loved us. We forgive because He has forgiven us. We walk in a manner worthy of the baptismal calling to which we’ve been called.
As for humility, gentleness, and long-suffering patience, these are virtues that are not inherent to children of Adam. These are gifts given from above; gifts wrought in us by the Holy Spirit. These aren’t prescriptions, as if you need to first acquire/have these things if you are to have any hope that you’ll be saved. No! These are descriptions of those who are saved. By Old Adam nature, we’re sinful and unclean. By nature, we’re not humble or gentle or patient. By nature, we’re self-centered and works-righteous and impatient and vengeful, always trying to build ourselves up and have things our way, even when it means tearing others down in the process.
This is why I tell you (instruct you) to look to the cross; look to Christ. These virtues (humility, gentleness, long-suffering patience) are not inherent to children of Adam. These are virtues exemplified in Christ. We confess this in our creed. The God of all glory humbled Himself for our sake. He humbled Himself by giving up all of heaven’s majesty/glory by taking on our flesh, conceived, born in a lowly manger, suffering, and dying… for us. “He humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross.” These virtues aren’t just exemplified by Christ; they ARE Christ! “Take My yoke upon you, for I am meek and lowly and gentle. I am long-suffering and patient.” “I AM.” That’s not prescription! That’s divine description! This is all Jesus. Through the working of the Holy Spirit, this is also baptismal description of all those in Christ. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized were baptized into His death and resurrection?”
Folks: This is why the faithful humble themselves. HE is why the faithful humble themselves before the King of kings and all others whom Christ loved enough to die for. Baptized into Christ, the baptized child of grace knows who they are, by nature, and where they came from. Faith knows/believes the Truth. My sin put Jesus on that cross. I think about that a lot… and it horrifies me. My sin is so great and heinous that God Himself had to take on flesh and shed His blood and die in order to make the ransom payment for me. I know my place. I deserve nothing but present and eternal punishment.
Purely by God’s grace, though, because of the all-redeeming work and person of Jesus Christ, I have been called into His marvelous light. In spite of me and my sin—my shame—I have been baptized by Him and made a member of His royal household; a co-heir with Christ of the Kingdom of Heaven. Through repentant faith, I know my place—the eternal heavenly place He’s made for me—and not even the gates of hell can steal it away from me. To say it’s humbling is an understatement. How do you say “thank you” for such an undeserved and amazing gift? Answer: Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you’ve been called, with all humility, gentleness, and long-suffering patience, bearing with one another just like Christ—in love—eager to maintain the unity of the Holy Spirit in the bond of peace; the peace that passes and surpasses all human understanding.
And if you’re still not humbled, look around. Your King and Lord exalts you today in the presence of all men, calling you and inviting you to His feast table, where angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven are gathered. You come to the earthly end of the King’s feast table, and the King of heaven and earth comes to serve you. “Take and eat. Take and drink. This is My body and blood, given and shed FOR YOU.” Talk about exaltation! Talk about a place of honor! And the best is still yet to come. More and greater exaltation awaits. Your Lord has already prepared your heavenly mansion room for you. He knows your place! Your spot at the heavenly side of the eternal feast is already prepared and reserved. When your pilgrim walk through this veil of tears is complete, your Lord will send His holy angels to bring you home to Him, where you will hear Him say to you in the presence of all those angels, archangels, and company of heaven: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into our Father’s rest.” I guess the only remaining question is: How does all this divine exaltation NOT humble you? How could you want to walk any other way? How could you not want to walk in the manner that is worthy of His gracious baptismal calling?
May Jesus Christ and His humility, His gentleness, His long-suffering patience, grace, mercy, love for you be witnessed in you and through you. May Christ for you give you peace, and may His peace guard you, keep you, and be exalted through you, both in your walk now and into all eternity.
To Him be all the glory, praise, and honor… AMEN.
Feel free to use any or all of this sermon for the edification of God's people. It is NOT necessary to ask my permission for any of it! In fact, you don't have to mention me at all. (I think it's highly problematic when pastors seek credit/glory for sermons inspired by the Holy Spirit!) Give praise to God for the fact that He continues to provide for His people.
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