Monday, June 26, 2006

Sermon - Presentation of the Augsburg Confession - Romans 10:5-17

Presentation of the Augsburg Confession
(June 25th, 2006)
Romans 10:5-17
“Heart, Mouth, Feet, Ears”

Heart, Mouth, Feet, Ears. Perhaps a strange title for a sermon. But in our reading from Romans 10, Paul touches on all these parts of our bodies, in their various functions. And it all has to do with the good news of Jesus Christ, in whom we believe.

Today we also commemorate the “Presentation of the Augsburg Confession”. On June 25th, 1530, the teachings of the Lutheran Church were first publicly confessed in this historic document. I suppose most of us have never read the Augsburg Confession. Maybe you haven’t even heard of it. But it is foundational to our identity as Lutheran Christians, as its teachings give a true and clear summary of what scripture teaches. For instance,

“[our churches] teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight.”

The early Lutherans confessed this faith before Emperor Charles V, the most powerful man in the world. And they showed a good understanding, and a courageous applications of the principle: that there is a connection between the heart and the mouth. What you believe is also what you say. They must have known well these words of Paul from Romans 10, “that if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Mouth and Heart
Confess with your mouth, believe with your heart. Heart and mouth. What’s inside of you, and what comes out of you. Yet both of these, we have a problem with. Both heart and mouth are sinful by nature. It’s why we pray, with the Psalmist, “create in me a clean heart, Oh God…”. It’s why we confess sins in thought and WORD and deed. Jesus said it’s not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but what comes out. Cold, dead, sin-hardened hearts are within us. Mouths which speak with forked tongue, like wild beasts that need to be tamed. When it comes to our sin, we can see the clear connection of mouth and heart.

But in Christ, both heart and mouth are made clean. Both are forgiven, and set free from sin. So that while sinners, we are also saints. So that our heart does become the throne of God. So that our mouths are filled with his praises. So that we confess Jesus is Lord, and the faith that is within us.

All this is from Christ alone, of course, not from us. It is external. What comes into our heart at Baptism is the Holy Spirit. What we receive in our mouth – his body and blood for our forgiveness – these things make clean hearts and righteous mouths.

And so the mouth of the faithful also turns to the Lord in prayer, and “calls on the name of the Lord”. Paul’s word is God’s promise, that everyone who does so in faith will be richly blessed, and saved.

Heart and Mouth both have a hand in our salvation – and yet Paul isn’t done discussing important parts of the body…

Beautiful Feet
In the next paragraph, Paul emphasizes the importance of the one sent to bear the message, and quotes from Isaiah, “How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of those who bring good news!”

I remember clearly July 11th, 1999. It was the day of my installation as Associate Pastor here at Grace. President Ron Meyer was the preacher, and he used this very passage. He asked, rhetorically, if I had “beautiful feet”. And I remember being glad he didn’t ask to actually see them.

I don’t know about you, but I have always thought feet were ugly, as parts of the body go. Feet get a lot of abuse. They take the wear and tear of all our walking around. They get the dirt and filth of the ground on them. They are a “working” part of the body, and aren’t known to smell too good either. So to think of beautiful feet, well that’s not the usual picture.

But the point here is not about the feet. The point here is not about the one to whom the feet belong. No, those feet, and that messenger, they carry a message. And the news is so good that even the ugly feet that bring it are a sight for sore eyes. We who preach and pastor are not perfect, or beautiful or worthy of your attention in ourselves. But the message we bring is the best news you will ever hear. Those who share the Gospel of Jesus Christ bring something more beautiful and precious than all the world can offer. It’s a message of love, and hope, and forgiveness, and life. It’s beautiful.

Well, it’s ugly too. Who wants to think about the torturous death of an innocent man? Who wants to think about blood and beating, nails piercing hands and feet? The cross, a symbol used in ornate decoration, a symbol of our faith, the cross is really ugly if you think about what happened there. Ugly as sin. Because that’s what Jesus became for us – and sin is always ugly. And God’s punishment, his wrath over sin, is no pretty picture.

But the beauty is that Jesus, at the cross, put that ugliness away. Easter gives us a glimpse of the radiant glory that awaits each of us beyond the grave – when the beauty of Christ’s own life and righteousness shine in us forever.

We don’t know exactly what Jesus looked like – Scripture hints that he was an average looking guy, “he had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” But yet, “How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Faith Comes by Hearing
And that news comes to create and sustain faith. That faith comes by hearing the message. And the same God who gives the message gives us the ears to hear it. He gives the messenger that bears it. He puts it in our hearts, and moves us by his Spirit to confess it, so that others may also hear.

Hearing. It’s a simple thing really. Passive. You just sit there. And as the words are spoken, as the message is heard, faith comes. This much is clear. A simple reception of what the Lord gives. You don’t earn hearing. You can’t do it by yourself. Just like our salvation, which is beyond our own doing. What a joy and privilege to hear that word of faith again and again as we gather in God’s presence. What a blessing to hear the word and have our faith renewed.

Not all who hear believe. The Spirit moves when and where he desires. Some hear and reject. They close their ears for various reasons. But for those who have heard and do believe, we never stop hearing, and it never stops with the hearing. When ears have heard and heart believes, then feet move, and mouth confesses. Our whole being – every part of us – becomes captive to Christ and his purposes. And through people like us, God expands his kingdom.

And so we go where our feet take us – wherever that may be. Work, School, the mall, the cottage up north, wherever. And there we confess, as we are able, and as we have opportunity, the hope that is within us. We confess, Jesus Christ as Lord! We confess, that there is no salvation apart from him. We confess, that we are sinners, but that “a man is justified by grace alone through faith alone”. We confess that Jesus has done it all for me, and he wants you to believe it too. We confess in word and deed, and pray the Holy Spirit’s blessings on those who hear, and pray their ears and hearts are opened. We Christians confess, in Jerusalem, and Rome, and Augsburg, and even in Racine, Wisconsin.

Heart, Mouth, Feet, Ears. All are important gifts from God through which he works for our good and for others: hearing, believing, bearing and confessing, the message of Jesus Christ our Lord, we pray his continued blessings, in his name, Amen.

The Lord Jesus grants faith in our hearts, by the hearing of his word, that we might confess with our mouths the good news he brings!

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