Sermon at First Presbyterian Church Lockhart

"Lord, Our Righteousness"

I Kings 21:1-10,15-21,  Psalm 5,  Galatians 2:15-21,  Luke 7:36-50

June 13, 2010

by James Greene

 

           The title of today’s sermon is “Lord, Our Righteousness.” It is the central theme of our readings today.  It does, require us to understand the Old Testament understanding of Righteousness.   It is a focus on right relationships.  It is the relationship between God, and people, and people and each other.

           Righteousness is the fulfillment of the demands of a relationship.  It is also understanding the multitude of relationships that make up the social environment around us.  It is the covenant of King – people (where the powerful take care of the powerless), Judge – complainants,  Priest – worshipers, community – alien, individual – community, individual – family, and All – God.

           God’s Righteousness is one of the major elements of God’s person and character, as revealed in His actions.  It is in his fulfillment of the demands of the relationship that exists between God and His people Israel.  It is the fulfillment of his Covenant.  It is also the element that should be a part of our character as the people of God.  It is about a Right Relationship.  It is about living the heart of God’s intent within our relationships and within our relationship to and with God.     

 

In the reading in I Kings we see the story of Ahab and Jezebel.  It is a story and example of unrighteousness.  Ahab is the son of Omri one of the great political kings of Israel.  Ahab’s marriage to Jezebel was a political alliance between Israel and Phoenicia.  Ahab was inclined to evil, like his father, even though he was a strong military leader.  Jezebel’s name means prince/princess of Baal.  She lives into her identity.  This is an example of a believer being unequally yoked with a non-believer.

Ahab demonstrates the worst of relationships.  It is the violation of the covenant between subject and King, and the right relationship between people.  It is against the character of God, and what is required of the character of God’s people.  Because of his unrighteousness it will bring disaster upon his sons.

 

This example can apply to us today and is seen in our current culture of never being satisfied, or being discontent with what we have or who we are.  Discontentment is a sin that is its own punishment.  It makes the spirit sad, the body sick, and all enjoyments a sorrow.  It is a heaviness of the heart and a rottenness of the bones.  We see this played out in our politics of today, in the greed of the markets, where ‘more’ is always better.  Where once we have achieved what is considered the “greatest goal” – like the player on a team that wins the Super Bowl, and the realization of “is that all there is?”  It leaves us with an empty cup, and unsatisfied because it is only “half full”

 

In Psalm 5 we see David’s solemn address to God.  It is an example of calling

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upon God, in his Righteousness, and how God hears our prayers, and gives us reason to hope.  David’s appeal to God mirrors Christ’s dependence upon The Father -in that “right-relationship” – in that righteousness with The Lord and with those around us.  The Lord blesses the righteous, because they are in right relationship.  He surrounds them with his Love. 

 

In the Galatians, we see the dynamic of righteousness when it is revealed to us when we only live in Christ (in that “right relationship”) and Christ lives in us.  It is not about fulfilling the letter of the law, and the commandments from God, it is about living in the spirit of the law and that righteous relationship. 

God-people,   people-people.

           What is being said, here in Galatians, is that if we look to salvation by the means of following the Law of Moses, then we make the death of Jesus needless.   If we focus upon works righteousness then we are focusing on only crossing the ‘T’s and dotting the ‘I’s in our relationships with God and with our fellow man.  It must be a ‘justification’    our righteousness,  this ‘right-relationship’   by faith in Jesus that we are saved. 

Because, Jesus does love us, and gives himself for us, in His righteousness. 

It is not by our own justifiable works,    but by faith in Christ,   who is, the Lord our Righteousness, that we are saved.   But it is, as followers of Christ, that we must reflect the qualities of Christ.  We must be righteous in our relationships, not because we have to but because it is an essential part of our character and part of our being.  This is when we let Christ live ‘in’ us. 

Otherwise, (as it says in the reading) “Christ died for nothing.”  

 

In Luke we also see, this factor of right relationship.  Simon, who is his host, didn’t offer Jesus - water to wash his feet, - a greeting kiss per the custom in treating guests, or  - anointing his head with oil.  Simon, (the Phariseean individual steeped in The Law) who is a leader and reader of The Law, had Jesus over for dinner, but he did not fulfill this in the context of relationship. 

It would be like asking someone to dinner, and then letting them get their own silverware, and their own drink.  He didn’t care, or take care in his relationship.  It reminds you of the old phrase “I feel for you but I just can’t find you.”  He knew better in the way he treated people; like the woman at Jesus’ feet.

Just as Jesus displays righteousness, in rebuking Simon “in love’ by addressing him in a better manner, and does the same with the woman when she displays the quality of her real character, in that ‘she loved much’, and cared enough to fulfill the customs of hospitality.  He shows us in His righteousness.   We need to remember, that in righteousness – that right relationship – we need to demonstrate the increased ability and capacity to love, and how that love, covers a multitude of sin. 

 

 

 

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In our journey

                      Through this life   

           We carry God’s Law

                   Of love, -

                      Of mercy, -

                           And peace

           In our heart;

           So we may walk

                     In The Way

                                 Becoming oaks of God’s righteousness

                                            Rooted and fed

                      By streams of living water
                                 In the light of His Word
Planted in His Will.
 
           We finally need to remember that is Jesus is our Rock who sustains us (in His Righteousness) in these relationships, we know in life, and He calls us to character, into right relationship and into righteousness in following him.  In hearing his voice “in” the Word, we respond in faith, because we believe in his ability to sustain us in our trials and save us (like David) when we call upon Him.  We are called to reflect His character and righteousness as those who follow Him….

 

           In the Name of    the Father,   the Son,   and the Holy Spirit.  Amen

 

 

 

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Jerusalem Oaks                               May 29, 2009