A Sermon for July 20th
Like all obese people, I have been on lots of diets. I have tried a lot of different kinds of diets. And I have talked with lots of people who are on diets. As a result of those experiences I have reached many valuable conclusions. Among these is a great truth: Chicken-fried steak is sinful!
I hope that some of your chuckled, because I hoped my conclusion would sound funny. But, actually, it is literally true. Chicken-fried steak arises from the fact that human beings—you and I—are sinners. It is a direct result of original sin. I’m not kidding. Let me explain.
Have you ever read the creation story in Genesis carefully? If so, you will remember that when God makes our First Parents at the end of chapter one, the Lord tells them, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." It is clear in Genesis that the world was intended by God to be vegetarian. That’s a shock for Texans to hear, I know. But it’s true. That is because death and killing had not yet entered into the world. It took human sin to introduce those atrocities into Creation. We are the reason death exists. According to Genesis, our disobedience, our longing to “be like God” and usurp His place as Creator and Lord are the reason animals now die to feed us and to feed each other. So chicken-fried steak, delicious as it is, only exists because we are sinners.
Now I rather doubt St. Paul had a steak dinner in mind when he composed our lesson from Romans 8 today. But when the Apostle says there, “the creation was subjected to futility” and that it is in “bondage to decay,” he is talking about the results of the Fall. When Adam and Eve succumbed to the trickery of the Evil One and disobeyed the Lord in their quest to become gods in their own right they not only got themselves turned out of Paradise and cut off from the Tree of Life, they condemned their descendents to the same fate. But they also sent a tremor through the whole created order. I don’t have an explanation for exactly how this happened. It is one of those impenetrable mysteries of the Faith. Somehow the rebellion of the human race against the will of our Creator affected the entire cosmos. When we fell, we pulled everything else down with us! As a result, sin and death entered a world God had just declared “very good.” It became a world of tooth and claw, of poison ivy and ragweed.
“The whole creation,” St. Paul tells us, “has been groaning in travail together until now.” This does not mean, of course, that everything about the world you and I inhabit is terrible. There is much that still reflects the primordial goodness of creation. Righteous and wholesome things still exist. Beauty, truth, and love remain in a faded form even in this fallen age. But there is no unmixed good in the world after Eden. “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold” in a world in bondage to decay. That ancient serpent, the Devil, lurks behind every corner and haunts our every step, delighting in creation’s degradation by sin. Nothing lasts. Nothing is as it was meant to be. Whenever the plants come up and bear their grain, then the weeds also appear.
But it will not stay this way forever. The heavy veil of sin that has separated the Creator from the children He made to walk and talk with Him in Paradise will one day be ripped in half from top to bottom and we shall see Him face to face. But that is not all! One day the bonds of decay that fetter the very cosmos will be smashed to pieces. And all things in heaven and on earth yearn to see that day. “For the creation waits with eager longing,” the Apostle tells us, “for the revealing of the sons of God.” Just as the whole universe was somehow mysteriously tainted by human sin at the dawn of our race, in the same way our redemption will result in freedom for a fallen world. Then “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.”
Our Lord Jesus speaks of that magnificent day in the Gospel lesson this morning, the long-awaited day when “the righteous will shine like the sun.” But before the final triumph of freedom at the consummation of all things many challenges remain to be faced. For while it is true that the Kingdom of God has come among us with the Incarnation of the Father’s only-begotten Son, the full number of the sons and daughters of that Kingdom has not yet been reached. Our Lord Jesus warns us that there is work yet to be done and that the Enemy will not go down without a fight.
In today’s parable the Son of Man sows the field of this world. A bountiful crop springs up after Christ casts seed upon the earth. That seed, of course, may be seen as His own precious Blood. An earth in bondage to sin and death—a world estranged from the Good, the True, and the Beautiful by our transgressions—hungrily drinks up the life-blood of Life Himself as it drips from the cross. And those upon whom the Blood of the Lamb graciously falls--those who hear the Word of salvation, repent of their sins, and turn to Christ in faith—take our Lord’s Life—the seeds of eternity--into their hearts, souls, and bodies and are made new. The children of the Kingdom flourish--refreshed by the sacramental waters of Baptism and fed with spiritual food from Christ’s Holy Table.
The Enemy, of course, cannot abide this. For millennia Satan reveled in the thought that he had won a lasting victory. But now with the cross and empty tomb of Jesus the devil’s masterpiece—the decadence of all things and the enslavement of humanity by sin--is in serious jeopardy. He will do whatever it takes to thwart the Redeemer’s work. So the Enemy comes by stealth in the night, a liar and a thief determined to take back what Christ has won at Calvary. And sadly, he finds some who are still receptive to his perverse, Satanic seed. There are some who refuse to accept the wholesome wheat of the Bread of Life and turn instead to the dark stranger in the shadows, following the devices and desires of their hardened hearts. As a result this world—though it has already been purchased by the saving Death and life-giving Resurrection of Jesus Christ--is not yet totally free from evil. There are noxious weeds that still endure even as God’s Kingdom dawns among us.
In a mind-boggling display of His great mercy, God has held back His righteous anger for a time. He has not yet uprooted the weeds in the field, lest harm also come to His treasured wheat. But the day is most assuredly coming when God’s sovereign will again reigns unchallenged on earth as it is in Heaven. Then all things and all people will be judged by what they have done, for what we do in this life makes us who we are—children of the Kingdom or children of the evil one. And the holy angels will come and “gather out of Christ’s kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire.” At the end of days, when our Lord Jesus Christ “is all-in-all,” nothing that is anti-Christ can possibly endure, for the Lord our God is a consuming fire. Perfect righteousness will consume all that is unrighteous. Perfect love will swallow up all that is not love. And there will be nothing left behind to corrupt God’s creation when the One “in whom all things hold together” makes Death a footstool before His throne of Glory and absolute Truth-made-flesh crushes the head of that ancient serpent, the Father of Lies. They shall neither hurt nor destroy on all God’s holy mountain, and “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.