Twenty-second Sunday After Pentecost
Kenneth C. Kroohs
Exodus 22:21-27; Psalm 1; I Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34- 46
October 24, 1999
Is God's love for us earned? Or is it free and unconditional? ..... Now we all know the standard answer for that. ... God's love is free -- a gift -- what we call "grace". But what do we believe? Deep down in our hearts -- what do we believe? And even if we do believe God's love is a free gift -- do we then think it obligates us pay God back? .... Because if we are obligated to pay God back, then it is not really free.
Those are much more difficult questions than most of us will admit. Intellectually we know what the church teaches. In fact all churches teach essentially the same answer -- God's love is a free gift. That was one of the primary issues around which the reformation was fought. Next week the Lutherans and Roman Catholics will sign a "formula of agreement" which essentially states that both groups agree that God's love is a free gift -- that justification is by faith and not by works.
And yet ... how do we hear phrases like the one in our opening collect -- opening prayer for today? "that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command"? It could be heard as asking God to shape us .. to force us to do what is commanded, and even to enjoy obeying the commands! Become happy, contented robots.
Fortunately that is not what Scripture teaches! I say "fortunately" because I, for one do not like the idea of being a robot. I like the idea of having free will -- even if I use it so poorly at times.
The issue is not blind obedience ... the issue is learning how to accept God's love. ..... Learning how to accept a free gift of unconditional love which does not obligate us to anything. .... Sounds easy to do. But very few of us can do it. If we find a $20 bill blowing around in the park we might be able to accept it as a "gift" -- something we can enjoy witho ...
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