Gift. That's the word of the day today. Gift. What is a gift? A gift is something someone gives you the you didn't have to pay for. You didn't have to earn it. You didn't have to negotiate for it. It's a gift, given from the kindness of the giver. Adam didn't even exist, but God made man and gave him everything. Rivers. Gold. Animals. Plants. The whole earth and all that was in it. A gift for Adam and his wife. Likewise Jesus gives the 4,000 the gift of food. They didn't bring enough. They didn't prepare, plan ahead, or bring enough money. His disciples didn't know how they could feed everyone. So Jesus takes the little that they have and multiplies it for everyone to have some. That's a gift. And St. Paul tells us that the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Eternal life. A gift. You can't get that on your own. Paul tells us about wages too. Wages are what you earn. Work so many hours, clock in, and get your paycheck. That's wages. And what your sins have earned is death. But God has a gift for you. Eternal life in Christ Jesus. He comes into this world as a gift to you, to save you and forgive you, to live and die for you. Undeserved. Unasked for. Jesus. Gift.
Our sin is that we reject gifts from God and that we put conditions on gifts for our neighbor. The Lord doesn't just give us food for our tummies. He gives us the gifts of eternal life in His Word and water and body and blood. And we reject those gifts. We ignore them. We act as if we don't need them. Don't want them. We'd maybe skip a meal once in awhile if we were busy but we can let weeks go by between coming to receive the meal of salvation. Our jobs and families demand that we punch the clock, feed ourselves and keep the laundry mostly done and we do those things whether we like it or not. But what about hearing God's Word and praying? Easily forgotten or skipped. And when we receive Jesus's gifts for ourselves, we turn them into wages for others. Sure, it is a gift for you to receive the forgiveness of all of your sins, but you would attach strings to it and make others work for it. What must the people in your life do to be deserving enough of your forgiveness? What conditions and strings do you attach to the forgiveness you would give to others? What limits do you put upon your kindness and good deeds for others? "Sure, I'll help you if you... I can lend you if you can... If you do this, THEN I'll do what you need or ask." Repent. Flee the wages! Don't think you must punch a clock with God to get what He has for you and don't put others on the clock either. Forgive! Give! Live in the glad confidence and freedom that everything God gives you is a gift. No strings attached. Don't have to get it yourself. Don't have to try to keep it yourself. He gives you all things freely.
Living as if things are a wage, as if you earn what you get from God--that's being a slave to sin. That's the life of keeping score and watching your back. But St. Paul tells us we have been crucified with Christ. We are dead to sin and that means dead to the way of measuring and accounting. You are alive in Christ, you are dead to sin and alive to righteousness. Your baptism has made it so. The water and Word have crucified your Old Adam and raised to life your new man. And whenever the Old Adam starts trying to shove his way to the time clock, when you start to figure things are running the way of 40 hours and overtime with God, then that Old Adam has to be put to death once again. Drowned in the remembrance of your baptism. Put down by the proclamation of Holy Absolution. Shoved aside by Jesus with His body and blood put into you. Jesus is rescuing you from the life that lives on the clock of counting your hours and getting paid for your sins. Instead, He gives you gifts! Gifts given to Adam and Eve. Gifts given to the 4,000. Gifts given to you. Gifts to be received with thanksgiving and joy, knowing you don't have to try to impress God to get them. Gifts that forgive and save and give eternal life. Gifts for this life like food and clothing and all that. It is a great relief and lifting of a burden to recognize that God is not a divine scorekeeper. He's a divine gift giver. And Christ has come in the flesh, God Himself coming to deliver those gifts in person. Wages. Earned. Death. But in Christ? Gift. Given freely. Eternal life. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Sermon Topics: Romans