Sermon for 11.26.23 “The orthodox life”

Last Sunday of the Church Year (Proper 29), November 26, 2023
Text: Matthew 25:31–46
Theme: The end time life, part 2: The Orthodox Life
Other Lessons: Ezekiel 34:11–16, 20–24; Psalm 95:1–7a; 1 Corinthians

(A) In the Name of the Father…Amen.
(B) The Gospel lesson for today serves as our sermon text for this morning.
(C) Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God our heavenly Father through
our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
(D) Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray:
LSB 698:1-2 May We Thy Precepts, Lord, Fulfill
May we Thy precepts, Lord, fulfill
And do on earth our Father’s will
As angels do above;
Still walk in Christ, the living way,
With all Thy children and obey
The law of Christian love.

So may we join Thy name to bless,
Thy grace adore, Thy pow’r confess,
From sin and strife to flee.
One is our calling, one our name,
The end of all our hopes the same,
A crown of life with Thee.


(A) I want you to close your eyes and use your imagination to see a
picture. Imagine, if you can, a world in which people actually did what
Jesus teaches us to do in our Gospel for this morning, Matthew 25:31–46.
(1) “I was hungry and you gave me food.”
(A) Can you see a world in which right-wing, flag-waving,
ultra-nationalists provide food and drink to illegal aliens as they sneak
across the border into this country?
(2) “I was sick and you visited me.”
(A) Can you see a world in which radical LGBTQ activists visit in the
hospital social conservatives who reject same-sex marriage and care for
them when they’re ill and in pain?
(3) “I was in prison and you came to me.”
(A) Can you imagine a world in which true-blue, gun-toting, passionate
law-and-order types leave their weapons at home and go into jails to
encourage and help those imprisoned there?
(B) If you can, then your imagination is better than mine.
(1) For what you are seeing is not any place in this world.
(2) What you are imagining is the kingdom of God.
(3) When Jesus calls us to do these things, and to love our enemies and
pray for those who persecute us, He is not imagining a fantasy world.
(4) He is painting a picture of what it means to follow Him into humanity’s
darkest corners and lift up those we find there into the light of His love.
(5) He is calling us to do for others what He has done for us.
(6) He is calling us to live what might be called the “orthodox life.”
(I) God calls Christians to live an “orthodox life.”
(A) This will sound odd to many because we have come to associate the word
orthodox with teachings, that is, with ideas rather than with actions.
(B) But from the biblical perspective, “orthodoxy”—glorifying God
rightly—is not simply a matter of believing the right things.
(C) An “orthodox life” is a life aligned with God’s will and glorifying Him
by letting the life of Christ manifest itself in us.
(1) God certainly cares that we believe the right things, and He repeatedly
calls upon his people to believe his teachings and to proclaim them
(a) So believing the right teachings is an important aspect of the orthodox
(2) God also calls upon his people to worship Him rightly.
(a) In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, God instructs His
people on how they are to worship Him.
(b) And while it is important to distinguish between what matters to God in
worship and what does not, the whole Scriptures bear witness to God’s
concern that we worship Him in the way that He desires to be worshiped.
(3) Living an orthodox life as we await the Bridegroom’s return is
displayed in how we treat other people.
(a) As St. Paul reminds us in 1 Cor­in­thians 13, even if one:
(1) Can speak in tongues,
(2) has the gift of prophecy,
(3) understands all the mysteries,
(4) has all the knowledge,
(5) and has faith great enough to move mountains,
(6) without love he is nothing (1 Cor 13:1–3).
(D) It is easy to understand why we prefer to ignore this aspect of the
orthodox life.
(1) It is usually much easier to speak the right ideas and to worship in a
proper form.
(2) It is hard to love, and especially hard to love the unlovely.
(3) Yet that is what God says we are to do as we await our Bridegroom’s
(II) The call to live an orthodox life can make us feel quite uncomfortable.
(A) It can make us uncomfortable because it sounds as if God is asking us
to earn our own salvation by our good works.
(1) The language of “reward” and “punishment” is easily misunderstood in a
text like this.
(a) It is important to remember that this is a parable, a story told to
teach a lesson, not an exposition on the doctrine of justification.
(b) When we interpret parables, it is important that we not go beyond the
purpose for which the parable is given.
(1) The purpose of the parable in the teaching ministry of Jesus must guide
our interpretation.
(c) The purpose of this parable, like the parable of the talents from last
Sunday, is to teach the followers of Jesus how they should live as they
await the Bridegroom’s return.
(1) It is a mistake to use the parable for any other purpose.
(2) Within the parable, Jesus speaks these words to those for whom before
the foundation of the world God has already prepared the kingdom for them
to inherit (v 34).
(a) From eternity, God has appointed his Son to be your Savior.
(b) And in time, Christ Jesus went to the cross to prepare a place for you
in his Father’s house.
(c) Those on Jesus’ right will be all those who have believed in his death
and resurrection.
(d) The love they show to others is not the basis of their status before
God; it is a reward for their faithfulness.
(3) The Word of God certainly teaches that God will reward the good works
of Christians (1 Cor 3:8; Mt 5:12; Lk 6:35).
(a) We should not hesitate to teach this even as we make it clear that the
good works that earn this great reward are the fruit of true faith, not the
cause of it.
(B) Most of all, the call to live an orthodox life makes us uncomfortable
because it forces us outside of our comfort zone.
(1) Love demands that we put ourselves out for those who cannot possibly
benefit us in return.
(a) Love gives what it has to provide for those who are hungry and thirsty.
(b) It tends the sick.
(c) Love welcomes strangers, even foreigners.
(d) Love goes into prisons to care for criminals.
(e) Love embraces those who hate it.
(f) Love prays for those who persecute it.
(2) Love does all of this knowing full well that none of those it helps can
possibly do anything in return.
(3) Love does all of this because it has experienced the love of God and
longs to be the means by which God’s love reaches out to all the unlovely,
that they might lovely be.
(III) Who among us has lived this orthodox life?
(A) Only one: Jesus.
(1) You probably cannot imagine how a world like this would be, because
this fallen world can never be that way.
(B) Of all mankind, it is only Jesus who has lived a truly orthodox life, a
life that reflects the perfect love of God to every person in every
(1) But his perfect, orthodox life God counts for you who believe in him.
(2) And his perfect love in going to the cross has paid for all your
“heterodox living,” your failures to love.
(C) So why does Jesus ask you to live such a life?
(1) Because by the grace of God Jesus lives his life in you.
(2) You were put to death in Baptism and raised to a new life … the life of
(3) In faith, you can begin yet again today to live the life of Jesus.
(D) By Faith in the Love Jesus Lived and Died for You, You Can Begin to
Live the “Orthodox Life” each and every day.
(1) Not perfectly, to be sure.
(2) Not until the coming of the Bridegroom will the life of Jesus be
perfectly revealed in you.

(A) But little by little, one act of love at a time, the faith that the
Holy Spirit works in your heart:
(1) through the Word,
(2) born in Baptism,
(3) and nurtured by the body and blood of Christ that you receive at this
(4) little by little,
(5) one act of love at a time,
(6) let the “orthodox life” of Jesus shine in you until the Bridegroom
returns and we are all swallowed up in the glory of the Kingdom revealed.
(B) Let us pray:
LSB 698:3 May We Thy Precepts, Lord, Fulfill
Spirit of life, of love and peace,
Unite our hearts, our joy increase,
Thy gracious help supply.
To each of us the blessing give
In Christian fellowship to live,
In joyful hope to die.
Text: Public domain
(C) The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts
and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
(D) In the Name of the Father…Amen.