We are as Christians, morning people. Not because we gather in worship early on Sunday mornings, but because Paul tells us so in his letter to the Romans. We are urged to be morning people because we have been living in the darkness of sin, not focusing on the coming light of Christ. Paul says that we are at the break of dawn, the sky brightens, the alarm rings, and a new day is at hand.
As Christ followers,
- it’s time to awaken our slumbering and sinful lives,
- it’s time to open the drapes and let the light shine on what God is doing in the world,
- it’s time to live together in the dawning day of God’s love and salvation.
Paul writes passionately about the coming day of Christ’s return…
You know what kind of times we live in, don’t get caught up in all its distractions. I know it’s easy to get overwhelmed and loose track of what is really important. We loose track of time, get too exhausted to focus on faith and snooze through life. But it is time to wake up! The sketchiness and shadows of our night is almost over, a new day is about to break. The saving work of God is ramping up; pay attention to what God is doing like you did when your faith was first on fire!
So slackers shake off your sin and sleepiness and do as people do in the light of day. Stop your wild partying, indecent, and raucous behavior. While you’re at it, cut out your fighting and wanting everything you see. Hurry up and get ready, Jesus is as near to you as the clothes on your back. When you realize that, you will live in the light and not just to satisfy your selfish desires.
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This is typical of Paul who in the letter to the Romans focuses on how keeping the Law of Moses or trying to live a perfect Christian life isn’t possible, and doing so can’t save you or anyone else. Paul reminds that salvation is God’s ongoing work and in this part of the letter points to a higher law. But Paul knows that the Romans and you and I just want a check-list, a how-to guide with instructions on what to do and how we can save ourselves and earn God’s favor.
Today Paul boils it all down, makes it a simple as he can, and almost seems a little frustrated that we just don’t seem to get it…
You still think it’s about keeping the law. Well you still want the law? I’ll give you the law, the law that really matters, the law that trumps all others… Love one another. Love fulfills all law perfectly. There is nothing else to say, Jesus has already said it!
Martin Luther in preaching on this text said that, “The commandment of love is not a long one; it is short. It is one injunction, not many. It is even not a commandment, and at the same time is all commandments.”
Paul’s teaching moment in this part of his letter is that there is really only one commandment, love. Love is universal, love is unconditional, and love is unearned. But love is not unexpected; it is the centerpiece of our understanding of the law and gospel, of God’s expectation of us and of what we can expect of God. God’s nature is love, God is love and so knowing this, that we are and will be saved by grace, and that we’re liberated by God’s love to love one another…
- How do we wake-up and live as morning people?
- What does it mean for us individually and as a faith community to clothe ourselves in love and live in the light of Christ?
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As morning people, September brings new routines, new school years, new fall schedules and activities. Many welcome this fresh start, embrace new beginnings, love the dawn of a new day, and are open to the possibilities of what is to come. And what is to come is the saving work of God. God on the loose, active in and through you and in all that we do as baptized children of the light. But for some, morning comes too soon. Sleepless nights and slow starts bog us down and we long to hit life’s snooze button.
But the light dawns on new days and new beginnings…
- The light comes whether we want it to, or not.
- The light breaks into our lives whether we are ready for it, or not.
- The light of God shines through the Word made flesh and the Spirit that sustains all.
Like grace, forgiveness, and faith, the morning light dawns as a gift. We are awash in light, a bright baptismal life, each and every day, the gift of love by the God who is, was and will be love forever shining for us, in us and through us.
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We are also mourning (spelled m-o-u-r-n-i-n-g) people who experience September as the beginning of the end. We sense and see winters dark days, chilling cold and snowy storms even on the most bright and beautiful day. We shiver at the thought of change. We want to stay in bed, pull the covers up over our heads and hang-on to our selfish summer slumber.
We wonder, we grumble, and we grieve for the old days and the way things are…
- We don’t want to get up. We hate all these changes, and hit the snooze button.
- We don’t want to give up our sinful ways. We long for the old days and familiar ways.
- We don’t want to get over our selfishness. We want it our way and we want it now!
Like the Romans, we don’t see why we can’t party all night long. We’ve kept most of the commandments, our report card would be okay to put on the refrigerator door, I haven’t killed anyone, haven’t ripped anyone off, haven’t cheated, I’m here in church today aren’t I? But Paul echoes Jesus by summing up all the law with the words, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And we mourning people know it is easier to keep things the way they are than it is to love ones neighbor as oneself.
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No matter how you spell it, we are morning/mourning people, saints and sinners all. No matter how you deal with it, the calendar has been turned to September the night will be replaced by the light of a new day. And this time of year also is a time for new clothes, something Paul mentions in his letter.
Now Paul wasn’t talking about new clothes for school, new work clothes for fall, or new uniforms for fall sports. Paul was talking about clothes for you and me, morning/mourning people…
- New clothes can be exciting to plan, shop and wear. New clothes can look and feel good.
- New clothes can get you noticed and draw compliments. New clothes can help you fit in.
- New clothes can get you noticed and draw criticism. New clothes can create fear that you will stand out for all the wrong reasons, won’t be accepted, or fit in.
New clothes make us long for bright and fresh new mornings, and new clothes make us anxious and apprehensive. We mourn for how new clothes used to make us feel and wish it were so dark, no one would notice what we are wearing.
For Paul, he sees new clothes as a Baptismal garment, how we put on Christ, are wrapped in freedom and forgiveness each day, illuminated in clothes of life-giving love. Paul teaches us that the law has not gone away, but that all the commandments are gathered up into the love of God.
- A love that shown from the darkness of the cross of Christ.
- A love that flows from the life-giving waters and light of baptism.
- A love that Christ put on as all humankind, so that we may freely wear the illuminated garment of Christ.
Paul turns on the light and gives us a wake-up call with the alarm clock of grace. He reminds us that the day has come and we need to get dressed. He encourages us to face the new day wearing the clothes that Christ has laid out for us, the ultimate fashion statement, Love. We have been awakened, forgiven and fed with God’s Word to live in love and light… Morning people, may it radiate from each of you. Amen.