The Second Sunday after Pentecost, 14 June 2020
A Sermon on Romans 5:6-15 by Samuel D. Zumwalt
Romans 5:6-15 English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. 12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
SUMMER MUSICALS: SOUTH PACIFIC
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
At first glance, it might seem that a summer preaching series based on musicals might be a rather trivial pursuit. After all, in some cities, the summer musical is a crowd-pleasing staple for both indoor and outdoor venues. So… it might seem this series was meant to be a kind of cheap entertainment instead of a serious engagement with God’s Word, yes, even a distraction from more challenging topics and issues. That’s not what we will be doing with this sermon series.
The World Was A Mess
The 1958 movie version of South Pacific opens with the dramatic musical theme “Bali Hai.” To audiences more accustomed to black and white films, the Technicolor visuals of a South Pacific paradise are bright. Filmed on Kauai and released the year before Hawaii became a state, the movie is set during World War II. Lonely American sailors on the beach sing to Bloody Mary, a local entrepreneur, until a group of nurses pass by. They longingly sing, “There Is Nothing like a Dame.” Only officers are permitted to date nurses, so the enlisted guys can only sing about them.
The scene is almost like Eden, but it doesn’t take long to remember why they are there. The Second World War is raging. The Empire of Japan has its eyes on the Pacific side of the world, and Nazi Germany on the rest. Young men and women are wounded and die in such a world. Some end up in prisoner-of-war camps. Jews are dying by the millions in Nazi concentration camps. The horrors of Japanese atrocities in China and Korea will be widely documented later.
There are locals, too, and a wealthy expatriate Frenchman sets his eyes on a beautiful young American nurse, Nellie. He romances her as he sings, “Some Enchanted Evening.” But she discovers later, after a visit to his home, that he is a widower with two mixed-race children by a Polynesian woman. That goes against her upbringing back in Little Rock. Joe Cable, a young Navy lieutenant from a well-to-do Philadelphia family, also falls for a lovely young Polynesian. He sings to and about her in “Younger than Springtime.” But, as he talks with Nellie, he remembers, “My Girl Back Home,” and the life his family has planned for him in their professional firm. When Nellie breaks off the romance with Emile, telling him that she can’t marry him because of his mixed race children, the Frenchman reacts angrily. Joe, the young Philadelphian, explains racial prejudice in the song that carries the principal storyline of the musical: “You’ve Got to be Taught.” Oscar Hammerstein’s words are powerful: “You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, Before you are six or seven or eight, To hate all the people your relatives hate, You’ve got to be carefully taught!”
Hammerstein and Rogers were both ethnically Jewish. By the time South Pacific opened on Broadway in 1949, the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust were known, and the modern state of Israel had been founded. By the time the movie opened in theaters in 1958, President Eisenhower had already sent troops to Little Rock to make sure nine black students were admitted to Central High School. Hammerstein’s lyrics make the point that American men and women of every race had fought a war to preserve the freedoms enshrined in our constitution. There is a better way than the way of bigotry based on what you’ve been taught by parents, teachers, and politicians.
Because there’s a war, Lieutenant Cable is killed before he can marry Liat, the lovely daughter of Bloody Mary. But Nellie and Emile are reunited after she almost loses him, too. The movie ends with Emile, Nellie, and his children at an outdoor dinner table singing: “Dite-moi,” which is “Tell me why, oh why, this life is beauty. Tell me why, oh why, this life brings joy. Tell me why, oh why, my lovely lady. Could it be, really be, you love me?” Emile and Nellie grasp hands. Love is stronger than bigotry. It always is. Nellie has learned that. That makes all the difference.
The World Still Is A Mess
It almost goes without saying that racial prejudice is still with us, and it is being cynically exploited by Hollywood, media, big business, and politicians. Even to say that may get you fired, suspended, or kicked off social media. There are more than a few who are willing to teach us racial prejudice. But if you believe prejudice is more than a black and white issue, then you’ve not only been paying attention. It means you are trying to practice the Christian faith, which is colorblind, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught. All lives matter to God, born and unborn!
The murder of George Floyd was inexcusable. The murder and maiming of cops, the looting and burning off cities, and the very notion of getting rid of law enforcement are all inexcusable, too. These are symptomatic of something much deeper than the bold-faced lie that America is a racist nation. It’s a lie to teach that for we fought a war to end slavery, elected a black president, black Supreme Court justices, black elected officials in government, and have black leaders in industry, the military, academia, the media, music and sports. Saying otherwise is a nasty lie.
When we are carefully taught to hate those not like us, and that’s the result of this present unrest, it’s the sickness unto death that came into the world when Adam rebelled against God. If anyone believes that Donald Trump is the problem, he or she might do well to listen to black pastors, intellectuals, and leaders who see through the teaching of hate that is tearing this country apart. Honestly, Joe Biden has a much greater documented history of bigoted remarks than Trump, who is no icon of moral rectitude and purity. But, dear ones, please: racial prejudice is only one symptom of the sin, death, and evil that came into the world through Adam and continue with us.
We die, because God did not create us to be ruled by sin and evil. George Floyd was no angel or martyr for the Christian faith. George Floyd died, because we live in a world where sin and evil infect every heart and mind. Tearing down statues of those who owned slaves or fought for the South will not cure the sin-sickness and evil in our soul. That would be like saying that razing Auschwitz and Dachau would cure anti-Semitism. These idiots who destroy do so because they cannot create. Both careful and reckless teaching of hate only produces more hate. And, finally, the day of reckoning will come when God, who hates sin and evil, will pull the plug on all this. May God have mercy on all who are tearing this country apart every day. Judgment is coming!
Only Christ Can Clean Up This Mess
While we were weak – and we still are weak as the past few months of political theater, Covid, and now rioting make clear – while we were weak, Christ died for the ungodly… you and me, George Floyd, Derek Chauvin, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, and so on and so on and scooby dooby dooby. God showed His love for us by sending His Son Jesus to die for my sins, your sins, and everyone’s sins… including those we’ve been taught to hate!
That means that Jesus really is the only One who can clean up this mess, and He already has died the death everyone deserves including Derek Chauvin and those who killed retired black police officer David Dorn in St. Louis and black federal officer Patrick Underwood in Oakland. Yes, Jesus died for the sins of the 20 million women who aborted their black babies and even for the abortionists who killed those babies along with another 40 million unborn Americans since 1973. Jesus died for the seven Supreme Court justices who ruled that Roe v. Wade was constitutional and thus sealed the fate, yes making possible the legal murder, of the unborn in America. Jesus died for all the politicians, the professors, the media, the entertainers, and all the voters who have sung the praises of legal abortion. Their hands are bloody, and so are yours and mine, because our tax money supports legal abortion. It goes to those who legally murder. And that’s on us!
Only Jesus can clean up this mess, and He does it one life at a time as we are baptized into His death and resurrection, as we hear His Word of forgiveness, and as we receive Jesus in the host and cup. Only Jesus can cure the sin-sickness in every heart and mind. Only Jesus can save us!
If you are a Christian, and you are if you have been baptized into His saving death and glorious resurrection, then Christ is counting on you. You will tell the truth that carefully teaching hate will only produce more hate. You will tell the truth that the only cure for sin, death, and evil is Jesus Christ. And you will tell the truth, especially when you are scared or lazy. Ask it out loud: “So, what is the logical consequence of hate, lawlessness, looting, burning, and doing violence against your neighbor?” You will tell the truth to everyone. Only Jesus can save us. Only Jesus!
This world won’t be saved by anyone other than God’s Son Jesus. This world as we know it will come to an end for everyone and everything. If you want everyone to have a happy ending, then tell them about Jesus, who died for their sins. If you want things to be better, don’t confess sins you didn’t commit, don’t keep repeating false gospels that won’t save, no, act like God’s child. Don’t pass along the hate. Tell everyone, especially the children, only Jesus can save us!
In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
©Samuel David Zumwalt
St. Matthew’s Ev. Lutheran Church
Wilmington, North Carolina USA
Summer Musicals: South Pacific
“O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.” (The Daily Prayer of the Church, 616).
Romans 5:6 “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Origen [Late 2nd – early 3rd century Bible scholar and theologian in Alexandria, Egypt]: “For we were ungodly before we turned to God, and Christ died for us before we believed. Undoubtedly he would not have done this unless either he himself or God the Father, who gave up his only begotten Son for the redemption of the ungodly, had superabundant love toward us” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Romans, 131).
Romans 5:9 “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more will we be saved….”
Ambrosiaster [Late 4th century Latin commentator on Paul’s epistles]: “… If God allowed his Son to be killed for sinners’ sake, what will he do for those who have been justified except save them from wrath, that is, preserve them unharmed from the deception of Satan so that they will be safe on the day of judgment, when revenge will begin to destroy the wicked” (132).
Romans 5:11 “…rejoice…through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom…received reconciliation.”
Ambrosiaster: “… we should thank God, for the salvation and assurance which we have received, but that we should also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, because through his Son the Mediator God has been pleased to call us his friends. Therefore we can rejoice that we have received every blessing through Christ, that through him we have come to know God” (133-134).
Romans 5:15 “For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.”
St. John Chrysostom [Late 4th – early 5th century Patriarch of Constantinople, Turkey]: “Adam is a type of Christ in that just as those who descended from him inherited death, even though they had not eaten of the fruit of the tree. So also those who are descended from Christ inherit his righteousness, even though they did not produce it themselves” (142). “That one man should be punished on account of another does not seem reasonable, but that one man should be saved on account of another is both more suitable and more reasonable. So if it is true that the former happened, much more should the latter have happened as well!” (144),
- For whom would you be willing to give your life? Then, whom not, specifically?
- Do I understand that the obedient Son of God is the kind of person God wills me to be?
Table of Duties
Certain passages of Scripture for Various Holy Orders and Positions, by Which These People Are to Be Admonished, as a Special Lesson, about Their Office and Service
“Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mt 22:21).
“Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:5-7).
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1).
“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:13-14) (Luther’s Small Catechism).
- Pray for every unbaptized child you know and for the child’s parents, too.
- Pray for your unchurched loved ones and friends. Invite one or more of them to worship.
- Discuss with your spouse, your family, or a friend the responsibilities of citizenship in this land at mealtime over several days. If you have children or youth, talk about God’s gift of civil authority.
- Set aside time daily, preferably first thing, but when you are able to focus, to hear the Word of God, to reflect upon that Word, and to ask the Holy Spirit to grant you grace to be shaped by and conformed to that Word. Daily Bible readings may be found at www.stmatthewsch.org. If you haven’t previously done so, please ask for a devotional booklet when you drive through to receive the Body and Blood of Christ this weekend. Daily lectionary readings are on p.189 in the front of the Lutheran Book of Worship (Year Two, Week of 2 Pentecost).
For Husbands and Wives
Repeat daily: “I (name) take you (name) to be my wedded wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my faith.”