Saturday of the Week of Advent II
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” All are corrupt and
commit abominable acts; there is none who does any good.
God looks down from heaven upon us all, to see if there is any who is wise,
if there is one who seeks after God.
Every one has proved faithless; all alike have turned bad;
there is none who does good; no, not one…
Oh, that Israel’s deliverance would come out of Zion!
When God restores the fortunes of his people,
Jacob will rejoice and Israel be glad. (Psalm 53)
St. Paul paraphrases this psalm, when he writes in Romans 3:10-12, “as it is written, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one.”
Reading Psalm 53 without the last verse is like a sermon that is all Law and never gets to the Gospel! It became clear while I was in seminary — and continues true today — that it is much easier for preachers to preach Law, so much so that some short-change the proclamation of the Gospel. At the same time, it is worth noting that some pastors preach only Gospel without the Law, making of the Gospel, as Luther calls it, “cheap jacks wares” — cheap grace.
The psalmist and St. Paul are careful to preach both Law and Gospel, but you have to read all of the psalms to hear the balance even as you have to read all of Paul to hear the fullness of his message. Both emphasize that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Both hold a mirror up to humanity to show us our sin and our need for a divinely appointed Savior. The psalm then looks forward to that deliverer who would come out of Zion (Jesus, son of David) as Paul proclaims, “since all have sinned…they are justified by God’s grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:23-25) This is why Lutherans, in particular, understand that Scripture is both Law and Gospel — command and promise. This is why it’s also true that every sermon humbles us, reminding us that while we sinners cannot save ourselves, thanks be to God that we have a Savior who is Christ the Lord! It is this Savior whom we prepare for and will welcome anew on Christmas Eve. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…” (Isaiah 9:6)
Prayer: O God, we give thanks for the gift of your Son, Jesus our Savior. Amen
Advent Action: In every sermon, listen for both Law and Gospel.