Eleventh Sunday after Trinity
Luke 18:9-14; Genesis 4:1-15
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I’m going to say it again: there are only two religions in the world. If it’s been a while since you’ve heard me say that, you may be surprised to hear it. After all, there are multiple -isms and -anities out there, and it’s impossible to keep them all straight. Volumes have been written which only give synopses of the world’s many religions. However, when you get to the core tenets and facets of these world religions, they fall only into two types of religions. In many ways, they are polar opposites, yet they can be indistinguishable in many instances. And while the religions are polar opposites, the core tenets are, for all intents and purposes, complementary. Today’s Old Testament and Gospel lessons show the two religions at work.
One religion is that of the Law; the other is the religion of the Gospel. Law and Gospel are complementary in that you cannot have one without the other—the Law shows you your need for the Gospel, since you cannot keep it, and the Gospel tells you that the Law in fulfilled for you by another. However, the religion of the Law and the religion of the Gospel are polar opposites. St. Paul relates that the religion of the Law is of the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh. He states that this religion is the way of death. For, walking “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience...in the lusts of [the] flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind,...by nature children of wrath,” adherents to the religion of the Law are dead in the trespasses and sins. (cf. Ephesians 2:1-3) Elsewhere, the apostle wrote, “...the law brings about wrath....” (Romans 4:15a) However, the religion of the Gospel declares that we are saved by grace through faith—and this faith is the gift of God, it is from the Gospel, not borne of works, not of the Law, lest anyone should boast. (cf. Ephesians 2:8-10)