The requests we made of God in today’s Collect summarize the Readings perfectly. Both Moses and Jesus showed us how impossible the Law is. Jesus shows us how easy it is to break the Law, especially when it comes to adultery and murder. We may think we are doing okay, but our hearts produce all kinds of evil. Before our hands or feet or eyes even have a chance to sin, the heart is already long down the path. The only hope we have in this life and the next is that God, of His great mercy, would keep us in His grace.
If you read the first page of today’s Bulletin, you saw an explanation about the Readings for the next few weeks. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s worth your time to read later today. The next several weeks in this long Trinity season will take a look at the topic of sanctification, that is, our Christian life and how we live the faith, especially how we’re doing with that phrase from the Post-Communion Collect, living in faith toward God and fervent love toward one another.
If you came to church today feeling like you were a fairly decent person, I’m sure the Readings we have heard today have changed that perception. “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” doesn’t sound like much Gospel. For as bad of a rap as we give them, the Pharisees were good people in a worldly definition of good. They were the people you would trust with the most intimate secrets, knowing the combination to the safes at Fort Knox, and the like. They were good people. They strove to do everything correctly, to be honest and upright people. They did it for the wrong reasons, of course, but to the outside world they made the saintliest grandmother look like the member of a biker gang. So, unless you’re better than them, there’s no way you’re entering heaven. And since you’ve been confronted by the Ten Commandments, St. Paul’s admonition to stop living in sin, and Jesus’ revelation that keeping the Ten Commandments is far more than simply keeping the letter of the law, you have been shown that, no, there is no way your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, and, no, you cannot hope to enter heaven on your own merits.