John 17:11-12 Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in thy name, which thou hast given me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled.
You can tell a lot about a people by the songs that they sing, there was a time when people would sing, don't fence me in. Why, well… it probably has to do with our obsession with freedom. We want to do what we want, when we want, and how we want. Fences keep some things in and some things out, many imagine a world without fences would be a good thing. And perhaps that how a really strange animal came to be, its got a really long neck, that's good for looking over fences into everyone else's yard, and wherever it looks, it always looks better on the other side of the fence. Not only does it have a really long neck, but its got 8 arms, and its never happy until all its arms are full of stuff, usually stuff that is on the other side of the fence. The Bible says something about being content with food and clothing, but this animal could never be happy with that. Not only does it have a really long neck, and 8 arms, but its got long legs, so it can climb over fences easier. So what would you call such a beast? Some might think it might be called a giraffelopus, but its not, what it is, is a sinful human being.
If you knew you were a sinful human being, you might think that a natural song would be, We are poor little lambs who have gone astray, baa, baa, baa. The problem is that often we can't even see that the problem is that we have gone astray. We can't see that we've wandered. We can't see that we have gone over the fence. And though we'd like to imagine that if we could only see what the problem is, if we only knew where we were, we could find our way home, and make it safely back on our own - but we can't.
Several weeks ago we talked about one of those big Lutheran words - concupiscence - it describes the sinful nature of man, and the description goes something like this - we are spiritually blind, spiritually dead, and enemies of God - there is nothing good that we can do - we are lost - and we cannot save ourselves - we have transgressed, we have trespassed and we have sinned. Sin separates us from God. The wages of sin is death.
We would like the answer to the problem of sin to be something we can do. We believe. We keep the commandments. We go to church. We tithe. We do good works. And even if we can't do it all, we'd like to think it depends on us contributing something - so Jesus died for my sins, but I believed. The problem is that not only can't we save ourselves, we can't even contribute to our salvation - God has done it all, and presents it free, complete in Christ.
You see, God keeps us in faith, God keeps us in the way of salvation, God keeps us in His pastures. God does all this for us, and what do we do? All we like sheep have wandered, we have each gone our own way.
Law shows us our sin, the Gospel shows us our savior.
Law shows us what we have done, Gospel shows what God has done.
Law shows us where we are, the Gospel shows us where we will find peace.
Law tells us of the wrath of God for our sins, the gospel tells us the love of God, who keep us in the name, keeps us in faith, keeps us in the way of salvation, keeps us in the forgiveness of sins.