August 6th, 2023 Romans 9:1-5

Remember the Tin man from the Wizard of Oz? What he wanted more than anything was to have a heart. He saw himself as an emotionless hunk of metal trapped in a tin body and incapable of feeling. He wanted to know what it was like to have compassion. In the end, what we remember most about the Tin man is that what he so desired – to have a heart – was what he had all along.

Today, we learn the same thing is true of Christians. The apostle Paul relates this truth to us in a very personal way. We learn that CHRISTIANS HAVE A HEART

Why are you here today? The obvious answer: “it’s Sunday, pastor!” That is true. Sunday brings us to church. But why? Get behind the question. Why are you here? You’re here because someone cared about you. Someone thought enough to share Christ Jesus with you. Someone had a heart. Perhaps it was your parents, your grandparents, a pastor or a Sunday school teacher (or all of the above). Either way, someone had a heart for others, namely you.

The apostle Paul tips his hand and shows us that he had a heart. He had a heart for his fellow-Jews: “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.”

The apostle Paul has been accused of being many things: a male chauvinist, homophobic, anti-Semitic; the list could go on. Yet, all those are bold-faced lies! They are godless attempts to try and undermine the truth of Scripture – Christians have a heart! Paul had a heart for others. In this case, he tells the Romans, and us, that his heart bled for his fellow Jews. The reason for his sorrow and anguish is that his own people had rejected Jesus of Nazareth as the Savior of the world.

He was hardly able to find the words to express his feelings. When he considered what his fellow Israelites had given up, it nearly drove Paul mad. His heart ached for these people! They were so close and yet so far! He talks about the gracious blessings God had given to these special people: “Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised!

Two men were in a boat on the river leading to Niagara Falls. Suddenly, they found themselves out of control and being swiftly carried by the current towards the falls. A safety line was floated out to both men. The first man simply reached out and grabbed, trusting it would save him. The other man saw the rope, but at the same instant he saw the rope, a log floated near him. Thoughtless and confused, the man laid hold of the log instead of the rope. It was a fatal mistake. Both men were in imminent peril. The one was drawn to shore because the rope was connected to it, while the other man, clinging to the loose, floating log, was swept away in the foaming current.

Faith has a saving connection with Christ. Christ is on the shore, so to speak, holding the rope, and as we lay hold of it with the hand of our confidence in him, he pulls us to shore. Any attempt to look to ourselves for salvation is merely a floating log that offers a feeling of buoyancy while allowing one to drift away from salvation. Grasp our virtues as tightly as we may, even with hooks of steel, they cannot benefit us in the least degree. They are the disconnected logs that have no hold on the heavenly shore. Christ is the only way. Many ropes were cast out to the Israelites. Paul lists them. They were the chosen people of God. And this was simply a gift of his grace. They had a unique place in God’s heart; calling Israel, “his son.”

God’s own presence was cast upon these people. The “glory of the LORD” led this nation through the wilderness as a pillar of fire and smoke. His presence filled the tabernacle and later the temple.

God cast out covenants and promises to them. He said, “I will be your God.” No doubt Paul had in mind the wonderful gospel covenant the LORD made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; promising that all nations on earth would be blessed – a promise of the Savior. No other nation stood before God as the Israelites did at the foot of Mt. Sinai and heard the very voice of God as he spoke his good and just commands to them.

No other nation worshipped the way Israel did. In fact, they worshipped the living God. Their worship included animal sacrifices, a promise that pointed their attention to the future sacrifice of the Lamb of God, the Savior of all. The greatest privilege and blessing God had given was that they could trace human ancestry of Christ Jesus back to themselves.

All those safety lines that were cast out to the people of Israel! They chose to turn to the floating logs of their own logic and sense of righteousness. The kingdom was divided, and so were the people. They no longer had a heart for one another, but only for themselves.

Paul loved his fellow Jews. He says: “For I wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. St. Paul had been led to see Jesus as the promised Messiah, as he says, “who is God over all, forever praised. Amen.” The Holy Spirit had given him faith in Christ, so he could reach out his hand and grab the “rope of salvation” offered to him. He wishes that, if it were possible, God would cut that rope, if it would bring about Israel’s conversion. He was willing to be condemned for the very people who condemned him. This is the very heart that led our Savior to suffer hell on the cross in our place.

Do we have such a heart? The heart of Christ has been revealed to us. Flee to the cross and bring your hatred and apathy towards others to the cross, place them at your Savior’s feet, and see how his precious blood washes them away. By God’s grace, his heart has been revealed to you. We have the truth! The Scriptures reveal it to us. As John says in his Gospel: “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”   Only the Word of Truth can give us a heart for the truth.

As Paul says: “I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit.” All that the apostle says is spoken as an ambassador of Jesus Christ. This same Jesus was born a Jew, a descendant of the patriarchs, according to his human nature. He is the promised Christ “who is God over all, forever praised!” Paul loved the message of the gospel. And he longed to share that message with all people, especially his fellow Jews who had turned from it. Only Israel had heroes of faith like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David, and Solomon. Paul wanted his fellow Israelites to have the God-given faith to grab a hold of the rope of promise and believe!

It takes people who have a heart for people to share this truth with people. We need to be in the Word of God, a people growing, so that we can share the Word of God. Pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to shower you with the heart of Christ and fill you with a love for others. He will answer that prayer and he will sustain you. He’ll lead you to the means of grace – the gospel in Word and Sacrament. There he will fill your heart with a love for others and a love for the truth.

Now is the time - the time to go to a lost world with the love of Christ! You have a heart – Christ’ heart has been revealed to you! So, have a heart – share what you’ve been given! Amen.