Oz Didn't Give Nothing to the Tin Man
Yes, the title is a double negative from the 1974 song "Tin Man" and so means grammatically that Oz did give something to the Tin Man. But the point of that song and this text is: he didn't.
Jesus exposes His disciples in this text as murderers, adulterers, and liars, and we hear that like Dorothy and company skipping off to Oz. Instead of "lions and tigers and bears, O my" we hear "murderers, adulterer, and liars. O my." That's because we're not any of those things according to the people of old, modern or postmodern people.
All of these agree murderers are those who actually take a human life for personal reasons. You can be mad all day, curse your fellow man all night, and you're certainly not in danger of hellfire. The same thing with adultery as long as you stop short of the deed, pornography is perfectly legal and even acceptable in our day. It's laughable to the ancients, to moderns, and post moderns that lusts in the heart could get your body thrown into hell. And the fact we don't keep our word, that we tell people what they want to hear, that when we make a commitment we mean that if there is nothing better to do I'll be there, that can't be of the Devil.
Look at the bulletin cover. Haunting, isn't it? Who's the adversary taking you to court. I'd day that looks like Death, and he is hauling you to the Judge. Adam and Eve we're promised, "Eat of the tree and you die." And through that one man's sin, says Paul, Death came to every man. Death is calling due his note on you. Just on the basis of what has gone on in your heart this morning, you're guilty of hellfire, and you won't get out of it till you have paid the last penny.
In the Wizard of Oz, lions and tigers and bears were no more than O my' till they see the witch's castle. Then they see the real problem isn't lions and tigers and bears that you can O my' away to the back of your mind. No, the problem is bigger, more sinister. It's armed guards, thick walls, flying monkeys and more. They had no resources to fight these.
Our text shows us the castle of the wicked witch too, but it's in us. We're at heart murderers, adulterers, and liars. That's what Jesus says in Matthew 15: "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander." We don't commit murder, adultery, and lie, and so become murderers, adulterers, and liars. No, we are these things. The wicked witch's castle is in our fallen hearts.
You can alter your outward behavior to a degree. You can Eddie Haskell your neighbor, "Yes, Mrs. Cleaver; no, Mrs. Cleaver; what a pretty dress you have on Mrs. Cleaver." You can try digging out your eye and lopping off a hand, but that will no more get to the lust in the bottom of your dank, muddy heart than the monks locking themselves in cells got the dancing girls out of their minds. You can resolve never to tell a lie, but the stock episode on many sitcoms should teach you how foolhardy that is. The resolution never to tell a lie is lying to yourself.
The ancient, the moderns, the post moderns have no real answer. Neither did Oz. Remember Oz's answer to the Tin Man? It was self. He didn't give anything to him but a pocket watch; all along the Tin Man was the tenderest, caring guy of the bunch. The answer of fallen men of all ages is self. Do your best, try harder. You have all you need to be the best you possible. Do you? Can you stop being a crouch, mentally undressing people, or telling people what they want to hear? If not judgment, hellfire, and hell are your future. What then is the answer?
We heard the answer to murder several weeks ago, and it's bloodshed. Not that of those guilty of murder. The blood of a sinner can't pay anything off before God. No, it's the blood that gushed forth from the holy heart of Jesus on the cross whose blood you were first sprinkled with at Baptism. "Receive the sign of the holy cross on the head and the heart in token that thou hast been redeemed by Christ the crucified."
John trumpets, "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin." Hebrews tells us, "There can be no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood," and that the blood of goats and bulls took no sins away, covered up no guilt, didn't satisfy God's wrath even a little. The Blood of Jesus, because it's the Blood of God, does all three. Jesus is going to tell you again today that Cup of Communion is the New Testament in His Blood, shed for the remission of your sins. Not one of yours sins, be it outright murder, anger at your brother, or even a long-held grudge, pokes up through the Blood of Jesus. No, His Blood washes over you and leaves behind a brilliant white robe.
The answer to adultery, be it in the flesh or on the screen, is marriage, and not to any fellow sinner. No, the answer to the 50 shades of adultery that our world defends, embraces, and promotes is not found in being joined to another sinner just like you, but in the Man who was like you in all ways but without sin, in the Man who was tempted in all the ways we are, every single one of them, and yet never gave in.
Married to the Bridegroom Christ through the Waters of Baptism or being bodied and blooded to Him by Holy Communion make you one of those standing in heaven never having been defiled. Paul says of every bride of Christ no matter how dirty, how wrinkled, how stained they start out Christ gave Himself up for you. He has sanctified you having cleansed you by the washing of the Water with the Word in Baptism. So, you stand before Him in all His glory having no spot or wrinkle or anything like that.
I don't think anyone would seriously deny that their marriage changed them. Being married to a fellow sinner means there was good, bad, and even ugly change, but being married to the perfect Lord Jesus can't but be for your good. You're under His providing and protection now. Anyone who would attack you be it the Devil, others, or your own conscience must answer to Him. And no matter what disgusting adultery they charge you with, Jesus says: I was guilty of that; I paid for that. It's over and done with and though you can't forget it, God Himself never remembers it.
The answer to being loose and superficial with our words is not more words from us, more promises from us, more excuses from us. It's God's Word. God's promises. God's oath. We sing about this in a hymn. "His oath, His covenant, and blood/ Support me in the whelming flood/ When every earthly prop gives way, / He then is all my Hope and Stay."
When you catch a kid in lie, fallen sinner that he is, the first thing he tries to do is lie his way out of it. Depending on the age of the child and what is involved, your heart may even go out to him as he digs the pit ever deeper with one lie after another. "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking your to court," is what he should do. And it's what you should do in regard to thinking your words don't bind you. Your excuses, your promises, your justifications sound as silly to God as your kids do to you. And as your heart breaks for your child to come clean admit his guilt so you may absolve him, much more so does the heart of God. He gave up His perfect, beloved Son unto damnation and death, just so He could forgive you.
The Didache which dates to the first century of Christianity says, "You shall not approach prayer with an evil conscience" (4:14). Our Lutheran Confessions speak of this as well saying a heart that thinks God is angry at it will not go to God but cower from Him as Adam did in Eden. Nothing you are, have or can do, can put out the burning wrath of God that is revealed against all unrighteousness. The only thing that does that is the atoning, propitiating work done by Christ in His holy life and guilty death. Jesus is the wrath removing sacrifice. Jesus is the Mercy Seat in whom we can approach God without guilt confident He wants us to be reconciled to Him even as He has reconciled to Himself the whole world through Christ.
How then should we live in light of these forgiving, freeing facts? Well not as the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law. They took refuge in their righteousness. Not us; we take refuge as sons and daughters of the heavenly Father through Christ our brother, as kings and lords under the King of kings and Lord of lords, as brides waiting for the Bridegroom to take us into the Marriage Feast of the Lamb. Children of the heavenly Father live differently than orphans; a king and lord different than a peasant and servant; one waits differently for a Bridegroom and a feast than he does for a Judge and judgment.
This truth, this fact is the food Elijah partook of and went 40 days and nights in the strength of. Don't believe me? That's what Jesus says, "My food is to the do the will of Him who sent Me." And what is the will of the Father who gave up His Son and chose us instead? His will is that we see ourselves covered in the Blood of Jesus; His will is that we be married to the Bridegroom Christ for everlasting salvation; His will is that we rely on His Word to forgives us of what we're most afraid of.
Look at that bulletin cover again. Notice the second man looks like Jesus. This is sort of a double negative in art. At first, it looks like we're the second man and Death is hauling us to hell, but when we see Jesus as the second, we're the first. Our sins and sinfulness have left us gaunt and running away from God toward certain death and judgment. Jesus is pursuing us; begging us to stop our headlong flight away from Him to the Judge. He wills to turn us and have us collapse into His outstretched arms.
Yes, Oz didn't give anything to the Tin Man. Pointing him to self he pointed him the wrong way. Jesus points to Himself and gives us not only the right Way but the Truth and the Life. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany (20170212); Matthew 5: 20-37