Sermons 2008
Lawlessness or not? Pentecost 3A, Proper 4A, 1 June 2008, Matthew 7:21-29

Home | Light and Love, Christmas 1B , 28 December 2008, John 1:1-18 | The light and the darkness, Christmas Day, 25 December 2008, John 1:1-14 | What would you see? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2008, Luke 2:1-20 | What did you say? Advent 3B, 14 December 2008, John 1:6-8. 19-28 | A refining fire, Advent 2B, 7 Dec 2008, Mark 1:1-8 | Alert, alert! Advent 1B, 30 November 2008, Mark 13:24-37 | Where will we stand: sheep or goats? Proper 29A 2008, 23 November 2008, Matthew 25: 31-46 | The talents to...? Proper 28A, 16 November 2008, Matthew 25:14-30 | Choose this day, Proper 27A, 9 November 2008, Joshua 24:14-25; Matthew 25:1-13 | All Saints A, 2 November 2008, Matthew 5:1-12; 23:1-12 | Holy or not? Proper 25A, 26 October 2008, Matthew 22:34-46 | Things: God's or Caesar's? Proper 24A, 19 October 2008, Matthew 22:15-22 | The wedding and the allegory, Proper 23A, 12 October 2008, Matthew 22:1-14 | The vineyard and the rock, Proper 22A. 5 October 2008, Matthew 21:33-46 | Deference and disobedience, Proper 21A, 28 September 2008, Exodus 17:1-7; Matthew 21:23-32 | Be content, Proper 20A , 21 September 2008, Matthew 20:1-16 | Only one true church? Proper 18A, 7 September 1008, Matthew 18:15-20 | Be content! Proper 20A, 21 September 2008, Matthew 22:1-16 | Be content! Proper 20A, 21 September 2008, Matthew 20:1-16 | Holy Name and Holy Ground, Proper 17A, Exodus 3:1-15; Matthew 16:21-28 | What's in a name? Proper 16A, 24 August 2008, Matthew 16:13-20 | Dogs? Proper 15A, 17 August 2008, Matthew 15:10-28 | Time to get out of the boat, Proper 14A, 10 August 2008, Matthew 14:22-33 | Who, me? Proper 13A, 3 August 2008, Matthew 14:13-21 | LIKE what? Proper 12A, 27 July 2008, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 | Good seed, bad seed, Proper 11A , 20 July 2008, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 | Watch the Farmer, Proper 10A, 13 July 2009, Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 | Easy Yoke? Proper 9A 2008, 6 July 2008, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 | Baptism of David William and Anne Tyler, Proper 8A, 29 June 2008 | The Twelve or the Dirty Dozen? Proper 6A, 15 June 2008, Matthew 9:35-10:15 | Jesus likes sinners?, Proper 5A, 8 June 2008, Matthew 9:9-13 | Lawlessness or not? Pentecost 3A, Proper 4A, 1 June 2008, Matthew 7:21-29 | What do you mean, if? Easter 6A, 27 April 2008, John 14:15-21 | Comforting words and St Thomas, Easter 5A, 20 April 2008, John 14:1-14 | Ordinary good shepherds, Easter 4A 2008, 13 April 2008, John 10:1-10 | Light for clarity, Easter 3A, 6 April 2008, Luke 24:13-35 | "Blessed are those who....", Easter 2A, 30 March 2008, John 20:19-31 | Hallelujah! He's alive! Easter Sunday A, 23 March 2008, John 20:1-18 | He had it all, Palm Sunday A, 16 March 2008, Matthew 26:14-27:54 | Lazarus: Waiting for Jesus, Lent 5A, 9 March 2008, John 11:1-45 | Miracles Physical and Spiritual, Lent 4A, 2 March 2008, John 9:1-41 | Living Water, Lent 3A, 24 February 2008, John 4:5-42 | God's unselfish love, Lent 2A, 17 February 2008, John 3:1-17 | Temptation, Lent 1A, 10 February 2008 | Ash Wednesday, 6 February 2008, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 | They heard the Lord call, Epiphany 3A, 20 Jan 2008, Matthew 4:12-23 | Come and See! Epiphany 2A, 20 January 2008, John 1: 29-42 | Remember Your Baptism? Epiphany 1A, 13 January 2008, Matthew 3:13-17 | We Three Kings, The Epiphany, 6 January 2008, Matthew 2:1-12

Proper 4A 2008 Matthew 7:21-29

One of the wonderful things about having almost a whole month off was not just the absence of deadlines – sermons and such – nor just the opportunity for recreation and rest. Although those are important things. Rather it was the opportunity to stand aside from the daily round and look at the world from 90 degrees from normal and see what new patterns could emerge.

It is of course a commonplace to say today that the world is a dangerous place. It always has been, really, when you think about it. Indeed the last 100 years have been filled with wars and rumors of wars, economic recessions and depressions, holocausts and genocides, ethnic cleansing and the like. One wonders sometimes, in the night, about the kind of world we are leaving our children and grandchildren. I’m not sure God is pleased with us.

Jesus spoke harshly to those who hid behind empty words and actions. The full phrase in koine Greek is “hoi ergatzomenoi anomian.”.”. Our NRSV lection for today translates it as “you evil doers”. But it literally and actually means “the ones working lawlessness”. Anomia lawlessness more strictly denotes not paying heed to existing law and/or acting as if there were no existing law or laws. (1)))) Anomia connotes a chaos in which the strong and armed terrorize the weak and defenseless. Without much of a stretch it can mean the lawlessness that leads to the destruction of the environment through neglect and inaction.

What caught my attention in my reflections in May was the concept of the “failed state”. In simplest terms a failed state is lawless, anomia: such government as exists is no longer able to impose order on the chaos, and cannot protect its citizens from lawlessness. We have had recent examples of failed states: Lebanon, too many African nations, Iraq if the new government cannot be able to govern, Somalia, Darfur.

And now there is Mexico, careening into a failed state if it isn’t stopped. Recent headlines tell us that in two cities the entire police forces have quit from fear of the drug cartels. Senior Mexican government officials and members of their families have been murdered. Mexican drug cartels are also fighting each other for control of the huge American drug market because of the billions of dollars in annual drug sales here in our own country.

Noted one analysis: “The amount of money involved — estimated at some $40 billion a year — is sufficient to increase tension between these criminal groups and give them the resources to conduct wars against each other. It also provides them with resources to bribe and intimidate government officials. The resources they deploy in some ways are superior to the resources the government employs.” The same source noted that the size of this market is economic incentive for the cartels to expand their operations in the United States with attendant cartel pressure on American government and law enforcement figures and organizations already occurring in Mexico. (2)

Anomia: lawlessness. Jesus was addressing two groups. One group was composed of his fellow Jews – those who were acting as if there were no existing law which embodied the will of God for them. His words, “Then I will declare to them, I never knew you, you who are working lawlessness.”

But his words are a warning to us as well. We are also in danger of the chaos of lawlessness sweeping over us. Underneath our complacent sense of well being and perhaps even false security we suspect that the tendrils of the drug cartels are even now reaching into the Northern Neck and even Northumberland County. Among the poor of our county there have already been murders suspected to be drug related. It seems that we are NOT willing to pay the cost of stopping it by increasing education and law enforcement. Nor are at all likely are we to legalize drugs and remove the huge profits that feed the forty billion dollar a year to the cartels and impoverish even more the poorest among us.

As for the environment recyclable glass, plastic bottles, and cardboard still constitute too much of the refuse in the waste compactor. And there are simple ways we can help out otherwise: for example, using water twice by taking a bucket or pan into the shower and using the captured water to water plants. It also reduces the carbon footprint by not pumping plant water again. In addition reducing our shower time by two minutes each day reduces the carbon footprint 15.3 pounds a month. (3) Think of what would be saved if 200 million adults did this (200,000,000 x 12 x 15.3 =!!!) Left over coffee and grounds are wonderful for azaleas, rhododendron, and mountain laurel. We can all think of many other ways. But acting and being green works only if it becomes part of the nomos (nomos) of our lives. Nomos is the opposite of anomia, nomos is what is proper and right and habitual in our lives. In ancient times it had a comprehensive range of meaning which embraces any kind of existing or accepted norm, order, custom, usage, law, and/or tradition. Nomos is what is valid and in use. (4) Nomos is the opposite of lawlessness and chaos. Nomos is order.

We are the Noah’s of our time. It’s up to us to save it all. There’s no one else. We’re it.

Joshua and Moses in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New all three challenge us: Choose you this day, nomos or anomia, lawfulness or lawlessness, order or chaos, life or death.


1. Libronix electronic TDNT article anomia
2. Stratfor Geopolitical Weekly, Mexico: On the Road to becoming a failed state?, 13 May 2008,
3. Time, 26 May 2008
4. Libronix electronic TDNT, article nomos