Sunday, June 15, 2008

Today's Sermon

Trinity 4 2008 – Luke 6:36-42 – June 15th, 2008

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
Last week, in Luke 15, we were instructed once again in the old truth, one of the central truths of the Christian faith – that God is merciful – that God desires to show mercy, that God actually and truly desires to show mercy, that He would not begrudge sinful man His Son Christ Jesus, but willingly and lovingly sends Christ to the Cross to die and win us salvation, to restore us to relationship with God. God is merciful. And so today, we hear our Lord Jesus Christ speak and instruct us – for the fact that God is merciful isn’t just a piece of trivia or a nice talking point for Sunday which is to be forgotten as soon as we walk out those doors. No, Christ teaches what this means – let us listen.

Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Well, this is somewhat fitting, as today is Father’s Day. What’s the phrase that we hear about earthly children – why, he’s just a chip off the old block! He’s just like his dad. Several of you sons here look pretty much like your dads, and looking at your dad I pretty much know what you will look like in 20 or 30 years. We have an understanding that sons quite often grow up and end up looking like their father. Do you not know, O Christian, that this also describes who and what you ought to be. At your baptism, you were made, declared to be a child of God, brought into His family. Doesn’t that suggests that as you grow, you should look more and more like him? What we remember today is this – that just as our relationship to God is shaped, is defined by the fact that God is merciful – our lives, the ways in which we act, are to be shaped by God’s mercy – that in all things we are to strive to be merciful, just as our Father is merciful. We are to be mirrors reflecting God’s love and who God is – we are to be chips off of Him.

With this in mind, that we are to be agents of mercy, just as our Father in heaven shows us mercy, we will move on to a wonderful, yet often misquoted and misused passage of Scripture. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven, give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. Four commands, four instructions. Two of them are things that we are not to do, two things that we are to do. And we are given the final reminder – for with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. So, what does all this mean? We know that God is merciful, that He desires to shower mercy upon us. Do we live lives of mercy – or does something else rule our lives? Are our lives ruled by grudges and anger, fear and hate, dissension and bitterness? This is what is being contrasted here – with a warning.

Judge not, and you will not be judged. Do you like judging people, do you like sitting above them, shaking your head, complaining and grousing? Is this the kind of person you like to be? This is not at all merciful – and if you decide that you don’t like mercy, if you are determined to not be shaped by God’s mercy but rather cling to the ability to look down upon your neighbor – God will let you. But He will also treat you the same way – measure it back to you. Let’s face it, if we all want to be judges, God is a bigger and better Judge than any of us. If you want Judgment to rule the day – God isn’t afraid to judge, if you insist – and none of us could stand before God if He were to judge us according to our actions. If God turned us the cold eye we can turn towards our neighbor, none of us could stand. And then, of course – condemn not, and you will not be condemned. Do we like condemnation? Do we like the idea of punishing, of people getting their just deserts, of people getting what’s coming to them? Is that mercy? By no means. But if you want to be a condemner – God can be One too – the only problem is where as we might condemn our neighbor to scorn, to cruel gossip, to mockery – God can condemn us to hell. Again, we don’t want to approach others this way, we don’t want our lives to be shaped this way.

Why? Because desiring to look down upon your neighbor, desiring their punishment is a denial of Christ. Did not Christ Jesus die for all sins upon the Cross? During Communion we will sing “Since Christ has full atonement made, and brought to us salvation, Each Christian therefore may be glad and build on this foundation!” Do we not actually believe that Christ made full atonement, that He covered everything, every sin, right there upon the Cross? Do we not agree with Paul in Romans when he says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” – that condemnation isn’t something we need worry or deal about because Christ has died and won us forgiveness? You can’t have it both ways – you can’t want forgiveness to rule the day as regards your sins, but then constantly whoop and holler and beat down your neighbor for every little thing they do. Why? Because if you forget about forgiveness for your neighbor – if you do not forgive, if you do not give out God’s love and mercy – you’ll stop getting it. And not in a petty sense, as though God’s going to say, “well, if you are going to be that way, fine, I’ll take my ball and go home.” Rather this.

We know that we are sinners in need of God’s mercy. But when you look down upon your neighbor, when you bemoan and lament all their faults, when your thoughts are constantly upon how they’ve done you wrong – are you confessing your own sin? Are you remembering anymore the fact that you yourself need mercy? If we sit in judgment over our neighbor – we can forget that we need mercy – and we can become embittered, and our faith can dry up, become brittle, and die. If we forgo forgiving our neighbor – if we ourselves chose to be hateful and filled with grudges, we forget what God has done for us. If we hold onto hate, we have no room for mercy, and we forget God’s mercy – and we crave it no longer, and we fall away. What’s the old saying – if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck – it’s a duck. If in our lives we walk like one who despises mercy and we talk like people who don’t like forgiveness for our neighbor – we’re going to become people who don’t care about it for ourselves, and we will fall away into unbelief.

This point is further illustrated by a string of parables fired off by Jesus this morning – Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone, when he is fully trained, will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. Did you notice that two of these had to do with how you see? The blind leading the blind. Can’t see. Speck versus log – and if you have a log in your eye, a giant piece of wood or crusty something in your eye – can’t see. We can become blinded by sin – we can become blinded by the desire to rule other people’s lives, to lead them where we think they should go, tell them a piece of our mind, fix things for them. We can desire to rule over others – to judge, to condemn, to tell them what they ought to be doing – while we ourselves turn a blind eye to our own sin. This is the danger – if our focus is upon what our neighbor does wrong – do we worry about, do we repent our own sin?

Christ calls out to us to repent. The log in your eye can be removed – it is removed by the power of forgiveness. When you are forgiven, when forgiveness is the first and foremost thing in your life – then you can see. When you know that you are forgiven, when the log has been taken out of your eye – you will be ready to deal with the speck that your neighbor has – and not by beating them over the head, not by smacking them upside the head and hoping the speck falls out – but by doing the same thing that got the log out of your own eye – showing forgiveness. Forgiving.

We are taught this by Christ - A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone, when he is fully trained, will be like his teacher. We are not above God, we are not better than Jesus – and never will be. But as we are trained, as we grow, we become like Jesus. We become more and more focused on forgiveness, our eyes first check for our own logs and getting rid of them – and then, when we have received forgiveness – we look out upon our neighbor – not to wag the finger, but to give grace, but to give forgiveness, but to show love and mercy as our Father in heaven shows us mercy.

This place, this Church is about this. It is about training, training us to be ever more and more like our teacher, Christ Jesus. We are trained in the ways of mercy – we are trained to continually cry out to God for mercy so that we might not forget that mercy is central to both Christian faith and life. We are given forgiveness, so that we might approach this life as the forgiven. We are given Christ’s own Body and Blood in the Supper – and why? For the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of our faith – or in other words that we might grow and be more like Him. That we might be fully forgiven, that we might be fully trained.

Dear Christian friends – your life as a Christian revolves around forgiveness and mercy. To be a Christian is nothing less than to be a sinner who is forgiven, a sinner who calls out and receives God’s mercy. And here is the wonder – as God gives us this forgiveness, as He gives us this mercy – He shapes us, He makes us more and more like Himself, He continually turns us away from our sin unto Himself. And this we will need over and over, all the time while we live, until the last day, the final day – when we will be raised, when we will be as He is, when we shall be with our Heavenly Father for all eternity, perfected and showing love perfectly as He has gladly shown it to us. Your Father in heaven is indeed merciful to you – rejoice in this, and let this truth shape who you are all of your days. Amen.

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