Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sermon - 4th Sunday after Trinity

Trinity 4 – Luke 6:36-42 – June 27th, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +

They are off by one verse. It seems as though everyone and his brother, even the worst, most despicable lout on the planet knows a verse from this morning’s gospel, or at least a quarter of the verse. “Judge not, let ye be judged.” Oh, how wonderful, how neat – and don’t you ever, ever even hint or insinuate or suggest that I’m doing something wrong. . . cause then you are judging, and that means you are a bad, bad person. . . . I should hope by now every one of you here realizes that this isn’t the point of our Gospel lesson – in fact, if there were one verse from here to have memorized, one verse that puts all of this into perspective, it is the very first verse of our text today – “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” There it is, there is the key. Be merciful, just like God is. That’s the key to understanding everything in the Gospel.

When we think, when we talk about God – we need to remember and understand that He is merciful. We need to understand that God’s desire is not to condemn, not to damn, not to punish, but to save, to restore, to heal, to bring growth. God is not petty. God does not enjoy tormenting people or showing them who’s boss – He’ll show you that He’s boss if you demand, if you insist, if you mess around with Him – but that’s not what He wants to do. Think about this – why did God make Adam and Eve in the first place? Was it so He could be mean to them – or was it because He loved them and wished to give them a wondrous garden in which to live? Of course it was because of love. And even when Adam and Eve fall, yes, there are consequences, but before God even addresses the consequences, He promises a Savior. Yes, I will send a Savior for you, but in the mean time, you’ve messed up the world a bit Adam and Eve, and things will be rough – here, let Me make you some clothes. Mercy abounds. Luther would call this showing of mercy God’s proper work – how God prefers, first and foremost to act. Punishment, stuff like that, Luther called that God’s alien work – that which is foreign to Him, that which comes about only because on occasion we need to be kept in check, we need to be reminded of our sinfulness. But overwhelmingly, God wants to show mercy, and even if He does punish, does show us our sin, it’s so we will repent and receive mercy.

With this in mind, hear what our Lord teaches us today – “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.” Or in other words – your approach to life is to mirror that of God’s approach – you are to strive for mercy. Judging here doesn’t mean simply seeing that something is wrong, simply observing, but rather placing yourself in a position of authority over another. When I consider my neighbor, shall I seek to be merciful to him and aid him, or shall I set myself above him and say, “You are lousy and horrible”? Which of these is Godly? Shall I pray earnestly that my neighbor be forgiven, or shall I call upon God to damn him? Which of these is Godly? Shall I strive to forgive my neighbor, or shall I say, “No, your wickedness is too great, too big even for Christ on the Cross to handle, I will not forgive.” Which of these is Godly? Shall I be generous with my neighbor, freely helping and aiding him with the blessings God has given me, or shall I turn a blind eye to him in his need, thinking God will fail to support me if I use my stuff to aid my neighbor? Which of these is Godly? The whole point of the instruction here is about our attitude and approach – are we to seek God’s mercy, both for ourselves and for others, or are we going to instead delight in pride and condemnation?

Christ teaches us that we are to be Godly, that we are to be merciful like our Father in heaven, that we are to be people of forgiveness – and if not – well – “For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” God desires mercy. God desires forgiveness. God becomes man and suffers and dies so that there is plenteous forgiveness. That should be the focus, the center, the approach of our life, and when it is, when we confess our sins there is always overflowing forgiveness for us. However – if we choose that we prefer to angrily judge, God can be the angry Judge too. If we want to damn our neighbor, God can be the great Damner too. If we want to withhold forgiveness, withhold aid and care, God can withhold forgiveness and aid and care too. This is the warning Christ gives us – do not reject the God of mercy and love, for that is folly.

And the key to this, the way in which we are kept from falling into sins which reject and despise God’s mercy, sins of pride, of arrogance, of hatred and disdain is two fold. Listen – “He also told them a parable: ‘Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they both not fall into a pit?’” The first key, the first thing to remember as a defense against your pride and arrogance is to remember that you are just as blind, that you are just as foolish, that you are just as lousy as your neighbor. Now, do we believe this? Think about the person this week who annoyed you and upset you the most – do you really believe that you are just as lousy and blind and foolish according to your sinful nature as they are? Cause that’s what Scripture says – and it’s the truth. There is a beauty to understanding this truth – it frees us from pride and animosity – it lets us have compassion. When we get dumped on by someone, we shouldn’t become hateful or angry – we should remember that we too are blind, we should think, “Is this what it feels like to other people when I act the fool - Good Lord, have mercy upon me.” We must know our own blindness first and foremost – and we must tend to it. After all, does not our Lord say, “Why do you see the speck that is in your neighbor’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 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.’”

The second key is to live a life where you receive forgiveness. The only way the log in our eye is taken away is because Christ Jesus Himself took up that log, and was nailed to it and crucified upon it. It is there upon the Cross where Christ wins forgiveness, it is there from the cross where the streams of forgiveness which cleanse us flow from. Christ here is encouraging and instructing you to focus on forgiveness, to see that you yourself receive it, that you delight in it, that you rejoice in it – and when you have, then and only then will you be prepared to help your neighbor rejoice in God’s forgiveness as well. Then you will be able to speak the forgiveness that you have received from Christ to your neighbor. Do we understand that, do we realize how wondrous and how powerful this is? What we have received from Christ, the forgiveness that He has piled upon us, richly, a good measure of it – He has given us the power and authority to speak it, to give it to others. The same flood of love that God used to wash the log out of our eye, the power of His Word, He gives to us to use to cleanse and forgive the speck that is in our neighbor’s eye. We get to be like Christ – we get to be Christians – we get to be little-Christs speaking the Word of forgiveness and life to our neighbor.

Did you not hear what Christ said? “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” You are by no means above Christ your teacher, but when you are trained, when you learn to see things like Christ sees things, when you learn to look at the world through His love, when you desire to show mercy as your Father in heaven shows mercy – then you will be like Christ. You will do Christ like things – you will speak forth Christ’s powerful Word of life and forgiveness. What we learn here in this service, what we receive here, we take out with us and bring to the world. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved – that Word of Christ was given to us, applied to us – and then this week, wherever we go, it is with us, and we may speak it to others so that the Holy Spirit might bring them to belief and forgiveness as well. We complicate so many things in our folly, when we in our sinful blindness try to take charge of things. Dear friends, you need no plan, no program, no massive funding campaign to save the lost. Listen to Christ – by the power of His Word be forgiven, and then you will see clearly to reach out to those suffering from sin, and speak to them the same Word to forgive and restore them.

Be merciful, for your Father in heaven has been merciful to you – for this mercy and love which He has for you shapes and colors everything in your life. It defines you – you are one who has received the Word of life and forgiveness – you are one who now may speak that same Word. This is the reality of your life – do not neglect it for the sake of anger or pride or the desire to rule over your neighbor. Rather, delight in God’s love and mercy to you always, especially throughout this week in the life God gives you to lead this week in the world. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +

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