Sunday, August 17, 2008

This morning's sermon

Back from vacation. . . 1650 mile road trip in 8 days!

Trinity 13 – August 17th, 2008 – Luke 10:23-37

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
It’s a sad question that we hear this lawyer use to put Christ to the test this morning. Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? What shall I do? What do I have to do to get this done? How much is this going to cost me? It’s almost as though the guy is opening up the doctor’s bill thinking, “How much did this set me back?” What do I have to do? Jesus turns it back at him. What’s written in the Law? If you want to know about what you are supposed to do – you look at God’s Law. And the man gives the right answer – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. Spot on. That’s what the Law demands of us – and if we were to do it, we would live, we would have life in ourselves.

And the guy’s embarrassed now – that’s a simple question. That’s one that the kindergarterners at VBS knew by the end of it – not the question worthy of a lawyer. So he starts scrambling around – okay, so who is my neighbor? And Jesus responds with a story. A man is headed to Jericho from Jerusalem. Now, the path between these two cities is short enough to make it in a day – but it’s rocky, and through hills, through passes – which means it’s a dangerous road. There are lots of caves for robbers to hide in, there are lots of blind corners for thieves to hide behind. And this fellow gets robbed and beaten, left for dead on the side of the road.

A priest is traveling – one of the religious hierarchy – a good, good man. Well respected. He sees the man beaten on the side of the road. What does he do? He speeds up – he gets on his way. Look, the robbers are out – I had best get a move on it lest they attack me too. A Levite comes by – one of the well to do Jewish folk – someone who would know the Law of God well. Same thing – time to skedaddle on by. And then a third person. A Samaritan comes by. Now, Samaritans were looked down on. They were the descendants of the old Northern Kingdom that had mixed and mingled with foreign folks – in the Jewish mind they were nothing less than half blood traitors, and were hated. Did you look down on anyone this past week because of the color of their skin – or the language they were speaking? That’s how the typical Jew in Jesus day would have viewed a Samaritan. And this Samaritan sees this man who is beaten and about dead. And the Samaritan’s thoughts aren’t about himself – the Samaritan doesn’t think to run off. Rather, this Samaritan, this hated person, has compassion. He stops, he tends to this man. He puts the man on his own animal. Do you see what this means? This Samaritan was probably a frequent traveler, the animal would know the way between Jericho and Jerusalem. If the robbers came, the animal would flee to Jericho, taking the man to safety while this Samaritan would be left to be beaten and abused – oh, and especially beaten and abused because he was a Samaritan. The Samaritan risks his own safety to care for this beaten man.

Then they reach the inn. The Samaritan continues to care for the beaten man. Then, as he has business to attend to, he pays the innkeeper two denarii – Enough to care for the man for a while, even tells the innkeeper, with whom he is familiar – if he needs more, give it and I will pay you when next I come through. Fantastic care and love – and all to a man so beaten and broken that he may not even know who helped him. The guy is probably still passed out – so the Samaritan isn’t wanting thanks, isn’t wanting praise – he helps the guy and then moves on.

So, which one is the neighbor? Which one does what God commands? The Samaritan. And see how he loves – fully, completely, well and full and even at cost to himself, even at risk to himself. That is what God demands in His Law. Do you wish to live by the Law? Then be prepared to work, be prepared to suffer – all for the sake of your neighbor, even the ones who despise you, even the ones who hate you, even the ones who wouldn’t have lifted a finger if they saw you dying on the side of road.

The Law isn’t easy to do. In fact, if you saunter on up and think, “I’ll just do what the law says” – you’ll get beaten down. The Law will beat you to death, leave you lying broken on the side the road. We sinful men can’t do it. You do realize that this is part of the story. When we think of a story of Christ, one that He tells, we should ask ourselves where we fit, who we are in the story. We’re the beaten man. We are the one who lies broken. Oh, most of the time we try not to think of ourselves that way, we simply assume that we are good folks who do things well. Well, how about it. Did you take a beating this past week? In the catechism we are instructed, in the section on Confession and Absolution, to consider our place in life according to the 10 Commandments. “Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?” How about it – did you take a beating this past week? Like robbers from their caves, the Law comes swooping in and gives us a walloping – blisters our backsides much worse than our daddy ever did. And it does it every time.

Do you know who you are? You are the man lying beaten and broken – because you are a sinful person and you can’t do what the Law demands – and so you are crushed by the Law. That’s where you’re at. Just how it is, like it or not. So, let’s ask this Lawyer’s first question. Lying beaten and broken, crushed by the Law, crushed by your sin – what are you going to do to inherit eternal life? Spiritually broken, spiritually left for dead – what in the world are you going to do? Same thing the guy in the story does – absolutely nothing. You are going to lie there, and why – cause you can’t do anything else.

Sometimes we like to think that we are strong – we like to think that our discipline, our heritage, our good name is worth something spiritually. It’s not. None of that impresses God. All those things just pass right on by – and if left to your own devices you are stuck on the side of the road. But then, along comes Christ – who while we were still destroyed by the Law, dead in trespasses, sinners through and through – binds up our wounds and leads us to safety. Just as the Good Samaritan risked life and limb to bring this man to safety, Christ indeed risks His life and limb to rescue you from the power of sin, from the crushing weight of the Law. His hands and feet are pierced, His limbs pulled out of joint upon the cross, and His life is given to rescue you. Christ beholds you, suffering under the weight of the Law – the Law that says, “Those who break these commands must die.” Christ says, “I, though innocent and spotless – I will die in your stead.” Sounds like Christ perfectly loves you, like He is your perfect neighbor. By His death and resurrection, Christ picks you up off the side of the road and carries you to safety – you are now rescued from your sin, rescued from the condemnation of the Law. All because of what Christ has done.

But it’s not just that Jesus helps you out once and then leaves you to fend for yourself. Nope. In the story, the Samaritan doesn’t just dump the guy off on the side of the road in Jericho and say, “Take care of yourself.” Listen again to the text. The Samaritan brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.” It’s interesting how the Church has interpreted this passage, even from its earliest days. Where are you brought to have your sins healed and forgiven? To Church. That inn is the Church – and here we are cared for. How? God’s Word and Sacrament. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Old and New Testament. Those are the two denarii that are used for our care here in this place – the means of grace by which God gives us forgiveness – the means by which God heals our sin.

Do you see how the Lawyer had it wrong from the start? It’s not about what you do – because if you want to rely upon your actions, you are left for dead on the side of the road. No, rather, focus on what God has done for you. It’s all about Christ Jesus who not only suffered and died for you, but who to this very day continues to take His forgiveness and bring it to you here in His House where your spiritual wounds are bound, are cured by His Word, are washed away in Baptism, and you are given strength and nursed to health on His own Body and Blood in His Supper. This is the care, this is the Love that Christ Jesus our Lord shows unto you. Christ Jesus our Lord showers His love and compassion and care upon you, no matter the cost to Himself, for He will have you with Him for eternal life. He does what is needed to win this for you, and He does it gladly. Amen.