Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sermon for Trinity 13

Trinity 13 – Luke 10:23-37 – September 18th, 2011

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

The Christian faith is this – that while we were yet sinners, Christ Jesus died for us. It is the truth that we in and of ourselves are fallen and wretched and deserve death, but God in His mercy sent His Son to give us life. “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” We see Christ and Him Crucified for us, we see how God’s plan of salvation happened, we see because we have been baptized into Christ, declared to be children of God, we hear Him preached to us, we see Him come to us in His most Holy Supper. The Christian faith is centered around the love that Christ shows us, love which then spills out into our neighbor’s life through us.

But some do not see – some do not see Christ but rather would look at themselves and their own work. “And behold, a lawyer stood up to put Him to the test saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’” Just pause for a moment – don’t rush by this question. What shall I do to inherit eternal life. I do – to inherit. I don’t do anything to inherit. An inheritance isn’t a wage, isn’t about what hoops I jump through – it is about what someone leaves me, gives to me. It would be horrible if someone left me an inheritance, and instead of thinking about their love and generosity and how much they cared for me, I instead thought, “Well, I must have done something right.” How horrible is that? And to think that of God? As though God is some stingy miser, who won’t give out His gifts unless you *do* a bunch of stuff to impress Him? But you see what the switch is – this lawyer wants to look at his own works rather than see the love and generosity of God. This is a common temptation for us as well – we love looking at our own works, it’s the danger, the temptation Satan lays out for us.

So, Jesus asks this lawyer what is written in the Law. You’ve asked a Law question, a question about what you need to do – what does God’s Law say, how does He instruct you? And the lawyer answers, “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.” And then Jesus says, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” Now, what’s the problem? The Lawyer can’t do this – and this is something that should be obvious. Why? Even back in Genesis, looking at the Geneaologies, they all end, “and he died.” Adam. Died. Abraham. Died. Jacob. Died. Moses. Died. So unless you are going to claim that you are better than these – guess what, you are going to die. Jesus speaks truthfully, if we had so sin, we would not die – the wages of sin is death. And if we consider the Law – consider that we are to love God with our whole heart and soul and strength and mind – we find that we are lacking. We don’t love God with our whole hearts – because in our hearts, quite often we still desire bad things. We don’t love him with all our soul or strength, and often our minds are anywhere but upon God. We don’t fulfill this law – and so we deserve death. But as Christians we see another truth that is more wondrous. Does Jesus love His Father with His whole heart and mind and soul and strength? Indeed He does. And more to the point – does Jesus love you perfectly? Yes – which is why He suffered and died in your place, took up the wages of your sin and gave you His life everlasting. This is our focus, this is what we see – we see what the world ignores – and thus we know that we have life in Christ.

The Lawyer still doesn’t see it – he still doesn’t see Christ – he is still looking at himself. “But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” Desiring to… justify himself. This lawyer doesn’t want to be saved, he wants to do salvation on his own – he wants to justify himself – so if I have to love my neighbor, who are these neighbors I have to love. But note what this is – it’s a minimizing question. It’s a question that strives to make the Law of God easier. Well, who actually is my neighbor – because if that person over there doesn’t count as my neighbor, then I don’t have to love them. Do you see – he wants to do things himself, but then he wants them to be easy. And so he asks a question hoping that the Law of God will be relaxed, will be something simple. And we know that it isn’t – God’s law demands perfection… and indeed, we are to strive after perfection, but we know we aren’t going to get there. And so our Lord teaches this man just how far love goes.

We then hear the familiar story of the Good Samaritan. Before we go over this again – consider this truth. As Christians, we see differently than the rest of the world. The world disdains Christ and the things of God – but we see and delight in them. Everything in this story is backwards to what the world would expect. Listen. “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.” This is a horrible thing. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho would wind through the hills, and so there were plenty of places for robbers to hide, and they beat this man almost to death, take all that he has, and leave him half-dead on the side of the road. Not a good situation.

And then we hear, “Now by chance a priest was going down the road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” Now to get the impact of this story – in the Jewish culture, the best, the top of the tops of society were the Priests and the Levites. These are the good people – the ones whom everyone wanted to be like. Yet, they just pass on by. Why? Well, if there’s robbers about, do you want to dilly-dally? More over – what if the man is already dead… they don’t get close to him – you weren’t supposed to touch a dead body, it defiled you. So, this priest and this Levite, thinking about themselves, hurriedly pass on by and move on down the road, seeking to take care of themselves.

“But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was…” Now, again, we have a hard time getting the full impact of this parable, because when we hear the word “Samaritan” we sort of automatically put “good” in front of it. This is the Good Samaritan, after all. Do you know who the Samaritans were? They were the rebellious, idolatrous children of the Northern Kingdom who rejected David’s grandson. These were the people who refused to worship in the Temple. These were half-breeds, traitors. They were hated by the Jews, and pretty much vice versa. So think in your mind about whom you hate, what sort of person if you see walking by makes you want to lock your car door – that’s the attitude that these people listening would have had towards this Samaritan. And then, in an utterly shocking turn of events, what do we see? “and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took two denarri and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’” The Samaritan, the despised one – stops and helps. He cares for the fellow. He puts the man on his own animal – so not only will this Samaritan have to walk… but if the robbers return, he won’t be able to flee. And he puts the fellow up in an inn with instructions to be cared for – basically foots his hospital bill. Do you see how unexpected this would be?

The world, dear friends, loves power and strength and might. The world despises weakness and frailty. The world loves people who look good and seem nice and wise – but we are told by Paul “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.” By all earthly standards, what this Samaritan does is utter foolishness. Why spend your money on someone who probably hates you, why risk your own life for someone who is passed out and may even never know who helped him? But the Samaritan does it, because it shows love to his neighbor. Likewise, we too are called to show love, show love in ways that the world thinks is stupid. We are called to show kindness to those who hate us – to even pray for our enemies. We are called to serve those who would never be able to pay us back. Even in the midsts of hard times, we are called upon to be generous. This is the ideal.

And to be blunt – we fall short of that ideal. Suppose we were to talk honestly about what our life looked like, what our walk looked like. You know what it would look like – like that man beaten and left half dead on the side of the road. Sin and the world and our own sinful flesh and desires kick the tar out of us. How often are you beaten and battered in this world – how often is care and compassion the exception, rather than the rule. How often does laying down to bed bring with it the thoughts of “I should have done this today, but I didn’t”? Sin has smacked us all around and left us half dead. And the thing is – all the things the world loves – power, respect, wealth, fame – these slide right on by and do nothing to help us. But then comes Christ. Christ Jesus is the one who loves us as the Good Samaritan showed love. Christ Jesus was despised and looked down upon by the world – His own people say to Him in John 8 “Are we not right in saying that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” The world calls out for Him to be crucified, and mocks as He suffers. He is despised – and yet, what does He do? He sees you hounded by sin, and He has compassion upon you. He binds up your wounds, forgives you. The Good Samaritan used oil and wine –oil was used to clean – it would grab the dirt and then be scraped off. Wine was used to disinfect. Christ Jesus cleansed you in the waters of Holy Baptism, and then He gives you His own Body, His own Blood in His Supper to forgive you and strengthen you. The Good Samaritan carried the wounded man to the inn – Christ brings you to His Church, where your sin and its wounds are to be continually tended to – and how? By what He provides. The innkeeper receives all that he needs from the Samaritan and the promise that if more is needed, he will provide. Likewise, Christ gives His Church all that she needs to show forth love and care. And this is not your doing, it isn’t your strength – it is Christ Jesus blessing you and working through you to accomplish the love that He would have shown. Again – Christ Jesus takes care of it all for you.

The world may despise Christ, the world may want to cling to works and wealth and power and might, but you see what Christ has done for you. And again, this is done not because of any merit and worth in you, but simply out of His great love and compassion. You have done nothing to inherit this – but God has claimed you in Holy Baptism and made you His child, promised that you would inherit eternal life through Christ Jesus. You of yourself do not show love to God or neighbor like you ought – but Christ Jesus comes and forgives you and heals you – and indeed, when you are healed by Him you will show love. Never perfectly in this life, never completely in this life, but He will use you to care for others – He will give you His own gifts and put you to work tending others. Why? For He has come down from heaven, was born of the Virgin Mary, and now He is your neighbor, and He is determined to truly love you and give you all that you need for this life and for the life of the world to come, and praise and glory be to God alone. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +

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