Measured – Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Trinity on Luke 6:36-42

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Luke 6:36-42

36 “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 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.”

39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 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? 42 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.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Before we really get into this text, we have to understand that the way the world interprets these verses is wrong and sinful. Do Not JudgeJesus says, “Judge not,”and our fallen, twisted, evil, amoral society latches on to these words like stink on poo. If an unbeliever loves any words of Jesus, it is probably, “Judge not.”

The godless sinners of our society (and of all times) think this means Christians are not allowed to say that anything is sinful or wrong. How many times have you spoken against some sin and had these words, “Judge not,”thrown in your face? Even worse, how many times have you kept your mouth shut when you see sin because these words had been thrown at you?

Sin is evil and should and must be spoken against. When Jesus says, “Judge not,”He does not mean that you should be silent when it comes to others’ sin – even though the world will call you a hypocrite for doing so.

If someone steals your car, it is not helpful to you, to your faith, or to society to simply say, “Well, I guess it was his car.” That is simply adding sin to sin. The seventh commandment was broken when they stole the car. The thief probably also broke the eighth commandment saying the car was theirs. Don’t join them in breaking the eighth commandment by lying yourself.

When Joseph forgave his brothers (in our OT text [Gen. 50:15-21]), he didn’t say, “When you seized me, threw me in a pit, planned to kill me, and sold me as a slave instead of treating me like your brother, God was really doing a good thing through you.” No! Joseph says that what they did was evil. Yet, he forgave them and extended them mercy.

When we don’t call sin, “Sin,” we are judging God.

The parable about a blind man leading a blind man and Jesus’ statement about specks and logs in eyes shows that we as Christians are called to speak against sin. If you were blind, you wouldn’t offer to be a hiking guide for the blind at the Grand Canyon. You’ll all fall in. But if you see, you can and should lead the blind man safely. And Jesus isn’t saying that you should never remove specks from others’ eyes. No, Jesus says to receive His free forgiveness which removes the log in your eye. Then reprove, rebuke, and correct the one who has a speck in his.

Judge Hypocrite Adam4dKnow this: No one will thank you from hell for remaining silent about their sin on earth. And God forbid that they curse you from hell for remaining silent about their earthly sin.

The Apostle Paul sums up Jesus’ words for us in Galatians 6:1. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore (this is a command) him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself (also a command), lest you too be tempted.”

So, do you see that this text isn’t a prohibition against you calling sin, “Sin”? Good. Now, the text can wallop you, you hypocrite.

Your fallen mind is selfish, always measuring your motives and actions against others’. You speak against the sins of others while ignoring the fact that you are committing the same sin.

Take the Fifth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” for example. You decry the plague of abortion in our country. You know that it is the heinous murder of the most vulnerable in our society and is the cousin of the Holocaust. But then, you don’t think twice about encouraging a young married couple to get settled in their careers before having kids. Or, you look at your own kids as a burden. You place your sinful actions on a scale and measure them to be less offensive and sinful. You hypocrite!

Take the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” for example. You speak against the sin of homosexuality and say that it is against God’s order. You are right that it is. But then, you turn around and do not love and honor your spouse as you should. Instead, wives, you undermine your husband and speak ill of him to anyone who will listen. Husbands, you do not treat your wives with the love and care they deserve, and you don’t avert your eyes from the lustful images that come your way. With your faulty scale, your sin doesn’t even register in your conscience. You hypocrite!

Take the Eighth Commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” You get enraged when others spread false, malicious gossip about you. But then you talk about others behind their back in ways you never would if they were standing next to you. By doing so, you measure your sin against theirs with your thumb pressing down on their sin.You hypocrite!

You are not what you should be. “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”You, as a child of God, should and must resemble your Heavenly Father. But you don’t.

Repent. As Scripture says, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim. 1:15). Because these words are Scripture, they are true and inerrant. But they are also wrong. Paul was not the foremost of sinners; I am. And I hope you can honestly and vehemently say the same.

We sinners keep measuring. We want what is our due. We demand our rights. We forgive only when we think our enemy deserves it – which isn’t forgiveness at all. Pretending that it is is harmful to our faith. Mercy, by definition, is never deserved.

Repent and hear again Jesus’ words, “Your Father is merciful.”

Jesus takes and becomes sinGod loves you from His very heart. God gives you real mercy. He loves the good and bad, the greatest and the least. He loves the sinner who strives to be merciful but fails, the hardened drug lord who doesn’t care about his sin, and He even loves you. In His mercy, God doesn’t simply get frustrated with your hypocrisy and ignore it.

No. God, in His infinite mercy, sends Jesus – His beloved, hypocrisy-free, perfect Son – to shed His innocent blood and die for that sin. God doesn’t simply love you with words but also with His actions.

God’s love for you in Christ is that He sees no log or speck of sin in your eye. His measure of mercy isn’t changed by the standard of your mercy toward others. His mercy is poured into your lap – good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing. So, let that mercy change you. And let that mercy pour out to others. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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The Father’s Feast – Sermon for the Third Sunday of Trinity on Luke 15:1-32

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In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Three parables. A shepherd seeks and finds his lost sheep. A woman seeks and finds her lost coin. And a father seeks and finds his lost son. Yes, the father is the one doing all the work to restore his son – not the other way around.

Jesus teaches these parables in response to the Pharisees and scribes who were grumbling about the company Jesus was keeping. Christ was eating with tax collectors (read thieving traitors) and sinners (read prostitutes and adulterers).

Now, it is not as though the Pharisees and scribes would say they were sinless and perfect. They would admit their sin, that they weren’t perfect. But in their minds, their sin certainly wasn’t as bad as those shady characters surrounding Jesus.

In fact, these grumblers might have argued that they cared about the tax collectors and sinners more than Jesus because they didn’t want them to continue in their sin. They would have called them to repent and change their ways. Try harder. Live better. Do some good works.

The Pharisees and scribes see Jesus associating and eating with these sinners as though their behavior doesn’t matter at all. Is Jesus soft when it comes to sin? Is Jesus liberal when it comes to lifestyles? Is He tolerant and affirming of their evil? Does Jesus’ mercy mean that sin doesn’t matter to Him?

Tuck that question in the back of your mind because we will find the answer when we compare the parables. The three parables all have the same outline and progression. Something is lost; that thing is found and restored; and there is a party. But Jesus tells all three. He could have just told the parable of the shepherd seeking and finding his lost sheep, but He didn’t. Each parable helps us to see what is happening in the others.

First, we have to see who the hero is in each of the parables, and it is the one who finds, restores, and invites to the feast. As the shepherd finds and restores the sheep and as the woman finds and restores the coin, we have to remember the father finds and restores the lost son.

The son is not the hero. The son’s pig-pen plan is not to become a son again. As he is sitting in the slop, he realizes that his life would be better as a servant of his father. But the father is like the shepherd who does the work of searching out and carrying home the lost sheep. He sees his son from a distance, runs to him, and brings him home. The father is like the woman sweeping her house. He picks up his son from the dust of his slavish plan. The father cleans the piggy poo from his boy and brings him back into his home.

 

You see, the heroes in each story all do the same thing. They seek, find, and save the lost. Then, the hero throws a feast. So back to our question: By eating with these sinners, is Jesus implying that the sin doesn’t matter?

Well, again, look at the parables. Consider each thing that gets lost. Sheep get lost, and shepherds don’t blame the sheep. And the only time a coin gets lost is when its owner messes up. So, if Jesus had only told the first two parables, we might think that sin doesn’t matter. In fact, if we only consider the second parable the lostness is God’s fault.

But then, comes the third parable, and we see what causes that separation. The son who wishes his father was dead. The son who wastes his father’s living. The son who brings embarrassment and shame to his entire family. The son who squanders his father’s good gifts until there is nothing left. The son is to blame for his lostness.

The scribes and Pharisees were tough on sin, but Jesus is even more so. Jesus knows who He is eating with. He knows what these sinners have done. And He knows what you have done.

Jesus knows what you have taken. Jesus knows what your eyes have seen when they should have turned away. Jesus isn’t blind to your sin. He knows it all. He knows that you have acted like the lost son wishing that He were dead and out of your life.

And, yet, He still sees you as His lost sheep. He cherishes you and searches for you. He loves you regardless of yourself. He spares no cost in restoring you and rejoicing over you. This is how your heavenly Father is toward you, sinner.

Today, on Fathers’ Day it is good for us to remember that God is the source of all fatherhood. Too often, we flip the script. When the Bible talks about God being our Father, we think that our earthly fathers are where we can get an idea about who God is. It’s the other way around.

Fathers, learn your vocation from your Heavenly Father. Be the loving, seeking, restoring, patient, kind, merciful father to your family in the same way that God has been toward you. And remember that God and all the hosts of heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents and is restored.

You see, God cares about all the lost. He cares about the one out of one hundred. He cares about the one out of ten. He cares about the one out of two. And He still cares about the one who will not come and feast with Him. Your heavenly Father cares about all. He cares about you.

Because Jesus has died and lives again, He invites you to His feast. So, come. Come and celebrate your Father’s mercy toward you and toward all. Rejoice with God in what He is doing and what He has done. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds inChrist Jesus. Amen.

Excuses – Sermon for the Second Sunday of Trinity on Luke 14:15-24

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Luke 14:15-23

15When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”

16But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Once, there was a young child whose parents loved him very much. They taught him the Scriptures, and the child was gradually learning to repeat the passages his parents read to him. The child grew, and it was time to train him to use the toilet. His parents would sit him on the potty chair and give him privacy to do his business. This child, schooled in the Scriptures, had a signal to his parents when he needed help cleaning himself after going number 2. He would recite from our text, “Come, for everything is now ready.” Thankfully, his parents were not like those who offered excuses in the parable. They were loving and went and cared for his needs.

The men who make excuses to escape going to the king’s banquet are treating the invitation like it is a call to help wipe a toddler’s derriere. They simply aren’t interested in going to the banquet because they thought they had something better to do, and they don’t care about the repercussions if they are absent. They are comfortable insulting the king, his invitation, and his feast because they have treasures on earth. They don’t realize that, unlike the feast, the invitation is not eternal.

The point of the parable is easy to see. Not everyone goes to heaven. Those who do not think they need God’s grace will find that, outside of His grace, there is only eternal loneliness and torment. As our hymn just said:

But they who have … resisted His grace
And on their own virtue depended,
Shall then be condemned and cast out from His face,
Eternally lost and unfriended.
Have mercy upon us, O Jesus![1]

At the time of death or when Jesus returns, the invitation is withdrawn. Those who reject the invitation will get what they want. They won’t have to offer any more excuses to the king and his messengers. Those who continually reject God’s invitation will one day be free of God, but they will be eternal prisoners of themselves.

Invite as many as you find to the wedding feastSo, this parable should give us an urgency. There is still room for more at the feast. We should be those who go out and call more of the poor, crippled, blind, and lame. We should go out to the highways and hedges and compel more to come in. And we wouldn’t even have to go far from this very place. How many Muslim refugees do we have living less than one block away? They play in our yard and use our trees for shade. Jesus wants them to come to His feast as much as He wants you.

But this parable should hit each and every one of us harder because of the context. And when this parable hits us harder, we will become more eager to extend the invitation of Christ the King.

Here is why this parable should crush us – it isn’t just that it exposes our sinful hesitation to share the Gospel with others. Jesus tells this parable in response to a statement, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.” In its context, that is a heretical benediction.

Now, don’t get me wrong. At face value, it is true. Everyone who eats bread in the kingdom of God is blessed. But the person who says this is, at that very moment, eating with Jesus. In that context, this statement would be like a newlywed husband getting to the hotel on his wedding night and saying to his bride, “Today was nice, but I’m really looking forward to my retirement party.” The man who says, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God,” doesn’t realize that he is, in truth, living in that present blessing. The blessed existence he that would come sometime in the future was going on right around him.

Wherever Jesus is, there is the kingdom of God. Jesus came preaching that the kingdom of God was at hand (Mk. 1:14-15). And just a couple of chapters earlier in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus said that because He was casting out demons by the finger of God that God’s kingdom had come (Lk. 11:20).

You see, the person sitting there with Jesus at the table was sitting with the present King and eating with God incarnate. So, this parable speaks to us today about being at church. When God’s people gather together to hear God’s Word and receive His gifts, there is the kingdom of God. So, if you are looking forward to going to heaven and being with Jesus, you should also look forward to coming to church because it is a foretaste of eternity with Jesus.

Each of the men who offer excuses in the parable aren’t saying that they never want to go to the party; they just want to go when it is more convenient for them. And their excuses show that they view the things of the world as more important than eternal things.

The pleasures and cares of this world are dangerous to faith when we appreciate and love them more than the blessing of gathering with our Lord and Savior and brothers and sisters in Christ here every Sunday morning.

Wedding Feast of the LambWeekends at the lake, sport tournaments, and even time with family are all blessings from God. But when those things keep us from gathering around God’s Word in the place where God says He meets with us, they are deadly. They are idols. When you are not in church for whatever reason on any given Sunday, you are missing the blessing of being and feasting with God.

The king is angry with those who offer excuses. And notice – this is the most amazing thing that is hard to wrap our minds around – the king is angry because all he wants is for them to be there with him. The king is angry because he wants these people to have the good and joyous things he has for them. God is much more desirous of giving to and helping us than we are of receiving or asking for those things (Luther).

Repent. Repent of your excuses. Jesus has died and shed His blood so that the sinful excuses you would offer are washed away. They are removed as far from you as the east is from the west. And know that God’s invitation stands. “Come. Come to my feast. Come and receive what you could never earn or deserve. Come, you who are worthy. Come, you who are unworthy. Come, for all the blessings of heaven are here for you for free. Come, for everything is now ready.”Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds inChrist Jesus. Amen.

[1]“There Many Shall Come” Ambassador Hymnal #627. Magnus Brostrup Landstad.