Recently I was reading and took note
of these words: “When adding ingredients to a measuring cup, be sure no air
pockets are trapped inside the cup and the ingredients are level with the top. A ‘regular spoonful’ means the ingredients in
it should be rounded, but a ‘level teaspoon’ means the ingredients are even
with the top of the spoon. When using
kitchen measuring spoons, be sure all measurements are level with the top. There are several places in this book where I
mention using a ‘heaping cupful.’ This
means you scoop up a full cup of the ingredients, letting the cup hold all it
Now upon hearing this, it would be
understandable if you thought that I have been baking cookies for today’s
gathering at the Surburg house. It
sounds like language out of a cookbook.
However, this language about getting proper measurements comes from a
very different source. And those of you
who come by the house today will quickly understand why I have been reading it.
I have been involved in model
railroading with my dad for all of my life.
I have helped him build his current model railroad layout that he has
been working on for more than thirty five years. However, I use the word “helped” loosely here.
When it comes to the layout itself, I have been the second pair of hands. So I have seen my dad do everything, but
before building my first layout in Brookfield, IL I had never actually done
any of it myself. I built, detailed
and decaled engines, freight cars and passenger cars and became very good at
that. But I had never actually built benchwork,
or laid track and done wiring.
Naturally I had seen my dad do these
things. I also talked to others who had
done it. But it probably won’t surprise you to hear that one of the things I
found most helpful was to read about it.
I purchased several really good how to books and read them carefully and
this helped greatly. And so when it
comes to the bench work, track and wiring of my layout I am very pleased.
However, if you have a chance to
visit today, you will immediately see that one significant element is missing –
my layout does not yet have any scenery.
There’s no grass; there are no trees, or hills or mountains. It’s just plywood. Now I have been working on buildings – especially
in the steel mill area – as I get ready to build scenery. But as of yet there
And so I have been reading about
building scenery. The statements with
which I began the sermon are not about measuring ingredients for cooking or
baking. Instead, they are about
measuring ingredients for building model railroad scenery – for mixing things
In the Gospel lesson for today,
Jesus talks about a measure that is used.
He says that it is full measure, compacted and running over. He tells us to use this full measure in
dealing with others, because the measure that we use is the one we will receive
from God. Yet as we listen to the words
of the our text, we can never lose sight of the fact that Jesus speaks these
words as the One in whom God has already given the over flowing measure to us.
In our text this morning, we jump
mid-stream into what Jesus is saying.
This section begins by telling us that a great crowd of his disciples
and a great multitude of people from all over the area gathered with Jesus at a
level place. We hear, “And he lifted up
his eyes on his disciples, and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours
is the kingdom of God.’”
If these words sound very familiar,
it is because similar ones are found in the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel
of Matthew. The fact that we find
similar words in different settings is not surprising. First of all the Gospels are theological
biographies. While they accurately
portray real events, it is not their goal to provide an exact chronological
account. And second, it is highly unlikely that Jesus never said the same thing
twice – or at least something very similar.
Like any teacher he came up with good ways to say things, and then used
it with different audiences.
I mention these first words, because
they are key to understanding what Jesus says in our text. If you listen to our text, you will find that
we are being told to engage in a lot of doing: be merciful; judge not;
condemn not; give. As a teacher, I
certainly repeat things that I find to be helpful. And so many of you have
heard me say a hundred times: the Law is what we must do; the Gospel is what
God has done for us in Christ. These are statements of law. But the beginning of the sermon makes it
clear that they are not bare statements of law.
Jesus begins by saying that to the
poor – and here the Old Testament background indicates that we are talking
about those who recognize their spiritual need and who trust in God – to them
belongs the kingdom of God now.
As you know, when Jesus says the “kingdom of God” he is not referring to
a place. Instead he is talking about the
saving reign of God that entered into the world in him and his ministry. As
Jesus will say later in the Gospel after casting out demons: “But if it is by
the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon
Jesus speaks because he is the One
who is freeing people from Satan, sin and death. This saving work will reach its culmination
as he dies on the cross for your sins.
But then, through the work of the Spirit, he will rise from the dead on
the third day. He defeated death and now
has been exalted to the right hand of the throne of God.
This is how God has loved us. This is how he has shown mercy to us. This is
how God has given to us. And so in our
text, Jesus says, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” God has shown us mercy in his crucified and
risen Son. And now through the work of
the Spirit in us, we show mercy to others.
In particular, Jesus says that we
show mercy in the way that we judge and forgive and give to others. He says, “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.”
When Jesus says judge not, he’s not
teaching that we never call sin a sin.
This is, of course, the way the world today wants to hear these
words. Yet Jesus is the One who told his
disciples, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third
day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be
proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” There is
forgiveness where there is repentance. And there is repentance where sin is
Instead, Jesus is teaching us that
we are not to be critical of others just to find fault with them. We are not to look to speak about their
faults in order to make ourselves feel better.
We are not to find fault with them while also ignoring the fact
that the same things are present in us.
It is not that we are to be silent in the face of sin. Instead, we
must repent of the same things that we confront in others.
And we are to forgive. Just like the language in the Lord’s Prayer,
Jesus says, “forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Jesus speaks as the One who has already
given you forgiveness. You have been baptized for the forgiveness of all
your sins, as Jesus’ saving work was applied to you. You receive his true body and blood in the
Sacrament of the Altar for the forgiveness of sins. You are forgiven. But Jesus also says that in this divine
dynamic the forgiveness that you refuse to pass on to others cannot remain yours
It becomes clear that for those who
have received the gift of salvation from Christ, the orientation is directed
toward others. He says, “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.” We who have received the superabundant grace of God in
Christ now seek to give abundantly to others.
To be sure, these words of our Lord
can strike us in several different ways.
On the one hand, no doubt, we hear them and recognize that we fail to do
them. We are critical and judge. We
don’t forgive. We don’t give. And so when we see this log in our own eye, we do
what Christians do: we repent. We confess the sin that is present and return to
Christ’s Means of Grace through which we have the assurance of forgiveness. And in this we find forgiveness and peace.
But at the same time, we hear these
words and know that we want to do them.
You are not a stone. The Holy
Spirit has given you the washing of regeneration and renewal. You have been born again of water and the
Spirit and so you are a new creation in Christ.
You have put on the new man and so by the Spirit’s leading you hear these
things and know that they are right. You
know that they are good. You know that you want to do them. And guess what? Because of the Spirit it is possible
to do them.
No, it won’t be perfect. It won’t be without fail. The old man is still present as you live in a
fallen world. But when we listen to Christ; when we seek to follow the Spirit’s
prompting; when we are nourished by Christ’s Means of Grace these are things
that we can do. We can do them
not because of who we are, but because of what Christ has made us to be. For we are those who have received the saving
reign of God that arrived in Jesus.