Sunday, July 7, 2019

Sermon for the Third Sunday after Trinity - Lk 15:1-10

                                                                                                           Trinity 3
                                                                                                            Lk 15:1-10

            “Call my phone, would you?  I don’t know where it’s at.”  Have these, or words similar to them, been spoken at your house?  They probably have.  The era of the smart phone has freed the phone from a cord that attached it to the wall. We now have the ability to call from almost anywhere.
            And course these phones are far more than phones.  In fact if you track the time used on the phone (as most phones do that for you), you will find that the majority of the time in which we use our phones has nothing to do with making phone calls.  Instead, we are on social media, or watching YouTube videos, or playing games. We are probably far more likely to send a text, than we are to call someone. For many people their phone serves as their scheduler which they use to keep track of upcoming appointments. And of course, the smart phone contains all of our contacts – all of the information needed to contact the complete list of most everyone we know.
            Because of all the ways we use our smart phones; because of all the way that we rely upon them, misplacing your smart phone is not a small problem.  While there are our apps on our phone that are intended to help us locate them, from what I have seen, for the most part people resort to, “Call my phone, would you?  I don’t know where it’s at.”  A family member or friend calls the phone. We hope that it the wringer had not been turned off and the phone set to vibrate. Then we listen for the sound of the phone and try to hone in on its location.  Sometimes more than one request for a call goes out. And then finally, when we find the phone, we are relieved and glad.  A minor disaster has been averted, and we can get back to doing life.
            In our Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus tells a pair of parables about people who are intently searching for something.  In the first, it is for a lost sheep, and the second for a lost coin.  The point of both is the love that God has for sinners, and his intense desire to bring them back to himself. This is very important and comforting message.  Yet while the parables end with the repentant sinner returned to God, we also need to recognize that this in itself is not the end of the story for us.
            Our text begins with the words, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.  And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them.”  During Jesus’ ministry we find that people often described as “tax collectors and sinners” were coming to near Jesus teach.
            Now this phrase probably included a broad range of people.  Tax collectors were assumed to be crooked because they easily could make themselves extra money by doing things like unfairly assessing the value of goods being shipped.  Though in a land like Galilee where Herod Antipas was the ruler they were not direct agents of the Roman empire, taxation always called to mind Roman domination. And the fact of the matter was that some of money collected did go back to Rome as Herod demonstrated his loyalty as a petty king allowed by the Romans to rule.
            The term “sinners” certainly encompassed a number of kinds of people.  You will note that it is the Pharisees and scribes who describe these people as “sinners.”  So does this mean they were people who didn’t follows the rules – “the tradition of the elders” – that the Pharisees had added on top of the Law of Moses itself in describing what it meant to live a God pleasing life?  Or were these people who actually lived in ways the broke God’s law- ways that truly were sinful?  We can’t say for sure, but the best guess is that the group probably included both.
            The complaint of the Pharisees and scribes was: “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”  Jesus welcomed these people to hear his teaching.  But he went a step beyond that. He also welcomed them to eat with him.  Certainly, these meals were a setting in which teaching also took place.  But more importantly, the act of eating with these people indicated that he accepted them. The concept of table fellowship was very important in the first century Jewish world. Rather than keeping himself separated from those were who were sinners, Jesus in his ministry welcomed them and actually ate with them.
            In response to the grumbling by Pharisees and scribes, Jesus told two parables.  He said, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?”  The answer was obvious.  Any of them would go and look for the lost sheep because the sheep was valuable.
            Jesus then added that once he has found the sheep the shepherd calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.”  There was joy that the lost sheep had been found.  And then Jesus made the application to their present situation as he said, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”  This of course was not to say that those who are faithful in walking the way of faith are unimportant to God.  Instead, it emphasized how God desires not even one to be lost; how there is joy about the fact that through repentance the lost had been returned.
            And Jesus then added a second parable, this one that took place in the setting of a house.  He said, “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?
And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’”
            Again, we hear about the persistent effort to find the lost coin, and the joy that results when it is found – a joy that simply must be shared with others. Jesus concluded, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  Our Lord said that every single sinner matters to God.  He describes not just the desire to save sinners, but the effort to bring them back, and the joy that is present before God when this happens.
            Our Lord speaks about you this morning.  For at one time, you were the lost sheep. You were the lost coin.  Conceived and born as a descendant of your father Adam, you truly were a sinner.  You were an enemy of God, opposed to his will in every possible way. You were spiritually blind and dead. 
            But God considered this to be absolutely unacceptable. And so he sought you out.  He launched a rescue mission. God the Father sent his Son into the world as he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.  Thought sinless, Jesus Christ the Son of God was numbered with the transgressors. He took your sin as his own and received God’s judgment in your place.  He received the final result of your sin – he received death.
            And then on the third day God did something outstanding.  He did something that has reversed the result of Adam’s sin.  He raised Jesus Christ from the dead.  He began in Christ the new life of the Last Day resurrection. Not just for a Sunday morning or evening, but for forty days Jesus presented himself alive to his disciple as spoke about the kingdom of God.  He ascended into heaven, and as the exalted Lord on the day of Pentecost he poured forth the Holy Spirit.
            On the day of Pentecost, as Peter preached and the people were convicted of their sin they asked, “Brothers, what should we do?”  The apostle responded, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  You have received one baptism for the forgiveness of your sins.  You have received the Holy Spirit who has made you a new creation in Christ.
            There was rejoicing in heaven when this happened.  Yet our text also warns us that things can become lost again.  “Call my phone, would you?  I don’t know where it’s at.”  These are words that have not been spoken only once at our house.  They are words that have been spoken on several different occasions about the same phone.
            As a baptized child of God, you are “found.”  But this does not mean you can never get lost again.  The emphasis in our text is joy about the sinner who repents.  On an earlier occasion in the Gospel the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at Jesus’ disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  Our Lord’s response on that occasion was to say, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
            In Christ we are forgiven. Through the work of the Spirit we are a new creation – we are the new man.  But we are people who are also still sick.  The old Adam, the fallen sinful nature continues to be present in us as well.  And if we fail to recognize this fact, over time it can have spiritually deadly consequences.
            Sick people – people with a serious medical condition like high blood pressure or diabetes – need their medication.  You still face the sickness of the struggle against sin.  And so you need the medication of the Means of Grace.  You need to hear the Word of God proclaimed and taught.  You need to hear Christ speak forgiveness to you in Holy Absolution.  You need the true body and blood of Christ which is food for the new man. 
            And you must still be willing to repent.  In the ongoing struggle against sin, we do fail. We do stumble.  We do sin. The question then that really matters is how we respond when the word of God confronts us in that sin. Do we admit that God is right and we are wrong?  Do we confess our as sin against God? Do we repent?
            The world makes it harder and harder to do so.  It says that sin is good, and God’ ways are bad – just think about any topic related to God’s gift of sexuality. Think about how how Sunday and the Third Commandment are treated by the world. 
            Yet as Christians, staying found requires us to continue to repent. We confess our sin.  We turn to Christ the risen Lord as he gives forgiveness in the Means of Grace.  We receive the work of Christ’s Spirit who strengthens faith.  And through the leading and power of the Spirit we then seek to live lives in which we see the results of repentance. 
            Repentance does not only mean that I want to be forgiven – that I want to “get off the hook” for the sins I have committed. It means that I want to live in ways that turn away from sin – way that are true to God’s will.  In his ministry, John the Baptist said, “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” The apostle Paul said that after the risen Lord Jesus appeared to him and completely changed his life, he preached to Jews and Gentiles “that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.”
            So today, rejoice that you have been found!  After all, there was rejoicing in heaven when you became a child of God – when through baptism and faith you were forgiven and received the guarantee that you too will share in Jesus’ resurrection on the Last Day.  Remember that those who have been found, can become lost again if they ignore Christ’s Means of Grace; if they live as the world wants them to live instead of what God’s Word says our life should be.  Where the continuing struggle against sin, results in failure, repent.  Give thanks for the forgiveness that Jesus Christ won for you through his death and resurrection. And then, as a new creation in Christ, bear fruits in keeping with that repentance. Follow the Spirit’s leading and the leading of God’s Word as you live in ways that are true, good and pleasing to God.


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