Sunday, July 10, 2022

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity - Lk 6:36-42


Trinity 4

                                                                                       Lk 6:36-42



          At the end of this month, I will have been pastor at Good Shepherd for sixteen years.  That means I will have finally caught Pastor Schmidt who was also pastor here for sixteen years. Good Shepherd has had two pastors during the last thirty two years.  Anybody who has been around the Church, knows that says very good things about a congregation.  Repeated long pastorates tell you that a congregation is a good place in which to be a pastor.  It tells you that the people are supportive of their pastor, and that there is a healthy congregational life.

          I have been very blessed to be able to build on the practice that Pastor Schmidt had already established.  A great example of this is Learn by Heart. Pastor Schmidt had already established the expectation that parents attend a time of catechetical instruction with their youth. This is incredibly beneficial, and it is one of the things I will mention in the paper that I will be delivering this week at the Lutheran conference in Nebraska.

          When teaching, we naturally fall into patterns of presenting material because they work well.  If you teach the same thing year after year, they become second nature. Repetition is the mother of learning, so hearing the same thing more than one time is not a bad thing at all.  If that is the case then some of the parents in our congregation have really learned the material after attending Learn by Heart with multiple children.

          Our Lord Jesus was no different.  He travelled around throughout a wide area teaching.  We should not believe that he said something completely different every time. This repetition is part of what helped to form the knowledge of his teaching that the apostles have passed down to us in the Gospels. It is therefore not surprising that the material for our text which is described as being delivered at a level place is so similar to what we find in Matthew’s Gospel being delivered as part of the “sermon on the mount.”

          Our texts begins with the words, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”  If we want to understand what Jesus means, we need to look back to the section that preceded this statement.  It begins by saying, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

          Then in the verse just before our text the section ends with the words: “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”

          Love your enemies.  Do good to those who hate you.  Give expecting no reward.  This is hard stuff!  And in our text, Jesus expands on what this means when 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.” Our Lord says that we are not to judge and condemn; that we are to forgive so that we will be forgiven; and that we are to give generously.

          Now before going any further, we need to address the statement about not judging. This is, of course, exactly what the world wants to hear. The world wants to be able to do whatever it wants.  It doesn’t want anyone saying that this or that activity is wrong. “Don’t judge!” we are told.

          But Jesus doesn’t mean this.  In chapter seventeen he says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” I quoted the second half of this verse, about forgiving in my sermon last week.  But note what prompts the repentance.  Our Lord says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him.”

          We are called to call sin, sin.  We are to rebuke sin, and call one another to repentance.  But this is done for the good of our neighbor. This is done in love.  The judging and condemning that Jesus forbids in our text is the action that seeks to tear others down, as we make ourselves feel superior. We see this as our Lord warns us in the text about the hypocrisy of seeing the speck that is in our brother’s eye, but not the log that is in our own. As Jesus says at the end of our text, “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.”

        Jesus’ words seem overwhelming.  How can we possibly do these things? By ourselves, we can’t. But before we decide that there is no hope, we need to look at the setting in which Jesus spoke these words.  Luke tells us: “And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.”

          The crowd is there to hear Jesus. They are there to be healed.  Through both, Jesus brings the kingdom of God. He brings the reign of God that frees people from sin and what it has done to them.  When Jesus was in the synagogue at Nazareth he read these words from Isaiah chapter sixty one: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”  Then Jesus closed the scroll and said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

          The Son of God entered into this world in the incarnation to bring God’s saving reign.  In his healing ministry we see that our Lord was freeing people from the physical impact of sin in our fallen world.  Yet Jesus had come to provide complete freedom from sin.  He did this by dying on the cross as the sacrifice for us.  God has judged your sin in Christ, and now through faith in Jesus you are forgiven. In God’s eyes you have liberty and freedom from sin.

          Jesus Christ died on the cross and was buried.  But on Easter God raised him from the dead, because God was acting in Christ to bring freedom from death as well. In his resurrection Jesus has defeated death.  Because Christ lives, we know that he will raise us from the dead on the Last Day.  The healing ministry of Jesus points forward to the complete and total bodily renewal that we will receive from him on the Last Day.

          At the very beginning of this sermon we are told: “And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.’”  We listen to Jesus’ words in our text and we feel like we are poor.  We are humbled as we listen to what life like that of our heavenly Father looks like, and think about our own.

          But Jesus says that those who recognize this spiritual poverty are blessed.  We are blessed because the kingdom of God is ours.  We are blessed now – we have the end time blessings – because the reign of God has come to us in Jesus Christ.  Christ has called you to faith through his Spirit.  You have been baptized for the forgiveness of sins.

          Have we always loved our enemies and done good to those who hate us? No. Have we always given, and given abundantly expecting no reward? No. Have we always forgiven and been merciful? No. But because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that does not matter.  It is forgiven before God.  You are blessed because the kingdom of God is yours!

          The kingdom of God is your and his reign continues to come to you.  In the Small Catechism, Martin Luther answers the question, “How does God’s kingdom come?” by writing, “God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”

          The reign of God comes to us through the work of the Holy Spirit poured out by the risen, ascended, and exalted Lord on Pentecost.  He is the presence of the risen Lord with us. He has made us a new creation in Christ.  He leads us to believe God’s Word and lead godly lives.

          Jesus begins our text by saying, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Our Father has been merciful by giving his own Son to suffer and die for us.  He has been merciful by calling us to faith in Jesus Christ through the work of the Spirit.  And by the work of the Spirit he leads us to be merciful.

          God loved us and did good to us when we were enemies who hated him. His love in Christ now causes us to seek to do the same to those who consider us to be enemies and who hate us.  God gave us the most abundant gift of his Son to win our salvation, and so his love causes us to give - and to give abundantly to others in need.  God has forgiven us and been merciful through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and so now we forgive and are merciful to others.

          This is not in us by nature.  Instead, it is something God has done for us.  It is something God had done to us by his Spirit. It is something that God is doing in us. We are blessed, because the kingdom of God is ours.  God’s reign brought the forgiveness of sins. God’s reign is at work in us now through the Spirit as he moves us to be merciful, to love, forgive, and to give generously to others. God’s reign will reach its consummation on the Last Day when Jesus Christ returns in glory and brings the final and complete healing of the resurrection.   












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