Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sermon for Trinity 4 July 17-18, 2011

Trinity 4
July 17-18, 2011
Luke 6:36-42

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our Lord's summary of the second table of the Law is not simply “Love your neighbor.” It is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “As yourself”; is a command to empathy. The golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto” also demands empathy. It is not enough that we do right unto others. We are to do unto them as we would have done unto us.

Empathy involves more than what we should do unto to our neighbors or should leave undone, according to their needs. True empathy also changes how we look at or think about our neighbor's faults, sins, and fortunes.

Empathy is commanded because our fallen mind is not empathetic. It is selfish. When we consider our own actions, we make excuses. We want to be admired, think we've earned what we have, that people should respect us. When we consider the actions of others, we see serious character flaws, and people who were born with silver spoons in their mouths. We are all hypocrites. We all invoke a double standard. We should be ashamed.

Take our road rage. Our vanity would have us believe that we are good drivers. We are not. You are not. Face the truth. We are all terrible drivers. There are no good drivers. None of us obey the laws. None of us concentrates as he should. When we keep the law, or almost keep it, we do it out of fear of punishment, not because we recognize the safety issues involved or care about fuel consumption. And, yet, despite the fact that we do not behave, that we break the law, that we fail to merge when we should, or let others in, or stop at yellow lights if possible, that is what a yellow light means, “not” we easily become angry at others for doing these same things. If you were not a hypocrite, you would never become angry at other drivers.

It is a similar vanity that makes us armchair quarterbacks. We think we can understand and critique the coaches of our favorite teams or players, as though we know more about the game, or have more experience and talent than they do. In the same way, we think we can understand and critique a great performer or even have more fashion sense than Hollywood starlets.

When it comes to politicians we are even worse. My guess is that if you have never said they are all stupid, you have said either that President Obama is stupid or you have said President Bush is. In objective fact, none of them, no matter what your opinion, are stupid. All of them have earned impressive, advanced degrees and accomplished great things. To be sure, they were all born to money and privilege, to some degree, but they have accomplished great things in their careers, far beyond what any of us has done. Could you do what they do or have done? No. We should be able to see that and admit it. To be blind to it, is simply to be blind, and to think yourself better than them despite the evidence. They don't give away degrees at Harvard and Yale for nothing. On top of that, the Scriptures clearly teach that we owe our leaders respect and obedience. It is sinful to disparage the person of the president even if you disagree with his policies.


If that is true of our secular leaders, it is also true of our pastors, the district president, the president of synod, the president and professors of the seminary, and so forth. Gossip is gossip is gossip, no matter how much we try to dress it up.


We are all beggars, unworthy of the love that is lavished upon us. None of us live out this love, this mercy, that is poured upon us, and are as merciful as our Father is merciful. The deeper we look into our hearts, the more hypocrisy we find. Yet, love is lavished upon us anyway, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.

Here is what ought to impress us, to take our breath away, to change our minds and hearts: the Lord removes the logs from our eyes, despite us. Your Father is merciful. He is the perfect embodiment of the Law. He does what we have never done. He loves us as Himself, does unto us what He would have done unto Himself. He loves us perfectly, without fail, without holding anything back. He keeps the Law for us and then He allows the Law to do to Him all it should have done to us, and it counts for us. His good works, His mercy, His love is counted as ours and our sins are counted as His.

This mercy is full and without end. It is utterly unencumbered: He simply loves us. There is no baggage, grudges, or fear in God that we will reject Him again or take advantage of Him, even though He knows full well we might. We might, but He will not stop. He will not quit. His mercy endures forever.

He loves all creation, all that which He made good and which He has redeemed in the death of the Son, but He loves humanity before and above all, despite the fact that it is humanity that deserves punishment or which has caused such chaos and suffering upon the original goodness of creation. The animals, plants, and very planet itself suffer because of our sin. Yet God's mercy for us endures. He takes up our flesh. He restores creation in His death to save us. He pays the price of our folly and selfishness, and ushers in a new age in His resurrection, promising a new heaven and a new earth, the end of death's sting and Hell's claim, even as He forgives the sins that poisoned and destroyed this old earth.

His mercy is without any deceit. He loves us from His very heart. There is no partiality. All of humanity has been reconciled to the Father in the Son, declared righteous, none are deserving, none are truly better than the others, none are lacking this saving love from God, though, sadly, some are lacking faith and reject this love. All are loved, the good and the bad, the greatest and the least. And thus does He cause His sun rise over the evil and the good, even as He causes His Son to pay for every sin.

This is real mercy, not a frustrated giving-in. He does not pooh, pooh our sins and say, “no problem.” He dies for sin. Nor does He love us with words alone, but He loves us in deed and truth. He not only removes the guilt of our sin and bestows His Name and the promise of a future upon us, but He also feeds us, provides for us, and prepares a place for us beyond the grave.

His mercy is unchanging and inexhaustible. He is constantly moved by compassion. And this mercy is free. He does not love for the sake of reward. He is not self-seeking. He does not love those who can or will love Him back, but loves all. He does not see a log or speck in your eye or any flaw: He sees perfection, an immaculate bride, a friend. Your Father is merciful because that is His nature, because He is good, because He is love.

This mercy is poured out, lavished, shaken together, overflowing, in the Cup of His Blood given to you to drink for the forgiveness of your sins.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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