Trinity Four Sermon
St. Luke 6:36:42
July 13, 2003
The reason we cry out for mercy at the beginning of
the Divine Service every Sunday morning is because we know that our God
is merciful and He will give us the mercy for which we pray. Jesus is the only begotten Son of the Father.
He teaches us by word and deed that our Father in heaven is
merciful. He sends the Holy
Spirit into our hearts to reveal this mercy to us and to enable us to
trust in it. So we sing:
O God the Father in
heaven, have mercy upon us.
Mercy is not just an attitude on Godís part.
It always includes divine action.
God does what needs doing for us.
He does it for us even when it may appear to us that He isnít
doing anything at all. We
cannot understand or trust in Godís mercy simply by looking at what
happens in our lives. Sometimes
His mercy is hidden under our own suffering.
This is why we need to come to church faithfully to be fed by the
word of God so that we may learn to expect Godís mercy and that we may
learn how to recognize it.
From Godís word we Christians learn of our home
in heaven. It is a
wonderful place. It is a
place where there is no suffering of any kind.
In fact, the suffering we experience here in this world cannot
compare to the glory of heaven. St.
Paul writes in todayís Epistle Lesson, ďFor I consider that the
sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the
glory which shall be revealed in us.Ē
We will experience a joy deeper than any earthly sorrow and a
peace more serene than any earthly strife is bitter.
God is merciful. This means he is compassionate.
He feels sorry for us in our pain and He does what is necessary
to take it away. This is
why we look forward to heaven with keen anticipation.
We know that our Lord Jesus did not die and rise for no purpose.
He died to destroy our death and He rose to guarantee our rising
to eternal life. This is
ours through faith in Him.
The promise of heaven means that the lives we live
here on earth have a meaning that they would otherwise not have.
Of what value is a life that is lived for seventy or eighty years
only to end in the grave after which we cease to exist? As
St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:19, ďIf in this life only we have
hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.Ē
Receiving mercy is not simply a matter of God alleviating our
suffering and providing us with the necessities of life. Receiving mercy
means that we enjoy Godís loving favor.
To live under Godís mercy means that we know that God does not
judge us. He does not
condemn us. Instead, He
forgives us all our sins for Christís sake.
He claims us as His own dear children whom He loves with a love
that is strong and constant.
When Jesus invites us to call God Father He invites
us to regard ourselves as Godís children.
Jesus is the eternal Son of the Father by nature.
We are children of God by adoption.
It is because Jesus is God and has become our brother that we are
Godís children. We know
Jesus as the One who died for us and in dying for us obtained for us
Godís eternal mercy.
Faith and love are the defining features of every
Christianís life. By
faith in Christ we receive mercy from God.
By love for our neighbor we give this mercy to others.
At the very beginning of mercy is the removal of judgment.
ďJudge not, and you shall not be judged.Ē
When God removed His judgment from us, this did not require God
to change His law. It did not require God to repudiate the demands of justice.
No, it was because Jesus faced the judgment of Godís law in our
place that God could in justice remove that judgment from us.
Jesus, the Innocent, was judged to be guilty and in this way we,
the guilty, are set free from Godís judgment.
Jesus did not ignore Godís law.
He fulfilled it. He
obeyed it. He suffered for our disobedience to it. There was nothing required of us that Jesus did not do to the
spirit and the letter. He
took the condemnation of the law away from us by suffering the
condemnation of the law as if He were the one guilty of breaking it.
This is why it is a great offense against Godís
word to argue that Christís command, ďJudge not,Ē means that we
may not apply the standards of Godís law to people today.
Of course we can. We
must. Only those who find
themselves to be judged and condemned by Godís law will want a Savior.
As soon as the law stops judging and condemning sinners, sinners
will no longer flee for refuge to the infinite mercy of God in Christ.
I can think of few biblical texts so grossly abused
and misapplied than these two words of Jesus: ďJudge not.Ē
These words have been twisted to say that we may not judge false
doctrine and point out who promotes it.
But false doctrine that leads folks away from Christ leads them
away from Godís mercy as well. We must identify and condemn all false teaching.
These words are also cited to forbid the judging of immorality.
The Supreme Court of the United States has recently discovered a
constitutional right to commit homosexual sodomy and apparently any
other kind of sexual perversion known to man, as long as only consenting
adults are involved. By a
vote of six to three, the highest court in our country has just
repudiated Godís law as being unconstitutional.
What God calls an abomination, the Supreme Court calls a
constitutional right, though for well over two hundred years since
adopting the Constitution our nation knew nothing of this
The majority of the Court simply reflects the
abandonment of Godís law that permeates our culture.
It goes from the culture into the church and there it eats away
at the churchís very foundation.
In the name of inclusion and openness, nominally Christian
churches endorse the ďrightĒ to abortion, homosexual unions, women
preachers, and other perversions of Godís law.
In support of this wholesale abandonment of Godís word, the
appeal is made: ďJudge not.Ē
Thatís not what this text means. When the Christian Church stands opposed to sin, she judges
no one. She merely gives
faithful testimony to Godís law.
It is God who judges, not man.
It is God who condemns, not man.
And when sinners are led to despair of themselves as they admit
their sins against God, it is God who forgives, not man.
But God speaks through men.
Heís always spoken through men.
When men, who are sinners themselves, speak Godís law against
sin, it is God Himself who is judging and condemning.
When men, who are sinners themselves, speak Godís gospel of the
forgiveness of sins for Christ sake, it is God Himself who is forgiving
and saving sinners. This is
the very heart of our Christian faith and this is why at the heart of
our Christian lives must be a willingness and deep desire to show mercy
to those who need to receive mercy from us.
ďJudge not, and you shall not be judged.
Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned.Ē
So says Jesus. Just
as Jesus has borne our sins, so He calls us to bear the sins of others.
No, we cannot take away anotherís sins like Jesus did, but we
can put up with them. Putting
up with the sins of others is not to condone them.
Jesus did not condone our sins when he covered them up by His
holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death.
But he surely endured them!
And so must we. We
must endure the faults, weaknesses, bad habits, and just plain sins of
others. We must do so
without making ourselves anyoneís judge.
When we endure the faults, especially of our brothers and sisters
in Christ, we reflect the mercy we have received from our Father in
Give, and it will be given to you: good
measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put
into your bosom. For with
the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.
Jesus promises that giving out mercy will not make
us the poorer for it. It
will make everyone richer. You
cannot become poor by being generous.
Itís true what the children say: ďCheaters never prosper.Ē
They donít. Those
who are so concerned about not being taken advantage of and who are
cheap in expressing mercy, kindness, forgiveness, and everything else
needed by their neighbors do not end up wealthy.
They end up bitter, poor, and unhappy.
The joy that comes from being set free from Godís judgment is
best expressed in setting others free from our judgment, and from that
freedom comes a generous spirit in every area of life.
Jesus is not in these words giving us a formula: If you give a
generous offering, you will receive more money back.
Rather, Jesus is giving us the merciful promise that we will
never lose anything good we have when we are generous with what we have
received from God.
The judgmental spirit often parades itself as being
very kind and helpful. But
as it seeks to take the speck out of the brotherís eye, it is blinded
by the plank in its own eye. Only
those whose eyes have been enlightened by Godís grace can see clearly
to help their erring brothers and sisters.
Only in personal repentance for our own sins are we fit to lead
others to repentance. Taking
the plank out of our eye is confessing our sins to God and trusting in
the forgiveness that He gives us for Christís sake.
Today, as we eat and drink the body and blood of
Jesus that is given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins, we lay
before our merciful Father not only our own sins, but the sins of those
who have wronged us or hurt us in any way.
As we receive Godís pardon, we ask God to uproot from our
hearts the judgmental and condemnatory spirit that clings to us and to
make us merciful, even as our Father in heaven is merciful.
We ask God to make our lives conform to our faith.
And for our every failure to do so, we cry out in repentance to
our Father in heaven and live alone by His mercy.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus