Sermon for Sunday October 25, 2020 by Pastor Chris Boyd
"A Foretaste Of The Feast To Come"
Grace and peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Every year my family gathers for thanksgiving, not the Boyd
Family but the extended Hileman Family. Because of the sheer
size of the family, for the last decade we have been hosting this
dinner at the church I grew up in. Each family would bring a dish,
each usually the same dish; for example, my mother would bring
sweet potato casserole, my brother rolls, one aunt the mash
potatoes, etc. They would bring their dishes, reheat them or bring
them early enough for them to make said dish at the church. After
a while, most of the family is at the church, the kitchen is bustling
with primarily my mom and her sisters, and the food that is ready
is set on a long table in a separate room. The aroma from the
dishes spreads throughout the whole first floor of the church,
gathering mostly in the Kitchen, the side room where the food is
prepared, and the dining hall where most of the family is
gathered, usually playing card games. I can smell the turkey
juices, the cranberries, the gravy; and worse, the room where the
food is prepared can be seen by all in the dining room. So as we
smell the food, we are also being tempted by the image of the
feast that is being prepared before us. But no touching. Wait, for
Grandpa to give his speech and bless the food. Only until after
such are we allowed to touch the food. But sadly, that doesn’t
stop us. The aroma is too enticing, so instead of obeying our own
house rules, everyone, here and there would grab a small
foretaste of the feast to come. Maybe a small sliver of the turkey,
or a cookie from the desserts, anything to momentarily satisfy our
watering mouths as we torturously await the feast.
The image I just prepared for you is a classic image of a
feast that is to come and the foretaste of said feast. But why talk
about feasts? Throughout the Bible, there are many images of
Heaven, but one of the most common images used in the Old and
New Testament is that of a feast. Heaven is like a feast were all
are welcomed, a feast that is rich and filling, a feast that would
never allow you to go hungry, a feast that would surpass all other
feasts. Today we may not see this feast, but at least we can get a
foretaste of it. And this foretaste comes in the form of our Daily
Bread, Communion. When we eat Communion, which is the Body
and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are taking Him within us,
we are consuming a portion of His amazing Grace, and we are
receiving forgivingness. But this amazing gift that we receive from
Christ, is only a foretaste of the amazingly vast feast that is
Heaven. Whereas through this foretaste we are forgiven of our
sins, in Heaven we don’t sin. Whereas through this foretaste we
receive the sustenance necessary to hold on to our faith, in
Heaven we become a cup overflowing and we no longer thirst or
hunger. Through Communion there is hope, for though it is
amazing, it is only a foretaste of the even more amazing gift,
entrance into Heaven.
Now it would be amiss of me if I didn’t also, within my
sermon, mention something about the Reformation, as it is
Reformation Sunday. Let me begin with this, what was the core of
the Reformation, why did it all happen, what was the core of
Luther’s intent? I’m not talking about the theology that was at the
core of the Reformation, I’m talking about the core reasons for
even the theology. What was at the very center of the whole
Reformation?
Hope.
Hope was the core. Let me explain. When Luther was a
young monk, new to his fervor towards the Lord, he was the top of
his class, an amazing scholar, a brilliant debater, the Church’s
perfect choir boy, and in love with Catholicism. He obeyed all the
teachings of the Church, observed all the practices, poured
himself over scripture, but was not satisfied. He did everything the
church instructed him to do in order to satisfy his troubled mind,
for he truly believed he was doomed to Hell. Nothing he did
satisfied him, no amount of giving his time and service, no amount
of studying, no amount of physically brutalizing himself gave him
the peace of mind to believe he was saved. And it wasn’t like he
was wrong in the head. He was in his right mind; it’s just that
through his learning, under the pope’s doctrine, he rightly believed
he would not go to Heaven. For only the righteous can enter
Heaven and in God there can be no sin. Luther was a poor
wicked sinner, like all other humans; therefore he was not
righteous, at least righteous in the eyes of God. There was no
hope.
Funny thing, when Luther was young, he absolutely hated
Romans. But, through the help of the Augustinian Order and the
writings of St. Augustine, he had a revelation. It wasn’t
instantaneous. But over time, he learned to love Romans, learned
to have hope in his salvation, and learned that nothing he did
would grant him more merit but faith alone.
Whereas Faith alone is the central theology of the
Reformation, the absolute core issue which fueled even faith
alone was hope. If we rely on works to save us then we would
surely fail. And even though we are saved through our faith, if we
believe that we must do something to obtain access into Heaven
then we will either become like the Pharisees or fall into despair. If
you wish to be saved you must give up your life for the Crusader’s
cause. If you wish to be saved you must wipe yourself for all your
sins. If your wish to be saved you must pay indulgence, or hope
that a family member of yours pay indulgence after your death.
You must do this, you must do that. Where is the hope? There is
none. So after the Augustinian Order helped put Luther on the
right path he started teaching and preaching about faith and hope.
He eventually tackled the issue on Indulgence, which at that time
was the act of giving the church money so as to magically send a
spirit in purgatory into heaven. The abuse of the Church over
those whose hope was being swallowed up by the greed of
several high ranking clergymen was awful. And because Luther
pointed this out, the high officials of the Church and several
political figures placed their ire on him. Thus the Reformation
begun. And why? Because the Roman Catholic Church had
ceased to be the Catholic Church, and Luther wanted the Church
to become Catholic once again, to follow the teachings of St.
Augustine, and to instill hope in the Church instead of abusing the
fears of the common folk.
Luther began with the thought, “Am I saved?”, but soon
realized the truth, “I am saved.” Luther began with believing
salvation through works, but soon realized he is saved through
faith alone. Luther began with despair, but soon had hope, hope
in the salvation he has received not because of anything he has
done but because of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of our
Lord and in all the promises that Christ gave us.
Luther had hope, and that hope filled his ministry. Are we the
Church of the dead? No! because of Christ, we are most certainly
the Church of the Living! And what’s one way to personify this
better than music itself. Boy did Luther loved music, and in order
harp in on this message of hope, during the Reformation he
helped revitalize the whole church become more musical. He
wrote many hymns, one of which I believe you all know, [sing “A
Mighty Fortress”, verse 1].
He wrote this and many other hymns, and because of his
insistence to sing in Church, we have much to thank him. Our
church today, here at Resurrection, is truly a living Church, and
the music and chanting and singing is proof of that. I would like to
thank our Praise Band, for through them we have even more
music within the walls of this Church, all music that glorifies the
Lord; music that serves as a testimony of the very fact that this is
indeed a Living Church.
And because of this hope that we have in our Lord, we
rejoice. We rejoice like Paul who said to the Philippians in our
second reading, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice.”
But we rejoice not only through speaking, we rejoice also through
singing, [sing, “Rejoice in the Lord always”]
Yes there is much to thank Luther for. If it wasn’t for him we
may still be wallowing in fear and worrying over whether or not we
are saved. If it wasn’t for him there may not be any cause to sing.
But because of his insistence on ready the truth revealed in
Scripture, that you are saved through faith alone, there is much
cause for hope and mirth. For He is Risen, He is Risen indeed.
And through Him, we are saved, we are saved indeed.
And thus, we go back to the feast. For we know we are
saved, and we know that Christ has prepared for us a wedding
feast, with Christ as the head and the Church His wife. And we
are not like the ones who fought against the invitation to the
wedding feast, and if I may be so bold, I have another song [sing,
“I Cannot Come to the Banquet”].
No we are not like the ones who did not welcome the
invitation, but we are like the ones who did receive and attended
the banquet. And we are not like the one who shows up without a
garment, only there for the food, for this person represents those
who wish for the promised Kingdom but does not have faith. We
are those who do have faith and thus are welcomed with open
arms by Our King who organized the feast. There is much hope.
For the feast is already prepared, we are invited, and through
Christ, we are saved.
Let us pray,
Dear Lord, we thank you for the heavenly feast that you
have prepared for us, and the hope that we are indeed invited to
eat at the same table with you. Continue to provide for us the
ability to never forget your promises but instead always remember
this hope we have in you, our Savior and Lord, in the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

   Today is an incredibly special day, for today we celebrate the Confirmation of Arleigh Dackermann, and following this sermon and hymn we will proceed with her Affirmation of Baptism. Thus, I would like to give a message to Arleigh.

   On April 2nd, 2006, you were baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Through Baptism, you have been blessed with the faith in God and were received into the fold of the heavenly family of God, received into the Body of Christ. Through Baptism, an act of God and not of Man, through water and the Word, you have been truly blessed, for you were washed of your sins which originates from original sin, broken free from the chains of slavery under Satan, and was provided the promise of salvation and a seat at the heavenly kingdom’s feast, a promise that can never be broken, a promise that is gifted to you, a promise that was given through the death of Jesus Christ.

   Now through Baptism, the family of God promised to help raise you within the Church united with your parents. They have looked over you, taught you, and guarded you. It is said, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and for us that village is the family of God. We have watched you, an infant in Christ, grow in faith, and as we looked over you, we taught you through Catechism; teaching the faith so that you may come to understand scripture, the creeds, the Lord’s prayers, the Ten Commandments, as well as the sacraments. The Small Catechism was taught to you so that you may understand this faith which you have received through Baptism, so that you may understand what Baptism is, and so you may understand and have faith in the promises that God provided to you through your Baptism.

   And as the Church taught you, they saw you grow in maturity in your faith, coming to understand your faith. As they saw your maturity in Christ growing, they had confidence that you understood the true presence of Christ in the Bread and the Wine of Communion. Through their confidence, they invited you to the table to receive with the Church your first Communion. Through Communion, or the Eucharist, and through your faith in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, you received the sustenance necessary to retain your faith. For Communion is our Daily Bread necessary to fuel or faith in Christ, to nourish not only or Body but to also nourish our aching souls which without Christ would surely fail in retaining faith in Christ. Communion is a gift that is received through faith, for without faith, communion is not communion. Thus, once your teachers and parents and congregation saw you were ready to receive, that you believed, they gladly invited you to the table to receive your Daily Bread.

   And now, as a member of the Body of Christ through Baptism, and one who is nourished through Communion, matured through Catechism, you come forward to affirm your faith, to affirm your faith which comes through Baptism, thus affirming your Baptism. For this is what Confirmation is, it is the Affirmation of your Baptism, a declaration, a confession, that you understand your Baptism and your faith which comes from Baptism. On this day you will renounce the Devil, proclaim the Creeds, and profess your faith in Jesus Christ and in all his promises.

   So a little quiz… Oh, I know, not another quiz! It’s all right; this isn’t a quiz with trick questions. In your Catechism, you learned of the Sacraments. How many are there? Two. What are they? Baptism and Communion. But where is Confirmation? Is it still a sacred act ordered by God? Yes. But is it a Sacrament? No, for in order to be Sacrament, in accordance with Catholic teaching, it needs to have the power to save or retain faith, of which Confirmation does not do. Does this mean that Confirmation is not important? Far from it, it is still a sacred act. End of Quiz.

   So what does that make Confirmation? Confirmation is not Baptism, which many confuse them to be the same and thus wait for people to affirm their faith to perform Baptism, not understanding that Confirmation is in reality the affirming of your faith which you received through Baptism. Whereas Baptism is an act of God, Confirmation is an act of Man. In Baptism, God externally gives you faith. In Confirmation, you acknowledge this faith within you which was externally given to you first from God. This acknowledgement and understanding is deeply important for the sake of holding fast onto our own faith.

   In Jesus’ parable he talks about the rocky and good soil. There is the pathway and the thorn infested soil, but for the sake of this sermon I want to talk about the rocky and good soil. In the rocky soil, the plant grows fast, but because it does not develop deep roots it withers away just as fast. Yet, in the good soil, deep roots grow, and because the plant has deep roots it is capable of weathering any storm and not wither away from the beating sun. The main difference between the two is the deepness and strength of their roots. So what are these roots? What do these roots represent? These roots represent your understanding, your discipleship, the strength of your faith, and the ability to discern your faith. The difference between the two soils is that the first is not properly discipled and, because they are not, when the world beats them off side the head with a myriad of trials and temptations and awful things such as persecution, the one with weak roots loses their faith and crumbles under the weight of the world. But the soil that is good, where roots are deep and strong, no matter what the world throws at them, they are capable of defending their own faith.

   This is why Catechism is so important and why we cherish Confirmation, for through catechism and discipleship you are lead towards maturity in your own faith, and through this maturity you have been lead towards affirming your faith which you received first through Baptism. But it should be noted, your journey has not ended. We are all in need of continual catechism, our discipleship in our Lord has never ended, and our faith in Him could always go a little deeper.

   Arleigh, for your confirmation you have provided a verse from Isaiah 40:31, “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” As you walk in the light of the Lord, walk in faith, faith in the promises provided for you through Baptism, walk with abundant patience in Christ. Don’t be like the rocky soil whose plant grows impatiently and withers away, but be like the plant in the good soil which through patience grows deep roots, roots that will never allow the plant to die. Wait on the Lord, and keep on reflecting on Him, so that your faith in the Lord is continually renewed and given the strength and vigor to not only weather any storm but to also be mounted on eagle’s wings, to never go weary, and never faint or falter. Rely on the Lord always, have patience on Him, deepen your roots through continuous discipleship and catechism, and know this, the Living Lord, who died for your sake and has risen for your sake, will always be with you.

Let us pray,

   Dear Heavenly Father, we ask that you continue to bless Arleigh with your Spirit, protecting her faith, and encouraging her to not only profess and affirm her faith, but to continue to deepen her faith in you the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Grace and peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

 

   I don’t know about you but this Gospel sounds very much in favor

of communism / socialism. Let us all gather together under big brother

government and labor together, letting the government take control of

all private property and determine an equal wage so that all may

receive equally whether or not you work, not determined with how

much you work, nor what you work, nor where you work. Let

totalitarianism prosper so that all may become equal under

government’s control and ungodly regulations.

 

   Wait, you say this Gospel is not about such? But I hear so many

use this parable to say that Christians, let alone Lutherans, must

support Socialism or Communism or Totalitarianism even though all

these structures are clearly denounced through Scripture and, most

especially as Lutherans, even though they have been very clearly

denounced by our Lutheran founding fathers in the 16th century, via

description, as heretical anti-Christians beliefs; for within the Formula

of Concord and the Solid Declaration, both found within the Book of

Concord which is the defining book that helps us understand what is

Lutheranism, it says such, “We reject and condemn the... erroneous,

heretical teaching, which is not to be tolerated or permitted in the

church, or in public affairs, or in domestic life. For they teach... That a

Christian cannot with a good conscience hold or possess any property,

but is in duty bound to devote it to the commonwealth” (Solid

Declaration, Article XII.9-22). So wait, let me get this clear, are you say

that all who preach these heretical structures are abusing Scripture, if

so then what does today’s Gospel really point us to?

 

  There are some who have a nasty knack for taking Scripture out of

context to mean what it does not mean. Others do not mean so and

they are forgiven, though that does not mean they are suddenly

correct, their words are still wrong. For example, the abuse of James

chapter two where several Roman Catholics takes a part of verse 24

horribly out of context to claim, “that a person is justified by works and

not by faith.” The whole verse goes as such, “You [you, a human!] see

that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone,” which is

obvious because who can see one’s faith except via their works? And

the whole chapter of James 2, not one verse taken out of context, is all

one whole gigantic pro-“faith alone” argument. Where it clearly states

that if you have true faith, and not dead faith such as the demons who

do believe Jesus is Christ, then you are saved and if you are saved then

you naturally produce works, works that cannot be produced otherwise

because you are a sinner, and because I cannot see your faith that you

claim you have then I must see your works for if you have works then

you clearly are saved and if you are saved then you clearly have true

faith which you, again, claimed to have. Therefore you are saved by

faith, and out of salvation, and only out of salvation, capable of

performing good works.

 

   So if we take out all of the abuses and read the Gospel passage in

its entirety, what does it tell us? Well it clearly begins with Jesus telling

us, “For the kingdom of heaven is like...”, and then He provides for us

his parable. The entire parable is about the Kingdom of Heaven. It is not

about economics, for Jesus is painting for us a very specific picture, he

is weaving together a very specific tale, he is telling us that no matter

when you become a Christian, no matter how late or how early, when

you die you will all receive the generous award of eternal salvation and

abundant pardon. His parable is all about death and how no amount of

good works or time here on earth will earn you a better seat at God’s

table. Congratulations, that means upon your death you will be equal

to even St Peter himself and St Paul! Why? Because of your faith in

Jesus Christ.

 

  Our late Pastor Borows lived a long fruitful life as a pastor, as a

Christian, as a laborer for Christ. He is most definitely in Heaven, and

great is his reward. If I was to suddenly go ill due to say Covid because I

chose to visit the sick, treating them like lepers, the same as how Christ

treated the lepers, and then die, would that make me lesser a Christian

than Pastor Borow’s? If I was to get suddenly called up to serve our

great nation and was killed either overseas or here by one of our

domestic terrorists would I be any less a Christian than Pastor Borows?

Would my untimely death mean that my reward in heaven is lesser

than Pastor Borow’s because I did not live such a long life in service

towards God? No, and the same applies to all of you. The reward Christ

provides for the one who converts on his deathbed is no less than the

reward received by a lifelong 90 year old Christian. The reward is equal.

What about a mass murderer who repents and proclaims Christ before

capital punishment? The reward is equal. What about the young

baptized child who dies before they even say “mama” or “papa”? The

reward is equal. What about the young man who has faith but has done

nothing in the name of Christ? If they truly believe, the reward is equal.

What about the old man who has filled his life to the brim with selfless

service and mission work all in Christ’s name? The reward is equal.

 

   I am reminded of the two sons in the Prodigal Son parable. One is

lost, a sinner, but once he comes back to the father, an amazing feast is

prepared. The other has never left the father and has labored hard, but

is jealous of his brother. As Christians, good works and the desire to

serve our father and help our neighbors and bear fruit the fruits of the

Spirit should come naturally to us. And we should desire to labor long

all for Christ’s sake. But we shouldn’t be like the older brother who,

though he never left his father, is jealous of his returning brother who

received a feast. Instead of being jealous or exuding hatred toward the

sinner who finds Christ before they die, we should rejoice for they have

been found. Rejoice for the reward they receive is so abundant that all

their sins have been pardoned and overwhelmed by God’s grace.

 

   But some of us might find it hard to rejoice. Let me provide an

extreme example, an example that some in debate may call a nuclear

statement. Hitler. If he had or found faith in Christ, true faith, upon his

death, repenting of his sins, would he be in Heaven? Not saying he did,

but if he did would he be in heaven? How do you think you would feel,

knowing full well all the atrocious things he has done, if you found out

that he might be in heaven? Outright denial? Skepticism? Betrayal?

Hatred towards God? Jealousy? Or extreme joy? This is just a thought,

but one that expresses how natural it is for us to be like the older son

when it comes to hearing today’s Gospel.

 

   How about Paul’s story? As Saul he was an enemy to the Christian

Jews and hunted them down and caused many of their deaths. But

through the grace of God, through his personal experience with Jesus,

he turned from his ways and was named Paul. Several of the other

disciples, to include Peter, did not believe that Paul was a true brother

or that he repented. They were skeptical of him; they were like the

older brother towards Paul who was like the younger brother.

 

   Just goes to show how amazingly abundant Christ’s mercy and

grace is for us, it is so abundant that it goes far beyond normal human

understanding. Christ died so that all of our sins might be forgiven. To

the Christian, forgiveness is continuously available throughout their

lives, and to the new Christian, forgiveness is available for all the sin

you have racked up to the point you converted. For under Christ, all of

his laborers are forgiven, and through him, when we meet our maker,

we all come blameless, shameless, guiltless, sinless; all receiving the

same reward, eternal life in Heaven.

 

   On an interesting note, you may have noticed in today’s parable

that the master only agreed to give a denarius to the first group of

laborers. He went out to them and after he, the master, agreed to hire

them for one denarius did he sent them into the vineyard. The laborers

set the terms. After that, throughout the day, the master hires more

laborers but does not tell any of them how much they will earn, only

that he will provide what he deemed was right. Then, at the end of the

day, it comes time for the passing of the wage, and the master asks the

last to come receive their pay first. The ones who only showed up the

final hour received one denarius, not knowing that would be their

wage. The next group the same and so on, until the final group, who

were the first to be hired showed up for their wage. This group, the

only one that the master agreed to give one denarius before hiring,

believes they will receive more because those who worked less also

received one denarius. But the master tells them that these were the

agreed upon terms, that they will receive one denarius, and why should

they get mad at the master for being generous with the others? Let it

be known it is only this group that agreed upon the terms to be paid

one denarius. Yet they are jealous, because the Master is willing to

provide the same for the latest of the laborers.

 

   The kingdom of God is for all who labor for Christ, not part of it

for those who are late to the game, but all of it and all its amazing

abundance for those who come early and for those who come late, for

those who have been a Christian since their infant baptism to those

who come to believe right before they breath their last breath. They,

and you, have all been abundantly pardoned through faith in Christ,

and to you the doors to the Kingdom of Heaven are indeed open.

 

Let us pray,

 

    Dear Heavenly Father, you are much grander than humans and

your thoughts much higher than humans and your love more vast than

humans, we cannot comprehend it, but we still adore it and ask that

you never take away this abundant love but continue to promise us all

the Kingdom of Heaven. In your name we pray, Amen.

 
SCRIPTURE READINGS FOR OCTOBER 11, 2020 Pentecost 19
LAY READER: Emily Holcomb
 
THE FIRST LESSON: ISAIAH, CHAPTER 5 VERSES 1-7
 
THE WORD OF THE LORD
Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. 3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? 5 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. 7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!
HERE ENDS THE READING OF THE FIRST LESSON
 
PSALMODY: PSALM 112
 
P Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!
C His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.
P Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. C Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.
P It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice.
C For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever.
P He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. C His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.
P He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn is exalted in honor.
C The wicked man sees it and is angry; he gnashes his teeth and melts away; the desire of the wicked will perish!
 
THE SECOND LESSON: 1st CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 3 VERSES 9-20
 
THE WORD OF THE LORD
 
For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. 16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”
 
HERE ENDS THE READING OF THE SECOND LESSON
 
THE GOSPEL: LUKE 20:9-19
 
And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. 10 When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. 13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’14 But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” 17 But he looked directly at them
and said, “What then is this that is written: “ ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” 19 The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.
 
HERE ENDS THE GOSPEL READING

Grace and peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

   In many a great businesses and organizations there is a culture of “Lead by example”. The Army, for example, actually grades their subordinate leaders in how well they lead by example in order to better foster a desired culture. Say a company prizes humbleness, then a CEO may lead a life of humility at their company and through such actions encourage their employees to do likewise. Or say you have a Boy Scout group, and the scoutmaster wished to foster a troop culture of masculinity, just like the creator of Boy Scouts intended, then said scoutmaster would be reliable, protective, firm, a steady rock, etc.

   All of these are but examples in how groups of people would utilize their authoritative structure to not only demand a certain culture but to also initiate the fostering of said culture by leading from the top, leading by example.

   Within the Church, such a desired model exists between her people and the figurehead, God, Himself. We say what would Jesus do, or how has the Father reacted in similar situations. We don’t just listen and obey their commandments, or attempt to, but we observe the actions of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit throughout Scripture and try to model our lives after their “leading by example”. And God encourages this; be Godly, be like the “Holiest of All that is Holy”, be like He who is perfect and has done no wrong, model your life after Him so that you may be more like Him. But what has he done?

   Jesus gave himself up on the cross, died, gave up his life, so that through Him, we may receive the means of Salvation through faith in Him. For we are dreadful sinners who deserve to go to Hell and nothing we do, by our own devices, can earn us a ticket into Heaven, but through the Grace of God, Jesus died on the Cross so that he could take on our sin and shove it into Hell. Someone had to go to Hell. Jesus said he would go to Hell, so he willingly, knowingly, took on all of our sin, suffered death, and suffered Hell, so that through Him we would not suffer Hell. He took on our sins, thus, through Him, we are forgiven of our sins, and through this forgiveness we are made clean, washed of our sins, so that we may enter Heaven.

   Yet this gift was not forced on us, it is a gift. What that means is that you must accept the hand from which this gift comes from. Not all are forgiven, but all who believe in Jesus and only Jesus are indeed forgiven. For he says that if you have faith in Him and repent of your sins then He will take on your sins so that you would not have to; there are no other conditions, in fact there are no conditions at all because Jesus wants to give us forgiveness, but will not force it on us. He wants to free us from the chains of sin, not put us in new chains of forced forgiveness.

   Speaking of chains, in the past I mentioned chains a lot in reference to our enslavement to sin under Original Sin, but there is another meaning to the word chain. For the purpose of this Gospel and Sermon, I wish to use the other definition of chain in reference to what most would understand as, “the chain of authority.” In order to lead by example there needs to be a chain of authority, and within the Church this chain of authority begins with God.

   So what in today’s Gospel is Jesus trying to impress upon us? What culture is He desiring to foster through this “chain of authority” and “leading by example”? Forgiveness. Christ is instructing a culture of forgiveness, and he does so by opening our eyes to the fact that God Himself forgave you first, and thus you must do so too for your brothers.

Peter asked how many times a day should he be willing to forgive someone. When is enough enough? Is seven enough? Not seven, but seventy seven; in fact, not even that, there is no limit. If anyone is repentant then forgive them their sins. And if they keep on coming back to you, as long as they are truly repentant then you must forgive them.

Pastor please forgive me from doing this and that.

   Again!? I just forgave you an hour ago for exactly that.

I know, but I did it again. I’m terribly sorry, I promise I won’t do it again, honest to God, I mean it this time.

   You truly mean it?

I do.

   Then you are forgiven.

One hour later… Pastor I did it again.

   Ok, I’ll forgive you again.

   So Jesus tells Peter that you must continually forgive your sinner, as long as they are repentant, but continues onward with a parable. In this parable, Jesus tells us of a King who forgave the entire debt of a servant who repented and asked for debt forgiveness. Then his servant goes out to another servant who also debt, but far less. The lesser servant does the same as the first, begs for forgiveness, but instead of forgiving this servant acts wrathfully. The king is then angry at his servant and throws him into jail. The point of the parable is to show that God is forgiving and if you are repentant then he will forgive you your entire debt, but that he also expects you to act like him and to treat your brothers and sisters in the same fashion. And as Christians we know with sure certainty that God has indeed forgiven us our sins by looking at the Cross. Thus should we not also observe Jesus’ example? Should we not observe his forgiveness? And, in reference to “leading by example” and “the chain of authority”, should we not also observe this, what I would call, “Chain of Forgiveness”?

   On an interesting note, here Jesus is comparing sin to debt, which is a comparison I make very often. God demands perfection, thus a good action, in the eyes of God is a net zero; whereas sin is a net negative, where you incur debt. Nothing you do will resolve this debt back to a net zero because all perfect actions are already net zero’s, they are already required. Anything positive must be above and beyond perfection. So as a sinner, you are racking up a lengthy debt and nothing you can do will ever make that debt go away and bring it all to a net zero. Yet here is Jesus saying as long as you have faith in me, I will provide for you debt forgiveness. A lovely picture, which is present throughout scripture showing us that we are save by faith alone and not by any amount of good works, which is Pelagianism, a heresy denounced by the Roman Catholic Church during the first millennium.

   So this “Chain of Forgiveness”, Jesus has forgiven us and demands that we follow his example and forgive our brothers. How many times a day? As often as your brother repents; continual forgiveness. And what if they are not repentant? Well you may forgive them, but the requirement to forgive is attached to repentance. For if a person comes to you truly sorrowful of their sins and wishes to change their ways then you must forgive them just as Jesus first forgiven you. That is what is meant when I say, “Chain of Forgiveness”.

   For the history of Israel is a history full of God’s wrath and forgiveness. God doesn’t change his mind like humans, willy-nilly; nor does God give forgiveness like candy during a parade. Because of our sins He is wrathful, but is swift to forgiveness if we repent. Jonah went to Nineveh, well he was forced to go there, and preached that God was going place his wrath on them. The King and all his subjects repented of their sins, and, to Jonah’s dismay, God forgave them and relented of His anger.

   What am I trying to say? Let me begin with this, whereas God is gracious and merciful, swift to anger and swift to relenting of his anger, He does not cheapen His grace; he does not hand out forgiveness like some rich man who throws money at every single cause without looking up to see if the causes are good or nefarious. Now do not be mistaken, this does not imply that God does not withhold his grace to only those who are repentant, only that He does not cheapen His grace, and above all else He will never withhold His grace to those who repent.

   Because of this, we should do so too. We should be swift to forgiveness to those who repent, just like God who is swift to forgiveness when we repent. But we should not cheapen this grace. Why should we not cheapen grace? If you remember last week, I gave a plethora of examples why, but this week I’ll reflect on Bonhoeffer. When asked how the Church allowed the Nazi party to exist, Bonhoeffer, knowing through experience, said that the Church allowed the Nazis to exist because they cheapened Grace. His quote goes as such, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” Basically, when you cheapen grace, you allow evil to flourish.

   So how do we not cheapen the grace of forgiveness? Maybe the first step is to, in a loving fashion, help each other realize our sins, and, as Christians, when we acknowledge our sins we are lead towards repentance, and because we repent of our sins we forgive each other. This does not mean we look for sins nor arbitrarily say someone committed a certain sin such as the wolves-in-sheep-clothing who preach that all white people are guilty of racism and need to repent (which is anti-Christian in of itself and is sinful for it is bearing false witness, is technically a form of racism, and breaks at least on top of my head three of the articles in the Augsburg Confession). What this means is that when a brother or sister does sin against you, you help them realize their sin so that they may repent and so that they may be swiftly forgiven and so that the weight of sin would be lifted. For even if we are not aware of our sin, the weight of our sins can still be felt and our soul will be weighed down by the Guilt and Shame of our sins, but through forgiveness, not only are we released from our sins but also the guilt and shame that comes with sin.

   So forgiveness is a beautiful thing, and know this, through your faith in Jesus Christ, you have been forgiven, and as loving Christians, let us walk in the example of Christ, forgiving each other.

Let us pray,

   Heavenly Father, through you our debt is forgiven and the doors to heaven are open. We ask that you embolden us with your loving generous Spirit so that when we approach our repentant siblings in Christ we forget not your forgiveness but act in similar fashion. In your most holy name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we pray, Amen.

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