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.

 

   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.

Thank you Pastor Chris Boyd!
Grace and peace to you my Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Amen.
Let me begin with this, You are Saved. You are indeed Saved. Through Christ and only through Christ, each and every one of us is Saved.
Now let me ask, what does that mean? It means that through Christ you have been forgiven and are now Saints, not because of anything you have done but because of what He has done. No amount of good works or merit or following the Law led you to becoming a Saint, for by our own devices none of these are possible, but because you are now Saints through Christ you are finally capable of doing works that are deemed, in the eyes of God, Good.
Yet, just because you are a Saint does not mean you are incapable of sinning or that the Law no longer applies to you. Christ forgave us our sins and broke the chains that forced us into sin, but he did put us into new chains that force us not to sin, but gave us the free will to choose on our own to follow or turn from God. Thus, though we are Saints through Christ, we are still sinners in need of the constant forgiveness from Christ and the Eucharist, the daily bread, which spiritually satisfied our aching hearts.
I am reminded of an odd theology that sprung up during the reformation with great popularity only to be rightly denounce as utter heresy. This heretical line of thinking, unfortunately, still exists today: If you are saved then you cannot sin. Such an odd thing, for it implies that after your baptism nothing that comes out of you is a sin. The first consequence that comes to my mind of this theology is: what if you do sin and know you committed a sin, does that mean your baptism was invalid? Guess we might as well rebaptize. What if you lost your faith? Does that mean your baptism was invalid? Goes we might as well rebaptize. What if you were unable to affirm your faith in cases such as infant baptism? Guess we might as well rebaptize. Such a line a thinking is detrimental for it leads us into questioning our own baptism, which is not an act of Man, another heresy, but an act of God.
Last week I preached about things of Man and things of God; Baptism is most definitely a thing of God, and no amount of sin you commit will ever desecrate this sacred act that God did on your behalf. This is why we baptize infants, because it is not a thing of Man but a thing of God.
Another consequence to this heretical belief is that you ignore the sins you are committing.
I'm perfect, I can't sin.
But you just sinned.
No I didn't.
But what about...
Hush, I'm a Saint, I can't sin, every action I do is Good.
I guess, it's not enough that the Bible, through 1 John, clearly states, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
A similar misunderstanding includes the belief that because Christ forgive us our sins then the Law has been abolished. There's no longer the Law, therefore there is no longer sin; as a Christian, all my actions are acceptable... this is no different then the heresy I just mention for both basically state that because I am a Christian I can do anything, I can do no wrong, and anything I do is acceptable. Wrong. Christ came not to abolish the Law, nor to add to the Law, but to fulfill the Law. The Law still exists. Sin still exists. You are still a Sinner. And Sin is still bad, evil, against God.
Yet, despite all of this, God has blessed us through the Church a most amazing revelation, you are not alone in your sin. For were as the Church is an assembly of Saints, for through Christ, and only through Him, we are all Saints, it is also an assembly of Sinners. No one in the Church is perfect except the Head, Christ, but because we are of the Church and through Christ brothers and sisters, we are not alone in our imperfection. We look out for each other, we point out each others' sins, we help lift each other up, we forgive each other, and we remind each other of Christ who is in our lives.
In our first reading, Ezekiel, God is basically telling us that if He says that something is a sin and we do not warn our fellow brother or sister that what they are doing is a sin then blood is on our hands. But out of love toward our brother and sister, if we see them live a life of great sin then by warning them and preaching scripture to them they may see the errors of their way. And if they don't turn from their sins, you would prove yourself a loving Christian and blood is not on your hands.
And in the Gospel of St Matthew, that when a brother or sister in Christ sins against you you let them know, though at first in private. It is not a thing of the Church to allow our brothers and sisters to wallow in sin, for if they sinned against you then they are creating a divide almost as if they, a brother, are lost to you. But as members of the one Holy united catholic, which means united, Church we desire union, thus, if your brother listens to you and repents of their sin, they you have truly gained your brother back. And if they don't, you bring in more members of the church, slowly, not jumping the gun, all for the sake of union, and if they still don't listen then you expand to the Church, then the Deans, and then the Bishop. But before all of this, the first thing you do is talk in private, so as to not hold this sin that was committed against you in your heart and to swiftly allow your brother the chance to repent.
But what if after all this they still don't listen? Then you treat your brother as if they are Gentile or a tax collector. That is not to say that you ignore them or treat them like lepers, but you treat them with even more care and by preaching the Word to them even more so, for they are a lost brother, but through the Word, hopefully, they will be found.
All of this is done out of love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, for whereas we love the sinner, and all of us are still sinners, because we love the sinner, truly love that is, then we also hate the sin. In fact, if we were to accept the actions, the sins of the sinner, then that would be the same as truly hating the sinner, for no one who truly loves a sinner would accept said sinner's sins.
But that sounds judgy. It does. But what about when Jesus said, “thou shall not judge”? Boy do you sound like a politician. Whereas Jesus did say that, there is more to what he said and you are taking his words out of context. This is what he said in Matthew, chapter 7, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Basically, Jesus is not saying do not judge your brother, but you should be willing to judge, and if you aren't willing to be judged then you should not be judging others. In fact, proclaiming, “thou shall not judge” at others who are judging is in of itself an act of judging for you are judging those who judge. Remember the heresies I mentioned in the beginning of this sermon? Those are the people who would say, “how dare you judge me.”
Now I am not advocating for a malicious form of judging, nor a human/worldly form of judging. All I'm preaching for, in accordance will Scripture, is that we love our neighbor, and through such love, we have a genuine concern for our Christian brothers and sisters while warning each other of our sins, not to put people down but to lift each other up in the name of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus, through the grace of God, I pray that as the Church, we continue to walk with each other as Saints. And, as Sinners, help each other out as we walk together in the light of the Father, accepting His forgiveness and cleansing through the Blood of the Son, and accepting the blessed union of the Church through the Holy Spirit, “for where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am also.”
Amen.

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.

Grace and Peace to you my Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Amen. 

Have you ever been around a person whose emotions could suddenly switch on you, where at one moment they were happy and all of a sudden they do a hard flip and become very angry? Now I’m not talking about someone whose emotions changes frequently, I’m talking about someone who is capable of these hard switches. It catches you off guard, doesn’t it? Now, what about a person whose emotions rarely changes and has a good head on their shoulders, but retains the capacity to make these hard switches. They are usually calm, and then they are all of a sudden angry. Such anger would throw us off and make us wonder what just happened? What set this usually calm person off? Did I do something wrong? What happened? 

A personal example, when I was in college training to be an officer, as a senior, I was inspecting my fellow younger Soldiers as they conducted leadership training through obstacle lanes. I’m on a raised platform overlooking multiple individual courses, each with their little huddle of Soldiers, one appointed as the graded leader of said course. And as I was overlooking I hear from one group, their leader talking in a raised voice and with some choice language. This Soldier is a friend of mine and usually does not act this way; he is usually kind and mild mannered, but now he is acting belligerent. I guess it was either the lack of food or the stress of being graded, but his conduct was shocking. 

After seeing this, I responded by also raising my voice and ordered this Soldier to calm down, to stand down, to cool his head off. If seeing this Soldier’s conduct was shocking, my reaction must have been a hurricane; for after I said that, the whole field went quiet. The said Soldier most especially was quiet, and went to the side and cool his head off. Eventually, training continued as usual. 

After this exercise, my Lieutenant Colonel told me in her office that that was the first time she has ever seen me visibly angry and raise my voice. She was in shock too, for here is an inspiring chaplain who is usually shy and quiet mannered projecting his anger at a Soldier who is acting up. She was glad that I had this authoritative side, but she honestly had no clue I had it in me. 

It is this kind of incident that Peter finds himself in Scripture. Just minutes ago Jesus is praising Peter for acknowledging that Jesus is Christ. Jesus proclaims that the Father has truly blessed Peter, that from here on out Peter was to be the Rock on which Christ’s Church was to be built on, that the keys to heaven were Peter’s, and that he was giving the power to bind and loose. Jesus said all of this, and in a matter of minutes Jesus called Peter Satan! 

What happened? What caused this extreme shift in emotions? One minute he praises Peter, the next he calls Peter Satan. And imagine the emotions Peter is experiencing? Probably fear and shock. What happened? 

Right after Jesus praises Peter, he starts to talk about his death. After hearing this Peter couldn’t take it anymore, pulls Jesus to the side, and starts to rebuke his Rabbi, his Master, his God. It is because of this rebuke that Jesus responded with such vicious anger, “Get behind me, Satan!” Now when Peter pulled Jesus to the side he did so out of the kindness of his heart. He had concern for his Lord who is talking about how he must suffer and be killed. Peter loved Jesus deeply and did not want to see him depart, let alone suffer. Peter truly had good intentions, but what about the famous quote, “the path to Hell is paved with good intentions?” Just because Peter had good intentions, just because he acted out of love, does not mean his actions were truly Good, Godly even. In fact they weren’t. We know this because Jesus told Peter that his mind wasn’t set on things of God, but on things of Man, and it is because of this mindset that Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan!” The fact that Peter had good intentions does not mean much. The fact that Peter acted out of kindness and love does not mean much. The fact that Peter wished for Jesus not to suffer but live does not mean much. Peter was still a puppet of Satan; Satan, who was using Peter in order to move Jesus away from fulfilling his role, fulfilling Scripture, and obeying His Father’s commands. Jesus had to suffer and be killed, it was foretold in Isaiah, and, instead of setting his mind on human things, he set his mind on Godly things and was obedient to his own death. 

I am reminded of the multiple times in Scripture, for example from our reading in Romans, where we are told to live in the world, but not of the world, or, “Do not be conformed to this world.” To be conformed to this world is to act and think upon the things of Man. Such things that are worldly, things that are of Man, humane things, includes the desire to see others not suffer, to protect each other, the desire to see one’s neighbor or family or teacher live. There are many things that are worldly and appear to be good. But that is just it, they appear to be good. For what if your desire to prevent someone you love from suffering prevents them from fulfilling their desire to proclaim the Gospel? What if your desire to protect someone inhibits their desire to worship God and receive the Sacraments? What if your desire to save someone’s life hinders their desired ability to obey God? In such cases, these good intentions are not things of God, but simply things of Man, and if said someone was Jesus then he would most certainly say, “Get behind me, Satan!” 

Jesus had a mission, He was sent not only to teach and to perform miracles, he was sent to fulfill Scripture by dying a most horrific and painful death so that through his suffering and death he may take on all of our sins and shove them into Hell. He died for our sins so that we may not die for our sins. He went to Hell, so that we won’t go to Hell. Someone had to pay for our sins, and Jesus came to be the innocent slaughtered Lamb sacrificed so that we wouldn’t go to Hell but instead live in Heaven with Him the now and forever Risen Son. 

So when Satan spoke through Peter, trying to get Jesus off this mission, to disobey God, of course Jesus was furious. But he was also furious for Peter’s sake. For when Peter thought he was acting out of love, he was acting as a pawn of Satan, but Jesus who was acting out of anger was acting out of true love towards His servant. Jesus just blessed Peter, and now Satan is abusing His most trusted ally on Earth. Thus, for Peter’s sake, Jesus was furious and commanded Satan, not Peter, to go away. Get out of the one whom I building my Church on! 

It is so interesting how in a matter of minutes both God and Satan spoke through Peter. One time God speaks through Peter, proclaiming that Jesus was Christ, the next Satan is speaking through Peter trying to save Jesus from his fate. The first was a thing of God, the other a thing of Man. But speaking of things of God, what is a thing of God? Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” What does this mean? Quite simply, to follow and embrace and obey God no matter the cost. Such a thing is truly a thing of God for this means you are willing to give up your life for God’s sake, or that you have what the world would view as an extreme form of courageous faith; the extreme courage to stay true to your faith even if that leads to death; the courage to go through trials and tribulations such as the ones Job went through and still hold on to your faith in God and follow Him. 

Jesus took up his own cross and died so that we may be saved through Him. In like manner, we must be willing to embrace the cost of following in Jesus’ footsteps. If we truly wish to set our minds on things of God we must be willing to deny ourselves and, like Jesus, be willing to carry our own cross, even if that means dying for Jesus’ name sake. 

Such a thing is scary, I understand, as a Chaplain I talk with Soldiers quite a bit about death and the willingness to die in order to preserve the freedoms of all Americans. And as Christians, to look death in the face without fear, to do such while following God, such is a daunting task. So I understand the fear. 

There is a cost to following the Gospel and obeying God. We don’t preach a Prosperity Gospel, unlike some conmen. No, we preach a costly Gospel, one that is hated by the world, one that is mocked whenever a preacher or laity die, one that leads many a great men to their deaths. Stephen was stoned to death for his faith. Nero, ruler of Rome, ordered a mass genocide against Christians. Christians are ruthlessly killed for their faith today by, for example, Islamic extremists or Marxist regimes. Throughout history there are many a Christians who went on mission trips and died from some foreign disease, knowing full well that they most likely will get such a life threatening disease. One, for example, is St. Damien the Patron Saint for Leprosy, Outcasts, and Hawaii, who in the late 19th century conducted a mission trip to the Kingdom of Hawaii, before it became a state, to spread the 

Gospel and to help treat those suffering from leprosy. At that time the Kingdom forced quarantined all who had leprosy, through an act in order to prevent the spread, on one of the islands, believing the illness of being fatal, incurable, and highly contagious. In response, Damien volunteered to be a missionary to this island of Hawaii, to serve the colony of leprosy, knowing full well he would contract it. And he did, but that did not stop him and he boldly continued his mission work till his death due to said leprosy. 

So there is a cost to boldly following God, but know this, no matter what happens to you because of your faith, whether that is through virus or violence, Jesus the Lord our God who obeyed the Father unto death on the cross for our sake, and rose from the grave, will never leave you nor forsake you but continue to bless you, save you, and open there doors to eternal life in Heaven for you. 

Let us pray, 

 

Lord God, we come to you with humble hearts asking that you provide for us the amazing courage to not only deny ourselves, but to take up our own crosses to follow you and your every commandment regardless of the cost, for we wish to be conformed not by this world, but by your will and to have our minds set on Godly things. We ask this in your most holy name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

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