in Sermons

Trinity 3 2011
Luke 15:1-10

This world easily ignores its own sins, but it won’t hesitate to remind others of their sins. This world generally considers its own sin insignificant, immediately forgiven and yet it also refuses to forgive others.

We delight in looking down upon those who are done evil. We take pleasure in knowing that we’re not like those terrible people who have done great and numerous crimes against our world.

There is the murderer who slaughters innocent life. He certainly deserves a great sentence for what he has done. Life is precious and not to be taken lightly. But, who of you have also conceived a murder in your own heart, seeking to do harm to your neighbor, holding a grudge, or simply hating them? While you might not act out in violence towards them, you seek to do the same sort of harm.

Or what about the thief? His greed leads him to snatch away from others the goods that belong to them. The sin within his heart compels him to take what is not his. But who of you has not sought after in your heart that goods, fame, or spouse that belongs to your neighbor? While you may not have resorted to grand theft, is not your heart also filled with that same greed for the things that are not yours?

But, look within your own hearts and consider whether you to have placed first in your life something other than a triune God?  Perhaps you refuse to sacrifice the first fruits of your labor in service to Christ’s church and her ministry? Perhaps you are unwilling to sacrifice those precious hours of your day for study of Lords Word and prayer? Perhaps you’re unwilling to  serve your neighbor with the talents your Lord has granted you? We all fall into godlessness at times and are no different from the atheist.

The reality of our sinful condition is that we are lost. We have wandered away from the flock. We’re stranded in the wilderness.  Our sin has left us there for dead.

It is far too easy for us to look around and judge others. But today let us look within our hearts and see that we really aren’t that different from the murderer, the thief, or even the unbelieving atheist. We all remain dead and our trespasses. Our heart hates our brother. It envies what it does not have. It places above God the creature comforts of this world.  All  have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

The sinful heart of the world judges a man by what it sees. It looks to the external and not the internal. The world judges a man by his keeping of the second table of the law. It looks and asks: does the child obey its mother and father? Does the individual cause loss of life? Did the spouse cheat on the other? Is he a thief? Has he lied about others? Does greed consume him?

But, the world does not look and ask: Does he hear the Word of the Lord and receive the Lord’s gifts regularly? Does he call upon the name of the Lord in every trouble and in prayer, and in thanksgiving? Does he fear, love, and trust in God above all things?

The world is most concerned for love of the neighbor, but it has little concern for love of God. We also neglect our God in heart, name, and Sabbath and instead hold  in higher esteem outward righteousness. We ignore the corruption of our own hearts. We also carry the marks of unbelief, the rejection of the first table of the law.

This utterly corrupt world needs Christ our Savior. He comes not for the righteous, for there is not a one, no not even one, who merits eternal life. Jesus goes after the sinner. He bears the sinner on his heart. He follows us with his mercy, calling to us with his voice.

Some have wandered a great distance. Their sins place them far outside Christ’s flock. Christ diligently seeks those who are lost. No sin is too great to prevent him to seek you. He comes after the whole world, lost sheep to preach his words of Law. He shows us how lost we are in our sin.

Christ then takes our eternal destiny into his own hands. He preaches his Law to us through crosses, sickness, in pain, and the like. He holds up a mirror to our hearts so that we might recognize our murderous thoughts, our insatiable greed, and our flat-out unbelief. He does this to all without distinction.

His Word of Law shows us how far we  have wandered from true faith. It opens our eyes to the wilderness of sin. It shows us the death that surrounds us, the scorching heat bearing down upon us. And His Law allows no self-deception, thinking everything is okay.

Christ’s seeking us and opening of our eyes to the reality of our condition, has one goal in mind. He desires that we confess who we are. He desires that we say: I am a poor miserable sinner, and I have sinned against you and thought, word and deed, by what I have done in by what I have left undone. I am not loved you with my whole heart, and I have not loved my neighbor as myself. I justly deserve punishment now and into eternity. For your sake Jesus forgive me of my sins pick me up carry me on your shoulders so that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to your glory.

Confession recognizes that we are dead in our sin. It’s not simply admission that we made a mistake and that we have tried to corrected it. Confession is saying we have no power to save ourselves.

At this Christ picks us up. He places us on his shoulders. And he renews our faith. Gives us the power to be children of God and Grant says his Holy Spirit that we might walk in his truth.

He does this by his voice, the horn of the Gospel.  He is the good Shepherd  who has not forgotten his sheep. and His sheep know his voice. He recklessly throws himself into the wilderness in pursuit of just one, you and I.  His voice calls to us and draws us to himself just like tax collectors and sinners. Even the Pharisees know that this man is the good Shepherd.

Sometimes it’s easy for us to be enticed by the saccharine sweetness of external righteousness. We deceive ourselves by thinking our good works and our outward piety keep us within our Lord’s flock. But, no amount of moral or spiritual achievement will save you. No amount of keeping commandments four through ten will do what our Lord’s righteousness, His passion, and death have done for you. “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 1624-26)

The most moral and spiritual person, is still a sinner. That person is still isolated from God, stranded to die in the desert. Jesus will have none of that sickly sweetness of self-righteousness. He pursues us, comes to us, and rubs his salt on this false preoccupation. His passion and death do not taste sweet. The sweat from his brow, the sourness of the gall upon his lips, the pain of his cross, ruin the sugarcoated sinner.

Jesus came for the last, the least, the little, but lost, and the dead. His grace isn’t for the winners. It’s not for those who are victorious over immorality and illegality. His grace isn’t for the pious, the mighty, and those who live the good life. Instead, Jesus goes after the dead.  Dead is just the way he wants us. He wants us to know who we are truly because of our sin. He wants us to see our condition for what it really is… that is a sinful wilderness.

Christ picks us up with his saving gospel. He redeems us from our sins. He uses faithful pastors to preach the unrighteousness of all men and the saving redemption won by his blood on the cross. He uses parents who commend their child to the Lord in baptism, who teach them the word in the way of faith, who confirm them in the faith, and bring them to the Lord’s table. He uses Lutheran schools, like our own, to teach them with the parents, daily calling them to repentance and pronouncing the absolution won by Jesus. Christ uses friends, faithful spouse, or even a believing community, to illuminate the sinner’s heart to recognize the truth of his condition, call into repentance, and give him a comfort that our Lord’s redemption can only bring.

Jesus is the good Shepherd. He defies our expectations and comes after all of us, each sinner, both great and small in the eyes of the world.  In our wandering we are many miles from him but no distance is too great for him.  He cares for us. He loves us. He finds us. He draws us back to himself.

We are lonely and afflicted. We are in trouble.  Our souls are in bondage. But Jesus Christ is gracious. He finds us and pulls our feet out of the quicksand of death. He delivers us. Without him no one is strong in faith, no one is holy. No one can return to the sheepfold. But, praise be to God that he has redeemed us, that he has pursued us, and is plucked the son of Satan snares.

He is passed over our transgressions. He is pardoned our iniquity. He has had compassion on us. He exalts us to his own shoulders. Satan prowls around like the roaring  lion, nipping at his heels, but the victory has been won.  Sin has no power, and death has no dominion over us.

The angels of God rejoice. Sinners have confessed. Our Lord has absolved. The lost sheep has been found. Rejoice with the Lord and with all his angels that he is found us and has saved us.

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

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church
Dyer, Indiana