01. July 2012
The Sunday of Fatherly Mercy (Trinity 4)
Romans 8:18-23; Luke 6:36-42
Our prayer this day is that God would order the world by His governance according to His peace. This is asking for a lot and a lot more than we could ever manage. Our world is a chaotic and messy place. Order is the last word we’d use to describe politics. Backbiting, slander, and deceit are the marks of the government.
The reason for the chaos is simply this: this is a world of corrupt sinners, utterly unable to serve their neighbor with his best interests in mind. Even when we try to aid those without health insurance through a health care law, we can’t do it without trampling on individual rights of the free exercise of religion and unjust taxation.
This does not mean that government is evil. Far from it. There is good government and bad government. And as long as we live in this flesh, in this unjust country, on this corrupt planet, we will always see both the good and the bad. Nothing we do can be done without sin. Everything, even the most good natured attempt to care for the sick among us, will be done in sin.
Yet, you prayed that in the midst of this corrupt and fallen world, governed by unjust and wicked men (yourselves included), that God would bring peace and order. Every week you pray for our government, especially that they would rule justly and according to God’s peace.
The hope for peace on earth is not a bad thing. The desire for good government is something we ask for each day when ask for daily bread (in the Lord’s Prayer) and confess God as creator of the heavens and the earth (in the Apostles’ Creed). Yet, this is a hope that we know will always be more or less and never perfect the last day when the Prince of Peace rules in His kingdom that never ends.
It is the height of man’s hubris to think we can bring perfect peace though rule of law or anarchic lawlessness. Some advocate socialistic legislation with more and more laws to bring about peace. John Lennon’s solution of “giving peace a chance” doesn’t work either. “All we need is love” by his definition is freedom to do whatever one wants as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody. Unfortunately, liberty without law results in anarchy.
In the end, you can’t make perfect peace here. Creation groans in pain, all subjected to futility. You can try to make peace but it will always be corrupt, imperfect, and unjust. Everything is in bondage to decay. Don’t believe me? I’m not surprised. Most people don’t think of themselves as sinners to the core. It is your fallen nature to think of yourselves higher than you ought.
For example, you are apt to complain to the me about how I always talk about sin, death, and hell. Why? Because you don’t actually believe it. Well, you believe these things exist but that either they are not that important to consider or they don’t apply to you. Sin? That’s talking about the next guy. Death? Nah, that’s a long way down the line. Hell? It might not even exist.
It’s true. Most people, and probably you included, act as if this world and your lives are how they should be. You act as if you are immortal. You naively hope that God will not punish the evildoers like yourself as He promised. You live as if there is a tomorrow. You live like there’s nothing gone horribly wrong with the world and you. You think there’s no need for God to regularly give you His Word and the blessed Sacrament.
Ah, but pastor, you’re judging us. Didn’t Jesus say, “Judge not, and you will not be judged. Condemn not, and you will not be condemned?” Doesn’t that mean you’re supposed to just tell us how good God is, how high and mighty He is, how we have such an awesome God, and leave all that talk of sin, and death, and especially hell at the door?
This would be true if Jesus were speaking to the preaching office. But not so. Preachers speak God’s Word faithfully, completely, and rightly distinguishing the Word for the hearer. Preachers are commanded to speak the Word that always judges, condemns, and even kills. But they also must and even more so speak a Word of forgiveness, mercy, and new life. Preachers speak in the stead and by the command of Christ, declaring God’s own judgment and condemnations but all the more proclaiming His forgiveness, His grace, and His mercy for the sake of the blood of Christ crucified.
Today, Jesus is speaking directly to you, His church, in this Holy Gospel. He is telling you how to joyfully serve Him in godly quietness. You serve God by serving your neighbor. Today’s Gospel tells you precisely how you are to relate to your neighbor, whether spouse, child, and fellow pew-sitter. Do not judge him for his faults. Do not condemn him for his errors. Forgive him even his worst and most terrible sins against you. Give to him even when you seem to have nothing. In a word, love him to a fault. That’s the Christian life.
Who has joyfully held back a word of judgment? Who has served their neighbor by loving them even when they are in error? Who has forgiven the one who has grievously harmed you? Who has shown mercy when utterly undeserved? Be honest. Not one of you. Not me.
There is yet a problem. The thing we ought to do, we don’t. The things we shouldn’t, we do. The Christian life is more than not judging, not condemning, forgiving, and giving. The Christian life is more than simply being merciful. The answer is that the Christian life begins outside of us. It begins in the freedom of the glory given to the children of God. It begins with God the Father. It begins, continues, and ends by receiving the Father’s mercy.
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Understand Jesus. Your Father is merciful to you first. Your Father is merciful. Your life is a testament to His mercy. You do not love God completely and He has still spared you the death you deserve. You fail to pray in time of joy and in time of need and he mercifully has not forgotten you. You are unwilling to hear His Word preached and taught and to receive His body and blood often, and yet he still mercifully speaks and gives when you finally show up.
God the Father is merciful for He has not punished you as you as you deserve. He has spared you from judgment, condemnation, and sin. He has given to you Jesus. Not a little Jesus. Not just enough Jesus. More Jesus than you could possibly imagine. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.
In the trial of Jesus Christ under Pontius Pilate, your judgment is declared upon another. In Christ crucified, dead, and buried, your condemnation is suffered by another. In the shed blood of the Lamb of God, atonement is made for you and your sins are forgiven. For the sake of His Son Jesus, God the Father mercifully gives you to great spiritual and earthly blessings.
This mercy in Jesus is the source of every good and gracious gift of God. Every blessing of body and soul is given to you by your gracious Father. His chief gift is Jesus and everything else is given to support you in the faith until He comes again. You are fed and clothed to wait eagerly for the adoption of sons. You have house and family to order your days in His peace though preaching and study of the Word of God. You are given society and government so that you may serve your neighbor in godly quietness and thus testify to the mercy of the Father.
The world is a chaotic and messy place. Government is full of lies and deceit. Our families and our own lives are as corrupt and tainted as the world and the our government. But for the sake of Jesus Christ crucified, the Father is merciful. He does not judge us according to our sin, condemn us according to the just verdict, but instead forgives and gives every good blessing.
Not just a little Jesus. Not even just “enough” Jesus. Jesus in good measure. Jesus proclaiming. Jesus teaching. Jesus baptizing. Jesus hearing confession and absolving. Jesus giving us his own body and blood for our forgiveness. Jesus in good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, and put in your lap.
He is given abundantly not just for you but for your neighbor. Be merciful because you have received mercy in Jesus. Judge not for you have been freed from judgment in Christ. Condemn not for you are not condemned to death but will receive eternal life. Forgive as you are forgiven. Give because you have received.
This is not like anything in this world. This is the sort of ordering for church, family, and community you will never see apart from the Father’s mercy. This is a life received and given. We pray that the course of the world be ordered according to his governance and that we, His church, would receive mercy and show mercy in all godly quietness. May God grant it. Amen.
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church