Trinity III - St. Luke 15:1-10 - June 21, 2015

Order of Holy Communion Pg.15
Hymn # 1 Open Now Thy Gates of Beauty
Hymn # 387 Dear Christians One and All Rejoice
Hymn # 523 Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me

Readings
Micah 7:18-20
1 Peter 5:6-11
Luke 15:1-10

Collect


O God, the Protector of all that trust in Thee, without Whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy, increase and multiply upon us Thy mercy that, Thou being our Ruler and Guide, we may so pass through things temporal that we finally lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon


1)         Today the Pharisees and Scribes preach to us. They are, as usual, grumbling against Jesus. And while we often look at these outwardly pious men with a certain amount of spiritual revulsion, today they preach to us. The say, This Man receives sinners and eats with them. Jesus doesn’t correct them because they’re not wrong. The Scribes and Pharisees think they are accusing Jesus of sin because all the tax collectors and sinners drew near to Him. They means their words pejoratively. They speak with disdain for Jesus’ actions. To eat with someone in Biblical times meant to have fellowship with them, solidarity with them. And just who are these people St. Luke describes as tax collectors and sinners? Tax collectors for Rome are not the ancient equivalent of an IRS agent. The tax system was very different as was the manner of gathering taxes. Though the system and methods are different the disdain for the tax man is the same in every age. These were men who made a comfortable living by exacting more tax than necessary. They had the reputation for being swindlers, thieves, and state-sanctioned pick-pockets. It was the nature of the job. So they could not have seriously looked at the seventh commandment, Thou shalt not steal, without blushing. They most certainly doing what the commandment prohibits, stealing, while they were failing to do what the commandment requires, helping their neighbors improve and protect their property and income. Then there are the sinners. These are not your regular, run of the mill sinners who fall into sin from time to time because of the weakness of the flesh. These are not sinners who fall into sin and then repent and earnestly try to amend their sinful life. These are the open, public sinners. They are the prostitutes, the fornicators, adulterers, thieves, rebels, cohabiters, and the like. These are people whose sin everyone can see simply by opening their eyes. The Scribes and Pharisees are astonished that Jesus, who claims to be the Messiah, would associate with these sorts of people, public, manifest sinners.

2)         Jesus does not correct them in their preaching. Their words are true. Their meaning is skewed because of their hypocrisy but that doesn’t make their words any less true. Jesus responds to their accusation by telling three parables, two of which we have before us in the Gospel lesson. What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!” Jesus compares his ministry to a Shepherd who leaves ninety-nine sheep behind in order to seek out one lost lamb. One out of a hundred may not seem to be that big of a deal. But to the Shepherd the lamb isn’t just a number. It a sorely needed asset. It is a beloved piece of property. So the Shepherd searches until He finds it. When He does, he makes the trek back to the sheepfold with the lost lamb on his shoulders, bearing it as a burden to console and comfort the lamb. The tax collectors and sinners, they are the lost lamb. They are like sheep who have strayed from the Bishop and Shepherd of their souls. They have lost their way in the thicket of sins and chosen to remain entangled in the bramble of guilt and shame over their sins. The Good Shepherd seeks them out because to Him the lost lamb, no matter how lost, no matter how isolated, is His beloved lamb.

3)         Jesus continues, Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?  And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!” With the second parable Jesus ups the ante. First it was one sheep out of one hundred. Now it is one coin out ten. Again, something of great value is lost. A sheep, when lost, will hunker down in its place in fear. But a coin, when it is lost, is even more passive. The coin cannot do anything to let itself be found. When a coin is lost it simply lays where it fell and gathers dust. But this dusty, lost coin is quite valuable still in spite of its lost and dusty condition. So the woman lights and lamp and searches the entire house for her dear treasure. This is what Jesus is doing for all sinners. All sinners are lost in their transgressions, hidden in the shadows of their sins. All sinners are the lost coin, gathering a thick layer of the dust of guilt. All sinners are the lost coin who are still, in spite of their lost and sinful condition, are a precious treasure. It is so precious that the woman in the parable lights and lamp and searches into the night. Jesus, the Life and Light of men, enters the world in human flesh to seek out sinners. He searches for sinners with the lamp of His Word, shining it into the dark places of the earth in search for His precious treasure. In both parables, the Shepherd and the woman rejoice over the finding of the lost lamb and the lost coin. So Christ heaps sinners upon His shoulders and coins in the air and the angels in heaven rejoice when sinners repent and believe the Gospel, and are thus saved.

4)         The third parable, which was not a part of the lection this morning, but finishes the triad of parables is the parable of the Lost Son, or Prodigal Son as we probably know it. A son wishes his father were dead by demanding his share of the inheritance. He travels to a Gentile country to live like the Gentiles. He probably spent his inheritance of extravagant living, fast cars and fast women, the usual way that inheritances are lost. Eventually his money runs out and he winds up tending pigs, so destitute that he longs for the pods which the pigs ate. The son is lost in every sense of the word. He has abandoned his father entirely. He has wasted His wealth. He has lived immorally. Now he is feeding pigs, an unclean animal. You remember how the rest goes. When he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 'I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” The Lost Son seems to come to His senses but really he doesn’t. He imagines that he can regain entry into his father’s house by his works and whatever piety working with pigs hasn’t destroyed. He wants to earn his father’s favor. He wants to make up for his squandering, wasted life. He wants to make amends and serve his father until the debt is fully paid. Thinking that He is no longer worthy to be son he’ll settle for being a slave.

5)         But his father will have none of that. The father isn’t pleased by works but by faith. His favor cannot be earned, only received. When he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.'  But the father said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 'And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 'for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. (Luke 15:20-24) The father seeks out his fallen son. He will not let the son come to him for the father sees him afar off and runs to him and embraces him and kisses him. The father does not want to hear where the money went. The father does not ask for an account of the son’s terrible behavior. The father asks for no work of satisfaction, no work to make up for the boy’s sin. The father loves the son and will not have him be a servant. So he gets dressed in the best robe. He gets a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. The fattened calf is prepared. The father has his dead son back from the grave. He receives the sinner and eats with him. The son once dead in trespass and sin is now alive in his father’s house once again.

6)         Such is the love of the Shepherd, the woman, and the father of house. These are all pictures of Christ Himself. The Pharisees and Scribes are absolutely right when they say, This Man receives sinners and eats with them. That is exactly why Jesus has come. He comes to find men, women and children who lost in their sins, who are entangled by their immorality, who are subjected and enslaved by their desires. Christ assumed human flesh to seek out sinners, public, manifest sinners. He does this by calling them to repentance and faith in Him for the forgiveness of their sins. He calls sinners to forsake their wicked ways and, with the working of the Holy Ghost, amend their sinful lives. He calls sinners every day to repent, believe, and bear the fruit of repentance. But it is not only for the openly wicked and publically sinful that Jesus has come. There is an irony in the preaching of the Scribes and Pharisees. They do not see themselves in that group of tax collectors and sinners. They see themselves as more pious and holy than the wicked outward sinners. They are the older brother from the parable of the lost son who thinks their sonship is locked up in their works and piety while inwardly they hate their father. Their pride and avarice, their self-justification and self-righteousness is just as bad as the immorality and thievery of the tax collectors and sinners. And there’s the irony. Jesus wants to receive even hypocritical Scribes and Pharisees. His grace is not limited. No one can put any law or boundary upon Jesus’ mercy. They don’t see it, but they should listen to their own preaching about Jesus.

7)         Dear saints, you are the Lord’s lamb. You are the Lord’s treasured possession. You are the Lord’s Son, for He has put His name on you in Holy Baptism. He is daily seeking to bring you to repent of your sins so that He can find you with the Word of the Gospel that forgives all your sins and restores you to everlasting life. Do not be as the Scribes and Pharisees, seeing the truth of Christ, that He receives sinners and eats with them , without placing yourself among their number. For Jesus comes only for sinners, to forgive them, to renew them, to welcome them back to fold, back into the Father’s house. This Man receives sinners and eats with them. This is most certainly true. Amen.

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