The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: St. Luke 18:9-14
In Christ Jesus, who comes through His Word and Sacraments to bring us the righteousness and peace we could never produce on our own, dear fellow redeemed:
The setting for Jesus’ parable was the temple of Jerusalem. It was there that two men went to pray. But these two made their petitions to the Lord in very different ways. One was full of self-confidence. He believed that God must be very pleased with him, and he bragged for all to hear about his own goodness and faithfulness. The other humbly stood off by himself and would not even lift up his eyes to heaven. He was sorry for his sins. His only hope for salvation was God’s mercy.
This parable teaches us how to conduct ourselves when we come before God. It provides the blueprint which our own liturgy follows. Today, we examine the liturgy of the divine service in this light. The opening prayer of the old Norwegian service tells us exactly why we come here to church week after week. It is so that through the preaching of God’s Word “we may be taught to repent of our sins, to believe on Jesus in life and death, and to grow day by day in grace and holiness” (Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, p. 41).
I. The Service of Preparation
Our worship begins at the font where we were baptized “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We return to those cleansing waters “by daily contrition and repentance,” as Luther writes in the Catechism. It is through this heartfelt sorrow over sin and our confession of it, that we drown our old Adam, which wants us to trust in ourselves and not in Jesus.
In the Confession of Sin we admit that we are “poor sinners,” who are “by nature sinful and unclean,” and that we have sinned against God “by thought, word, and deed.” But at the same time, like the tax collector, “we flee for refuge to [God’s] infinite mercy.” We know that He is merciful and gracious because He sent His only Son to take our place and to be punished for our sins.
After confessing our sin, we sing the Kyrie Eleison, a version of the tax collector’s humble prayer. “Kyrie” is the Greek word for “Lord,” and “Eleison” is the Greek word for “have mercy.” “Kyrie Eleison” is “Lord, have mercy.” In this prayer, we ask the Triune God to have mercy upon us, not just regarding our sinful condition, but to have mercy upon us in all aspects of life. We pray for His mercy upon ourselves, our family, friends, and neighbors, that He would provide for our needs, keep us safe from harm, and bless us through His holy Word.
Then we hear the sweet words of Jesus’ Absolution. We may have failed badly, or fallen deeply into sin. Our guilt may trouble and torment us. We may even wonder if it would be better for everyone if we were gone. But Jesus promises that “whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (Jn. 6:37). Anyone who comes to Him with “a broken and contrite heart” He will not despise (Ps. 51:17). You can be certain that the Lord has heard your cry for mercy, just as He heard the cry of the tax collector.
He sends His servant to declare to you, “By the authority of God and of my holy office I forgive you all your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”—this last part being another reminder of the cleansing waters of baptism. These words of Absolution do not express the hope that you will be forgiven. They place no condition on you, that you must somehow prove yourself worthy before you can receive this forgiveness.
In His Absolution, Jesus pours forgiveness over your head. He gives it to you freely and fully. Forgiveness does not depend on you; it depends entirely on Him. He won forgiveness through His death on the cross, and He can give it to anyone He wants. He gives it to you. Having received this forgiveness by faith, we rejoice. We sing the Gloria in Excelsis Deo, the song the angels sang the night Jesus was born. We give glory to God for the peace that Jesus obtained for us by His grace, which He bestows on us in the Absolution—“and on earth peace.”
The parts of the liturgy to this point are preparing us for the hearing and learning of God’s holy Word. In the Salutation, the pastor speaks of the gracious coming of the Lord, “The Lord be with you.” The congregation responds with, “And with your spirit,” which is an affirmation of the pastor’s call to preach the Word in their midst. Then the Collect is spoken, a prayer which “collects” or “gathers” the prayers of the congregation into a general petition based on the theme of the day.
II. The Service of the Word
After this time of preparation, the Scripture lessons are read. The Old Testament Lesson prophesies in some way about the work that Jesus the Messiah would carry out. The Epistle Lesson comes from the letters the apostles wrote to the first Christian churches about what Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection means for all people. The Holy Gospel includes an account of Jesus’ teachings or miracles, which have application to our lives today. Because the words were spoken in person by Jesus—God in the flesh—we rise to hear His holy words.
Following these lessons, we confess in the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed what God has taught us about Himself. You can hear the words for part of the Creed in today’s Epistle Lesson where Paul writes “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1Cor. 15:3-4).
The tax collector knew the Scriptures, which is why he was certain of God’s mercy. The Word of God produces faith and strengthens faith. The Sermon is where God’s Word is applied to our lives. The sermon is not about the pastor. This is why he wears a robe and stands behind the pulpit. The sermon is the proclamation of God’s Law which condemns our sins, and God’s Gospel which assures us of our forgiveness.
The main purpose of the sermon is to point us to Jesus and what He has done for us. Proud Pharisees want a sermon that makes them feel secure in their own righteousness and comfortable with how they have chosen to live their lives. Humble tax collectors want a sermon that uncovers their sins and leads them to the cross and the empty tomb of Jesus. Throughout the service, we sing various Hymns. Each of them is really a mini sermon, which speaks of our sin and of our salvation in Christ.
After the Sermon, we offer the Prayer of the Church for the needs of all people. This is what Paul counseled the early Christians to do. He urged “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1Tim. 2:1-2). Then we hear the beautiful Benediction of the New Testament, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” After this, we gather an Offering to support and promote the work of the Gospel (1Cor. 9:14, 16:2).
III. The Service of Holy Communion
Every other week, we prepare ourselves at this point in the service to receive the holy body and blood of Jesus in His Supper. In the Preface and General Preface, pastor and congregation call each other to recognize the wonderful gifts that are about to be distributed. We join with “angels and archangels and all the company of heaven” in lauding and magnifying the Lord’s glorious name.
We praise Him with the words of the Sanctus and Benedictus. The Sanctus is a song that comes from the angels in Isaiah’s vision, angels who sang “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!” (Is. 6:3). The Benedictus comes from Psalm 118, words which the great crowd used to welcome Jesus on Palm Sunday, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!” (v. 26). These are fitting words as we welcome our holy Lord and Savior to our midst, who comes to us in the lowly forms of bread and wine.
The Exhortation reminds us how we should prepare ourselves for Jesus’ coming, and then we join together in singing the prayer which He taught us, the Lord’s Prayer. Then we hear His powerful Words of Institution, through which His body and blood are joined to the bread and wine. Again we echo the tax collector’s words as we sing the Agnus Dei, Latin for “Lamb of God.” Three times we repeat the words, “O Christ, the Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.” The final time concludes with “grant us your peace.”
That is just what Jesus has come to do. We kneel before Him, burdened by our sins like the tax collector was and with our eyes downcast. Jesus comes to us to bring us peace through His body and blood, which is given and shed for us for “the remission of sins.” At the same time, He also strengthens our faith and increases love in our hearts toward one another. For these gifts we join our voices in Thanksgiving through song and prayer.
Our Christian life is not all about what we do for God, as the Pharisee thought. It is about what God does for us, which the tax collector believed. If you think the people around you in church need to hear the Word more than you do—especially the Law because they are so much more sinful than you are—then you need to repent of this Pharisaical pride. The Pharisee was lying to himself. He was just like other men, and so are you. You are a sinner, who desperately needs God’s mercy.
But when you like the tax collector set aside your pride and humbly pray, “God, Be Merciful to Me, a Sinner!” you will find a comforting answer to your petition. The answer is given through the means of grace administered to you in the divine service. Through His Word and Sacraments, the Lord brings you the forgiveness of your sins again and again and strengthens you for a godly life.
The divine service begins with the Trinitarian words of Baptism, and it ends with the Trinitarian blessing. This Benediction has been declared to the faithful for nearly 3500 years, “The LORD bless you and keep you. The LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.” In these holy words, the LORD sends you to your home justified—pure and holy in His sight—because of what He has done for you.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
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(woodcut of “The Pharisee and the Tax Collector” by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1794-1872)
The Tenth Sunday after Trinity – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: St. Luke 19:41-48
In Christ Jesus, who saved us from the destruction we deserved by making peace between us and God through His own death, dear fellow redeemed:
Most people have a special affection for the place where they grew up. They see that place in a different way than others do. Others can look at the same property or the same location and wonder what is so great about it. Why should anyone care about that tiny Iowa town, or that farm site with sagging buildings? But for those who lived there, the beauty is in the details. They remember the work done in that barn, the joys shared in that house, the memories made in that school and those businesses.
We have similar feelings about our home church. It may not look that impressive, but it is where the spiritually hungry are fed and where life’s joys and sorrows are shared by believers in Christ.
Jesus grew up in the town of Nazareth, but like all Israelites, He had a special affection for the city of Jerusalem, some 65 miles south. Jerusalem was the capital city of Judea, standing tall on Mount Zion. But what really set it apart was the temple dedicated to the worship of the true God. Jesus attended His local synagogue each week in Nazareth, but this could not compare to the great temple.
According to Jewish law, Jesus was taken there at forty days old to be presented to the Lord (Lk. 2:22-38). Then He returned year after year with Joseph and Mary to observe the Passover festival. On one of these trips when Jesus was twelve, He went to learn from the temple teachers. His parents did not know He had gone to do this. When they found Him after days of searching, He said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk. 2:49). The temple was His heavenly Father’s house, set apart for the pure teaching of the Word and the offering of holy prayers and sacrifices.
But now Jesus looked upon this holy city and the glorious temple in it, and He wept. He wept because He foresaw the destruction that would come upon it. He clearly predicted what would happen in August of the year 70. At that time, the Roman army broke into the city and set it on fire. But the tears of Jesus were not for the impending loss of buildings, or even for the loss of the temple. His tears were for His people, the Israelites, for those who “did not know the time of [their] visitation.”
It was first for these descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that the Son of God took on flesh. Jesus stated this plainly when He told a woman who was not Jewish, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt. 15:24). There were certainly times that He interacted with and helped Gentile people, but His primary work during His public ministry was among the Jews. None of them were insignificant to Him. He cared just the same for the poor and the rich, the sick and the healthy, the morally depraved and the morally upright. The Jews were no nameless and faceless mass. He knew every one and loved every one.
He loved His people like you love your children and parents and relatives and close friends—except that He loved with a perfect love. This is why He wept over Jerusalem. He had come to deliver His beloved people from their bondage to the law, to sin, and to death, but many of them rejected this deliverance. They either did not recognize their need for a Savior, or they did not think Jesus was the promised Messiah.
Their unbelief showed in what they allowed to take place in the temple. Instead of a house dedicated to true worship, it had become a house of commerce. This is what Martin Luther witnessed in Rome when he visited there as a monk. Everything “spiritual” was offered at a price. The same is true in many quarters of the visible church today, where spiritual gain is promised through monetary gifts. When Jesus saw this buying and selling taking place in the temple, He drove out the sellers. “‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ He said quoting from Isaiah, “but you have made it a den of robbers.”
The temple was not being used for its intended purpose. The sacrifices may have been offered, the ceremonies may have been observed, but worldly pursuits instead of spiritual gain were foremost in the people’s minds. In today’s Old Testament lesson (Jer. 7:1-7), the LORD through Jeremiah warned His people about this. He said that the temple did them no good when they carried out the prescribed rituals without repentance. The LORD asked, “Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?” (vv. 9-11).
The same question is rightly asked of us today. Are we content that our church teaches the right thing and worships the right way, but we have little concern for godly living and earnest repentance? If that is the case, then Jesus now weeps over us as well. Then He sees the destruction that is coming upon us as long as we refuse to repent and change our sinful ways.
What we do with our lives and our bodies is no small matter to God. The New Testament epistles refer to each child of God as His “temple.” The Apostle Paul asked the Christians in Corinth, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1Cor. 3:16-17). In the same letter, Paul asked again, “[D]o you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (6:19-20).
God did not create us to disobey Him, to use our body and soul, eyes, ears, and all our members, our reason and all our senses against His will (Explanation to the First Article). He created, redeemed, and sanctified the temple of our bodies, so that we would present them “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is [our] spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1). Many people today think they are free to do whatever they want, and to live however they like. They imagine that the only thing they need to be concerned about is their own personal happiness. God condemns this selfish behavior. He sees every sinful word and action, He knows every wicked thought, and our sin grieves Him.
But His love for us compels Him to send the Holy Spirit through the Word to drive out the sin that dwells there. God’s law, His Ten Commandments, lays bare our unrighteousness. Nothing is hidden from His sight. This is why it does us no good to try to hide our sin. The Lord already knows. He knows, but He wants us to recognize our sin too, and to acknowledge it. Along with this repentance, He also wants us to set our minds and hearts to do better. He wants us to avoid the sin that has ensnared us in the past and seek the paths of righteousness.
If we will not repent of sin, this is the same as saying we do not need a Savior. But why else did Jesus come than to save us from our sin and the death that results from it? He came for all, first for the Jews and then for the Gentiles (Rom. 1:16). Jesus kept the law perfectly on behalf of every sinner, and then atoned for each of their sins with His holy blood.
There is no stain on your past, no sin you have committed, that was not atoned for by Jesus. To say that this is so—that your sin may be greater than God’s grace—is to imagine a very weak and impotent God. This is hardly different than believing there is no God at all! The true God is more than capable to defeat the greatest enemies you face, and He has. Jesus sacrificed His life to pay for your sins, and He rose triumphant from death. This means the devil’s accusations against you cannot stand. You have sinned, but Jesus is your righteousness. You deserve death, but Jesus has won for you eternal life.
Because you believe this and freely repent of your sins, Jesus does not weep over you like He wept over Jerusalem. You are part of the “new Jerusalem,” the holy Christian Church. To Jesus, you members of His Church by faith are no nameless and faceless mass. None of you are insignificant to Him. He knows each of you and loves each of you. He calls you to reject the vain promises of the world, which only lead to heartache. And He wants you to ignore the devil’s lie that your life does not matter. You matter to God. Jesus shed His blood for you.
Others may look at you like someone might look at the treasured but humble places of your youth. You may not seem to have much significance or importance in the world. But You Are a Temple Set Apart for God’s Work. Your Savior sees the beauty in the details. He sees a person who is “fearfully and wonderfully made” by His gracious hand (Ps. 139:14). He sees one who is redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ” (1Pe. 1:18-19). He sees one who was washed, sanctified, and justified “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1Cor. 6:11).
He has set you apart to receive His eternal blessings and to carry out the work for which a true temple is built, which is to offer sacrifices of prayer, thanksgiving, and a godly life to the glory of His holy name.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
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(painting of the “Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod” by James Tissot, 1836-1902)
The Seventh Sunday after Trinity – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: St. Mark 8:1-9
In Christ Jesus, God in the flesh, who fed the people by miraculous means, and who still fills hungry stomachs—and souls—today, dear fellow redeemed:
Much of human history is characterized by faithlessness and fear. We see this even in the first humans, Adam and Eve, who decided to go their own way and then tried to hide from the LORD. When people turn away from God and trust in their own plans and abilities, the world does not become better, but worse.
In the 1800s, some began to sound the alarm that the human population would soon outpace food production and lead to an international crisis. Others took this warning and shaped it into the horrible eugenics campaigns of the early 1900s. These programs were geared toward stopping the growth of certain portions of the population, especially through the sterilization of women. The targets of these programs were most often the poor and people of races that were considered inferior. These things happened in America and were sanctioned by the highest levels of government.
But as our country’s population increased in the last century, so did food production. Today, we have such an abundance of grain in America that we turn it into fuel and sell it to other countries. But there is still plenty of sin to go around. Many continue to work at curbing population growth, particularly through the killing of the unborn and the elderly. At the same time, others selfishly store up the plenty they have and ignore the needy. Still more believe they have the right to be as wasteful and reckless as they please with God’s good gifts.
They sin who think that whether or not we survive is in our hands. They also sin who think nothing about the Source of their earthly goods. Today’s Gospel lesson teaches us to set aside our fear and faithlessness and to see how The Lord Provides.
Should the crowd gathered around Jesus be criticized because they failed to plan for their trip into the wilderness? Isn’t it “Survival 101” to make sure you have an adequate supply of food and water before you go somewhere remote? We certainly don’t want to tempt God or expect our food to appear out of thin air. But the crowd was guilty of neither of these things. They were so eager to be with Jesus and listen to His teaching, that they hardly noticed their hunger. They were doing what Jesus commanded in His Sermon on the Mount, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Mt. 6:33). They looked to Jesus, and He supplied what they needed.
Our text does not say that the people asked Jesus for food. It says He had compassion on them. He recognized their need. He did not want to send them away hungry, because they would faint on the way. But where would the food come from? It was a “desolate place.” The land could not supply what the people’s stomachs demanded.
If a crowd of hungry people were out in the wilderness today, what solutions might be offered for the problem? Those concerned with overpopulation might say, “Send the people on their way, and nature will sort out the fit from the weak.” Some might make the wealthier members of the crowd responsible for the poorer ones and task a few with going to buy food for all. Others might fling up their hands like the disciples did and say there is no solution to the problem.
From our human perspective, there is no easy fix in a situation like this. We don’t have to look very far for examples of hunger and suffering in the world. There are vast amounts of people who do not know where they will find their next meal. There are even people like this in our own communities. We can understand why some might think overpopulation is a cause of these problems and take steps to reduce the population. But “two wrongs don’t make a right.” We can also recognize the appeal of wealth redistribution, so that everyone has the exact same. But wherever that has been forced on a people, the result is that almost all are impoverished, and none are motivated to work hard.
Humankind will never find solutions for all the world’s problems. Until the end of time, there will be hunger, there will be violence and war, there will be sickness and trouble. All these are effects of sin in the world. Naturally, the non-Christian and the Christian will address these problems in different ways. Non-Christians see these problems and think progress and change depend entirely on their own efforts. Christians recognize that they do not have the power to set everything right in the world, and they look to the merciful God.
“But what has God done to solve the problems in the world?” You can imagine hearing that question. People want to know why there is hunger and other troubles if God has the power to help. So why doesn’t He? None of us knows the mind of the Lord. We cannot know for sure where and how He chooses to work.
What we do know is that He is a gracious and merciful God (Ex. 34:6). We know that His powerful Word is working to uphold and sustain creation (Heb. 1:3). We know that “he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt. 5:45). We know that “the Lord disciplines the one he loves” (Heb. 12:6), so that His children are drawn closer to Him. It would not be good for us to get everything we wanted. If we did, then we would forget about God (Prov. 30:9). The Lord also lets our neighbors be in need, so that we have opportunities to show love to them.
If we have the attitude that we won’t take charity from anyone, and that we can make it on our own, don’t you think it is likely that we will feel the same way toward God? Regarding our physical needs, God has made it nearly impossible for us to go it alone. How do you make money? You need to be employed by someone, or have someone buy a product you are selling. How do you get food? You could hunt for what you need and have a big garden, but probably you will stop by the grocery store, which requires a long chain of people to get food on the shelf. How do you have support in the sad and difficult times of life? Often this comes from those around you who have experienced troubles of their own.
We were born to be in community, and we were born again (baptized) to become part of a Christian congregation. God provides for us both physically and spiritually through the efforts and hands of others. When we are not sure how to feed our families, God gives us kind neighbors to help us. When we are grieving, He gives us compassionate friends to comfort us. When we are burdened by our guilt and weaknesses, He sends us pastors to announce His gracious forgiveness and to distribute His life-giving food.
When you consider how much God has blessed you in your life through the hands of others, you will no longer criticize Him for what He has not done. Look at the family and friends you have. Look at how He has protected you from serious harm. Look at the ability He has given you to work. Look at the free and prosperous country where you live. In your sin, you do not deserve even seven loaves of bread and a few fish, but the Lord has blessed you many times over—so much that you can’t even remember it all.
Then why worry? Why “be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” (Mt. 6:31). Your heavenly Father knows what you need (v. 32). He has not forgotten about you. Even in your suffering, He has not forsaken you. He is with you even when you hit rock-bottom. He helps you get through what you could not get through on your own. The Lord does not require you to fix the problems in your life, much less the problems that plague the world. Instead He teaches you to look to Him, to trust Him. He provides for you.
He provides for you through others, just as He provides for others through you. King David wrote in Psalm 37, “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing” (vv. 25-26). We have such an excellent example of the providence of God in today’s text. Jesus multiplied seven loaves of bread and a few fish, so that it fed 4000 hungry men and an unknown number of women and children! No one would have thought this was possible, but “nothing will be impossible with God” (Lk. 1:37).
Why wouldn’t the Lord provide for your needs? He has already accomplished something far greater for you than filling your stomach. He bought back your soul with His precious blood to spare you from an eternity of suffering in hell. His blood blots out your anxiety and worry about not having enough, and it washes away your sin of not caring for your neighbors as you should. You are the blood-bought child of the heavenly Father, and He does not forsake His own.
No matter how hopeless a situation may seem, remember what your Savior has done for you and what more He still promises to do. Then you will see small blessings multiply, until your heart is overflowing with thankfulness toward Him.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
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(picture of the Judean mountains in Israel)
The Sixth Sunday after Trinity
Text: St. Matthew 5:20-26
In Christ Jesus, who gives the rich blessings of salvation to sinners at no cost to them, dear fellow redeemed:
When you see a penny on the ground, do you stoop down to pick it up? A recent survey (YouGov) indicates that older Americans value the penny more than younger Americans do. 70% of people over age 55 said they would pick up a penny, while less than 40% in their teens and twenties would do so. Overall, more than half the people surveyed said they would not bother with a penny. They figure it isn’t worth the effort. It is not valuable enough to them.
This is similar to the way many people think of the Gospel, the good news of salvation through Jesus. For many, the Gospel is not worth more than a passing glance. It has no great effect on their daily lives. It hardly figures into their work and plans. For those that do bother to take a closer look at it, it is often easily set aside or forgotten. Even by many Christians, the Gospel is not seen as essential for our life. “What Jesus did was important,” they say, “but what matters the most now is how I live.” Instead of seeking refuge in the Gospel, these individuals try to find comfort in the Law.
This temptation to draw our confidence from the Law instead of the Gospel is something that every Christian has fallen for. We look to separate the so-called “good Christians” from the “bad Christians” by the fruits they produce. This is not entirely off-base. Jesus plainly taught that “no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit” (Lk. 6:43-44). So then the thinking goes that if I do good things, I must be a good tree, and if I do bad things, I must be a bad tree. But who decides what counts as “good” and what counts as “bad”?
What happens is that each person decides in his or her own mind what is “good” and “bad,” and the definition is always skewed. I will naturally define as “good” the way I live my life and how I like to operate. On the other hand, my definition of “bad” is when other people do things I don’t like or when they contradict or criticize my plans and desires. But a self-made set of principles or rules to live by, is no way to produce the righteousness that God requires.
Jesus said, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” The scribes and Pharisees were regarded as the “holy people” among the Jews. They followed the rules. They set the standard. But theirs was an empty righteousness. Their obedience to God’s Law was only external; it did not come from hearts of faith. They were something like our Amish neighbors, who are careful to follow strict rules of lifestyle and behavior, and who imagine that it is this which pleases God.
But Jesus said that the righteousness that gains the kingdom of heaven must exceed such outward righteousness. No matter how “good” a person is, it is not enough. God requires perfection—perfect righteousness in everything we think, do, and say. To test His listeners to see how they thought of themselves, Jesus applied the Ten Commandments in ways the people were not used to hearing. To begin with, Jesus said that it is not simply murderers who fall under the condemnation of the Fifth Commandment. It is also those who store up anger toward someone, or who refuse to admit the wrongs they have done.
Then He taught about the Sixth Commandment that it is broken not just by those who commit adultery, but also by those who have lustful thoughts about someone else (Mt. 5:27-30), and by those who stubbornly file for divorce (vv. 31-32). The Second and Eighth Commandments are broken by taking foolish oaths (vv. 33-37). The Fifth Commandment is again broken by those who seek revenge (vv. 38-42), and who think it is proper to “love your neighbor and hate your enemy” (v. 43). But Jesus said that children of God should “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (v. 44).
These examples are enough to show us how much we lack the righteousness God requires of us. If we imagine that we are “good enough” to get into heaven by our own works, we will pay the eternal consequence for this arrogant thinking. Jesus says that not one bit of God’s Law is considered fulfilled by us unless all of it is kept (5:18). And if it is not all kept, eternal payment is required. We might not care about a penny on the ground, but the righteous God demands a full payment for our sins, even down to “the last penny.”
If our sins were pennies, the last thing we would want to do is gather them up. We usually act like they are not even there. When we do feel guilty about one sin or another, we just let them be or kick them aside and hope that time will wash them away. But if our sins were collected day by day, throughout our lives, this would be no small amount. Our sins are like piles—or more likely, mountains—of pennies that cannot be pushed aside and that keep us from reaching our heavenly goal. We wish we could forget about our sin, but like a financial debt, it doesn’t just go away. The wages of sin must be paid (Rom. 6:23), and we haven’t got the funds.
This is why the Gospel is nothing to take for granted or ignore. The Gospel is the good news of what Jesus did to save us. He said, “I have not come to abolish [the Law or the Prophets] but to fulfill them” (Mt. 5:17). He did not come to change God’s standard of perfection or to remove it. As we can see by today’s reading, He put a sharper point on the Law than people were accustomed to (7:28-29). He wanted to show that no one has produced the righteousness God requires. None can get to heaven on their own. Another must do for us what we cannot do.
The Apostle Paul wrote that “you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2Cor. 8:9). How was our Lord rich? He was rich in righteousness and life. From eternity, God the Son shared perfection and glory with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. It was in His image of perfect righteousness that God created man and woman. When Adam and Eve sinned, they lost their holiness and were separated from God. But God still loved them and all who would be born from them. He promised to send a Savior.
This Savior was God’s Son, born of the Virgin Mary. He came in total humility, not making full and constant use of His divine power. He subjected Himself to the requirements of the Law and diligently kept it in every detail. He did this for you and me. He kept God’s Law in our place, so that we might inherit His eternal riches. “For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (5:21). Our sins were placed on Jesus like an immeasurable weight of bag after bag of pennies, and He accounted for each of our terrible sins through His suffering and death. He also now places His perfect righteousness on us and on all who believe in Him. He was rich and became poor, so that we who were spiritually impoverished would become rich.
The riches of righteousness and life that He produced are all we need. They are our only hope for salvation. They are the only lifeline there is between us and God. What Jesus has done, the Holy Spirit graciously brings to us through Word and Sacraments. Through the Law, He impresses upon us our great debt of sin and our need for salvation. Through the Gospel, He brings us the full forgiveness of our sins and strengthens our faith in Jesus.
We are saved entirely by grace, and not by our own righteousness. The place for our works is not in earning or contributing toward our salvation. We live according to God’s will and want to keep His Commandments out of love for Him and out of thankfulness for His grace. We do not carry the burden of having to prove ourselves to God, or of trying to win His favor. We are already righteous in His sight by faith in His Son. We will enter the kingdom of heaven because of Jesus’ righteousness, because He did for us what we could not do.
So the question that every sinner should be concerned with is this: In What Do You Put Your Trust? If your trust is in your own righteousness, then the words of Paul to the Galatians apply to you, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace” (Gal. 5:4). But if your trust is in Christ alone, in Jesus only, then your righteousness does exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, because then you have Jesus’ righteousness credited to you.
Whether or not you make it a habit to pick up pennies off the ground is up to you. But if you do, take a moment to read our national motto printed there, “In God We Trust.” Think of why the true God is to be trusted, and think of what any alternative to His grace would be. Then humbly repent of your sins and hold tightly to His promises. Say with the psalmist, “In You, O LORD, I put my trust; Let me never be ashamed; Deliver me in Your righteousness” (Ps. 31:1, NKJV). With such a faith, you will receive rich blessings from a gracious God, who loves you and gave Himself for you.
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(painting of “The Sermon on the Mount” by Rudolf Yelin the Older, 1912)
The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: St. Luke 17:11-19
In Christ Jesus, to whom belongs “blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might… forever and ever” (Rev. 7:12), dear fellow redeemed:
Whether you are a father or a mother, a son or a daughter, an employer or an employee; whether you are a prince or a peasant; whether you are young or old—if someone kindly gives you something or does something for you, two words are expected in response. They are not hard to remember or hard to say. They are the words, “Thank you.” These simple words do not look like much at face value, but they have a tremendous effect. They show a person that you recognize their kind deed, and that you appreciate them.
These words are so common in our vocabulary, that our ears might hardly hear them when they are spoken to us. But the absence of these words is a message heard loud and clear. As easily as we might shrug off a thank you, it is much more difficult to forget ingratitude. When we have gone out of our way to help someone, and they don’t acknowledge our sacrifice, we feel used and insulted. We won’t be so ready to help that person again, THANK YOU VERY MUCH! So in some way, we understand what our God and Lord puts up with every minute of every day.
What good thing do you have that was not ultimately from God? He gives us exactly what we ask for. He gives us our daily bread, which includes plenty to eat and drink, clothes to wear, a place to live, family and friends to care for us, authorities to protect us, medical professionals to assist us. The heart that beats in our chest is from God, the air that we breathe, the beautiful land we see all around us. And how do we thank Him? We complain when something does not go just the way we want. We wonder why God does not give us better things and more things. We focus so much on what we lack that we fail to see all that we have. How ungrateful!
What does the Lord do about that ungratefulness? I know what I would do. I would take back the good things until everyone learned to appreciate them. Isn’t that what you would do? Let’s say you brought a plate of food or a glass of water to a child, and the child said, “It’s about time! It took you long enough! Why didn’t you bring me more! Why didn’t you fill the glass higher!” What I would do, and I think you might too, is snatch away that plate or glass until the child showed some respect and exhibited a little gratitude. To do anything less is to let him become a spoiled brat.
It’s amazing how quickly children’s attitudes can change when they realize they are in danger of losing good things. Just like that, complaining and whining can give way to ever-so-sweet “pleases” and “thank yous.” But sometimes they need to learn the consequences of ungrateful behavior. They need to learn that ungratefulness is indeed a sin, not only against their parents, but also against God.
Today’s text speaks of this sin. Jesus had just healed ten men of leprosy, a terrible disease of the skin. He had mercy on them just as they asked. And yet only one out of ten came back to thank Him. Their ingratitude did not cause Jesus to take back the healing. He did not lose patience with them. But He did address their selfish behavior with words of condemnation: “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
He could ask the same thing about our response to the blessings He gives us. “I gave you a good job to provide for your family, and all you can do is complain about it?” “I gave you a healthy body and mind, and this is how you put them to use?” “I gave you a God-fearing spouse, and all you can do is pick at little faults?” “I gave you children, and you resent having to raise them?” “I gave you eternal salvation, and all you care about is earthly prosperity?” “Is this how you thank Me?”
Who can argue with these words? Who among us has not ignored the great blessings right in front of us? We are everything God’s law accuses us of being—sinners who deserve the wrath of God. And yet the Lord has taught us to cry out to Him for mercy. We would not do this, if we did not know He was merciful. The lepers believed this about Him too. They had heard how Jesus preached good news, and how He healed the sick and hurting for no charge. They called out to Him, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
Whether or not in His state of humiliation Jesus knew how the men would react to their healing, He still helped them. The possibility of future ingratitude did not stop Jesus from showing present mercy. He directed the men to show themselves to the priests, and as they went, they were cleansed, healed. We do not know what happened to these men. Perhaps upon reflection, they realized they let their good fortune cloud their thinking and regretted not coming back to Jesus. Maybe later they became His devoted followers.
Not knowing what God has planned for our neighbor’s future, we should not let ingratitude on one occasion discourage us from showing love to them on another. Perhaps those constant acts of love will chip away at a hardened, calloused heart, and lead one day to repentance and faith by God’s grace. You can probably think of an example of this happening in a marriage. A believer’s love for her unbelieving spouse eventually led him to hear God’s Word and trust in Jesus (1Cor. 7:16). Even the crankiest and most selfish unbeliever is not beyond the heart-changing power of the Holy Spirit.
The same love that God would have us show even to an ungrateful neighbor is the love that God perfectly shows us. He knows very well what we will do with His gifts. We will take them for granted. We will use them for ungodly purposes. We may even despise them like the Israelites despised the manna and quail in the wilderness—the only food they had! But God still gives. He opens His hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing (Ps. 145:16). “[H]e makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt. 5:45).
Beyond that, God even provided for our salvation. He sent His Son to save us when we were His enemies (Rom. 5:10). Jesus deserved a warm welcome from the world of men, but instead received the cold shoulder. He miraculously gave good things, and the people cared more about those temporal things than about Him. Never in history has more ingratitude been shown than how we treated our Savior. Even when He was going to the cross to pay for our sins, all He received in thanks was shame and derision. He said of Himself, “I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people” (Ps. 22:6).
None of us would go even one inch forward on the lonely way Jesus walked. That is because none of us loves like God does. We cannot fathom how He would do so much for those who deserved nothing. We cannot understand how Jesus could say, “Father, forgive them,” while He was being condemned and crucified. But this is our God. He is “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6). He has mercy upon those who cry to Him for help, and even upon those who don’t. He does not give to get something in return. He does not bless only when proper gratitude is shown. Like we see in the healing of the ten lepers, He had mercy even on the self-centered.
We sinners should gratefully acknowledge His goodness and grace. We, like the Samaritan, should thank Him – not just with words but with actions too. Our life should be an offering of thanks and praise to Him who has given us all that we need. Because He gives good things by the hands of others, we thank Him in part by thanking our neighbor. God is the one who gives parents to care for their children, friends to encourage one another, and neighbors to help each other. So when we express gratitude and thanks to them, God hears it as gratitude and thanks to Him. And when we fail to give thanks to others due to our selfishness, God sees it as ingratitude towards Him.
For those moments of ingratitude, we fall on our faces at Jesus’ feet, and beg for His mercy. And He gives it as He has done so often in the past. He forgives us for failing to acknowledge His blessings, and He promises to continue to give them. He is pleased with all who trust His Word of grace, as the Samaritan did to whom Jesus said, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” No sins were counted against this man, who praised not himself or his good fortune, but his God who saved him. In the same manner, God counts no sins against you, but says to you, “Rise and go your way,” for you are justified in His sight by faith.
It is no mystery who deserves the thanks and praise of all. It is not we ourselves, but the One who has given us all good things. He deserves our thanks at the dawning and closing of each day and every time in between. And when we are taken to join all the saints and angels in heaven, we will have the opportunity to say “thank you” to God face to face and to sing His eternal praises.
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The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: St. Luke 10:23-37
In Christ Jesus, who “loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2), dear fellow redeemed:
Seeing the destruction caused by recent wildfires and hurricanes in our country is heart-breaking. But in the midst of these great difficulties, it is heart-warming to hear stories of neighbors helping neighbors. There are people who spend their days assisting in clean-up efforts in their communities, even though they themselves have lost their homes and possessions. Many others have donated toward relief efforts, with contributions for relief in Texas likely to reach hundreds of millions of dollars. At times like these, reference is often made to “the natural goodness in people.” Others comment that their “faith in humanity” has been restored. In a society sharply divided by political and religious differences, these moments of charity and kindness among neighbors are worth celebrating.
But it is not the good in a person that causes them to do these things. It is God. He is behind all the assistance and charity and love. It is no stretch to say that if God did not put His moral law in every human heart, no trouble, hardship, or pain experienced by my neighbor would cause me to lift a finger to help him. But because God has given this inner law, my conscience tells me that it is not okay to ignore a neighbor in need. It is my moral obligation to help as far as I am able.
If you had to sum up God’s Commandments in one word, that word would be “love.” This is just what Scripture says. It says that “[L]ove is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10). In the first three Commandments, God tells us to love Him, since He is our Creator and Savior. The last seven Commandments are about how His love should be shared with others: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 9).
But who is my neighbor? This is what a lawyer asked Jesus. It is an honest question, and yet the lawyer had ulterior motives. He asked the question, we are told, out of a desire “to justify himself.” He already thought he had fulfilled God’s requirement of love. Jesus answered him with an illustration. He described a man traveling on the road to Jericho (a journey which thankfully is not so treacherous around here). The man was attacked by robbers and left to die.
Along came a priest, one of his countrymen. Surely this “holy man” would help! But turning his eyes away from the dying man, he continued on his way. Another temple worker, a Levite, did the same thing. They acted like he wasn’t even there. Their plans were too important. They would not be delayed. No doubt someone else more qualified than they would come by soon. Perhaps they even calmed their consciences by saying that at least they would pray for this man. So it isn’t as though they did nothing….
There are many reasons we can come up with why we shouldn’t help a neighbor in need. We might tell ourselves that we are in no position to help. Others can provide much better assistance. Besides, I don’t want my neighbor to get comfortable with handouts. He should learn to work harder and help himself. And where was he when I needed help? What goes around comes around….
As logical as these reasons may seem, they are wrong. If I will not show love to my neighbor until it is most convenient, or until he has shown himself worthy of my love, then I probably won’t end up helping him at all. But God commands love for neighbor without any qualifications. Your neighbor, He says, is anyone around you, anyone whose life intersects in some way with yours. Your neighbor is the child who misbehaves and talks back to you. Your neighbor is the boss who unfairly criticizes you. Your neighbor is the teacher who blames you for something your classmate did. Your neighbor is the community member who doesn’t care how his plans affect yours. Jesus tells us to love all our neighbors, even the ones who treat us badly.
But how is that even possible? How can God expect you to “love your enemies” (Mt. 5:44)? A lot depends on the perspective you have toward another. If you imagine that their primary goal in life is to make you feel miserable, and that they are constantly plotting to harm you, it is going to be difficult to have kind thoughts about them. Then your mind will be occupied with revenge, how you might return evil for evil.
But what if the disagreement between two neighbors started with a misunderstanding that could easily be cleared up? What if your neighbor thought you were attacking her before she ever attacked you? And could it be that the unkind words your neighbor directed toward you, were actually the result of other troubles going on in his life? This could help you look at your neighbor not as an enemy, but as someone who needs compassion.
Or maybe it’s true – maybe your neighbor does hate you. This was likely the situation between the man on the road from Jerusalem and the Samaritan who helped him. The Jews and the Samaritans despised each other. The Jews accused the Samaritans of being godless, and the Samaritans accused the Jews of being self-righteous. So how is it that the Samaritan decided to help the man by the side of the road? Well he certainly could not control how the dying man thought about him, but he could control how he thought about the dying man. He decided to be merciful.
This is a picture of Jesus. He found us beaten up by sin, stripped of any righteousness, dying the death we deserved. We were His enemies. We broke His law. But He didn’t wait for us to be worthy of His love. He freely gave it. He had compassion on us. He bound up our sin wounds by taking those stripes on Himself. He brought us spiritual health through His Word and Sacraments, and continues to strengthen us by those same means. He loved even the most undeserving of neighbors, which is what He calls you and me to do as well.
But loving and helping your neighbors does not mean giving them whatever they want. If they want you to join them in promoting or defending sinful behavior, it would be wrong for you to do this. Or if they ask you to give them one of your treasured possessions, or even your home, you do not have to do this. The Lord tells you to be generous and to share, but He does not command you to give away everything you have. Your neighbor is in no way entitled to your property, your possessions, your spouse or children. In fact, God commands us to help our neighbor keep these things.
What you are obligated to do for your neighbor is to help him have what he needs, more than what he wants. And the greatest need your neighbor has is Jesus. You can desire nothing better for your neighbor than that he repents of his sins and believes in Jesus alone as his Savior. This is our greatest treasure. It is our life and comfort and hope. With Jesus, you can stand to lose all of your earthly possessions, because they are only temporary. In Him, you are assured of the riches of heaven, which will never pass away.
But how can you Give Your Neighbor Jesus? There are two main ways, and neither of them works well without the other. The first way to give your neighbors Jesus is to be kind and merciful toward them. Take an interest in their lives. Listen to their problems. Lift them up when they are down. Offer a helping hand. Encourage them. Cheer for them. Call them up or stop by to let them know you are thinking about them. In these ways, you will gain your neighbor’s trust and respect, and you will probably find a friend to help you in your difficulties. When you show love in these ways, you are really sharing God’s love. He is the one working through you. John writes that “if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1Jn. 4:12).
But if your concern for your neighbor goes no further than assisting with physical and emotional needs, you have failed to give the thing that is most needed. Above all else, your neighbor needs to hear the Gospel. This is the second major way to give your neighbor Jesus. Your neighbor needs to know that a loving God watches over her and that He has sent His only Son to redeem her, so that she may live eternally in heaven. All people are dying just like the man by the side of the road. All of them need the salvation and healing that come only through Jesus.
And just as love for your neighbor falls short if you do not take the opportunity to share the Gospel, it also fails if the Gospel message is not accompanied by kind and loving actions. For example, you may have had the experience of a complete stranger approaching you in a store or the mall to ask if you know Jesus as your personal Savior. It is as though the message-bringer is just trying to fulfill a quota. He doesn’t spend the time to get to know you or find out how he can assist you. He just throws the Gospel in your face and hopes it sticks. That approach is rarely if ever effective in bringing about conversion. It turns people off to Christianity.
But when your neighbor has come to know your dedication and care for him, and sees the sacrifices you have made to serve him, he will be much more likely to listen when you share the message of Jesus. This is the outcome Jesus speaks about when He says, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:16).
This light of love does not always shine brightly in your life. You remember many times that you ignored a neighbor in need. But Jesus does not pass you by, bruised and battered by a guilty conscience. He forgives you for the times that sin and selfishness overcame you. He gives you, His neighbor, exactly what you need, which is His perfect love and His perfect righteousness. With these things as your possession and your motivation, your neighbor will not fail to receive through you good things from God.
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The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: St. Mark 7:31-37
In Christ Jesus, who has correctly diagnosed our problem and has provided complete and lasting healing, dear fellow redeemed:
Just about every medical doctor who has been in the business for awhile could share a story of a recovery that was nothing short of miraculous. Their expectation for the patient was a far different outcome, and they cannot explain how healing happened. Knowing what we do about the power and mercy of God, these things should not surprise us. Whether through the expert care of physicians, or through a direct miracle, the Lord brings healing to sick and injured bodies all the time.
But His primary concern and work is not to keep everyone physically healthy. His focus is especially on our spiritual health. This may be why He allows us to feel pain and get sick. Our physical problems remind us of our inherent weakness and our need for His mercy. These things drive us to God in prayer, asking that He would grant us healing according to His will. This is what the friends of the deaf and mute man did, and they were able to deliver their petition to the Lord in person. They had heard what Jesus could do, and “they begged Him to lay His hand on him.” Would He help? With a touch and a word, Jesus changed everything for that man in an instant.
Most of us cannot imagine what life would be like if we could neither hear nor speak. We have been able to rely upon and use these senses since an early age. But what we have enjoyed physically, we have not always enjoyed spiritually. Our natural spiritual condition is like being put in a strange and scary place with our five senses nullified. In this condition we were totally vulnerable to forces that would harm us. The Bible tells us that we “walked in darkness” (Is. 9:2). Not only that, but Jesus says we “loved the darkness” (Jn. 3:19). The apostle Paul spelled out our trouble clearly when he said that “at one time you were darkness” (Eph. 5:8). So we walked in darkness, we loved it, and we were totally consumed by it.
This darkness refers to the power of sin in our lives. Even after we are converted by the Gospel and rescued from the end result of sin, the darkness of sin and Satan still hunts us and haunts us. The worst thing we can do is to downplay how vulnerable we are to sin and the devil, who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1Pe. 5:8).
This downplaying of our vulnerability is often what happens when we self-diagnose our spiritual condition. We might feel the pain of a guilty conscience, and then decide that the best remedy is to point out people who have done way worse things than we have. Or we might do or say something that is wrong, and figure that the proper medicine is to make up for it by doing something nice for someone. We hope these things somehow make the memory of the bad magically disappear.
But when you go to the doctor, do you want him to tell you what you want to hear, or what you need to hear? No matter how much it is going to hurt, you want the truth, because then you can start taking the medicine and getting the treatment you need. Why would you want something different when it comes to assessing the state of your soul? Jesus your Physician knows just how sick you are by nature. He is brutally honest about your problem. You have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). This sin cannot be made to disappear by any sort of power from men, but only by the power of God.
Of course, some people do not listen to the clear diagnosis of their doctors. They are in denial about their problem and think it will just go away over time. Then it will be nobody’s fault but their own when they become deathly ill. Jesus is very clear and very correct in His diagnosis of your sin. If you deny this, it will not make the sin go away; rather, the infection of sin in you will get worse and worse until the day you die. Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Lk. 5:31). “Those who are well” are the ones who think they are spiritually healthy on their own, so what do they need Jesus for? “[T]hose who are sick” are the ones who recognize their spiritual condition and ask God for mercy.
Jesus would not be much of a Physician if He just diagnosed our problem of sin, and then left us to fret over it until it consumed us. He gives us a correct diagnosis, and He also provides complete and lasting healing through the powerful finger of His Word, just as He healed the physical problems of the deaf and mute man.
When we hear about how Jesus stuck His fingers in the man’s ears and then spit presumably on His fingers and touched the man’s tongue, this sounds a bit like something a magician would do to distract his audience while he performed a trick. This is in reality how unbelievers view the miracles of Jesus. They think that either the miraculous accounts of the Bible are made up, or that Jesus was creating the illusion that He healed people, while the “miracles” were actually rigged. Or that Jesus was practicing some sort of ancient magic that we cannot understand.
But Jesus is a spiritual physician, not a magician. And the source of His power is no mystery; He is the all-powerful Son of God. When God became Man, His human flesh became the instrument of salvation, the instrument for divine activity on earth. So when Jesus put His fingers into the man’s ears and on His tongue, that was the touch of God’s fingers. And when He spoke, it was the voice of God that said, “Ephphatha,” “Be opened.”
But why did Jesus touch and speak? Why not just speak? There are certainly examples of Jesus healing without touch, like when He made the centurion’s servant well from some distance away (Mt. 8:13). But there are many examples of Jesus combining a touch with His Word. Sometimes Jesus healed with a touch only (Mt. 9:29). It even happened that some were healed when they reached out and touched Him, “for power came out from him” (Lk. 6:19). This power even traveled through the fringe of His garment to heal (Mk. 6:56; Mt. 9:21).
It is little wonder, then, that when sin, death, and the devil reached out to harm and destroy Jesus, they got more than they bargained for. But Jesus looked so weak! He couldn’t even carry His own cross. He did nothing when the people ridiculed Him. He just hung there, dying. He was like a helpless worm cast in the water ready to be swallowed up. But as the ancient church fathers said, the worm that could be seen—the human flesh of Jesus—, hid the sharp hook of His divine nature. When sin, devil, and death took the bait, they were caught and could not escape! Jesus ruined their terrible reign, and emerged from the grave victorious.
But how can the healing touch of Jesus reach you today? How can you receive the antidote for sin, which is His holy life and atoning blood? In an encounter with the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus was accused by them of casting out demons by Beelzebul, or Satan. Jesus replied that He casts out demons “by the finger of God” (Lk. 11:20), which was a reference to the powerful work of the Holy Spirit (Mt. 12:28). This “finger” is how Jesus continues His healing work today. Jesus puts His forgiveness in your ears and heart when the Holy Spirit brings these blessings through God’s Word and Sacraments.
There is a physical aspect to this work, just like Jesus touching the man’s ears and tongue. The Lord calls sinful men to be His hands and voice on earth. When the pastor applies water to the head of the baptized, this is really God’s hand at work. When the pastor absolves the penitent, it is God’s hand on their heads. When the pastor places bread on the tongue and pours wine down the throat, this is Jesus giving His body and blood for forgiveness. Jesus delivers unseen gifts through things that we can see. He would not have to do this, just as He did not have to touch those He healed. But it is comforting that He does it in this way. The visible sign confirms the spiritual promise.
Most people view these things as superstition or trickery. How could mere words impart actual forgiveness? How could the water of Baptism and the bread and wine of Holy Communion become something so powerful with only a few simple words? Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Mt. 19:26). By the power of His Word, Jesus does give these blessings. Through the means of grace, He applies His healing touch to our sin-sick souls.
Even one little finger of God is powerful enough to accomplish whatever He pleases. All the darkness that Satan can muster cannot stand up to Him, because God’s power is limitless and never-failing. This power is at work in your life through the Word and Sacraments. The Healing Touch of the Divine Physician costs you nothing, but it does everything for you. His touch delivers your eternal salvation.
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The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: St. Luke 18:9-14
In Christ Jesus, who opposes the proud and promotes the humble, dear fellow redeemed:
It’s the first day of school. You are excited, but mostly nervous. You are especially nervous about science class. Science just isn’t your subject. You get your books together and find your seat in the back of the classroom. But something is missing: the teacher isn’t there! Minutes pass as the chatter among the students gets louder and louder. Then the principal walks into the room. “Sorry for the delay,” he says, “your teacher was not able to make it. We have decided to elect one of you to lead the class today.” And then he looks right at you! How would you feel about that? Probably only the class clown would be excited about that opportunity, and not much teaching or learning would take place.
As a student, your job is not to teach, but to learn. Your teacher might call on you to answer a question and share with the class what you know. But nothing annoys classmates (and a teacher) as much as the student who acts like she knows everything. Not only does she raise her hand to answer every question, but she also takes it upon herself to correct the teacher! Her know-it-all behavior exposes how much she does not understand. The proverb comes to mind: “Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt!”
But we so often see this arrogant behavior in our culture. When the latest popular social movement sweeps across the country, the unbelieving world takes it upon itself to lecture those who follow God’s Word, the Bible. The world expects the church to march along with it in lock-step. It is shocked when this does not happen. “You think marriage is only between a man and a woman!?!” “You think a person’s gender is defined by their body parts!?!” Then comes the lecture. There is no respect for ancient writings that speak clearly about moral issues and have been read and confessed for thousands of years. There is no respect for conscience or a difference of opinion. They say, “If you do not agree with us, then you are full of hatred, and you shouldn’t have the right to speak!”
What does it say about the state of learning in our country, when there is a refusal even to engage someone in a discussion who has a different viewpoint? Christians are often warned that if they do not change their beliefs, they will find themselves “on the wrong side of history.” But who is the infallible authority in this world that is able to say what the “right side” is? There is no unchanging standard in the world. History shows that what is considered right and good in one era is condemned as evil in another. But God has provided an unchanging standard of righteousness. He has given the moral law. It is a law to govern not just believers, but all people. That is why He has printed His law on every human heart. He wants every individual and state and country to abide by this law.
But just like it was with Satan, and then with Adam and Eve, and all their descendants, we think we can teach and do righteousness better than God can. The Pharisees are prime examples of this. Jesus referred to one who stood up in the temple to pray. He said, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” He wanted it known that he even went above and beyond what God commanded. What a good person! What an upstanding citizen! But God was not impressed. What He saw in the Pharisee’s heart was only self-righteousness and pride – not faith (1Sam. 16:7).
And the Pharisee’s prayer was not really a prayer at all. It was a message to God that He better take notice. A holy man had entered the building! Get the heavenly reward ready! But the Lord listens to no sinner who would presume to teach Him. What does God have to learn from sinners? It is not just unbelievers who think this way. Christians do too. We might read something in the Bible that is just too sharp for our tastes. We wish God would tone that teaching down a bit, since it simply doesn’t fit our time. Or maybe something goes badly in our lives and instead of trusting God’s merciful plan for us, we blame Him and criticize His inaction. We think that if God did what we wanted, our lives—and the world—would be a better place.
Suppose that happened. Suppose the Lord stepped aside for a day and gave you all of His power AND all of His responsibility. Now you’re in charge. What would you do first? Before you could even think, you would have a million prayers hitting your ear at the same time. You would have the concern of keeping the planets and stars in their orbits. You would feel the pressure of providing for countless humans and animals through plants and crops that require just the right amount of sun and rain. You would have the angels to command, who would constantly be looking to you for orders. Do you think you could manage? And yet you and I are going to tell God where He has failed and what He should be doing differently!?
We have nothing to teach God, and we have everything to learn from Him. The proper attitude to have toward God is exemplified by a tax collector, of all people. The tax collectors in Jesus’ day were viewed as sell-outs. They contracted with the oppressive Romans to level taxes against the Jews. Besides that, they had the reputation of charging more than required. They were not on anyone’s list of righteous people. But that does not mean they were beyond the Lord’s saving grace. Remember that the apostle Matthew was once a tax collector, whom Jesus called away from his station (Mt. 9:9). And Jesus also visited and ate with many tax collectors and other undesirable characters, saying that “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (v. 13).
The patient, tender call of the Lord reached the tax collector in Jesus’ parable. He made his way to the temple and stood in a corner praying. He felt like any of us would who had fallen into sin and neglected the means of grace. Even though the divine service where God dispenses His gifts of forgiveness and healing is exactly what we need, the church doors can feel like the hardest thing to walk through. We anticipate judgment instead of love. We picture the people there looking down on us. But even if those things happened (and I don’t expect they would), it still would not change what God wants to do for you through His Word and Sacraments. He wants you to repent of your sins and hear the Gospel message of full and free forgiveness.
This is why the tax collector came to the temple. He came because he wanted to be right with God. He knew his wicked deeds and his wicked heart. The Pharisee was right—he was no righteous man. But the tax collector was sorry for his sins. He bowed his head, beat his breast, and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” His money could not buy forgiveness. Good behavior could not ease his guilty conscience. Only God could help him. Only God could save him. And that is just what the Lord did. Jesus said, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified.”
He went home “justified,” or counted as righteous before God. But why? Our gracious Lord does not turn away the penitent. In fact, He is the One who works that repentance. He is the One who drives the heart to despair of its own righteousness, and to trust in Him alone for salvation. That is what He must do to turn arrogant teachers, which we are by nature, into His humble students.
Once He has us in the right place, sitting at His feet and listening to what He says, then He continuously imparts to us a knowledge, an understanding, a wisdom that we could never obtain even if we sat before the great teachers of the world for 1000 years. Paul writes, “‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (1Cor. 2:9-10). The Holy Spirit reveals to us that in His love, God the Father sent His only Son to humble Himself and shoulder our sin, so that we might be covered in His righteousness and exalted.
Even though you, like the Pharisee, have often looked down on others in your pride and thought that you were someone impressive, your Father forgives your sins. He counts you among the justified through faith in His Son. It is Jesus who lived the humble life of obedience that God’s law requires. He deserved nothing but glory, but in all humility, He set it aside out of love for you. He said to His disciples, “I am among you as the one who serves” (Lk. 22:27). Even on the cross, His prayer was, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (23:34).
The Lord forgives you just as He did the tax collector. But your training is not complete. You have more learning to do. Humble students must continuously acknowledge their weaknesses and inabilities. As the apostle Peter wrote, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1Pe. 5:5-6).
The unbelieving world, the devil, and your own flesh are going to attack you and your God-given beliefs. They are going to point their finger at you like the self-righteous Pharisee and consign you to the company of the wicked. But the Lord is merciful. He gives grace to the humble. He will not ignore the one who cries to Him for help. He sends you on your way justified. And He promises at the proper time to exalt you and give you a share in His glory.
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The Tenth Sunday after Trinity – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: St. Luke 19:41-48
In Christ Jesus, who saves us from destruction and from despair, dear fellow redeemed:
Jesus had been teaching and preaching for the better part of three years. He had gained many disciples, but also many enemies. While He was walking in the temple, the Jewish leaders surrounded Him and said, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (Jn. 10:24). Jesus replied, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (vv. 27-28). At this, they picked up stones to kill Him, but He escaped from them and traveled with His disciples to the other side of the Jordan River. Jerusalem with its heightened tensions did not seem a safe place for Jesus to be.
But then He received word that his friend Lazarus from the town of Bethany was sick. The problem was that Bethany was only about two miles away from Jerusalem. His disciples cautioned Him; they knew what His enemies would try to do to Him if He went there. Would He go? Jesus said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him” (11:11). Jesus was referring to Lazarus’ death and His plan to raise him to life again. When He arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days. His sisters Martha and Mary were overcome with sorrow. They told Jesus what must have been running over and over again through their minds, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (vv. 21,32).
When Jesus saw the grief of Mary and the whole crowd, “he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’” (vv. 33-34). Then Jesus did something unexpected: He wept. He cried right out in the open, in view of everyone there. Why did Jesus do this? He is God! Why would One who controls the wind and the waves, who kills and makes alive (Deut. 32:39), who knew what He was about to do—why would this One cry? Because a moment later, He commanded Lazarus to come forth from the tomb. And Lazarus did. So why the tears when life and joy were in view?
Have you ever felt like the weight of the world was on your shoulders? That is just an expression. But Jesus actually did feel the weight of the world on Him. Isaiah tells us that He bore every grief and carried every sorrow (Is. 53:4). All the troubles and sins of the world rested on Him. And you can only imagine that the weight became heavier and heavier the closer He came to His hour, to the time that He would suffer hell and death for everyone.
That time was fast approaching when Jesus arrived in Bethany. He saw what pain and distress Death—that great enemy of mankind—had caused. And He tasted there the bitterness of His own impending death. He knew what it would do to another Mary, His mother, and how terribly His brothers the disciples would be shaken. “He was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.” He wept. And that wasn’t the last time.
Jesus left Bethany without incident, though the Sanhedrin was actively plotting His death. Now, He no longer walked openly among the people, but went to stay north of Jerusalem near the wilderness (11:54). When the time of the Passover came that spring, the people in Jerusalem wondered if Jesus would come. Many hoped He would, so they could interact with and listen to the One who could even bring back the dead. Others probably hoped He would stay away, because they knew what their leaders wanted to do to Him.
Jesus did come. He first stopped in Bethany, where He shared a meal with His friends. When word about this got to Jerusalem, many came to see both Him and Lazarus (12:9). This was on a Saturday, with the Passover just six days away. The next day, Jesus prepared to go to Jerusalem. By now, everyone knew about His arrival. Great crowds went to meet Him with palm branches in hand, and singing “Hosanna to the Son of David!” On a carpet of cloaks and branches, Jesus rode forward.
As He looked up at the great city that sat proudly upon Mount Zion, we imagine what thoughts must have filled His mind. This was the city of David, the city of God’s holy presence in the temple. This was the city of many faithful patriarchs and prophets. But this city that He loved was about to turn against Him in the worst way. This is where He would die, right outside these walls. This is where all the forces of evil would converge upon Him, and He would endure the agonizing separation from His own heavenly Father. And just as He had not long before at the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus again wept. “He wept over [the city], saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.’”
He wept because He could see the future. He knew what was in store for Jerusalem. He described it just as though He was sitting there watching forty years later. He said, “[Y]our enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you.” This is what happened in the year 70. The Jews had rebelled against the oppressive rule of Roman governors. They had in their minds the glory days of the Maccabees, when Israel had won its independence. The LORD God would fight for them again! He would have mercy on His people!
But they didn’t see. They didn’t comprehend what they had done. The temple curtain had torn for a reason when Jesus died. The temple sacrifices should have ceased, since the Lamb of God had been slain for sin, once for all. Peter told the crowd on Pentecost, “[Y]ou crucified and killed” Jesus the Messiah (Ac. 2:23). Many listened. By the power of the Holy Spirit, they believed and were baptized. But others rejected the Gospel. Led by men like the murderous Saul, they attacked the Christians, driving many of them out of Jerusalem. Those who remained evacuated the city when they saw trouble brewing with the Romans. By this time, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke had been written and circulated. The Christians knew what Jesus had said. They knew that destruction was coming upon Jerusalem. When the Romans laid siege to the city, the Christians had all safely relocated. The Lord had preserved them.
But the people within the city were not preserved. They ran out of food and water. They resorted to eating the leather of their sandals and worse. The dead multiplied. The siege lasted for months until the Romans finally breeched the walls. With swift violence, they cut down soldier and citizen alike. They set fire to homes, to the palace, and to the grand, beautiful temple. Everything burned. So many died. This destruction happened in August of the year 70, which is why this Gospel reading is appointed to be read in August.
Why did this happen to the people of Jerusalem? Through tears, Jesus said that this was “because you did not know the time of your visitation.” What was “the time of [their] visitation”? It was His visitation. It was the long-promised coming of the Messiah to save them. He wept because He loved them. He loved them to death—all the way to His death. Would that they had known “the things that make for peace”!
Do you know these things? Yes, you do. But it is easy to forget them. It is easy to get lazy in your faith, so that your confession comes from habit and not from the heart. It is easy to take God’s Word for granted and not regularly apply it to your life. It is easy to fall into sin like into a nice, warm bed, and get comfortable in it. It is easy to put off repentance, because “there will be plenty of time for that later.” But God does not say “later,” He does not say “tomorrow.” He says, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2Cor. 6:2). Now is the time to repent. Now is when the Holy Spirit brings absolution and salvation to the humble and contrite.
The Lord does not have to weep over you because He has saved you. He suffered your hell for you. He died your death for you. Think of Him on the cross, nailed there for you. See How Jesus Loves You! Will you reject His love? No! Without Jesus, there is no hope, there is no salvation. Without Jesus, there is only pain and destruction.
But with Jesus, there is comfort through every trial and every terror of life. When Jesus stood there weeping after the death of Lazarus, the Jews remarked, “See how he loved him!” (Jn. 11:36). Then He did something to show His love. He broke the grip of death with a word, and Lazarus arose. Jesus knows the terrible pain of death. He felt it Himself. But He conquered it, and He promises to awaken you and your loved ones with a word, just as He did Lazarus.
And when you weep for those who have rejected the faith like the inhabitants of Jerusalem—whether it be your children or your parents, your relatives or friends—remember how Jesus wept for sinners. He is not uncaring. He has “no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ez. 33:11). He “desires all people to be saved” (1Tim. 2:4). The Lord hears your prayers. He does not forget His children, especially those who have already been brought to Him through Holy Baptism.
It is okay to weep for those who have fallen away, and for those who are now at rest. But weep with faith in your Savior and His promises. Take refuge in Him. Commit your cares to Him. Jesus will not forsake you. He redeemed you. He intercedes for you and all your loved ones at the right hand of God. He continues to fight the good fight for your souls. See How He Loves You! With a love that will never change.
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The Ninth Sunday after Trinity – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: St. Luke 16:1-9
In Christ Jesus, who redeemed us not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, dear fellow redeemed:
One of the chapters of Greek mythology contains the story of King Midas. He was a very wealthy king, wealthier than any other. But he was not satisfied with his great riches. He wanted more. One day, a visitor promised to give him whatever he wished. So the king said, “I wish that everything I touch turns into gold!” The next morning, he woke up and touched his blankets. They turned to gold. He ran through the house, and everything he touched turned into pure gold. What good fortune!
All that running around made him hungry and thirsty, so he ordered food and drink to be brought to him. But as soon as he touched those things, they also turned to gold. King Midas began to realize that his gift was not everything he thought. Instead of excitement, he was now afraid and sad. When his daughter heard him weeping, she came to console him. But when they embraced, even she turned into gold. What a terrible mistake he had made!
The king was certain that gold would make him happy. Now he was willing to give all the gold in the world if it could bring back his daughter and allow him to eat and drink again. After all, what good is gold to someone who is alone? And what can gold do for someone who is about to die? King Midas learned a hard lesson about valuables. He had taken for granted what was really most valuable to him, and he found that the thing he most coveted was ultimately worthless.
What Do You Value Most? I think this list of valuables applies to many here and in this order: 1) Faith, 2) Family, 3) Friends, 4) Fortune, and 5) Fame. You know that faith in Jesus saves, and without Jesus there is no hope, so that has to be number one. No one knows you as well and supports you in this life like your family and then your friends. You may not aspire to a large fortune, but you want to be comfortable. And if you should be recognized by others for your good efforts, that would be welcome fame. Faith, family, friends, fortune, fame.
But if that list of valuables is accurate, shouldn’t this be reflected in our priorities? So if faith in Jesus is truly what we value most, won’t it be our primary focus to retain and strengthen that faith? And how is that done? Romans 10:17, “[F]aith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Jesus says that His disciples abide in His Word (Jn. 8:31), and pay attention to everything He has spoken (Mt. 28:20). This is not just a one-day-a-week thing, but an every day priority. The Word of God must take precedence over anything else we are involved in. Work should not take the place of the Word, or sports, or any other leisure activity.
Neither should “family time” take the place of hearing and learning God’s Word. Better that family time is an opportunity to hear and learn the Word together. Nothing binds a family closer together than a common faith in Christ, and nothing strains a family more than the absence of Jesus and His Word. But as much as we say that family is a priority, often we neglect family almost as much as our faith. As parents, we can get so caught up in our work and hobbies that we really are not that involved in our children’s lives. Or maybe we can find time to spend with friends, but we can’t seem to find time to be at home.
And what about the friends who need us, but we can’t find time for them either. They wear us out with their constant troubles. They seem to take from us more than they give. We decide that we need to be around people who aren’t so needy. Then we wonder where they are when we have a crisis.
At the end of our list is fortune and fame. We want to be wealthy and well-liked, so much so that these valuables often occupy our time and energy above all else. But they are the least important. Jesus lumps these things under “unrighteous wealth.” The word used in Greek is “mammon”—“the mammon of unrighteousness.” He is not saying that it is a sin to have money and possessions. But it is a sin to value them above all else, and to think that they can offer us everything we need. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1Tim. 6:9-10).
The mammon of this world is just that, “of this world.” It cannot go with us into eternity. It must stay here. It would have no value in heaven or in hell anyway. But mammon is all that this world knows. As the saying goes, “Money makes the world go round.” This is the attitude we see in the manager in Jesus’ parable. First of all, he was mishandling his master’s possessions. We do not know exactly how. Was he failing to do what his master hired him for? Was he skimming a bit off the top? Was he simply lazy? It is not as though the man was incapable. When he was about to become unemployed, he sprang into action. He summoned those who had debts and reduced what they owed. He did this not because he felt any special concern for them. His concern was for himself and his own well-being. This is what motivated him. He did not want to have to dig or beg, so instead he weaseled his way into the good graces of others.
When his master found out, what did he have to say? He was probably happy to get rid of this worthless worker, but he also commended him—praised him—for his shrewdness. This dishonest manager had figured out how to avoid a future that was not to his liking. His actions were not ethical; they were not right. But that is not the point of Jesus’ parable. His point is that “the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” So this parable is not really about the wicked practices of “the sons of this world,” of unbelievers. It is about how “the sons of light,” how believers in Christ, should operate.
What we can learn from unbelievers is shrewdness. Think how far they are willing to go to gain and build up and protect their riches. They have an insatiable drive for the things they value most, even though they know that these things will not last. If they have such a focus and drive on getting what they will eventually lose, isn’t it true that we should have an even sharper focus on what will last forever? But we are reluctant to go there. Because we like what this world has to offer. Our flesh is weak, even though our spirit is willing (Mt. 26:41).
God knows it. This is why He sent His Son to take on flesh. Your flesh was far too weak to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” and “your neighbor as yourself” (Mk. 12:30,31). But Jesus ignored every worldly temptation. He was not distracted by temporal riches; His focus was on winning eternal riches for you. “[F]or the joy that was set before him—the joy of saving sinners—[he] endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2). Your debt of misplaced priorities and of greed was greater than you could ever pay. But Jesus says to you, “Take your bill and write ‘redeemed.’” “Take your bill and write ‘forgiven.’”
You owe nothing to God because of your sin. The debt is paid in Christ. But He does expect you to use the gifts He has given to you shrewdly and wisely. As far as earthly goods go, He has given some more and some less. He intends that you use what you have for food, clothing, and home. But you know that life is “more than food,” and the body is “more than clothing” (Mt. 6:25). Those things eventually pass away. But the Gospel is eternal. Salvation through Christ is eternal. There is nothing more valuable than these gifts from God.
If you could with your earthly means purchase someone’s salvation, you would do it, wouldn’t you? Of course you cannot do this. But you can set aside a portion of what God has given you to promote the preaching of the Word. You can assist the poor and needy and share with them the hope you have in Christ. You can support mission work in our country and around the world. You can purchase Bibles or other good devotional materials for use in your own home or to share with friends. In these ways, through such sacrifices of love, you will be doing what Jesus says in today’s text, “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.”
God has given you the responsibility of managing countless blessings for your own good and for the good of others. He knows well where you have been wasteful and squandered His wealth, and where you have been selfish and greedy. But that does not stop Him from continuing to give and give more. He loves you. The job is still yours. Your management will not be taken away from you. Worldly riches can only satisfy for awhile as King Midas learned, but the treasures of God endure into eternity.
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