The Thirteenth Sunday after Holy Trinity

The Thirteenth Sunday after Holy Trinity – Luke 10:23-37

Trinity 13 Sermon Audio

Every Sunday, we chant the Introit which is usually based upon the Psalms. Every Sunday also has a Psalm attached to it which we typically don’t chant. You wouldn’t know that because we don’t do the Psalm for the Sunday, but I do use them on shut-in visits. This week’s Psalm is Psalm 32. It starts off wonderfully:

1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit is no deceit.”

This is the plea of every believer, Old or New Testament. God has always been known as merciful by His people. Even when, and especially when, they didn’t deserve it. How many times to you read in the Old Testament that God heard the cry of His people and acted in mercy? It’s all over the place, isn’t it?

God’s mercy is not just a New Testament reality. It’s who He is. From the beginning. You see in this Old Testament Psalm the Old Testament believers saw God as merciful. Just as we look to Jesus in faith through His Word and Sacraments, the Old Testament believers looked forward to the Messiah in faith through His Word and Old Testament sacrament of circumcision.

It is true that God wants His Christians to be merciful, like the Good Samaritan, but it is also true that God wants His Christians to know even more His mercy personally. Only when you know the mercy of God personally are you in a position to show that mercy to others.

Psalm 32 starts off with the recognition that you must receive the mercy of God first:

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Only then are you free to live your life unencumbered by the debt of sin. It is very similar to owing people a lot of money. If you owe a lot of money, you aren’t free to spend your money how you like. This is a great analogy because we all understand it on some level. A better analogy is someone who has committed a felony. He has paid his penalty and totally changed so that he’ll never commit that felony again and yet he’s always treated like a felon. Even though he’s paid his debt to society, he lives the rest of his life with the shame of his felony. You never really recover. God’s forgiveness is not like a felon who suffers even though they’ve paid their debt to society. God treats your sin as if it never happened. That’s how powerful God’s forgiveness is! As another Psalm confesses, “As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12) We probably cannot hear that verse enough. When God forgives you with His abundant mercy, it’s like you never sinned in the first place! That is true freedom!

And it’s easy to forget that. Listen again to the second verse of Psalm 32: “Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit is no deceit.” You can understand this a couple of ways.

Have you ever had someone accuse you of something you didn’t do? It’s horrible, isn’t it. You’re like, “Look buddy, if you want to find something wrong with me, there’s plenty of places you can look, but I didn’t do what you’re accusing me of.” And if they don’t let it go, it kind of ruins your relationship. You can think of God counting no iniquity against you in two ways, 1) you’re forgiven, so He doesn’t count it against you, or 2) you didn’t do it, so God doesn’t count it against you. I think we’re tempted to think in this second way more often… God doesn’t count sin against me because I’m generally a good person.

And then we’ve fallen into the same trap as the lawyer in our Gospel who thinks he’s a good neighbor.  

I think the reason we fall into this mistake is because we’re hardwired for works righteousness. Have you ever worked really hard and gotten a great grade? Have you ever worked your tail off for a promotion and gotten it? These are good things and generally how the world works. I emphasize generally because we all know deserving people get poor grades or get passed over for promotion, but generally, if you work hard, you get rewarded. But the kingdom of grace works differently. It’s all about the mercy of our dear Father in heaven.

People may accuse you of sinning and get it wrong sometimes. Our heavenly Father accuses us of sinning and gets it right every time. When God says through St. Paul that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” He knows. (Romans 3:23) God created you and sustains you. He knows you intimately. He knows you better than anyone in your life, no matter how close they are to you. He knows your deepest, darkest secrets… and still loves you. This is why St. Paul continues, “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) And this love continues no matter how much better you’ve become. God does expect you to progress in your sanctification, but He doesn’t justify you because of this progress. He still justifies you by grace alone through faith alone for the sake of Christ alone.

The lawyer had become deceived by thinking he earned merit before God with His works. When God says that there’s no deceit in you in verse 2 of Psalm 32, He means that you know you are still a “poor miserable sinner” who relies on grace. The lawyer wants to deny that he is a “poor miserable sinner” dependent on God. Jesus puts Him in his place with this parable, but also shows that He is the Good Samaritan.

Jesus uses a Samaritan in His parable because He knows it will anger His listeners. The Jews hated the Samaritans even more than the Romans. And they loathed the Romans. Jesus telling these Jews that the one who showed mercy was a Samaritan would be like telling the Klu Klux Klan that the Good Samaritan was black. It would be like telling the Black Panthers that the Good Samaritan was white. It would be like telling the Chinese that the Good Samaritan was Japanese. And it would be like telling the Japanese that the Good Samaritan was anything but Japanese. This reveals something about Jesus.

I cannot emphasize enough the depravity of original sin. We are all born sinful with no fear or love or trust in God. In other words, we are born enemies of God. And we do a great job of proving this again and again. But God doesn’t hold this against us. He joins Himself to His creation to save us. In our natural man, the One we detest the most came to us and showed us mercy.

We are like that man in the ditch, beaten up by sin, death, and the devil. And Jesus, the Good Samaritan comes to us and binds up our wounds and brings us to the inn of the church to take care of us. He feeds us His own body and blood as sustenance. This provides not only healing for our physical bodies but for our spiritual bodies as well. And Jesus pays the price for this healing. He hung alone and despised on a cross bleeding and dying for you! He distributes the fruit of His labor to you in the means of Grace.

This is why the Divine Service is such a big deal. The Holy Spirit used the Word of God to clear our minds so that we aren’t deceived by sin or the world or the devil. He then pronounces that we are counted righteous for Christ’s sake. He then teaches us through His Word and preaching. And then He gives Himself to us personally in His Supper. Then, and only then, are you prepared to show mercy to others.

It’s similar to what God teaches us in the fifth petition:

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

What does this mean? We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us.

We forgive others because we’ve been forgiven. We show mercy to others because we’ve been shown mercy. And you know this is a difficult thing. It’s difficult because it involves Law and Gospel. Sometimes people need to hear the Law. And sometimes people need to hear the Gospel. Here’s a good example.

Yesterday, I conducted a service in remembrance of aborted babies. We take time to remember aborted babies because they matter to God. Abortion is a grave sin. The rhetoric of abortion has been so powerful to convince some that they are doing a virtuous thing by aborting their baby. They need to hear the Law that it is a sin. It’s the taking of an innocent life. If someone is utterly convinced that they have done the right thing with their abortion, then showing them mercy is doing damage to them. It’s like throwing pearls before swine. It cheapens the mercy of God.

But thanks be to God, many who have participated directly or complicitly in abortion have seen that it’s a sin. They don’t need to hear the Law. The Holy Spirit has already done His work through the Law. They need to hear grace. Jesus died for those who have participated in abortion. It is not the unforgivable sin. Jesus bled and died for that sin.

If you have participated in that sin and repented, God has removed that sin from you as far as the east is from the west. In God’s eyes, it’s as if you never did it. This is where the devil likes to come in and mess with you. “Can God really forgive you… YOU?” When you are plagued by the devil, look to the cross. Here you see the love of God for YOU. He bled and died for YOU. You are no longer under condemnation. When you are plagued by the devil, remember your baptism. This is where God came to you personally, claimed you as His own, and forgiven you ALL your sins. Every. Single. One. No matter how grave. Listen to these beautiful words from St. Paul talking about baptism:

“In Him, [you] have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of [your] trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavishes upon [you.]” (Ephesians 1:7-8)

“Lavishes” is a baptism word. There’s no doubt that Paul had in mind baptism as he wrote this through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And God determined this before the foundation of the world! He knew every single sin you would commit in your lifetime. Yet He determined to “lavish” His grace upon you in your baptism.

Once you know this, and are repeatedly reminded of this, then you’re in a position to lavish grace to your neighbor.

God wants to be known as merciful. God wants you to show His mercy to your neighbor. That’s why He says, “You go, and do likewise.” (v. 37) But you don’t extend your own mercy, as if you could. You extend the mercy that has been so richly lavished upon you. You live out the first two verses of Psalm 32: 1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit is no deceit.” And when you do that, God the Holy Spirit, works repentance and faith when and where He wills to the glory of God our Father. Amen.

Day of Remembrance for Aborted Babies

Day of Remembrance for Aborted Babies

Today is a sad day as we remember the innocent babies slaughtered through the tragedy of abortion. But today, we have a reason to rejoice. I never thought I’d see it in my lifetime, but Roe v. Wade has been defeated! Thanks be to God! Let us take a moment and rejoice and give thanks to God our Father.

[pause]

In light of this victory, I want to leave you with three thoughts today: 1) The battle against abortion rages on, 2) the battle is not against flesh and blood, but is a spiritual battle, and 3) Jesus has already won the battle.

First, the battle against abortion rages on.

God created man and woman for a lifelong union that bears the fruit of children before the fall. And He called it a “very good” thing. Even after the fall into sin, God blesses marriage, family, and children.

Jesus loved children and didn’t want them held back from Himself. Many of us know the joy and blessing of a loving family. Thanks be to God for loving parents.

Some of you may not know the joy and blessing of family due to sin. Even if this is true, many still recognize the joy and blessing of family. When a man and woman are joined together for life, even unbelievers admire their love and commitment. When parents show sacrificial love for their children, even unbelievers admire their devotion. Paul talks about families in the fifth chapter of his letter to the Ephesians and then he says something profound: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)

God created the church so that everyone might have the joy and blessing of an eternal family. The earthly family reflects the heavenly family. It is true that the earthly family may break down, but Jesus has established the heavenly family so that it is always and forever a blessing.

So many fight against this blessing of family and children. We see the sin of Onan in our first reading today. It was the duty of the younger brother to have children in the name of his older brother if he died. This may seem weird to us today, but it was a way for a family name to carry on. Onan tried to evade his responsibility and God judged him. Many today try to get around God’s good order of marriage and family through sexual promiscuity, divorce, and abortion. They try to destroy God’s order even to the point of taking innocent life. God will judge those who defy Him on the last day and it won’t be pretty. And this should remind us of the second thing I want you to take home with you: our battle is spiritual and not against flesh and blood.

One of the wonderful things about the reversal of Roe v. Wade is that pro-abortionists have revealed how ugly abortion really is. The devil likes to hide behind the appearance of virtue; like the lies that abortion is “good for women” or counts as “women’s healthcare” or the truly ironic label “reproductive rights.” Their ugliness has shown the world how despicable abortion is and this is a good thing.

God be praised that some states are sticking up for the innocent and banning abortion. God be merciful to us for some states are doubling down on the blight of abortion. Our state is especially heinous. It would be easy to demonize Governor Newsom. He is spearheading some truly horrific legislation. But it is good for all of us to remember what St. Paul says, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Legislation is truly important. Used properly, it promotes good and punishes evil. But this alone will not prevail against the evil of abortion. Only Jesus can do that. And Jesus, and His church, has always used one weapon to prevail over evil: Baptism. For someone to be truly changed, they need to have a change of heart. The way that Jesus says this is: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) And He repeats Himself: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)

You might think, How can water do such a thing? Luther’s Small Catechism provides a wonderful answer:

Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism.

But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says in Titus, chapter three: “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.” (Titus 3:5–8)

Baptism changes lives. It would even make a saint of Governor Newsom. Pray for him. Pray for all you know who are affected by the tragedy of abortion. Prayer is nothing else than taking God’s Word upon your lips for the benefit of your neighbor. If you are a Christian, you are a child of God, and He loves to hear from His children!

Prayer and baptism seem like such weak weapons against such an evil as abortion. We always need reminded of the third ting I want you to take home with you: Jesus has already won the battle.

Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in order to “fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15) John the Baptist was puzzled because Jesus is the “lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) Jesus was sinless. He had no need of baptism. Yet He submits to it to take on the mantle of the world’s sin, including yours and mine. We call this the blessed exchange. Jesus takes on your sin in His Baptism and you receive Jesus’ righteousness in your baptism. He then takes the mantel of sin and goes to the cross. He pays the penalty for your sin and my sin and the sin of the whole world. All sin for all people of all time has been paid for by the blood of Jesus.

Listen to me carefully. If you have participated in the sin of abortion, your sin is covered by the blood of Jesus.

If you have participated in sins like sexual promiscuity or divorce or anything that attacks God’s good order of family, your sin is covered by the blood of Jesus.

The blood of Jesus covers the sin of the abortionist, the promiscuous, the complacent, any sin you can think of that’s related to the sin of abortion. Even the sins of Governor Newsom. Even your sins.

When you are plagued by your sin. Remember your baptism. There Jesus forgave you all your sin and covers you with His righteousness.

Only when you know the power of forgiveness are you in a position to fight for the unborn.

Today is a day to be sad. But there is much reason to be joyful.

The battle rages one, but there is much joy when you save one life! There is much joy when you convince one person of the joy of marriage and children.

The battle is spiritual. There is much joy when one person repents and is baptized. Jesus says, “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7)

The battle is already won by Christ. I have to remind myself to by joyful at times because I can get grumpy when I forgot the battle’s already won! Christians are joyful because we know Jesus has already won the battle. He proved it by raising Himself from the dead.

Let me leave you with the words of St. Paul:

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, [be courageous,] be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

And our Lord will surely bless you and your fight for the unborn! Amen.