Sunday, June 23, 2013

Trinity 4

Luke 6:36-42 - Trinity IV - June 23, 2013 
Be Ye Merciful

Almighty God, merciful Father.  That’s what we call God when we bow down to confess our sins.  We don’t appeal to justice.  We appeal to His boundless mercy.  We ask that He would mercifully spare us from our punishment, which His Son endured in our place, and that He would graciously give us that good, which Jesus has earned in our place.  Grace and mercy go hand in hand. But we see here in the relationship between the two that there is also a distinction worth noting. 
When we say that God is gracious, we are saying that He gives us what we don’t deserve to have.  Take, for instance, everything that we need to support our body and life.  All this God gives to us by grace alone without any merit or worthiness in us.  We don’t deserve what good things we have.  What do we deserve?  Well, this is where mercy comes in.  We deserve God’s temporal and eternal punishment for how we have lived.  We have treated our bodies as though we own them, and everything God gives us as though it were here to serve our own desires.   We act as though we deserved the things God so graciously bestows.  But we don’t.  We deserve wrath.  And yet it is in mercy that God declines to be wrathful.  In mercy, God chooses not to condemn us, but to forgive and acquit us. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Trinity 3

Luke 15:11-32 - Trinity III - June 16, 2013 
The Father’s Love for His Son 
Fathers’ Day 2013

Jesus receives sinners.  He seeks the lost sheep who has soiled his life with sin, and fallen prey to the roaring lion who seeks to devour him.  Jesus seeks and finds him here in church by calling us all to repentance.  Jesus sweeps clean this house, like an old lady searching for a coin she lost.  He sweeps away all pride and delusion in our hearts and makes sinners out of each one of us.  Only then are we found.  Here in God’s house, Jesus seeks us and finds us though the preaching of His word.  And when He finds us here, when we are found to be in dear need of His mercy, Jesus gives us His mercy.  He absolves penitent sinners of their sin, because that’s what His Father sent Him to do.  When Jesus receives sinners, God receives His children, and heaven swells with unspeakable joy. 
The parable of the forgiving father follows the same theme as these first two parables.  It’s usually known as the parable of the prodigal son.  And I suppose that makes sense, since the theme is repentance.  The son repented, not the father.  But what’s great about these stories is that, although the theme is on repentance, the main character is not the son who turns back, but the father who waits for and receives with joy his wayward child.  Repentance seems like something that we do.  And yet true repentance doesn’t begin with us at all — no more than a coin initiates the task of being found under the rug.  No, repentance always begins with the work and will of the Father.  As Jesus says in John 6, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44).

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Trinity 2

Luke 14:16-24 - Trinity II - June 2, 2013 

Come Lord Jesus, Be Our Guest

“Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed.  Amen.” 
That’s what we pray before we eat.  It’s known as the common table prayer.  We invite Jesus to join us as we sit down to enjoy what He Himself has given us.  We usually don’t think of such things as coming from Jesus.  Of course, we know that there is one God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three Persons in one divine Essence, and that Jesus is God.  And all good things come from God.  But we tend to talk about the Father, not the Son, as being the One who blesses us with our material things, don’t we?  Well, it’s true.  It’s proper to speak this way since that’s how Scripture speaks.  The Father is the source of all things.  That’s why we call Him our Maker.  It is God the Father almighty who daily and richly provides us with all that we need to support this body and life.  This is what we confess in the Creed.  And all this He does only out of fatherly divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us.