Sermon Date — August 21, 2016 — Proper 16
Sermon Text — Luke 13:22-30
Sermon Audio —
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s (evening’s) sermon is taken from St. Luke’s gospel account the 13th chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
His Gifted Children
I “Gifted Children” ask Silly Questions
Every day it was right there in black and white except for Sundays, on Sunday’s it was in bright brilliant color. Every day, a man named Gary Larson would give me and anyone who cared to look, a picture of the far side, a window, if you will into a world full of irony, humor, and flat out hilarious absurdities. How many deer are born with a perfect bull’s eye for a birth mark? How many poodles actually plot the death of their master and then lament that the pampering will end?
One particular window to the Far Side provides us with some insight into the depths of our condition. The scene is simple enough. A rather rotund school boy with books in hand has made his way to the School for Gifted Children. He attempts to enter through the door, one hand on his books, the other on the door. He leans forward, pushing his way in. But the door doesn’t move. It’s not locked. NO one bars his entrance. He pushes, and pushes, and pushes, until beads of sweat drop from his face. What’s the problem? What is stopping him? Why can’t he get in? A sing on the door reads, PULL. Gifted indeed!
This morning (evening) in our text a certain “gifted” man asks Jesus a question. “Lord, are there few who are saved?” It was a common question of the day. Pharisees and Sadducees would often debate the question, wondering who out there would be saved. They were concerned with numbers. The same is true today. Pastors, churches, denominations, individual Christians are all concerned about how many will be saved. There’s nothing new under the sun. Sinful humanity worries about numbers. When we worry about numbers we start worrying about metrics; measuring, evaluating, judging, attempting to discern which ones are the best practices that get the most results. It’s become a multi-million dollar industry. Conferences are held. Resources are sold. Products are marketed. Books are written. Stories are chronicled. Visions are cast. But in reality, all such thinking and reasoning and measuring and producing and practicing, are nothing short of that rotund little boy leaning heavy on the door to paradise seeking to push his way in while the door says “pull”. Humanity is no so gifted.
II Jesus Answers the Right Question
Humanity is worried about numbers, about crowds, groups of peoples, not so much individuals. You’ll notices that Jesus doesn’t answer the man’s question. No, Jesus turns the tables. Literally, Jesus answers, “YOU struggle to enter through the narrow door.” The man is concerned about the crowds. Jesus is concerned about the man. Jesus is concerned about you. Because the real question is not so much “are few being saved?” but are YOU being saved. Jesus’ answer to the man is Jesus’ Word to you. Like that rotund school boy in the Far Side, “many will seek to enter but will not be able to.” Why? Because they do not believe the word. The word is there for all to hear, to read, to practice. In Gary Larson’s world, the Word is pull – the opposite of what that little boy was doing. In the gospel’s that Word is believe. Sadly, humanity has more trust in our fallen nature than we do the Word of the living God. We trust our experience. We trust our reasoning. We trust our feelings. We trust what gets us the results that we think and feel are desired. We’re practical, we’re purposeful, we’re intentional, we’re passionate, we’re pious, we’re followers, we’re gullible, we’re sinful, we’re guilty, and we’re dying. Many will try to enter but will not be able.
Jesus says, “struggle” to enter the narrow door. He says “struggle” because that is the whole of the Christian life. It is a struggle to walk by faith, to believe the word, to go against the devil, the world, and our own sinful desires and passions. It is a struggle to deny oneself and follow Christ. All of Jesus’ ministry is one of leading out of sin, death and hell. It is an exodus that passes through death to the right hand of God. Ask yourself, “are you following Jesus away from your sin? Or are you still in your sin, living in sin, allowing sin to have its way with you? The Christian life is a struggle against sin and its wages.
The world says we are fools for following Jesus. Scripture says we are fools if we do not follow Jesus. The wisdom of the world seeks to push its way into paradise. The fool ignores the Word on the door. The door is narrow – there is no room for pride, passion, piety, or persuasive praise. Any door open to such things is not the door to paradise but rather the bowels of hell. The Lord heart is not swayed in our favor by the things that seem right to a man. Such things in the end lead to death and damnation. They seek the wrong door and thus the Lord does not know them or where they have come from. The door to heaven is locked to those who would work their way in. Despite what you think about yourself, no one is gifted enough, no one is righteous enough, to merit heaven. We have all become “rotund”, puffed up if you will with our works and cannot enter by such a narrow door.
III The Door is Open
It is not what you do that opens the door to heaven. It is what Jesus does for you. Thus you are to look to Jesus, the author and perfector of your faith. Everything He does He does for you. He was conceived for you because in sin did your mother conceive you. He was born for you, because from birth the Law’s demands laid heavy on your heart and soul. He was circumcised for you that His blood would be shed to take your place. He was baptized for you that all righteousness should be fulfilled. Thus the heavens were rent asunder, the Spirit descended like a dove and the Father’s voice beckoned from heaven, “This is my beloved Son.” He was crucified for you that having taken your sins and suffered their curse His blood would cover over a multitude of sin, even the sins of the world. Taking them into death, burying them in the grave, Jesus put sin and death to death through His death. This was His baptism to undergo. This was His cup to drink to the very dregs. No sin was left unatoned for. No sinner left unjustified. All was fulfilled! All was finished. All was accomplished! Even the grave itself was plundered when He rose from the dead on the third day.
IV Christian Life is One of Struggle and Repentance
Jesus has opened the door to heaven for you. Jesus has made His way through death to the Father’s right hand for you. As the Master of this house Jesus has left the keys to the door with His Church, and in His Church with His ordained servants. For the Office of the Keys is that special authority which Christ has given to His Christians to unlock the door to heaven through the forgiveness of sins for those who repent and to lock the door for those who do not repent. Through exercise of the keys Christ’s ministers deliver the gifts of His passion to hearts through the Word and Sacraments. This ministry of reconciliation calls for and creates the faith that justifies sinners before a righteous and holy God. Those who are being saved, not “saved” – past tense, but “being saved” present tense – for today is the day of salvation, those who are being saved receive this ministry of reconciliation by the hearing of the word and the receiving of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It’s not the hearing, eating or drinking that saves, – for many hear, eat, and drink but do not believe. NO! It is the Word, the Body and the Blood, and the Spirit poured out for you that does the saving.
As Christians, you are to daily struggle to enter by the narrow door, that is through the ministry of reconciliation you are to daily receive the forgiveness of your sins. This is the Work of the Holy Spirit who daily and richly forgives the sins of all believers through His means of grace. This is the life of repentance. This is the struggle against sin. This is entering the narrow door because this is the only way, the only truth, the only life that endures forever and ever. How can a Christian remain a Christian when he or she is not regularly receiving the forgiveness of sin and daily struggling against sin? How can a Christian’s faith abide, that is remain, endure, continue to exist, if such a Christian doesn’t hear the Word that creates and sustains faith or doesn’t feast on the resurrection in the sacraments? Any Christian routinely absent from the Divine service and the gathering of God’s holy ones around God’s holy things actually starves their faith and endangers their soul. It won’t be long before they start pushing against the door thinking they’re gifted enough to get in on their own.
V Gifted because of the Giver
Beloved in the Lord, years ago during President Reagan’s first term it was not uncommon for an occasional guest at the white house to meet with the President. Every now and then such a guest would share their story, how they were in need and hoped the President would do his best to fix the economy. Such people were concerned with the crowds, the groups, the multitudes. President Reagan, being the man that he was would often keep a stack of personal checks in his desk drawer. Once, when a single mom met with him, having listened to here story he took out his checkbook and wrote her a generous gift. Weeks later when he was going through the bank statements he noticed that woman hadn’t cashed the check. He called her that day and asked why? She told the President that she took the check and had it framed and was no hanging on her wall. She was given a gift but didn’t use it. President Reagan then sent her another check to be used for her and her children.
Those who receive baptism, who hear the word, eat and drink of the supper but do not believe are like this woman. They take the gift and mount it on the wall. They do not use it. Christ has gifted His children with the means of grace that they be used for the reception of the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation. These gifts are the way through the narrow door. They are not meant to be put in our pockets or hung on our walls. They are meant for our heart. The promises of God are for you and your children so that all who are baptized receive the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins, so that all who hear – believe, that all who eat and drink – live forever. This is work of God for you. These are the keys to the door. It is what makes you His gifted children. Believe the Word and enter by the narrow door. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!