September 11, 2016 — Proper 19
Sermon Text — Luke 15:1-10
Sermon Audio —
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Luke’s gospel account the 15th chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
Carried Along by His Words
Without words we would be forever lost. It is words that brought creation into being. It is words that condemned sin and the works of the devil. And it is words that restored Adam and His descendants through the promised Messiah. Without words, especially God’s Word we would be forever lost, forever hiding in the bushes, forever captivated and held captive by our sins. And so it is with Words that the God who made the heavens, the earth, and all therein, gives to us new life. Words give us life because God’s Word give us God’s life, the life of His Son, who comes to us and carries us along. The Word who was in the beginning with God has become flesh and dwelt among us. It is God’s Word in the Jordan sanctifying the waters of baptism as a lavish flood that washes away sin. It is God’s Word in the wilderness casting Satan away. It is God’s Word that heals the sick, enlightens eyes, opens ears and loosens tongues, even raises the dead. God’s grace comes to us through His Words and without His Words we would be lost forever.
But humanity is not content with words. Words are common, ordinary, and uneventful. We expect more from God than just Words. We grumble and complain because we don’t want to pay attention to God’s Word, we want God to pay attention to our Words. The Scribes and Pharisees in our text were grumbling and complaining about Jesus because sinners and tax collectors were drawing near to Him to hear Him. Jesus was sharing His Words with those who didn’t deserve them. And worse than that, HE WAS EATING WITH THEM. He was sharing His grace with them, His presence with them, His Words with them when Jesus should have been sharing in the grace, presence and words of the scribes and Pharisees. Rather than those people paying attention to Jesus, Jesus should have been paying attention them, the better people, the good people, the righteous people, the people who deserved Him.
The Lost Sheep
The hearts of these scribes and Pharisees were in the wrong place. They were grumbling and complaining about God’s grace. So what does Jesus do? He does the same for them as was doing for sinners and tax collectors. He gave them Words, in particular a parable, two parables in fact, . . . well . . . really three parables, but we’ll focus on the first two. What is Jesus doing with these parables? He’s using words to carry the hearts of the scribes, Pharisees, and even you and me to the right place, to the place where we hear with open ears and receive eternal life.
The first parable is about a shepherd of sheep. Sheep are dumb. And because scripture likens God’s children to sheep we immediately get a perfect picture of our fallen, sinful state. Sheep love to wander. “All we like sheep have gone astray we’ve turned every one to his own way.” Our own way is not the way of the shepherd. The way of the Shepherd is good, right, and salutary because the Shepherd is good, right and salutary. The Shepherd is Jesus. And because the Shepherd is Jesus His way leads to life eternal. Our own way is none of this. Our own way leads to death. We who are dumb sheep tend to think we’re smarter than that. We listen to other voices. We’re convinced by the wolves that it’s better apart from the 99. So we wander. Sheep love to wander. Sinners are given to sin. So we leave the 99, more importantly we leave the Shepherd and go out on our own. We do what we think. We love what we feel. We go here and we go there assuming there are no dangers. The more we wander, the more sin takes control. Fear seizes the heart and we scatter and we tremble, if not on the outside then certainly on the inside. We doubt everything, every turn here, every journey there, everything we do, every person we encounter. We can’t find our way back. All of our seeking turns out to be more wandering.
But the parable isn’t so much about us sheep as it is about the Shepherd. Jesus seeks after the lost. And His seeking uses Words. Without His Words we would not know who was calling us. Without His Word we would not cease our striving. So He calls. He speaks. Echoing the words from the Garden He beckons! “Where are you?” and “What have you done.” His law thunders in our ears and freezes us in our paths. Like a thunderbolt to the heart we stop dead in our tracks, huddle up in a corner and wait. God’s Law catches us in our sin, and its then, and only then that we cease and know that He is God and we are not. He is the seeker. We are the sought ones. He is the Shepherd and we are the sheep.
Jesus with Sinners and Tax Collectors
This parable is about the Shepherd, the one who leaves the safety of the sheepfold and enters the wilderness of our world. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Surrounded by the wild beasts of this world and with the joy of your salvation set before Him, Jesus despises the shame and endures the dangers. He takes on the devil and defeats Him with words. He takes on the demons and defeats them with words. Finding His beloved, you and me, sinners and tax collectors, the sick, the blind, the deaf, the dumb and the dead, He assumes our wounds, carries our burdens, bears our sins, and so also suffers our death. By His dying He carries us through death, covering us with His death and by His rising on the third day He rescues us from the clutches of the grave.
Wandering sheep need to be found. Wounded sheep need to be healed. Frightened lambs need to be comforted. Sinners need to be forgiven. We need to be carried. So carry us He does. To font we go where the water and the Word washes away sin, binds up wounds, and renews us with the Shepherd’s own life. The Lost are found in the water and the Sheep are comforted with His Word. The one is brought back to the 99 and the angels in heaven rejoice while the Savior feasts with His redeemed, with all those who have been restored to the flock.
The Lost Coin
This brings us to the second parable. The Savior is not done speaking. His Words continue to carry us along. Having brought us back to the flock we now find ourselves in a house, God’s house, even this house. The restored are not left to themselves where they are given to wander again. Salvation is personal – the Good Shepherd has found you, and it is also communal – He has restored you to a community, a communion, where together has His Church – the bride for whom He died and rose again – is given to find heavenly treasures. Like a woman seeking after a lost coin goes about the house with her lamp in hand, so we Christians guided by the Word find Christ. That lamp is God’s Word. For the Word is like a light to our path and a lamp to our feet. It’s not a coin we seek, no earthly treasure we desire, no worldly wisdom to preserve us from sin’s demise, but Jesus Himself. He is the coin in this parable not us. He is the treasure we find in this house. Thus the Word leads us to the water. The word leads us to the pulpit. The Word leads us to absolution. The Word leads us to the rail. Where we are led there we find Jesus, the Savior who delights in being found. Through these things Jesus baptizes, Jesus forgives, Jesus preaches, and Jesus communes. Thus it is the Word that carries us from the wilderness of this world and we find that through this Word Jesus Himself has placed us on His shoulders and married Himself to us. He is our God and we are His dearly loved people.
Carried to the Rail – the Communion
Beloved in the Lord, where are you? What have you done? These words once spoken in the garden echo through time and call the nations to repentance. This morning His Word has reached our ears. It is His fervent desire to reach our hearts also. Do not grumble and complain that the Savior leaves the 99 to seek the lost. Do not grumble and complain that through these words sinners and tax collectors are found. Rather rejoice! Join the heavenly hosts and all the redeemed in singing praise to our God who delights in saving sinners. Listen! God is calling . . . you. Listen! The Lord is here . . . in your midst . . . to deliver you from the perils of this world, the devil, all the wild beasts, and your sins. He has prepared a feast for you whom He loves. In this bread is His very body. In this cup is His very blood. We know this because of His Word. We are here because of His Word. Without His Word we would be lost forever but God in His rich grace and mercy calls you by His Word, redeems you by His Word, forgives you through His Word and promises that on the last day He will raise you the dead by the power of His Word. Our whole life, our whole life together is founded on and flows from His Word. Believe it. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpass all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!