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Trained in Mercy
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The world is topsy-turvy. All that our Lord calls good and right in His Word, the world considers evil and judgmental. Everything our Lord calls evil and perverted, the world considers good and right. Abortion is legal. Homosexuality is celebrated. Living together outside of marriage is the norm. It almost seems as if the blind are really in the lead, doesn’t it? It is to the people living in these circumstances that our Lord delivers His message. “Be merciful.” “Judge not.” “Forgive.”
But wait. Aren’t Christians supposed to be concerned with the truth of the Word of God? Yes, of course you are. But your problem is that you think that others are the bad people and you are basically good. Sure, you might sin, but you cannot believe you might be evil. Evil people do evil things; you just mess up from time to time. After all, you are only human! If anyone is evil, it has to be that other person, not you. That sort of thinking is the very thing which is condemned in this text. You aren't better than the next poor sinner. The things you judge and look down on others for doing are the very things you do. How can you point out our neighbor's little splinter sins when you have a giant plank of your own?
Seeing the truth brings the hearts of sinners to anguish. Jesus says, “[The disciple] who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” Yet clearly you are not like your Teacher. Who here today does not sin? Who here has found and removed the plank from his own eye? Who here today is not “as His Master”? Examine your life in the lens of Holy Scripture, where you see how our Lord lives and interacts with the people around Him. Ask yourself, “Have I loved the Lord my God with all my heart? Have I loved my neighbor as myself?” And when you recognize that you have not done so, all that’s left for the sinner is judgment. The plank is lodged in your eye, and you cannot remove it.
But our Lord offers comfort even for those who cannot dislodge their own plank. At the Word of Christ, those who know they are not like their Teacher are forgiven for the sake of Jesus Christ. The same Word that spoke all things into existence also speaks your holiness and righteousness. You are made to be like your Teacher. You who know you don’t love your enemies; you who know it’s against your nature to forgive; you who know you have no desire to show mercy—you are loved by the God who your old Adam made into an enemy. You are forgiven by the God who paid the price with His own blood to wash away your sin. You are shown mercy by the God whose very nature is mercy.
Christ is speaking to you this morning, He is inviting, beckoning, calling, urging, desiring, drawing, requesting, nudging, to this very altar. He speaks His life-giving Word to you to forgive all your sins. He feeds you with His body and blood, fulfilling in you all righteousness, again bestowing every baptismal grace and goodness so that you may stand against the fleshly onslaught that says you are not our Lord’s child and disciple.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are good. Don’t come here and pretend as if you have some sort of special claim on God through your own merit. After all, God owes you nothing. But don’t be afraid to come. After all, everything God has for you is a free gift in His Son. Approach His altar with confidence, trusting that Christ is merciful even as His Father is merciful. He shows His mercy and grace to the ungrateful and evil—yes even to you and to me—so that, by His washing with water with the Word, by His Word of forgiveness, by His body and blood, you may be fully trained to be merciful, even as your Lord and Master is merciful. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.