Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sermon for 7/24/16: Ninth Sunday After Trinity

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Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Often Christians question what the Lord’s holy will is, as if the Lord is hiding His good and gracious will, as if one can only guess what the Lord wants from His people. But that’s not how it is with our Lord. He doesn’t treat His people the way we treat each other. He takes no pleasure in playing games. The kingdom of heaven is not found by solving divine riddles and puzzles, for “who has known the mind of the Lord?” And beside that, He is a kind, gracious, loving, merciful God “who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth.”

There are no guessing games. The Lord’s holy will is very clearly laid out for you. It is found throughout Scripture: in the Ten Commandments, in the Psalms, in the Sermon on the Mount, in the Epistles. The Lord Jesus summarizes the will of the Father numerous times. And in today’s parable He says it again. The will of the Father is this: live not for yourself; live for the Father through His Son in the Spirit, and live for your neighbor. Do not love what the world gives. Do not chase after the riches the world promises. Do not feed your passions or addictions. Do not think and do for yourself. Do not first get yours, and then help someone else. Do not live in the fear that God won’t or can’t or doesn’t take care of you. Instead, live in the confidence, boldness, and certainty that the Lord is merciful. Live not in fear, but in the love, the kindness, the compassion and the grace of Christ, which the Spirit generously pours over and into you by the Holy Sacraments.

The dishonest steward lived for himself. He liked the power and prestige of his position. And when the man was discovered for his misdeeds, he didn’t care any more for his neighbor than he did for his master. His entire thought was how he could buy friends that would take care of him. He only cared for himself. Still, the man was very shrewd—so much so that you should admire him, as, in fact, the master admired the man and praised him precisely “because he had dealt shrewdly.” And Jesus praised this clever, calculating, quick-thinking, self-serving character. He said, “The sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.”

The Lord’s will is that you no longer live for yourself, that you live for God by living for your neighbor. The Lord’s will is that you trust not in your cleverness or plans. The Lord’s will is that you rely completely on Him alone. The Lord’s will is that you not only say, but also believe, that you are nothing but a beggar before Him. And so the Lord’s will is that you hunger only for the food He gives at His altar; that you long only to live His Word; that you strive for nothing except the kingdom of heaven; that you seek nothing except doing what pleases Him. The steward was considered shrewd because he used what belonged to his master. What prevents you, the sons of light, from doing the same? You have rich gifts from God. You have the earthly blessings He has given you. More than that, you have the forgiveness Christ won for you, which He gives you freely. What keeps you from shrewdly sharing those gifts with your neighbor? What keeps you from shrewdly forgiving your neighbor when he sins against you? What keeps you from shrewdly sharing the bounty with which the Lord has filled you?

Let your prayer be, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.” He is gracious to answer that prayer to your good. The Father sends you the Holy Spirit, who uses the waters of Holy Baptism to apply to you the salvation Christ died to win; who shows you the truth about yourself and the empty promises of the world; who sets you on the right way; who rescues you from your fears and self-serving ways; who fills you with the earthly blessings which fade and with the heavenly blessings which endure. And in doing these things, He shows you how to love and serve your neighbor.

This is the will of the Father: that all He has made and placed in the hands of Jesus would come into the kingdom of heaven, to live intimately and wondrously in Him. That includes you, the crown of His creation. The will of the Father is ultimately lived here on earth in only one place: in the holy Church, where you do not make false friends for yourself by unrighteous mammon. Here in Christ’s Church, you are made friends by the righteous wealth of Our Lord’s holy gifts—made brothers and sisters in the waters of Holy Baptism, united in Christ’s body and blood. These gifts bind you together in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit. 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.

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