Sunday, August 23, 2020

Sermon for 8/23/2020: Eleventh Sunday After Trinity

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Humility and Faith 

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

Humility and faith go together. A faithful child of God acknowledges that anything he offers or does or gives is meager and not worthy to be compared with whatever the Lord gives through His ministers and through neighbors. The humble man confesses that, apart from the Lord, everything he does is worthless and vain. It takes great humility to say, “I was wrong. I mistreated you. I abused our friendship. I am not worthy to stand in your sight.” It also takes great faith, for when you confess your sin, you are not only humbling and lowering yourself; you are also trusting that your apology will be accepted, your sincerity will be believed, your words will not be swatted aside, and your admission will not be used against you. Examine your life; is this you? Has your sin humbled you before the Lord and your neighbors?

The Pharisee has no humility, and so he exhibits no faith. Wise Solomon says, “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” Yet this man, who knows the Law, praises himself for all he has done. He seeks to impress God and anyone else who is listening in. But it’s all camouflage and smoke screen. The louder he boasts, the more we should pity him, because he wants to believe what he says. He desperately wants to believe that he’s not as bad as he fears.

In the end, the Pharisee does not know himself, and he doesn’t truly know God. The man who believes he is perfect also believes he has no need for God. To know God means you must confess and acknowledge and admit that all you’ve done, all your wisdom, all your worldly goods, and all you are is dust and ashes. Your every breath depends on the Father’s life-breathing Spirit. Your every heartbeat depends on the Father’s compassion, demonstrated in His Son’s innocent sacrifice.

How can the Pharisee confess God when he refuses to see who he himself truly is? How can he receive the Lord’s mercy when he demands to be loved? How can he trust God almighty when he trusts his own reason and strength? This man is not justified precisely because he seeks to justify himself. And this Pharisee has no faith precisely because he believes first and foremost in himself.

The tax collector, however, knows himself. He sees the truth about himself; he will not hide behind excuses, the opinions of others, or any work he has done. He has come to know that his only hope is to throw himself on the infinite mercy of God. He stands in the Court of the Gentiles. He lowers his eyes, not daring to look toward the Holy of Holies. He begs, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” He does not deserve forgiveness. He deserves the scorn of all his neighbors, the rebuke of the priests, the disdain of the rich, the mockery of the poor, the shunning of the righteous. Most of all, he deserves the wrath of God.

St. Paul wrote, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” This man, who truly knows himself, stands among the heathen and speaks the truth about himself in God’s house. This man is humble because he believes; he believes because he is humble. And so, Jesus says, “this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Now that you’ve seen true faith, learn from our Lord by imitating this humble tax collector. He does not view himself as superior; he does not trust any righteousness in himself. He does not approach the Lord because of his righteous deeds, but because of the Lord’s mercy. I urge you in the same : in the humility of true faith, draw near to our heavenly Father, begging His mercy. Draw near in humility to receive the body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, for our Father declares His almighty power chiefly in showing mercy to those who cling to Him, who live in the sure and certain hope they have through their baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 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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