Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sermon: Trinity 17 - 2010

26 September 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 14:1-11 (Prov 25:6-14, Eph 4:1-6)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

About a thousand years BC, one of our Lord’s ancestors wrote: “Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, ‘Come up here,’ than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.” That timeless bit of wisdom was put forth by King Solomon, and it is part of the Old Testament Scriptures.

It is a parable that teaches humility. For humility is the very opposite of pride – the original sin.
Satan fell from grace because of his lack of humility. Adam and Eve likewise brought death into the world by not being content with themselves as God made them.

And lest we become too proud ourselves, we are no better. We are indeed a proud people. We are proud of our ancestry, our country, our region in the country, our sports teams, our children, our parents, our wealth, our accomplishments. We are proud of our church’s pure doctrine. We are proud of our congregation’s history. We are proud of our own biblical understanding. We are proud of every detail in our lives. We’re proud of the brand of jeans we wear, the soft drink we drink, and the camera we use. And we will wear clothing with the brand names to prove it. There are parades celebrating open sexual sin plastered with the word “pride.” There is a patriotic bumper sticker that likewise has the word “pride” on it.

Scripture teaches us about pride. It precedes a fall.

Being the children of the living God, heirs of eternal life, theologically and doctrinally correct, and wealthy in the eyes of the world makes St. Paul’s encouragement to walk with humility even more important.

Dear friends, it is precisely because we are God’s children, we do confess the pure Gospel, we do live in a free and prosperous country, that we must not take credit for these things. We are fortunate. We have been blessed. For we do not deserve any of these benefits of the Lord. Why do we live in this place? Why are we among the richest and freest citizens in the world? Why are we heirs of the apostolic faith that has been cleansed of the false doctrine of the middle ages? Why are we so blessed as to be baptized children of the living God?

To be proud of such things is foolish. For we are nothing more than people who have been given an unearned and unmerited gift with silver spoons in our mouths.

How often we are like the Pharisees, jockeying for a position of greatness not merely at banquets like those Jesus speaks of, but among our peers, at school reunions, in climbing the ranks at work, in the symbols of status in our neighborhoods. Shame on us, dear brothers and sisters, for being so shallow and for forgetting that every good thing comes from the Lord as a free and full gift. We have earned nothing. Every hair on our head is numbered. Every penny in our bank account has been allowed to pass into our stewardship by grace alone.

For we are sinners – poor and miserable. We deserve nothing but death and hell. That, we have earned. Every last one of us.

But what does our Savior do? He has compassion on us. For when we acknowledge our sin, when we give up any pretention to pride and arrogance – then Jesus our host comes that He might say to us: “Friend, move up higher.” And then, we are honored in the presence of all – in the midst of men and beasts on earth, and among the angels in heaven. Our Redeemer takes us by the hand and says: “You are not to sit in this lowly place, but rather in a place of honor, prepared beforehand by Me.”

“For,” our Lord teaches us, “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

We Christians of all people should be humble. We know that we are sinners. We know that we are saved by grace. And we also know that nothing is more off-putting to unbelievers than arrogant Christians. For who wants to be part of a kingdom that is as cut-throat and self-seeking as the world? The kingdom of God is a different kind of kingdom. It is one where the proud and arrogant are brought low while the humble and suffering are exalted.

When the Pharisees were focusing all their attention on Jesus – trying to trip Him up in some legal trifle – looking for any word or deed that they might be able to twist into an accusation – they completely missed not only the great compassion of Jesus, but the reality that He is God. Had their attention been on their unfortunate and needy sick brother, they might not have had the time or energy to engage in a game of gotcha with the One who was sent to them to save them.

But unlike the proud Pharisees (who have every reason to be humble), the humble Jesus (who has every reason to be proud) does see the suffering of the diseased man. He hears his prayer. He understands his anguish. And He comes to redeem him from his misery.

Without fanfare or a desire for attention, the Lord heals him and sends him on his way.

Instead of rejoicing at the miracle, instead of allowing Jesus to lead them to their own salvation, instead of yielding by faith to what should be obvious to all: that Jesus is God incarnate – the Pharisees chose instead to wallow in their pride, their unbelief, their dour, hateful, and joyless obsession with their own decrepit selves.
Ironically, it is the humble who is exalted. And we see this time and again in God’s Word.

Dear friends, do not let what you have draw you to a false conclusion about who you are. For all that we have is by God’s mercy and grace, according to His unknowable plan. When we are healthy and wealthy, thanks be to God. When we are sick and poor, thanks be to God. For we are all sinners who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. We are all beggars, as Dr. Luther taught, unworthy recipients of a grace beyond all measure.

This is accomplished for us by our Lord upon the cross, through His sacrificial blood, by means of His Word and His sacraments, lavished upon us. The sacrifice is poured out upon us sacramentally. The Word Incarnate is given to us by the Word Inscripturated.

For our hope lies not in ourselves, but rather in our call: “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

It has been done for us lest any should boast. Let us boast only in our Lord Jesus Christ – now and forever. Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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