Saturday, June 26, 2021

The Fourth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 4)


Luke 6:36-42; Romans 8:18-23; Genesis 50:15-21


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

We are a divided nation: Republican vs. Democrat. Far Right vs. Far Left. Science Believers vs. Science Deniers. Pro-Choice vs. Pro-Life. Pro-Immigration vs. Pro-Secure Borders. Equality of Opportunity vs. Equity of Outcome. Vaccinated vs. Unvaccinated.

We are a divided people: Male vs. Female. Black vs. White. Gay vs. Straight. Religious vs. Atheist. Millennial vs. Boomer.

We are a divided church: Confessional vs. Missional. Contemporary vs. Liturgical. Church Growth vs. Traditional.

Our families are divided. Our marriages are divided. And this is nothing new. The fruit of our first sin in the garden was division, between man and woman, between humanity and God. Don’t forget that when God exposed their sinful rebellion, the man and the woman blamed each other, and they both blamed God.

Division is the seed sown by Satan. “Did God really say?” was a question designed to create division between man and woman, between humanity and God. When it comes to God’s Word, there is what God has said, and there is what man says that God said, wishes that God said, and acts as if God said. God’s Word is the only truth and good, and the only rule and norm of truth and goodness in contrast to falsehood and evil. The ability to distinguish good from evil was not a providence given to man by God, but all they needed to make the right choice was in His Word itself. If they would fear, love, and trust in the LORD and His Word, darkness would be light, and the way of truth and goodness would be clearly discerned.

Before Satan’s temptation, our First Parents knew God to be good. After the temptation, they thought that God was holding out on them, that He wasn’t truly good and loving. They became prideful and jealous, judging and condemning. The fruit of their fall became evident in their offspring. The LORD had regard for Abel’s offering, but not for Cain’s. Though the LORD had comforted Cain saying, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” Cain became angry and resentful against his brother and against the LORD. Cain judged and condemned his brother and murdered him, and so he also judged and condemned his LORD. Cain was divided from his brother; Cain was divided from his LORD and His Word.

Jealousy, anger, resentment, hatred – these are the fruits of sin, the result of a broken and divided relationship between fellow men and women and their God. Cain thought he was treated unfairly, so he murdered his brother and he hated his God. Joseph’s brothers did the same in thought, if not in deed. They were jealous and resentful of their brother and their father because he favored Joseph. They judged and condemned them both, plotting to murder Joseph and get back at their father. Yet, the LORD was in control of the situation and His Word and His promise remained true. He would bless Abraham, and through him and his offspring He would bless all the nations of the earth. At the end of the story, Joseph stands in stark contrast to his brothers, trusting in God’s truth and goodness saying, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” Fear, love, and trust in God and His Word confesses that God’s will is always good, despite what fallen human reason, wisdom, and perception might suggest.

The Christian faith and life are marked by tribulation and suffering. Jesus taught this plainly, and the prophets and the apostles all testify to the same. St. Paul confessed this clearly in today’s Epistle even as he confesses his fear, love, and trust in God and His Word, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” For the Christian who trusts in God’s goodness, faithfulness, and promise, there is confidence, courage, comfort, and hope to face all trials, temptations, tribulations, and suffering, to endure and persevere. Paul and the other apostles faced numerous perils throughout their Christian life and ministry and counted it all joy even as Jesus, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross and scorned its shame.

If the Christian’s relationship to their LORD is one of fear, love, and trust, no matter what, then their relationship to their brother, sister, and neighbor is one of pity, compassion, charity, patience, love, and forgiveness. Or, as Jesus put it succinctly, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Christian mercy is rooted in divine mercy. Because our heavenly Father is merciful, we who fear, love, and trust Him will and must be merciful. We do not judge or condemn, for we have been judged not guilty and the condemnation we deserved has been borne by Jesus upon the cross. We are the underserving recipients of the boundless divine mercy of God; how can we withhold mercy from others whose offenses have also been mercifully forgiven in the blood of Jesus? Moreover, we have the promise of God’s Word: “forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Yes, we are a divided nation and people. Our church is divided. Our families and our marriages are divided. This is the fruit of sin, a sowing of Satan who seeks always to divide and destroy. Sadly, this side of heaven, we must live with division and the suffering it produces, but let us not contribute to it, and let us repent and be forgiven and restored when we do. For, we are our brother’s keeper. The Lord does not say that we should ignore the speck in our brother’s eye, but that first we should deal with the log in our own eye. Your Lord Jesus has removed the log from your eye, even as He has removed the speck from your brother’s eye. You are each the undeserving recipients of His merciful love and forgiveness. Therefore, do not judge and condemn, for you have been judged not guilty and Jesus has borne the condemnation of all, but be merciful, even as your Father is merciful, and love, bear with, and forgive your brother, sister, neighbor, and enemy, for with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. Mercy and forgiveness are present and ready to be measured to you now at the Lord’s table. Come, eat and drink and be filled with Jesus’ divine mercy, that His mercy may flow out of you into the lives of your brother, sister, neighbor, and enemy to the glory of God.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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