THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY – JUNE 21, 2015
TEXT: LUKE 15:1-10; 1 TIM. 1:12-17; MICAH 7:18-20
IN COMPASSION THE SHEPHERD SEARCHES FOR ONE!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. Dear hearers of the Word made flesh:


Scripture frequently exhorts us to think about others and put them first.  The Holy Spirit caused St. Paul to express it this way to the Philippians, “In humility count others more significant than yourselves… Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  (Philippians 2:3-4).  Scripture exhorts us to be kind and tenderhearted forgiving one another – to love our neighbor as ourselves - to sacrificially serve those around us like Christ served the church.  Sin that distorts our life and our love for others surely includes our intense focus on self.


For the length of this sermon, however, I invite you not to think first about others.  As you listen please concentrate first on just one - yourself - your past - your present - your hopes for the future - your struggles – your fears - your state of mind!  You are unique! You have never been at this point in your life before!  For the moment – focus on just one - on you! 


That’s what Jesus did when the Pharisees grumbled, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”   In their ongoing battle with Jesus, they thought He was wrong in seeking out those whose lives were a mess - hollowed out by bad choices - not respected by others – weak and in need.  They thought Jesus’ business was with decent folk like them.  Our Lord responds with beautiful words about oneone lost sheep, one lost coin, one lost son.  

 

Sheep are pathetically helpless, especially alone, yet they love to make bad choices and wander away.  When they are lost they are not “fighting sheep” but “fearful and frail and soon to fall in death sheep.”  They are Schafskopfmutton heads who do not look for home even when they are fearful and adrift.  When they are found they won’t even walk back with their rescuer.  They need to be carried.  Jesus focus on the one does not mean He loves less the 99.  A very large flock of 100 would have meant village helpers were involved in their care.  They aren’t abandoned in this search – they represent Christ’s church under His abiding care.

THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY – JUNE 21, 2015
TEXT: LUKE 15:1-10; 1 TIM. 1:12-17; MICAH 7:18-20
IN COMPASSION THE SHEPHERD SEARCHES FOR ONE!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. Dear hearers of the Word made flesh:


Scripture frequently exhorts us to think about others and put them first.  The Holy Spirit caused St. Paul to express it this way to the Philippians, “In humility count others more significant than yourselves… Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  (Philippians 2:3-4).  Scripture exhorts us to be kind and tenderhearted forgiving one another – to love our neighbor as ourselves - to sacrificially serve those around us like Christ served the church.  Sin that distorts our life and our love for others surely includes our intense focus on self.


For the length of this sermon, however, I invite you not to think first about others.  As you listen please concentrate first on just one - yourself - your past - your present - your hopes for the future - your struggles – your fears - your state of mind!  You are unique! You have never been at this point in your life before!  For the moment – focus on just one - on you! 


That’s what Jesus did when the Pharisees grumbled, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”   In their ongoing battle with Jesus, they thought He was wrong in seeking out those whose lives were a mess - hollowed out by bad choices - not respected by others – weak and in need.  They thought Jesus’ business was with decent folk like them.  Our Lord responds with beautiful words about oneone lost sheep, one lost coin, one lost son. 


Sheep are pathetically helpless, especially alone, yet they love to make bad choices and wander away.  When they are lost they are not “fighting sheep” but “fearful and frail and soon to fall in death sheep.”  They are Schafskopfmutton heads who do not look for home even when they are fearful and adrift.  When they are found they won’t even walk back with their rescuer.  They need to be carried.  Jesus focus on the one does not mean He loves less the 99.  A very large flock of 100 would have meant village helpers were involved in their care.  They aren’t abandoned in this search – they represent Christ’s church under His abiding care. 


A lost coin is also passive in its recovery.  All the searching – all the safe-keeping must be done by another.  Then there is the lost son whose active fault is crystal clear.  He is a horrible son - a sponge.  His immediate greed for his share of the property actually wished his father dead.  He wants to chase the delights of this dying world.  He wanted the stuff – to use or misuse as he saw fit.  He is a lazy, ungrateful, disrespectful child.  


As you focus on just one - yourself – do not underestimate the weight of your sin.  The Psalms reveal that you can never discern it all (Psalm 19:12) that many of your faults are hidden from you.  But honest examination does expose that we have multiplied transgression – chosen for ourselves our way.  Recall St. Paul’s admission - The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.   What a freeing admission that is!  Jesus came not to condemn sinners or destroy sinners or punish sinners.  Jesus came not to teach sinners how to be nice enough to merit God’s favor.  Jesus came into the world to save sinners!  That leaves one absolute necessity in order for you to receive Jesus’ salvation.  You must be a real sinner!  In the realm of recognizing sin, you are not to count others more significant than yourself.


For if you sense yourself to better than most or at least some before God – oh, making a mistake here and there – but really deep down quite good; if you are not a mess of a sinner with real decay to forgive before God’s holiness; if your old nature doesn’t love to wander away from fearing and loving and trusting your heavenly Father above all things; if  you have never munched on the noxious weeds of this world; then you don’t need this Shepherd’s searching and restoring care?  You see, it is only from knowing the depth of his sin that St. Paul knew the much greater depth and height and width of Jesus’ love.  Dear Christian – the cure only makes sense if the diagnosis is accurate!  Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick (Matthew 9:12).  Are you chief of sinners like Paul or do you see others with far greater debt to God than your own?    Like the Pharisees who grumbled against Jesus, so we hate to admit the true extent of our inner mess.  Like the older son – our stubbornness can lead to comparison and pride and even resentment of God’s grace to others.  Self-pity can actually well up inside - convincing us that we deserve more from God than someone else deserves or that God has not been fair in the blessings He is bestowing on us. 


God help us all to mean what we frequently say about just oneI a poor miserable sinner.  You see, the life of the sheep is one of ongoing rescue from sin and disaster!  As we sang in the Introit – “My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.”  As we prayed in the Collect, “without (God) nothing is strong and nothing is holy…”  You can’t make a deal with God as from a position of personal strength – with some bargaining power.  That’s what the younger son attempted.  Father…I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Treat me as one of your hired servants.  The Father doesn’t want our attempted deals to be His lackey.  We can’t turn to the Father with change in our pockets.  Beloved of God, the Father wants us to receive His lavish love as sons and daughters of His kingdom!  The Father loves to give!  The Father loves to create out of nothing – life from death!  The Father loves to forgive – turning a heart to take in His lavish love! 


That’s why the Son of God came afoot on this dying earth to gather His one flock - one by one.  Your worth comes from His undeserved, searching love for the lost – even one – even you!  As Jesus comes among His gathered flock there can be no sweeter words from His lips than “for you.”   The “you” He has in mind are those weak and injured sheep hungering to walk by faith and not by sight – hungering to give genuine Christian love to others – hungering to cast aside anxiety and to rejoice even in suffering.


That would be you!  You are just one – but you are a forgiven one – a found one – a fed one.  If you rightly say - “I am the foremost sinner” – take heart – for here the Shepherd gives you His heart – pure and holy!  He gives you His place.  Your chief problem like mine is underestimating the Father’s undeserved love and the Shepherd’s searching care.  The Shepherd is always going out to you with His voice – even now!  The Father is always going out to you with His mercy – even now.  The prophet Micah speaks heavy law against God’s people – threats of trouble and terror.  But then comes these astounding verses of hope in the coming Messiah – the very Christ who is in our midst!  Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression…You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.  He delights in steadfast love!  Love like a forgiving, restoring Father.  Love like a searching, rejoicing Shepherd! 


Is not the most precious treasure in the world that the Holy Trinity is like this?  Is it not more important than anything else in your life that God is like this toward you?  The shoulders of your searching Shepherd are the shoulders of Him who went limp on Good Friday – limp in death.  In a sense He was the most prodigal Son of all who came to this far country – descending in our flesh and blood.  Among us sinners He expended all His wealth and all His strength and even His life!  His spending was excessive – giving out mercy and grace until He gave it all.  Made to be sin for us, (2 Cor. 5:19-21) He was punished as the proud Pharisee, the complaining older son, the wasteful younger son, the tax collector, the whore, He bore the wages for every one of us wandering sheep.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all!


But His love is our life!  On the morning of the third day He rose with shoulders so strong that even the entangling cords of death could not hold Him.  Ascended to God’s right hand He comes into your midst today with shoulders strong enough to bear you through all your years and all the way to the new heavens and the new earth. 


So don’t stop focusing on just one – just you - just yet!  For on one particular day there was one particular child at one particular font that received God’s particular and Holy gift of One Baptism.  Over your head water combined with God’s Word was poured!  It is the Word of the one Savior speaking with all the authority in heaven and on earth.  He commanded your Baptism in the name of the one true God – the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.


As you were baptized into the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38) and covered with Christ (Galatians 3:27) it was as the Shepherd saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.”  “Just so, I tell you there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” – over you!  Because of His love the future is yours.  The angels’ joy over you is a perfect reflection of God’s joy over you for they always behold His face.


He knows what kind of sheep you are!  That’s why the God-Shepherd is here now as the one unseen host – to feed you one heavenly feast (divided into His holy body and His holy blood).  He does not come to be served by you – but to bind you to Him.  He does not come to be carried on your shoulders but to carry you on His.  Luther said of this pasture (of Holy Communion) – This is something more than the congregational sermon; for although the same thing is present in the sermon as the sacrament, here there is the advantage that it is directed at definite individuals. Indeed, it is directed at you!  It is like the prodigal Father putting the ring on your finger – putting the best robe (the robe of Christ’s righteousness) on you – and celebrating over you again and again.  Oh, how He loves you!  How much joy He causes in heaven over you!


He is not waiting for you to love Him more or to do better before He loves you like this!  Like a lost coin has an image – so we sinners lost God’s image.  Now clothed in Christ you are the precious coin with the imprint – the royal likeness of the King restored through faith!  You are not God’s enemy!  You are the sheep of the Good Shepherd.  By the light of the lamp of His divine word He has found you.  You are the son – washed and fed and loved and rejoiced over!  His love for you is unconditional!  His grace toward you is enduring! 


So what?  So here is the answer for you, your past, your present, your future hopes, your struggles, your fears.  You are unique and you have never been at this point of your life before.  Here alone is the pure medicine for your conscience to be clean and good!  Here alone is the full silencer – for the devil’s accusations!  “Yes, yes, Satan – all that is my sin and more but see the blood of the Lamb shed for me and covering me!”  Here alone is the strength for joyful living in the Lord, for generous giving for the Gospel, for hopeful living in a hopeless world!  These texts burst with good news – for you!  Christ receives you this tenderly – this fully! 


Beloved, In Him you are now absolutely free – In humility (to) count others more significant than yourselves…to look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”    You are absolutely free not to ignore or write off someone whose life may be a mess – who is a lost son or a lost sheep or a lost coin.  Rejoicing in how He sees just one – you – you are free to pray for and speak to and relate with another one or two or more for whom He has the same searching and restoring love. 


To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.  In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a