LUKE 17:1-10 (3-Year Series C)
The 20th Sunday after Pentecost: 6 October 2013
Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center—Shorewood, WI
The Reverend Jason D. Lane


    GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE FROM GOD OUR HEAVENLY FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST.  


    There are SMOLDERING WICKS among us who need the light of Christ. In our text, Christ calls them “LITTLE ONES”. They’re real Christians with real faith from the Holy Ghost, who nevertheless stumble and limp through life, hamstrung by the old nature. The ones who say, “THE GOOD I WANT TO DO I DON’T DO, BUT THE EVIL THING THAT I HATE, THAT’S WHAT I DO.”

 

    Right, that’s not just some. That’s all. We’ve all been smoldering a bit. We’ve all been LITTLE ONES, because day in and day out it’s not as if we’re growing holier by leaps and bounds here, so that at any moment we’ll burst into sublime perfection. We struggle with the world or perhaps struggle too little; we struggle against the sin in our heart or perhaps we struggle too seldom. St. James says, WE ALL SIN MUCH, sins we commit and the good we never did or still aren’t doing. We get distracted by this world and swallowed up and spit out, either numb to grace or so sin-chilled with remorse. Whether it’s too numbed by sin to know we need Christ or too ashamed by our sin to come to Him, either way, it’s enough to keep us from Christ.


    Christ has no delusions about our sin or about life in this dying world. He TOLD HIS DISCIPLES, v. 1, “IT’S IMPOSSIBLE FOR THINGS THAT MAKE PEOPLE STUMBLE NOT TO COME.” And here they come in spades. Sin is sure to come. But Jesus also says, WOE TO THE ONE WHO BRINGS ON THE STUMBLING; WOE to the one who causes another to sin.








 

LUKE 17:1-10 (3-Year Series C)
The 20th Sunday after Pentecost: 6 October 2013
Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center—Shorewood, WI
The Reverend Jason D. Lane


    GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE FROM GOD OUR HEAVENLY FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST.  


    There are SMOLDERING WICKS among us who need the light of Christ. In our text, Christ calls them “LITTLE ONES”. They’re real Christians with real faith from the Holy Ghost, who nevertheless stumble and limp through life, hamstrung by the old nature. The ones who say, “THE GOOD I WANT TO DO I DON’T DO, BUT THE EVIL THING THAT I HATE, THAT’S WHAT I DO.”

    Right, that’s not just some. That’s all. We’ve all been smoldering a bit. We’ve all been LITTLE ONES, because day in and day out it’s not as if we’re growing holier by leaps and bounds here, so that at any moment we’ll burst into sublime perfection. We struggle with the world or perhaps struggle too little; we struggle against the sin in our heart or perhaps we struggle too seldom. St. James says, WE ALL SIN MUCH, sins we commit and the good we never did or still aren’t doing. We get distracted by this world and swallowed up and spit out, either numb to grace or so sin-chilled with remorse. Whether it’s too numbed by sin to know we need Christ or too ashamed by our sin to come to Him, either way, it’s enough to keep us from Christ.


    Christ has no delusions about our sin or about life in this dying world. He TOLD HIS DISCIPLES, v. 1, “IT’S IMPOSSIBLE FOR THINGS THAT MAKE PEOPLE STUMBLE NOT TO COME.” And here they come in spades. Sin is sure to come. But Jesus also says, WOE TO THE ONE WHO BRINGS ON THE STUMBLING; WOE to the one who causes another to sin.


    What does He mean? He’s talking about what we do with our fellow Christians.  That’s why He says, V. 3] WATCH OUT FOR YOURSELVES!  IF YOUR BROTHER SINS, REPRIMAND HIM!  IF HE REPENTS, FORGIVE HIM!


    He means, “Don’t let one of My LITTLE ONES—that’s us—Don’t let YOUR BROTHER continue in sin while nobody REPRIMANDS him; don’t let him go numb to the danger of sin, don’t let him live proudly in his own blindness. But even more: Don’t let YOUR BROTHER continue in shame while nobody FORGIVEs him. Don’t let him think for a second that the only thing he is is a sinner. Because those are the two hugest THINGS THAT MAKE Christians STUMBLE—and that doesn’t mean just “trip”; it means “fall.” Because if a Christian continues in any sin, he kills his faith; and if a Christian’s starved for forgiveness and doesn’t get it, his faith slides away into despair. Either way, one of Christ’s LITTLE ONES falls. 


    Therefore, He says, WATCH OUT!  IF YOUR BROTHER SINS—not just annoys you—but IF HE SINS, REPRIMAND HIM!  Don’t just tell him, “Well, you know how I feel about that.”  Tell him, “No!”  Tell him, “Stop!”  AND IF HE REPENTS, FORGIVE HIM!  Which means, dear Christians, “Give him absolution!”  It’s the exact same kind of forgiveness that a pastor gives you after confession. It’s the kind of forgiveness that actually removes sin. Whatever the sin is that YOUR BROTHER or sister has gotten into, this forgiveness uproots the sin from their soul and CASTS IT INTO THE DEPTHS OF THE SEA, because it’s God’s forgiveness that He’s given to you.  And when you give it, it leaves YOUR BROTHER or your sister clean and new.


    And they’re going to need it.  We’re all going to need it.  Jesus says, v. 1 again, IT’S IMPOSSIBLE FOR THINGS THAT MAKE PEOPLE STUMBLE NOT TO COME.  The world is not your friend and Satan doesn’t rest, he’s always hunting the SERVANTS of Jesus. So for the time being, THINGS THAT could make you fall will COME.  But, He says, WOE TO WHOMEVER THEY COME THROUGH!  


    That sentence is a sentence from Christ, “who will judge the living and the dead.”  Because WOE means “disaster”.  Thus says the Lord:  “DISASTER to anyone who makes one of My Christians fall”, which, considering how He loves His own, is only right.  How much of a disaster?


    Jesus says,  V. 2]  RATHER THAN MAKE ONE OF THESE LITTLE ONES STUMBLE, HE’D BE BETTER OFF GETTING A MILLSTONE HANGED AROUND HIS NECK AND GETTING THROWN INTO THE SEA.  Which means for us, “Before you stand there silent while one of His Christians dies in sin, and even more, before you stand there silent while one of His Christians needs to be forgiven – before you do that thing, buy some cinder blocks and a chain and hire a boat to take you out where it’s deep.  Because you’d be BETTER OFF to be drowned, before you refuse to do this.”  IF one of you SINS, REPRIMAND HIM.  IF HE REPENTS, FORGIVE HIM! because tossing off the sins that latch on to our brothers and sisters, unwrapping the chain around their neck is what we’re here for. But Jesus also warns us: “WATCH OUT FOR YOURSELVES.”


    Just when you thought it was about them, He turns it on you. Why? It’s because forgiveness isn’t fair, and we’re used to fair. Real mercy requires long-suffering for those who don’t deserve it, just like us here, who came this morning confessing sins and didn’t for one second deserve Christ’s forgiveness—but ready or not, it came, and your sins were cast into the heart of the sea. It’s not fair; it’s forgiveness. Speaking of unfair, Jesus says, v. 4, IF YOUR BROTHER SINS AGAINST YOU SEVEN TIMES A DAY AND SEVEN TIMES A DAY TURNS BACK TO YOU AND SAYS, ‘I REPENT,’ FORGIVE HIM.  And notice those words:  IF HE SINS AGAINST YOU.  AGAINST YOU, over and over.  And then notice these words:  if he SAYS, “I REPENT” – just says it over and over—FORGIVE HIM over and over.  


    I know that the disciples weren’t the only Christians who’ve felt that somehow that just can’t be right.  V. 5] THE APOSTLES SAID TO THE LORD, “GIVE US MORE FAITH!”  Which is generally, a very good prayer.  But not when it means, “Lord, help us understand what You really mean” or “Help us to believe that we’re really SUPPOSED TO DO that?” or, “Lord, I know You told us this, but if You expect me to actually do it, first, You’re going to have to GIVE me MORE FAITH!”


    But THE LORD SAID, V. 6] “IF YOU HAVE FAITH LIKE A MUSTARD SEED—and you’ve all got that much—YOU COULD TELL THIS MULBERRY TREE—if your business was removing trees—YOU COULD TELL THIS MULBERRY TREE, ‘BE PULLED UP BY THE ROOTS AND PLANTED IN THE SEA.’  Then how much more a sin that’s already been punished on Calvary?  How much more a sin that’s already been paid for on the Cross?  How much more can you say, “Your sin is gone!” and it shall be so?”


    As if to say, “What you need for this, LITTLE ONES, is not more faith.  What you need is to know how much grace your little faith has already received. You need to know that through your little faith, I’ve already lifted you past what’s “only right” into something a whole lot bigger, and wilder, and better:  into FORGIVENESS so huge that a Christian could sin SEVEN TIMES A DAY and more, and still Satan wins nothing! into GRACE so huge that while you TURN TO ME AND REPENT, over and over and over and over and over and over and over, SEVEN TIMES A DAY and more, GRACE wins every round!” And then Grace wins forever.  


    “Oh, I know,” says the Lord. “I know how it is with you. I know how little faiths tend to operate.” IF YOU HAD A SERVANT PLOWING OR TENDING SHEEP, WHEN HE CAME IN FROM THE FIELD YOU wouldn’t TELL HIM, “COME ON AND SIT DOWN and EAT NOW.”  But I would.  YOU WOULDN’T THANK YOUR SERVANT for just doing his job.  But I’ll CROWN My SERVANTS with GLORY forever, when they’ve scarcely done their job at all.”


    It’s way past what’s only right!  Whoever heard of a MASTER who stays up late, finishing His servants’ work, so that when morning comes He can smile at us as if we were wonderful?  Whoever heard of a MASTER who’d pay for all His servant’s failures; who’d take all the WOE on Himself, with something worse than a MILLSTONE hanged around His neck, and THROWN INTO something worse than the SEA, so that when He rose again, He could come to us smiling, “PEACE!” as if we’d been faithful all our lives?  And I know I’m not the first Christian to feel that that can’t be right, but that’s the Grace He won for us and gave to us, to keep all His SERVANTS safe through faith till morning comes.      


    For a little while, beloved, THINGS THAT could make us STUMBLE will COME.  So, for a little while, call each other back from sin, and call each other onward toward Home with His FORGIVENESS, and FORGIVENESS,  and FORGIVENESS, and FORGIVENESS, and FORGIVENESS, and FORGIVENESS, and FORGIVENESS – there’s plenty; there’s more than you need, for YOUR BROTHER, and for your sister, and for you every time you fall, until we all COME IN FROM THE FIELD.  


    And then? Oh, we might tell our servant—if we had one—“NOW MAKE MY DINNER AND GET READY TO WAIT ON ME.”  It’d only be right.  But when we COME IN FROM THE FIELD, in His own words, HE WILL DRESS HIMSELF TO SERVE, AND MAKE us SIT DOWN AT THE TABLE, AND HE WILL COME AND WAIT ON us.  


    While we’re still trying to tell Him, as we should, “But, Lord, we haven’t DONE EVERYTHING You TOLD us; WE’RE NOT COMMENDABLE SERVANTS at all,” He’ll be saying, “I didn’t baptize you to have commendable servants. I baptized you to make you sons and daughters of eternal life.” While we’re telling Him why we should stay away, He’ll be saying, “COME! COME, YOU BLESSED OF MY FATHER, all the way in from what’s only right, and all the way out into what’s simply wonderful and waiting for you.”  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